As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Wells Fargo Testing $3 Monthly Debit Card Fee

Wells Fargo Bank, the primary brick-and-mortar bank I’ve been holding onto for my branch-based banking, ATM deposits, and immediate check-writing, is jumping on the debit card fee bandwagon.

Chase was one of the first banks to start playing around with fees and debit card changes. Chase increased its ATM fee to $5, eliminated the short-lived debit card rewards, tested a limit of $50 for debit card transactions, and is still currently testing a $3 monthly fee for debit card users.

That same fee will grace Wells Fargo account holders’ bills in the states of Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon. If the pilot program is successful, you can be sure Wells Fargo will roll the new few out to customers throughout the rest of the country.

Wells FargoMonthly fees and other nuisances are increasing as banks find it more difficult to maintain the profits they’ve grown accustomed to seeing. If interchange fees are limited through regulation, despite the abundant profit banks generate from spending customers, they will continue to grow the business’s profits through other means.

As I’ve grown older and perhaps more financially secure, I don’t automatically dismiss any product with a fee. But if there are better, free choices for the same service, you can be sure I’ll send a message by ending my relationship as a customer — and by sharing my experiences with whomever is interested in reading them.

The monthly fee will begin in the states mentioned above on October 14.

CNN Money

Updated October 9, 2016 and originally published August 16, 2011.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I feel like they are just trying to find any way possible to make more money without thinking of their customers. Obviously debit purchases aren’t costing them anything since they’ve never charged for it before, so why start charging for it now? It’s like a restaurant starting to charge for tap water. How about I just go back to writing checks for everything I purchase, or just start using cash everywhere. I can even get a discount that way. I don’t need a debit card. I only use it because it’s free and slightly easier than cash. But it’s not $3/month easier.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

We’re talking $36 a YEAR here…is it even worth mentioning? Don’t get coffee out ONE day a month and you’ll never miss it. Talk about sweating the small stuff.

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avatar 3 Luke Landes

Yes, it’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Forced to pay it, I think most consumers would survive, and perhaps checking accounts that provide “extra” services like a debit card can make a well-reasoned plea for charging customers. But while there are free alternatives, save your money, go out to dinner, find something better to do with $36 a year. The recent accelerated tradition of nickel-and-diming consumers will continue as long as the market lets that happen.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

yeah but I have 3 accounts and I am sorry it may be $36.00 per year but that is x 3. and I don’t get $3 coffee out every day or anything else for that matter. I barely make enough to pay the bills. and no I am not once of those that owes for everything. that is for our cars x2, house, utilities and food. I do not waste money I don’t have it to waste. I refuse to pay anyone to use my own money. so if they want to lose a 20 yr customer go right ahead I am not going to pay it. i don’t even live in those states but because my account was opened there 20 yrs ago they expect me to pay it not happening. if you want to pay it why dont you just go ahead and pay mine too.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Teresa, I have 4 accounts. I feel for your situation. I have been unemployed for 14 months and it can be rough. It’s the cost of doing business at a big bank. Instead of ranting and raving as everyone has done and should do, switch banks.

As for me, I bank at Wells for the convenience and benefits (free checks, personal banker on call, free wire transfers, no fees ever, free money orders, cashiers checks) of a brick and mortar; however, I prefer a credit union for the higher rates and customer service.

I would say that each branch, no matter if it is Bank of American, Wells, or a highly reputable credit union in your area may offer you the best and worst banking experience. To be honest, I have had the worst banking experiences at credit unions and the best at Wells! I believe the two branches I have dealt with to be the exception. I’d be the last person to speak highly of corporations or large banks (just received a settlement check from a corp.); however, there are examples of incompetence and rudeness to be found at every banking institution. Thank God, we have the ability to be grown up enough to calmly, professionally remove our money from banks we don’t like.

