Time for a new bank!

Just sent this to Wells Fargo, both by mail and through email. I imagine it’ll just get pitched in the trash down in the mail room or never make it through customer service, but it felt good to write it!


Dear Wells Fargo,

Congratulations on losing a customer to hidden fees and overcomplicated account restrictions. I’ve been a customer for several years, and recently noticed a new “Monthly Service Fee” on both my checking and savings accounts, in the amount of $10/month for savings, and $15/month for checking. The fee seems to have started about 6 months ago. I was a bit mystified by this, since I was told when I signed up that these were free accounts.

I called your customer service line, and the representative explained that I could avoid these fees by setting up an automatic monthly transfer of at least $75 from checking to savings. I already make manual transfers through online banking about once a month, but apparently these “don’t count”, even if they’re over the suggested minimum. She explained that I could circumvent this restriction by setting up the automatic transfer for the $75 minimum, then manually transferring the money back. So you’re basically telling me there’s no point to this requirement, and that I can get around it if I’m willing to play some games and jump through a few hoops?

I called again the next day to clarify some things, and heard that the fee structure and waiver is even more arcane than the first rep described it. I can avoid certain fees if I set up automatic transfers, or have a total minimum balance, or have a mortgage, or have X number of “qualifying” accounts. I dimly remember that I had a different account structure when I started with Wells Fargo, for a short time I had a CD, and did have a higher balance. I can only assume this is what the banker meant by “free” when I signed up, I must have just qualified for the fee waiver. Apparently my accounts no longer qualify to be free, although I can’t figure out exactly how or when that happened.

The second customer service rep was able to refund part of my most recent fees, but their explanation of exactly how to avoid future fees still doesn’t make any sense.  As you may have guessed, since it took me 6 months to notice these fees, I’m not the best at tracking my money. I have a rough idea of what goes in, what comes out, and I keep an eye on the balance to verify this. I do pretty well, but I have to remind myself of existing automatic bill payments like insurance, and I really don’t need another pointless automatic transaction or balance requirement or constant babysitting of the account. You have numerous competitors offering genuinely free accounts with none of these confusing and pointless hoops to jump through.

From what I can tell, the only possible reasons for your system are:

-1. You hope people forget that it takes a series of complicated steps to avoid fees (like I did) and you’ll make a $25/month fee for our inattention. Those $10 and $15 charges are easy to miss if you’re just scanning through a statement.

-2. You hope we’ll set up a transfer to avoid the fees, but will forget about it, and overdraw our checking accounts for even bigger fees.

What it comes down to is; I’m paying $300 a year for the privilege of having a hassle free bank account. Maybe $300 is small potatoes to your execs, but that’s more than three days of work for me! I could buy groceries for a month with $300, or a new Netbook every year, or a cheap flight across the country. I don’t need you nickel and diming me out of any of those things.

So, I’m paying you $300 a year to have an account that already makes YOU money by investing mine, and benefits me in no way. Sure, I get some infinitesimal amount of interest, so I could make back my monthly $25 in about 100 years. And sure, I have the convenience of deposits and ATMs, but for $25 a month I could cash my paychecks at the liquor store and keep my savings in a shoebox under the bed. If I want a bank account with you, I have to play a lot of games, the rules of which might change at your whim, or I have to pay you 1% of my annual income to keep my money in YOUR shoebox.

What’s that you say? The savvy customer should always scrutinize every statement, always read every bit of fine print, and have a firm grasp of banking principles? Well, this customer already has an account with another bank which doesn’t pull such tricks, has no hidden fees, and better customer service (My office got a gift basket from them for the holidays!). Ironically, this is exactly why I moved my accounts from Wells Fargo a few years ago; I was getting hidden fees at my old bank and heard that Wells Fargo was better. I guess I heard wrong. I’ll be closing my account shortly, and telling my friends to consider doing the same.


Former Wells Fargo Customer


-Gabe Emerson




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