Wells Fargo Hits Girl With Secret Fee Trifecta

Christina is broke as a joke. Wells Fargo doesn’t think this is funny and decides to shut down her account for having no money in it and no activity on it. No big whoop, she’ll just open another account. She does this twice. Then, whups! Those accounts were never closed! And we’re charging you fees because they were actually fee-based savings accounts! And you’re in collections! Good times, let them roll:

Christina writes:

Hi Consumerist,

I’m a recent graduate when this story begins. The joys of graduating into a recession! I haven’t got a job yet, and I have no money. My account balance is zero. Unbeknownst to be, Wells Fargo has adopted a policy of closing zero balance, non-active accounts after 30 days. I discover my account is closed, call, and am told it is an error, and that they’ve reopened it. A week later, I get new cards and checks – I’ve got a new account. Whatever, I think to myself, an account is an account.

2 months later, it happens again, and this is when I discover the 30 day closure policy. They open a new account. Months later, I get a letter from Wells Fargo. I call, am transferred around, and discover that when they closed and reopened/opened new accounts, they never closed the associated savings accounts. At one point I had THREE savings accounts, none of which I had ever used (see broke college kid), only one (the current one) that I was aware of. These savings accounts are fee based unless you have a checking account, or whatever their crazy series of rules are these days. So, fees accumulated, to the tune of nearly $100, on these accounts. I called, I called, I called. No one could help me but the person who opened my initial account, they told me. I called her, and she said she’d take care of it for me. The extra accounts were closed.

A little while passes, and I get a letter from collections. I call them, tell them this is disputed, and then call Wells Fargo again. Again they advise me that they are actually useless, and I have to go into the branch. At this point, I’m ashamed to admit, they broke me, and I gave up and let the whole thing go to hell in a handbasket.

Fast forward 3 months. I have a job! Yes! I can get my life back in order! So I go down to the Wells Fargo, paycheck in hand, and try and resolve it. Great! I explain my story and the banker seems receptive. He opens my account, cashes my check for me, and says he’s taken care of the fees on the old account. Hurray! I’m using the account happily for a few weeks. Today, I get an email that I’m in overdraft. What?! I discover that they’ve charged more than $80 in “setoff” charges to my account, plus a $25 overdraft fee. Holy Jesus, Goliath is not really dead.

New banker: the additional fees weren’t there when I opened your new account. Call the Wells Fargo collections people. Collections people: call the branch you opened the account with. The branch: you should have known that we never closed your savings accounts. It’s been more than 30 days. Nyah-nyah. I think this is the financial equivalent of lying in wait, only to smash my battered head when I think I’m finally safe.

You think you’re broke when you’re in college; then you graduate and you discover what real poverty is – and how banks treat you when they think they’ve finally bled you dry. I think I’ll keep my money under the mattress.



Edit Your Comment

  1. EyseTre says:

    Wells Fargo scr#wed up the first time, why even go with them the next time?

    • kcvaliant says:

      Yeah no shit.. People with common sense would have went to 3 or 4 different banks by then..

    • tinyhands says:

      Wells Fargo screwed up? She tried 3 times (and succeeded 3 times) to open an account with no money, ordering cards & checks each time. It sucks that she got hit with all those fees, but what did she think was going to happen? That money would magically appear in there?

  2. duxup says:

    I need to get off my butt and move my money out of Wells Fargo already.

    • EmanNeercs says:

      Ditto – Credit Union here I come! (But I’m so damn lazy; no telling when this will actually happen….)

      • tracyonbarstow says:

        yeah. we tried to take ours to a credit union, and they denied us because we don’t have a high enough income to debt ratio. then we stayed at wells fargo..

        • mac-phisto says:

          sounds like you were trying to obtain financing, not switch bank accounts. DTI is only relevant to loan processing.

          still, some credit unions have relationship-based loan decisioning. that is, having a positive history with the CU will help you get financing. so, switching your accounts may help you obtain financing in the future with them even if your DTI ratio is a little high.

          • jamar0303 says:

            On the other hand, not being able to take your loan with you when you move is annoying too- a clean break is better than still having a connection with the old bank.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Not saying WF’s actions are legitimate.

    But when you play passive-aggressive, it bites you in the ass.

    Christina had many opportunities to get this resolved faster, or at least worked on sooner. As time passes, it becomes less likely anyone will be sympathetic to her.

  4. Liam Kinkaid says:

    *Triple* secret fee probation?!

