Wells Fargo Bank Review

Wells Fargo began as part of the iconic stagecoach company in 1852, which mainly focused on buying gold and selling paper bank drafts and delivering mail across the nation. In 1905, the Wells Fargo bank formally separated from the stagecoach company and became a San Francisco mainstay. Today, the bank has over 6,000 branch locations across the country — more than any other bank in America. Wells Fargo is known for its in-branch service and wide variety of consumer banking products. Interest rates on most accounts are low, putting the company in line with other brick-and-mortar banks. If you’re looking for easy branch accessibility and available ATMs, Wells Fargo is a great fit. If high interest and cutting-edge products are your preference, you may be better served elsewhere.

How Wells Fargo Stacks Up

Pros
  • Most loans have co-sign options
  • Discounted rates for qualified clients
  • Low down payment for mortgages
Cons
  • Special rates only available to existing customers
  • Interest calculation requires hard credit check
  • Only existing Wells Fargo customers can apply for mortgages

 

What’s interesting about Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo makes it easy to find branches and ATMs across the country. Clients are rarely far from a branch, and the bank offers special interest rates for customers who choose to open accounts in person. Online options from Well Fargo are robust and include the ability to manage accounts, transfer money and get financial advice on your desktop or using your mobile device.

Things to consider

Account interest rates at Wells Fargo are lower than online financial institutions and similar to other brick-and-mortar banks. The result of that equation is slow but steady, so if you’re looking to grow your money quickly or see significant returns, this option won’t deliver. It’s also worth noting that while Wells Fargo’s Platinum Savings account is similar to a money market product, they have no specific money market offerings. There are 13 states without Wells Fargo branches, too, so that combined with their out-of-network ATM fees means that banking outside their coverage area comes with a cost.

Checking & Savings Accounts

Wells Fargo offers four basic checking account and two savings account options. The Wells Fargo checking account options include:

  • Everyday Checking — This checking account requires a $25 initial deposit and comes with a $10 monthly service fee. This fee is waived if account holders post 10 or more debit card transactions per fee period, make $500 in qualifying deposits or maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance. The account also includes access to online bill payments, transfer services and text banking. This account earns no interest.
  • Preferred Checking — The Preferred Checking account earns interest on balances over $500 at rates slightly lower than other brick-and-mortar banks. A $25 initial deposit is required to open this account; you can avoid the $15-per-month fee with a combined $10,000 in deposit balances, qualifying direct deposits of $1,000 or more per fee period or by linking a Wells Fargo mortgage to your checking account.
  • Portfolio by Wells Fargo — This account requires a $25 initial deposit and comes with a $30 monthly fee, which is waived with $25,000 of linked bank deposits or $50,000 in combined bank, brokerage and credit balances. Interest rates under $5,000 are below the competitive average, while those above $5,000 are slightly above the competition. This account also offers waived ATM fees at out-of-network machines and 24/7 phone support from the Wells Fargo Premier Banking team.
  • Teen Checking — Designed for account holders age 13 to 17, this account requires an adult co-owner and lets adults set purchase and withdrawal limits. This account has no monthly fee and generates no interest.

The Wells Fargo savings account options include:

  • Way2Save Savings — The Wells Fargo Way2Save account features a lower-than-average interest rate for any balance amount. The $5 fee is waived with a $300 daily minimum balance or if customers set up a recurring savings option. These options include Save As You Go transfers, which automatically transfer $1 from your checking account to your savings account after non-recurring debit purchases or online bill payments, or automatic monthly transfers of at least $25 from your checking account.
  • Platinum Savings — This account requires a $25 opening deposit. If you maintain a $3,500 minimum daily balance, you won’t need to pay the monthly $12 fee, and if you apply in person at a branch office you can access special interest rates and APY. In addition, this account can be configured as overdraft protection for your Wells Fargo checking account.

Money Market Accounts

Wells Fargo doesn’t offer any dedicated money market options. Its closest match is the Platinum Savings account, which includes above-average special interest rates and also includes check writing privileges. If you’re looking for more traditional money market accounts from brick-and-mortar banks, there are other options to consider, including a high-yield money market account through Citibank.

CDs

Wells Fargo offers both fixed and step rate certificates of deposit (CDs). Standard Wells Fargo CDs require a $2,500 minimum deposit for terms of three months, six months, or one year. Special CDs offer higher than average interest rates for 9-month, 29-month, and 39-month terms.