We tend to lionize credit unions and demonize big banks. That’s fine and in many ways true; however, I know full well that I have made some stupid financial moves in the past and have ranted about a bank’s “fees” when I was the one at fault. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with at Wells Fargo, but there are far more that I don’t agree with at the two local credit unions.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

It’s only $36/year for now, but what if they started charging $20/month, is it too much then? It’s only $20. Eat out 1 less day a month. It’s not the fact that it’s only $3. It’s the fact that they are charging for a service that used to be free and they’re only doing it so they can continue to keep up profits. They’re focusing on the profits other than their customers. Just how airlines started charging for baggage. What if banks started to charge you a fee every time you used your debit card? Then what?

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avatar 7 tbork84

Well I imagine people would start using their debit cards for that purpose, and another card or method of payment that was cheaper would be developed. Look at the airline carriers like JetBlue and SouthWest that don’t charge for a checked bag. If enough people don’t like the rather trivial charge of $36/year for the service, then another bank offering free debit will get their money.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

well 36 a year may not be a big deal to some and not so much myself either but to be honest i am sick of these big banks and corporations whom recently announced on their own admission that they have seen “record levels of profits” even in this horrible economy and now they want to fleece more money from their customers.

Skipping coffee a few times per year is not the answer sending a message to them and losing customer accounts will.

I am a wells fargo customer and will pull all of my money out and close all of my accounts if they institute this policy in my state which is on the list if states they mentioned.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Can you sat Credit Unions??? Saving and loan??? They will be happy tao get you as a customer and not fee you to death like the big banks, airlines, etc…

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avatar 10 Anonymous

It sounds to me that you have more money than you know what to do with. For those of us who live on a fixed income, and don’t own any bake stock, this is just one more nail in owr coffin. Perhaph you should try living on a small fixed income and just maybe you would find that this is not just a cup of coffee a month.

It sounds to me like you, in some way are going to profit from these “minor fee” problems.


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avatar 11 Anonymous

THAT is NOT the POINT. The banks are making money hand over fist and now they want to charge us for using OUR money that they are making millions off of? Bunch of GREEDY S.O.B’S!

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avatar 12 Drew Mangini

When I was with boa (bank of america) they charge me 4.75 a month then a year later they were charging me 8.95. I could never go back to them, I use TD bank, as long I keep $100 in at all times it is free. You should look into td and see if they are ner you.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

thanks. will check out this td bank you mentioned.

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avatar 14 Ceecee

It’s not just one small fee….it’s a combination of a lot of small fees. When you add them up, it can be hundreds of dollars a year. I agree that if you can get comparable service with no fee, I would do it. Banks, and all other companies, would love for us to ignore all the “little” fees that they tack on.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

your right because on top of this fee they are going to start charging $7 per month for each of the free checking accounts unless you keep $2500 daily balance or have a direct deposit of over $500, they didn’t put that on the news now did they. they can shove their fees. I am not going to pay them.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Wow, poor fools. Gone are the days of free checking accounts with no min balance requirements. Good thing my brick and mortar bank still has both.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

Why pay for a debit card when you don’t have to? Switch to a friendlier financial institution.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

This is what happens when the government gets involved. The government steps in because certain people are irresponsible and whine about OD fees, and those of us who manage our money pay the price. Here’s a thought. Don’t overdraw your checking account, duh!

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avatar 19 Anonymous

In other words, if one exposes a crook, then you him/her me as “guilty” of forcing the “poor” crook to come up with other con, just because the previous con did not affect you, and the new one may do it. It is not the gov fault that these people/banks spend 24/7 thinking of nothing but how to screw us over, instead of offering a true compelling service.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

A bank is a is a business and they provide many services, like using debit cards. If you don’t want to pay for the service then don’t use it. Its just like watching tv, or using the Internet if you do not want to pay for the service ten don’t use it. Simple as that.

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avatar 21 tigernicole86

The bank that I’m with charges me 25 cents every time I make a pin based purchase. It’s annoying but I deal with it since I only make a PIN based purchase every 2 months or so. Otherwise, I just go to their ATM and get cash out with no fee and go on my merry way. But a $3 fee for something that’s always been free, oh please.

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avatar 22 Cejay

I agree with everyone else. I hate the thought of the fee and the greediness behind it more than I hate the dent in my pocketbook. I live in Georgia and luckily do not have Wells Fargo. If I did I would definetely be in line to cancel and move my account. A few months ago my salon started charging 3.00 to use my debit card. It was a huge nuisance to remember to get cash before each trip so I quit going to the salon. Then last month the hair dresser called me and told me she had moved her practice to another salon. She noticed a drop in her buisness with the fee implementation.

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avatar 23 Anonymous

I live in Georgia and we have lots of Wells Fargo banks. They used to be called Wachovia.

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avatar 24 shellye

I work for a financial institution and, unfortunately, fees and interest income are how we make money. If a financial can’t make money off interest income (via loans), they have to make it somewhere else. When financials were lending money to every Tom, Dick and Harry that walked through the doors, they could afford to have fee-free ATM and debit cards. But now that the lending has been tightened up, financials are screwing with the only other income-producing product they have – checking accounts and debit cards.

But, as a lot of posters above have mentioned, there ARE alternatives. Online banks like ING direct and USAA will reimburse all ATM fees up to a certain amount. Consumers are just going to have to shop smarter and plan their spending better to keep fees down.

For what it’s worth, I’d rather keep my money under a mattress (or in a tampon box like was mentioned in a popular online article the other day, LOL) than put it in Wells Fargo.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

Wellsfargo is still making money off of MY money to begin with.. now they want to Charge me a fee to use a debit card? why? so thier profit margin is bigger? Please!! You are right.. I guess it’s time to move all my accounts to USAA!

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avatar 26 Anonymous

Ironic that I just got through writing SunTrust’s CEO Jim Wells, stating I was cancelling my account as of Nov 1st because they are going to start charging $5.00 (YES, FIVE DOLLARS) per month for the use of their debit card! I went to Ally Bank, one of the myriad of banks that are not charging for debit cards. No, they only have 1 brick and mortar structure, but after checking them out, they came out on top………..So, to all the banks that are starting to charge, SEE YA! Hope y’all choke on your greedy ways and close your doors. It would serve you right!

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avatar 27 Anonymous

“Wells Fargo & Co. posted a $3.8 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011, a 48 percent increase over the first quarter a year ago…”
I just pulled that off the internet. So sorry if they aren’t getting interest from loans, etc. Looks like they’re doing pretty well to me. What’s the deal with the GREED in this country.

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avatar 28 Anonymous

Ask Wells Fargo about their other fee’s like the NSF charge of $35.00 and the additional $12.00 charged to the recipient of the check. These high rate for these fees were posted earlier this year and could be higher by now. This bank is greedy and doesn’t help their customers that are and have been struggling during this recession. They are just looking for your funds to be deposited into their bank, for their own growth.

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avatar 29 shellye

WF charges $12 to the person unlucky enough to deposit a bad check??? Hadn’t heard that one. There is no such thing as good faith anymore. Guess we’ll have to start asking tellers to verify funds before we deposit checks.

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avatar 30 qixx

Yet another reason i am looking to change to a new bank (I’m taking suggestions). In the last 2 weeks i got a notice that Bill Pay will now cost me $6 a month and this week got one saying my “Free Checking” will be renamed “Personal Checking” and cost $7 a month. I have not gotten the $3/month debit fee notice but that would make $16/month in new fees just to stay at Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is not worth $192/year to stay there.

Now back to compiling my list of places i’ll have to update my checking account info.

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avatar 31 Anonymous

They have other accounts that provide those services free, and waive the fees other banks charge similar fees.

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avatar 32 Anonymous

Ya, I find it is possible to avoid all the fees charged by wells Fargo by going into there building and walking through everything with a rep. But the minute you decide to change something yourself (like changing the amount you direct deposit, or want to start/stop using a debit card or whatever) you will have to go back in to avoid their many fees. Why do all this work to stay at a bank that offers nothing special in return? I switched to State Bank & Trust which is local to my area, everything is so easy to set up yourself and haven’t been charged a single fee yet for anything.