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’ll state the obvious: how about not banking with Wells Fargo anymore? Deal with the fees, but for heaven’s sake, stop banking with Wells Fargo! Obviously it doesn’t deserve your money.

  6. packy says:

    I second the advice to move on to a different bank. If they couldn’t straighten it out earlier, there’s no reason to believe they’ll be able to handle any mistakes they make in the future.

    Jump ship to a local credit union.

  7. Darrone says:

    Definition of insanity is what again?

    • donjumpsuit says:

      I am pretty sure the definition is

      Having a collection agency after you for being a deadbeat on fees charged to you for not using a service.

    • Poisson Process says:

      I’m going to go with “Repeating the same behavior and expecting different results.” i.e. They screwed you once. You gave them your paycheck. Surprise! They screwed you again.

      But in support of the O.P., I’m really impressed with her snarkyness. This seems to be true in general of consumerist tipsters. I wonder if there is a real correlation here, or if the consumerist big-wigs add snark to every incoming email.

      • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

        I WISH they edited the emails for grammar and unnecessary content. They don’t. I was a tipster once and had a few typos that made their way on here. Ugh. Snark is most likely all the OP. She is fun, if not a little silly for giving WF her money. Live and learn.

        • curmudgeon says:

          I wonder if she learned anything in college? Maybe she’s like the kid who kept banging his head against the wall, because it felt so good when he stopped.

    • Anathema777 says:

      Using multiple exclamation marks?

  8. dragonfire81 says:

    I love the WWE picture, it fits this story in multiple ways.

  9. ArizonaGeek says:

    Banks are as much of a scam as insurance companies. You’re probably safer keeping it under your mattress.

    • poco says:

      Seconded. What would you say if I came up to you and proposed: “Pay me to take all your money and invest it for my profit. If you need any of it back, just pay me again and I’ll give you some. Oh, and if you don’t give me enough money, I’ll charge you money.” That’s banking in a nutshell.

  10. tofupuppy says:

    “Wells Fargo Hits Girl With Secret Fee Trifecta”

    Can we please agree to call a 20something college graduate and young professional a “Woman”?

  11. TooManyHobbies says:

    See if you can get into a credit union. There’s something to be said for giving your money to people who are in the business of making your money work for you rather than making it work for them and giving you the least possible to keep you barely willing to keep putting up with them.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      See if you can get in? Credit Unions don’t require some secret handshake. Some serve specific industries or the military (though not exclusively in many cases), but most are open to anyone. Call around… you don’t have to know a secret password when you knock on the door.

      • josephpr says:

        I don’t know if this is universal, but some banks run a check with some agency and if you have a situation (like this woman’s) that has not been resolved, they will not open an account for you. I know this first hand (in Massachusetts); my brother couldn’t be on a joint account with me because he was in a similar dispute.

  12. anarkie says:

    Umm…wouldn’t you remove your business from them after the first screw up. Maybe the second. If not, certainly by now…

    • adrienna says:

      What business? They closed her account because there was nothing there. Not to blame the OP, but SHE is responsible for her financial well-being. When my bank was bought, I asked over and over again about what kind of accounts I was being transferred to, whether there were fees or minimums, etc. She’s an adult and should act like it.

      • TheoSqua says:

        I think you have to give the OP a little bit of slack here. If you’re going to make simple financial mistakes like this it’s likely going to be during or right after college. I don’t agree with criticizing someone for being young and naive when we’ve all been there at one point.

        It’s a little ridiculous to be charged money for an account you never opened and never asked to have. Learning to doublecheck something like that is what you learn from experiences like this.

  13. Bativac says:

    This is scaring me. My home loan is thru Wells Fargo. No problems yet, but I’m only a year into mortgage payments. My only interaction with them has been via their website, where I make my payments.

    Should I worry? Should I start looking to refinance thru another bank?

    • Hoot says:

      One, or even several, examples of this kind of behavior do not indicate that it is running rampant and a huge percentage of their customers are experiencing it.

      If you do happen to be one of the unlucky ones who has a payment lost, secret fees applied, etc., this just shows you that it will be difficult to resolve. WF clearly is a 3 ring circus to get something resolved and doesn’t care about their customer service that much.