Step rate CDs require a $2,500 deposit for a 24-month term with guaranteed automatic rate increases at seven, 13, and 19 months. Bonus interest rates are available if you link step rate CDs with a portfolio account.

Credit Cards

Wells Fargo offers both American Express and Visa credit cards.

  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card — This card features no annual fee and 0.00% APR for the first 12 months, followed by an industry-average variable interest rate. You also earn 30,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months.
  • Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card — Cardholders enjoy 0.00% APR for the first 15 months, followed by average interest rates. There is no annual fee for this card, and clients can earn $150 in cash rewards if they spend $500 on qualifying purchases in the first three months. The card also features 1.5% unlimited cash rewards on purchases.
  • Wells Fargo Platinum Card — This card comes with an 18-month intro APR of 0.0%, which is the lowest APR offered by Wells Fargo. That intro rate applies to both new purchases and balance transfers. After 18 months, APRs will range between 16.99% to 26.49%, and customers will be given access to their FICO scores through their accounts.

Personal Loans

Wells Fargo offers both personal loans and personal lines of credit to help customers manage cash flow problems, consolidate debt or deal with unexpected expenses. Clients can apply for Wells Fargo loans between $3,000 to $100,000 with no collateral and no annual fees. These are fixed-rate, fixed-monthly payment loans with term lengths varying from 12 to 84 months. There is no prepayment penalty, and qualified customers can receive a relationship discount of 0.25%.

The bank’s personal line of credit also offers amounts between $3,000 and $100,000 but comes with a variable interest rate and $25 annual fee. Customers can apply for personal loans and lines of credit online or by phone. If qualified, funds can be made available by the next business day.

Mortgage Loans

Applications for a Wells Fargo mortgage loan can be made online or in person. Clients can also speak to mortgage consultants by phone at 1-877-432-4173 or make an appointment with an advisor at a branch. Wells Fargo offers fixed-rate mortgage loans with as little as 3% down. Applicants can also qualify for a $750 closing cost credit if they take an approved homebuyer education course and make a down payment between 3% and 5%.

Wells Fargo offers 5/1 and 7/1 adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) along with 15-, 20- and 30-year fixed-rate terms. Interest rates may include up to 0.50% in discount points paid upfront and are slightly below the national average.

Mortgage Refinancing

Wells Fargo also offers mortgage refinancing options to help homeowners reduce their interest rate, lower their monthly payment, pay off their mortgage sooner or convert to a fixed rate. The bank offers an online calculator to help you estimate payments, fees, and penalties. Wells Fargo also accepts mortgage refinancing applications online.

Wells Fargo refinancing terms offered include 5/1 and 7/1 ARMs along with 15-, 20- and 30-year fixed rates in addition to “jumbo loans” that exceed conforming loan limits. Interest rates for shorter-term loans are lower than average, while those for longer terms are on par with other lenders.

Home Equity Loans & HELOCs

Homeowners can access two other loan types from Wells Fargo:

  • Cash-out refinancing: This option replaces your existing mortgage with a new one that has a higher loan amount. You then receive the difference between your new balance and the old mortgage in cash to use for home improvement, medical bills, consolidation or other uses.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): This type of loan uses the equity in your home to secure credit, which typically provides a lower interest rate than unsecured credit options. HELOCs from Wells Fargo feature no closing costs, no application costs and no annual fees. The minimum HELOC amount is $25,000, and clients can draw from this amount for 10 years and one month, after which it must be repaid in full over a 20-year period. Principal-plus-interest payments are made during the draw period, and there is no penalty for prepayment of the loan.

Wells Fargo HELOCs use a variable interest rate guaranteed to rise no more than 2% annually and no more than 7% from your opening interest rate. Clients can also convert some or all of their HELOC balance to a fixed rate twice during the draw period.

Car Loans

Wells Fargo offers auto loans for both new and used vehicle financing through a network of 11,000 auto dealers nationwide. While Wells Fargo can help customers secure a reasonable rate for auto loans via their partner network, it’s worth noting that the bank itself doesn’t hold the loan. Wells Fargo does offer direct vehicle loan refinancing and the ability to co-sign on any auto loans.

The Final Word

Wells Fargo is one of the country’s most recognizable financial firms. With thousands of branch and ATM locations to choose from, along with in-branch special interest offers, Wells Fargo is a good fit if you’re looking for a traditional banking experience that also offers solid online options. However, if you live outside the bank’s service area or if you’re after industry best interest rates and account features, other banking options may better meet your needs.