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avatar 33 Anonymous

This is just ridiculous. Time to change banks!!!!

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avatar 34 Anonymous

This is why this charge happened because of people trying to regulate banks, do you want to still have a debit card service? Cause if you do they need to fund it some how.

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avatar 35 Anonymous

All Wells Fargo card holders, should shred them and go to another bank.

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avatar 36 Anonymous

To get charged a similar fee? At key bank they charged me 5$ when my debit card was Stolen and I’d much rather pay 3$ a minth for my Debit card And still have a free checking then 0$ for DC and 10$ a month for a checking. Besides That’s to much hassle for some people having to swith direct deposit and automatic payments no I prefer to pay 3$ a month for the convenient service and still use my debit card.

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avatar 37 Anonymous

This is a pilot program, and yes, I’m one of the affected customers. I will vote with my feet and walk away from WF. Remember, this will be monitored, so if you hesitate to indicate your opinion, you will be penalized for this hesitation. I use MY OWN MONEY and I won’t tolerate to give them a dime just because they’re greedy or incompetent.

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avatar 38 Anonymous

To Cejay: Georgia has plenty of Wells Fargo banks; they were once called Wachovia.
My opinion is that going from bank to bank over a $3 fee won’t help. When one airline started charging for extra luggage, all the airlines followed suit. The same thing will happen with the banks. There are several strategies for offsetting the new fees. 1. Use a credit card for purchases, paying the balance off monthly. 2. Use checks. The merchants appreciate them because they pay no fees. 3. Carry cash (within reason).
We can control our finances if we plan ahead and budget what we will need for the month. I have no intention of giving $3 a month to my bank when they already profit from my deposits.

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avatar 39 Anonymous
avatar 40 Anonymous

I have free everything..
ATM, Checking, Bill Pay, teller service, even when I had a problem with depositing a bad check, they did not charge me. And I do not have a large balance, less than 4k combined.
Of course I belong to a Credit Union, and with them being part of the COOP network and I pay no fees at thousands of ATM locations across the country.
Why would anyone still belong to a large bank that charges for everything?

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avatar 41 Anonymous

I’m confused; the Consumer Account Addenda (CNS5159 GA (8/1/11) for these states clearly states that this $3 debit card activity fee will be charged to your Wells Fargo checking account in any monthly statement cycle WHEN you make at least one purchase or payment (like recurring bills) using any Card linked to your account. It is waived if you have Wells Fargo PMA package. It does not apply to Wells Fargo or Wachovia ATMs. If I use another banks’ ATM, would they charge the $3 activity fee? If I dont use the debit card, then no $3 fee. Right?!?

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avatar 42 Anonymous

Yes, no use no fee. Wf and wachovia ATMs free, other ATM yes fee.

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avatar 43 Anonymous

Starting in October Regions Bank will start charging $4 a month to use their debit card. It is still free to use the card as an ATM card.
They are also raised their requirements to wave their monthly fee on the LifeGreen checking account: the 15 electronic transactions waver is disappearing, the average monthly balance waver is increasing from $1K to $1.5K, and the direct deposit waver minimum value has increased from $10 to $500 (or $1000 for the month).

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avatar 44 Anonymous

This is where I meant to post my comment the fist time…

I know it seems like it doesn’t cost them money but there is a cost of doing business when I went in because my debit card was stolen with fraud charges I was reimburse the full amount. The lady I spoke with made me realize that even if that money is never recovered they still pay it to the customer because it’s 0 liability. It also cost them money to investigate it and other small things like actually manufacturing the debit cards. I guess it’s the service we pay for. I’d much rather pay 3$ every month carry a debit card in my purse that I know I can call and cancel right away if it gets stolen and still keep my money safe, then carry cash. Because if that gets stolen there no getting it back. Besides I spend much more money on 1 cup of coffee every morning without complaints.

