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Wells Fargo Bank Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, CDs, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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Wells Fargo
NerdWallet’s rating: 3.0 / 5.0

3.0 stars out of 5

Megabank and mortgage giant Wells Fargo offers a huge variety of financial products under one brand. Customers partake of relationship banking, where all financial needs — checking and savings accounts, investments, mortgages, credit cards and auto loans — are met by one provider. If you’re among the millions who have a Wells Fargo mortgage or other product, you’ll be entitled to certain upgrades on interest rates and fees.

Wells Fargo Bank may be right for you if:

  • You like having your various financial accounts under one umbrella.
  • You bank in person at least occasionally, and you live within its expansive branch network, which spans 39 states and the District of Columbia.
  • You value 24/7 customer service by phone, email and social media.
  • Earning high interest is not a priority.
Our Ratings
Checking accounts3.5 stars out of 5
Savings & money market accounts2.5 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit (CDs)2.0 stars out of 5
Customer experience3.5 stars out of 5
Other fees2.5 stars out of 5
Overall3.0 stars out of 5

Here’s a detailed look at Wells Fargo Bank’s checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, customer experience and fees.

Checking account

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Wells Fargo’s basic checking account is similar to those of other megabanks in many respects: It carries fairly high monthly fees, with multiple ways to avoid them, and costly overdraft penalties. It also has first-rate online and mobile banking tools. Notably, despite Wells Fargo’s heft, its ATM network is not the largest — Citibank, for example, has more than twice as many.

  • Exceptional branch coverage — over 6,000 branches in 39 states and D.C.
  • 13,000 free ATMs
  • Online and mobile banking, including bill pay
  • $10 fee; waived with 10 debit payments, $500 direct deposit or average balance of $1,500 each month
  • No interest
  • $2.50 fee for using out-of-network ATMs

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Wells Fargo mortgage customers qualify for a “preferred” interest checking account — usually $15 a month — for free. It pays a modest rate of 0.01% annual percentage yield. You also get one fee waiver for using an out-of-network ATM each month.

Customers with at least $25,000 in various Wells Fargo accounts qualify for free access to its “PMA Package” checking, normally $30 a month. Perks include two waivers of out-of-network ATM fees each month, discounts on Wells Fargo loans and mortgages, and higher interest rates on certain accounts.

Savings account

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Here’s a look at Wells Fargo’s basic savings account, the Way2Save account.

  • Aid savings with auto-transfer options, like moving $1 from checking to savings with every payment you make
  • No minimum balance
  • Interest compounded daily, which can make a difference on larger balances

  • $5 monthly fee, waived with a $300 minimum balance or a recurring savings transfer
  • 0.01% APY is low
  • $12.50 overdraft transfer fee

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best savings accounts

Certificates of deposit

2.0 stars out of 5
2.0 / 5.0

CDs are safe and predictable, but the typical yields from big banks are nothing to write home about. Even Wells Fargo’s “bonus” APY of 0.55% for 58 months, the rate reserved for premium customers, is well below the national average for five years. Some online banks, like Ally Bank, offer a yield as much as three times higher.

  • Wide variety of terms available, from 3 to 58 months
  • High minimum deposit of $2,500
  • Low interest rates

Customer experience

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

In early September, Wells Fargo made national headlines when it reached a $185 million settlement for what federal officials called a widespread practice of creating fake customer accounts in order to meet sales targets. Employees of the bank opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and about 565,000 credit card accounts that may not have been authorized, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bank’s CEO has admitted to “unethical” practices and said, along with other measures, the bank will contact all of its deposit customers to ask them whether they wish to review their accounts with their banker.

This issue aside, Wells Fargo is typically noted for having extensive branch coverage. Going against the industry trend, Wells Fargo has actually been adding offices to its network. Its banking apps offer mobile check deposit, person-to-person payments and bill payments, and are reasonably well-rated by app store users.

Customer service is available 24/7 by phone, with separate phone numbers for specific product areas, like mobile banking or credit cards. You can also use email and social media.

Other fees

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Like many of its giant bank peers, Wells Fargo’s fee structure is not very forgiving of customer errors unless you have multiple accounts or high balances with the bank.

The overdraft fee is $35, with a maximum of four fees per day. The $12.50 overdraft protection transfer fee is waived for premium customers with a high balance or a home equity line of credit. For all customers, Wells Fargo grants a $5 buffer — if you’re overdrawn by less than that, you won’t be charged a fee.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s guide to what banks charge in fees

Wells Fargo’s broad product lines include some solid options for anyone looking for a traditional bank. However, optimizers seeking the very lowest account fees or highest yields might want to look through NerdWallet’s lists of best banks and credit unions to see how other institutions compare.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter:@jlee_jeanne.

Updated Sept. 22, 2016. 

Ratings methodology

For banks and credit unions, NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each subcategory: checking accounts, savings and money market accounts, CDs, customer experience and other fees. Factors we consider, depending on the subcategory, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid