Wells Fargo Cutting Down On Fee Waivers

The Record ( — Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Record

Fewer Wells Fargo customers will get checking-account fee waivers under the bank's new rules that take effect in some states on Monday.

The fee-waiver exclusions are being piloted in California and Nevada, and "it's too soon to tell if it will be rolled out in New Jersey," a company spokesman said Friday.

Under the pilot program, fee waivers will no longer be granted for customers who make automatic transfers between certain accounts. Without the waivers, the monthly fees will be either $10 a month or $15 a month, depending on the type of account.

Although Wells Fargo and Bank of America recently backed away from adding new debit-card fees in the face of public protests, this move by Wells Fargo is another example of big banks' push for fee revenue to offset the impact of a government crackdown on what it considers excessive overdraft and debit-card swipe fees.

"Most of [the new policies] are not in-your-face fees, like Bank of America's debit-card fee," said Alex Matjanec, co-founder of a consumer website that tracks fees and trends in banking. "Most commonly it's an increase in the requirements to avoid fees."

Many banks this year have increased the minimum balances required to avoid checking-account service fees, making free checking more difficult to come by.

As of Monday, Wells Fargo Premium Membership Checking customers will no longer be able to waive the $15 monthly service fee by making $75 in monthly automatic transfers to a linked savings account. Similarly, automatic transfers to linked savings accounts with Custom Management Checking will no longer waive a $10 monthly service fee. The fees can be waived through other means, however, such as maintaining minimum-balance requirements that range from $1,500 for Custom Management Checking to $7,500 for Complete Advantage Checking.

"The banks are making it very complicated to maintain bank accounts," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of consumer watchdog group New Jersey Citizen Action. "Our goal is to get as many people out of check-cashing stores and into banks, so every time these changes come out it's a discouragement," she said.

Wells Fargo in New Jersey

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

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