New Dilemma For Some Wells Fargo Customers: Keep $7500 In The Bank Or Pay $15 Fee

As banks look for new and exciting sources of revenue, free checking is slowly fading away at the nation’s large financial institutions. This week, we heard from several Wells Fargo customers who are annoyed that they’ll have to pay $15 per month to keep their current account type if they don’t have an average of $7,500 in the bank, across all of their accounts. Is this impossible? No, but it’s a drastic change from the old requirements.

Reader Daniel explains:

Wells Fargo’s Complete Advantage checking account package has served me well for as long as I’ve had it, and I’ve always felt that its terms for waiving the $15 monthly fee were quite reasonable. All one had to do was transfer $75 a month into a linked savings account – money that you still had full control over (or even immediately transfer right back into your primary checking account, if one wanted).

That level of simplicity and ease for Complete Advantage checking is changing. Starting November 14, 2011, Wells Fargo will longer allow the $75 automated monthly transfer as one of the qualifications for waiving the monthly fee. Now one must maintain a combined balance of over $7500 dollars AT ALL TIMES across one’s qualifying accounts with Wells Fargo to have the monthly $15 fee waived.

Although I am currently able to fulfill the new terms, my average balance is not even twice as much as this new “minimum balance” requirement. Wells Fargo will be able to hold over 60% of my typical checking balance hostage unless I pay what amounts to a monthly “access fee” for breaking the seal on that $7500 container. This makes me a bit anxious, because I have no way of knowing if and when I will need that money, say in the event of a emergency or when “life happens.” I don’t know, maybe I’m alone in this, but it feels like the financial difficulty of fulfilling the terms of the fee waiver will go from easy to borderline unreasonable overnight.

I’m currently looking to see what my options are, and they appear to be:

1. Downgrade my checking account to something with fewer perks but easier fee waiver terms.
2. Take my business elsewhere.

Does anyone have any suggestions for #2? I’m not looking forward to the hassle of transferring over my funds and having to set up all my accounts and bill pay information over again… but if that’s what it takes, so be it.

W. wrote in about the same issue, and is also considering his non-Wells Fargo options.

With the length of time I’ve been a customer, not to mention a nice average balance, I feel like I’m now being taken. I’ll try to shop around to see what I can find, but have you all heard of places that are staying low-cost? The only thing keeping me from using the Bank of Mattress is that I do bill pay online, and that’s pretty much always via a checking debit. Paypal? I dunno..

Wells Fargo does offer accounts with fewer perks and lower deposit requirements to avoid fees. It might be worth visiting the branch and speaking with someone (no, not customer service over the phone) to see what your options are and what they can offer in order to keep you as a customer.

Otherwise, there are a lot of options out there between a high-level account with a large national bank and paying bills out of your PayPal account. Readers have nice things to say about banking with Charles Schwab and USAA if you don’t mind living without a branch nearby.

Free Checking Lives On At Smaller And Online Banks