    • vastrightwing says:

      I have a loan being serviced by WF. I don’t like it, I had no choice since my original loan was broken up and sold to Fannie Mae, who contracts out to WF for the servicing of the loan. Just be sure not to setup auto debit but instead use your current bank’s bill pay to push the payment to WF. Also, keep records for the day WF’s computer system crashes and they loose all your payment records or a different company ends up servicing your loan in the future. Like others have said, the loan servicing business is not the same as the bank. It may share the name, but that’s all.

      • webweazel says:

        “or a different company ends up servicing your loan in the future.”
        We were told by WF that they do not resell their loans. This is why they moved to the top of the pack when we were shopping for a mortgage. We’re still with them 4 years later, so, I guess it’s true. Haven’t heard otherwise, anyway.

    • mac-phisto says:

      refinancing probably doesn’t make sense if you’re only a year into your loan. keep in mind that you pay a considerable sum in fees to refi (or pay a higher rate if an institution offers a “no cost refi”).

      you can certainly shop around, but unless you can drop your rate by at least 100 bps (a full percentage point) &/or drop the term of your loan, it most likely isn’t worth the fees.

      just keep an eagle eye on your mortgage statements & tackle any discrepancies head-on.

    • webweazel says:

      We signed up with WF originally because they said they do not resell their mortgages, which is a bonus. We’ve been with them for 4 years now, and have had no issues. They’ve actually been helpful.
      Once, our payment got lost in the mail. (We pay by check.) They called us to let us know it didn’t show up, and to try to get it resolved before we became 30 days late and it would get reported on our credit. We put a stop payment on the original check, and resubmitted the payment. They waived the late fee and phone payment fee.
      Our only issue with them is the way that payments can be submitted to them. We can’t do it at the local office, nor online unless we have an online bank account with them. (WF has no banks where we are, just loan offices.) On the phone, they charge a fee. We have to go either bank bill pay or by check.
      So, for us, they’ve been fine.

  14. Hi_Hello says:

    i dunno… seem like the OP didn’t bother to read everything… and should’ve just left the bank after her account closed. Don’t you gotta sign stuff when you open a new account?

  15. mcs328 says:

    Let me get this straight. Did she know that a savings account was opened and fee based with her original checking account? At the time of zero balance and no activity when she graduated, doesn’t the savings account generate fees because her associated checking account has no money. I’m assuming this with her first account. If true, then absolutely she owes those fees for not having a balance on the first account. After that, it’s WF fault.

    I agree with everyone else and open a new account somewhere else.

  16. Sword_Chucks says:

    Everyone can use USAA now, why bother with any other bank?

    • jamar0303 says:

      I like having a physical branch I can walk into near me. More importantly, cheap wires to my Chinese bank account.

  17. vastrightwing says:

    Your mattress will never ever charge you a fee. EVER! And it’s safer than a bank. Consider that a bank will always find a new fee to pull out of its hat. Your mattress won’t. Sure, a thief can break into your house and steal your money. But I’d take those odds any day!

    • mac-phisto says:

      your house can also burn down. & homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover cash kept on hand.

    • tinyhands says:

      Your mattress doesn’t keep up with inflation.

      And I’m not talking about inflating your companion for the evening. ;)

  18. CarlWilliams says:

    My god, why did you go back to them after you got a job?????

  19. evnmorlo says:

    Drawing your account down to exactly zero is a bad idea. (I’ll agree that the rest is typical large-bank incompetence)

  20. SuperNinjaâ„¢ says:

    Some of us serve as examples to others as to what NOT to do.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  21. ninabi says:

    Christina needs to do what all new grads (including my daughter) should do- graduate from Wells Fargo. It’s an abusive relationship with regular fee beatings.

    Christina, it won’t end. My daughter discovered that. Even if you have money in your account, if it’s a small account (by Wells Fargo standards), there’s a monthly service fee for that, too.

    Leave. Get as many fees removed as possible (as my daughter did) and seek a better banking relationship. Credit unions are decent.

  22. framitz says:

    Stating the obvious:

    OP should have opened a new account at a DIFFERENT bank.

  23. jdmba says:

    I think I need to keep some pretyped postings on the side to speed this up. For those people not-in-the-know who suggest a credit union, please allow me this story:

    My credit union since 1998 recently sent an updated fee schedule. No special notes, no nothing, just a fee schedule. Then a quarter later (they give quarterly statements — very important to this story), I get my statement and instead of having the same balance it has had since 1998 (the minimum deposit to earn interest), it now has a full range of fees. You see, they waited until the beginning of a quarter, hit an inactivity fee, then another one, then another one. By the time the 3 hit, I was NOW below my minimum balance. That brought on fee # 4.

    Odd timing don’t you think? Had I said this was BofA everyone would have said “oh, just go to a credit union.” Well, this WAS a credit union.

    • mac-phisto says:

      that’s unfortunate. you bring up a good point – as interest rates slide closer to zero, both banks & credit unions need to find other revenue sources to bolster income. unfortunately, there isn’t much else besides fee income.

      have you tried to get the fees reversed? that’s typically where you see a huge difference between a bank & a CU – even most frontline CU personnel are empowered to reverse fees (whereas even branch managers at some larger banks are unable to rectify situations like the OP’s).

  24. oppy says:

    The following steps should have been followed:
    1. Leave WF (or Chase, Bof A etc)
    2, Be Happy.

    The OP learned you cant have #2 if you skip step #1.

  25. macoan says:

    I’m sorry… but WHY KEEP GOING BACK TO THE SAME BANK????? Is there really that few options?

    I live in a small town, I had a bad experience with a bank… you know what I did? I closed my CD, Savings, and Checking and took my banking to another bank.

  26. BBBB says:

    This is a case for the usual procedure for dealing with a Bank when no one will fix a mistake.

    Talk to the Executive Office – Call again two days later to find out status – When they say “we are investigating” say you will escalate it (don’t discuss, just state that) – fill out complaint form with governing agency (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or other) – Call Executive Office again and inform them that you are filing the complaint – see reaction – hit send and inform them that the complaint is filed – call again in a few days and you will probably find that they are actually doing something – if not, keep updating the OCC complaint to document the case.

    Another tactic when the branch says to call the 800 number and the 800 number says to call the branch is to call the 800 number from the branch and put the manager on the line – it may or may not get results, but it is amusing to watch the manager experience the “helpfulness” of the 800 number.

  27. demonicfinger says:

    come to bank of america, you’ll jump through less hoops. still hoops, but less loops

    • legwork says:

      Less hoops than WF? Swell. Thanks for that choice between Satan and Sadam.

      News: We have 6-figures in a bofa account and they still suck ass.

      Clarification: suck ass in a bad way. As in, we’d prefer they stop.

      As soon as the big CF of signatures and moving gobs of linked accounts happens, we’re throwing a see-ya party.

      BofA’s continued existence relies on customer ignorance, laziness, and the contrived interdependence of financial mechanisms.

      • jamar0303 says:

        6 figures? Get your rear over to HSBC and become a Premier customer. Your perception of them will totally change.

      • djshack says:

        I’ve used both banks, and I agree. Both are big (BofA is much bigger). But, Wells Fargo, despite its pretty red branches and fancy ATMs (BofA’s are finally equivalent), is much, much worse. I cannot even begin to describe the sneakiness and ridiculousness of this bank, right down to the charge for calling on a savings account, the greedy bankers at the branches, the s-l-o-w (like, insanely slow) tellers, and the fact that it still charges for bill pay on some accounts.

        BofA is not great, but it is by far the best “big” bank I’ve used, especially compared to Wells Fargo (and now, also in comparison to Citizens Bank).

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      I read about WAY more problem with BoA then with WF

  28. pot_roast says:

    Bet you won’t think “Whatever” to yourself anymore. A little personal responsibility goes a long way…along with common sense. Yes, I’m blaming the OP, because she clearly hasn’t taken the time to go into the branch to speak to someone. A few calls to customer service obviously haven’t fixed it, and she’s content with “oh well, an account is an account.”


  29. TheGreySpectre says:

    When you sign up for the accounts they go over the fact that the accounts are only free if you move a certain amount of money from the checking account to the savings account ($25 for one, $75 for the one with more benefits), you can even move the money back as long as you let it sit there for 24hours.

    I can respect that she has not been able to find a job in her field, however in 3 months she should be able to mow some lawns, do some tutoring or do some other odd jobs to get $30.

    If she new that she was going to have zero income then she should have closed her accounts until she did have income. These weren’t secret fees at all, they are very clearly stated in reasonable size fonts on the summary brochure for the account types.

    Just because she couldn’t find a job out of college does not make her special.

  30. Jimmy37 says:

    Christina, if you’ve been reading consistently, you know how big banks keep screwing people in the most imaginative ways. Why didn’t you put your money into a ‘net bank like ING Direct, and solve your problems that way. No minimums. And all your money is direct deposited.