We wrote about why Mr. PoP and I combined our finances when we got married, but we actually didn’t end up closing many accounts to do so. Why? Well, basically Mr. PoP’s primary financial institution was a credit union (PSECU), and mine was a big nationwide bank, so all we did was make the accounts joint at both institutions and now we have the benefits of a smallish credit union, and a big nationwide bank.
Our Bank – Wells Fargo
When I was in elementary school and set up my very first bank account (for birthday and Christmas checks) it was a Wells Fargo branch that my mom took me to in 1992! My parents had banked there for as long as I had been aware of what a bank was, and it had the benefit of being within walking distance from our house. So I could walk over with my checks and feel like I was depositing them like a “big kid”.
Even though it was a big chain (regional then, but nationwide now), the service at Wells Fargo always felt very personal, and there were more than a few occasions over the last 20 years that I’ve had accounts there when the bank managers went above and beyond to help me out in an unusual situation. (Moving money internationally, establishing debit and credit cards for me very early, etc.)
So What Do We Have At Wells Fargo?
(1) Complete Advantage Checking Account Package - We’re grandfathered into the Complete Advantage checking account package, but they have a Preferred Package that is available currently and is pretty similar. The basic idea is that there are smallish fees associated with the different parts of the package, but they are waived when you link accounts, have direct deposit, have a Wells Fargo credit card, have a Wells Fargo mortgage, or other similar activities. Unless you can meet these conditions all the time, we wouldn’t recommend an account with fees.
(2) Money Market Savings Account – This was actually set up as part of the checking account package. A direct deposit of $75/month from your Wells Fargo is all that is needed into this account to waive the fees on the account. We have a scheduled automatic deposit from our WF checking to this savings account every month, and I’ve been told by many bankers that if you wanted to schedule a transfer of the same dollar amount back to checking several days later each month (as long as it has cleared), you still get the waived fee, even though your average daily balance in the account would be close to $0.
(3) Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Credit Card – Wells Fargo set me up with my first credit card when I went to college, and this is the card that remains from that. It’s for emergency use only since we get no rewards on it, and the interest rate is actually pretty high. But it’s one of my longest credit lines, so we leave it open.
(4) HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) – We took out this HELOC against our rental duplex. The HELOC has a term of 10 years, where we could pay interest-only if we chose. (We’re not choosing that road – see here for our debt prioritization details!) The current rate is 5.99%, though that’s variable and we expect it to climb as the Fed raises rates in the future. (Though seriously – what is up, Bernanke? You really think it’s a good idea to keep rates this low through mid-2015? *sigh*) The HELOC had very low costs to open as compared to a mortgage – the fees were less than $400 to open a 10-year line of credit for $38K. If we close the account in the first 5 years, there is a $500 fee to close it, but there’s no penalty for having it paid off and keeping it open with a $0 balance, which is what we intend to do when it’s paid off.
(5) Residential Mortgage - This is the mortgage for our home, the PoP homestead. We refinanced with Wells Fargo last year into a 15-year mortgage at a 3.25% interest rate. Though the refinance was a huge headache to complete, it’s hard to argue with those kind of savings.
All in all, Wells Fargo has been pretty good to us over the years. Yes, there was the awkwardness where I met our “personal banker” and was offered a $100K unsecured line of credit. And, yes, there was the headache with the refinance trainwreck, but overwhelmingly over the last twenty years, our experience is that their people know their stuff and take care of their customers.
What’s your experience with your bank? Do you use a big nationwide chain like Wells Fargo, or a smaller local bank? Do you get charged fees? If so, how much?