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avatar 45 Anonymous

I will be happy to move my money from WF. The banks are doing all they can to increase profits to make Wall Street happy and not there customers. In times like these EVERYONE is fighting to get your last penny… you need to FIGHT to keep every penny… when you allow one place to do it, they will all do it… look at what the airlines did when they banded together. FEES out the wahzu!!! Banks saw that airlines did it and people just took it and accepted it… that ius because most people do not fly BUT most of us NEED to use the banking system.

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avatar 46 skylog

wow, i find this just hard to believe. i hope this does not become a trend. if i were a member, i would certainly try to find another bank. i know it is only 36/year, but that is what it is for now. the rate could (and probably would) go up. with both the number and the amount of fees raising at the rate it is, it is becoming harder and harder to just have an account with basic features without paying out too much in fees.

perhaps when i find another online solution, i should start to look at the credit union in my area.

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avatar 47 Anonymous

$36? We have 3 accounts – – each with debit cards – – $108.00. That’s groceries for a week for a family of 4.

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avatar 48 Anonymous

I had First Union, then stayed with them as they merged with Wachvoia and now Wells Fargo. The First Union to Wachovia merge was not bad at all. This Wachovia to Well Fargo merge is horrible. In addition to the high overdraft fees and this proposed debit card transaction fee I just got an email saying they were discontinuing the rewards program for debit cards (ok whatever). What makes me so mad is that I have a Way to Save account which was supposed to serve as my overdraft protection. Wachovia never used to charge me to transfer money from that account to my chaecking account if I happen to overdraft my checking account. In fact that is how they got me and my husband to sign up for the account for both of our checking accounts. Now Wells Fargo charges…to transfer my own money! And their policy of if the overdraft is less than $5 they don’t charge is all well and good, but I overdraft the other day by $6 and got charged $24 for the tansfer. Great! I understand that banks need to make money, but if they were being ethical and customer focused in the first place we would not be in this mess with bail outs and such a severe recession.

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avatar 49 Anonymous

Yes!!!! This just happened to me!! I will be switching to a credit union. Luckily, I keep up with my money or I could have overdrafted my account thinking I had a few extra dollars. I never received an email or letter stating these crazy fees. I also heard the WF bill is horrible in comparison to Wachovia’s looking at WF website I can see that. Hot mess.

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avatar 50 Anonymous

GET OVER IT! do you pay for your electricity? phone? cable? heat? these are ALL services. Is banking a service? yes. should you have to pay for it? YES! its a SERVICE! if you would all stop overdrawing your account, you wouldnt have overdraft fees. Wells Fargo at least provides EASY ways to waive monthly service fees, other than the minimum balances and direct deposits, that all of the other large corporations are charging. Maybe stop paying to allow your children to watch trash TV, take them outside, throw a ball, put the 150 or whatever ridiculous amount it is that you spend a month on cable into a savings account and avoid ALL service fees. Until then–stop complaining! ALL the banks are doing it or will do it in the future, its only a matter of time.

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avatar 51 Anonymous

Your kiddin’ right? You must work in a bank as this comment only would some from someone who is afraid of losing their job! I closed my account with Suntrust after many years and went to a small bank that PAYS for all my atm transactions from other atm’s, pays me a handsome rate on savings and NO DEBIT CARD FEE EVER! So, you keep saying ALL BANKS will go to this and I predict you will be “EATING YOUR WORDS” for lunch!

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avatar 52 Anonymous

Well…Let’s add Alaska to the list. The largest financial institution is going to squeeze us in the frozen state as well. It doesn’t make sense, as using a debit/check card actually saves the company money in the long term by negating the “old” bad checks scenario. The assumption is that people won’t go back to writing checks or want to carry cash, so bilking the customer for 40 bucks a year will work out. But even if a marginal number decide to return to writing checks more often than not, a percentage of those check writers end up writing bad checks, which all to often get written off by the banks..Not a win-win for the company. Whomever thought this idea up for Wells Fargo should be shot..then shot again.

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avatar 53 Anonymous

Regions just instituted $4.00/month check card fees, for any month in which the consumer makes a non-ATM transaction. Which is EVERY month for me. I worked at a bank for over 5 years. Even with chargeback and representment activity, costs for ordering plastics, rising processing fees, etc, the bank saved booku $$$ on customers who used their cards (it was once calculated that as long as the customer used the card at least 7 times monthly, the bank was making money on the card). Most of that was in the form of savings from not having to process, image, handle, and store paper checks. I think I generally average about 60 checkcard transactions a month, mostly on weekends or for online bill payment. I used to know someone who averaged over 500 checkcard transactions a month.

So far, ING has not instituted any such fee. Plus, there is a current special where they award you $50 for opening a checking account. Plus, they now offer paper checks (must register the checks when you receive them) at a competitive price. Plus, they pay (a little) interest on the electric orange checking account (which is more than Regions is currently doing). Guess where my banking business is getting ready to go?

I mean, seriously – what good did it do to restrict the fees that consumers can be charged? Processors pass the charges on to our local banks, who pass it on to us, and in the end we still end up paying. Except now, we are probably actually paying MORE because another middleman or two has been added to the mix. When is it my turn to “maximize profit”? Because when everyone else is maximizing theirs, all I see is a personal cash flow statement getting ever closer to negative. Can’t get a raise, boss is trying to maximize his profit. Gotta pay more for gas, investors wanted to maximize their profit. Gotta pay more for groceries, because everything contains corn, and when demand rose corn growers tried to maximize their profit. Not to mention all the converted soybean, cotton, and rice fields which caused all of those prices to rise as well. I hate you all, and will continue to until I figure out what “product” I am foisting on the masses and how to set its price point to “maximize” my “profits”.

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avatar 54 Anonymous

This is absolutely ridiculous! We use both Wells Fargo and Amegy Bank. Amegy Bank not only offers free checking, free debit cards, and a nice interest rate on the savings accounts they also reimburse all fees from non-amegy atm machines. We use Wells Fargo as our primary bank but that will end on November 14th! I have kept my account with Wells Fargo since I was 12 and now I will be closing every one of my accounts!

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avatar 55 Anonymous

Unfortunately, the $3 debit charges are not even the worst of what Wells Fargo is doing. I am a student and just opened up an account with Wells Fargo within the past year. They are now attempting to charge $15 PER ACCOUNT. If you do not meet a requirement as mentioned below. So, I will most likely be closing my account because of this ridiculousness. I am not paying $360 a year to keep a savings and checking account open…
What’s changing
Effective November 14, 2011, the options to waive your Complete Advantage Checking account monthly service fee will change.
You can waive the $15 monthly service fee when you have three additional linked qualifying accounts/services and one of the following:
Maintain $7,500 or more in combined balances in deposit or qualifying credit accounts, OR
Maintain a linked Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
If you do not meet one of the above monthly service fee waiver options, this fee can be discounted by $2 per month when you set up and receive online statements for this account.
What you may need to do
Automatic transfers are no longer available to waive the monthly service fee. Please review the new monthly service fee waivers carefully as it may be necessary for you to take action to ensure your account is not assessed a monthly service fee.

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avatar 56 Anonymous

I feel the banks have brought this upon themselves, when ATM’s were relatively new, the banks threatened to levy a “teller fee” to encourage the use of the ATM.
OK, We are using the ATM, in fact, I now do most of my banking via ATM and I like it and now they want to charge an ATM fee? give me a break.
If they go through with this, I will be closing all of my WF accounts, I know, most of the other banks will get on the bandwagon and I’ll probably still pay the fees, but not to Wells Fargo.

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avatar 57 Anonymous

This is troubling…..thanks for the info. I have a Premier Checking though and don’t pay any fees, ever, so I have been assured that this wouldn’t affect me, but who knows? lol

I’m looking to transfer 100k to a credit union and ladder some CD’s. This is how I found this site.

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