Bank Watch

Wells Fargo raises fees on 'Value Checking' account

Wells Fargo said it will limit the dollar volume of its subprime auto originations to 10 percent over its overall auto loan originations.
Wells Fargo said it will limit the dollar volume of its subprime auto originations to 10 percent over its overall auto loan originations. AP

Here's some news that might upset some Wells Fargo customers.

The bank is increasing the monthly fee on its "Value Checking" account, as much as doubling it for some customers, a move the San Francisco-based lender said will make the fee the same across its customer base.

Wells Fargo said all customers who have a "Value Checking" account, one of Wells Fargo's basic checking accounts, will be charged $10 a month starting in April.

The impact of the increase will be bigger for some customers than others. Some customers have been paying $5, while others have been paying $7 or $9.

The fourth-largest U.S. bank said the change is part of its normal efforts to streamline and simplify older types of accounts and create consistency across the markets in which it does business. Until now, the monthly fees for Value Checking customers have varied depending on where they lived and when they opened their accounts, the bank said.

The change will have little impact in North Carolina, where there are a small number of Value Checking accounts, spokeswoman Richele Messick said. The company does not disclose its numbers of customers by account, she said.

The fee increase comes at a time when banks are under pressure by investors to boost their profitability. Wells Fargo reported earning $5.38 billion for common shareholders in the fourth quarter, up less than 1 percent from a year earlier.

The higher fee also comes after Wells Fargo, in October, began allowing customers to have more real-time information on their accounts, a change that has resulted in less overdraft-fee income for the bank. A drop in overdraft fees cost the bank $70 million in income during the fourth quarter compared with the third, according to a securities filing.

As it raises the fee, Wells Fargo also says it is giving Value Checking customers additional ways to have the fee waived. For example, the fee will now be waived if a customer makes 10 purchases or 10 payments a month with a Wells Fargo debit card.

Also, customers ages 17 to 24 will automatically be given a $5 discount on the fee each month.

Messick said the fee change will not affect the "vast majority" of Value Checking customers, who will now be converted to Wells Fargo's "Everyday Checking" account. Also, many customers already don't end up paying the monthly fee, because they meet requirements to get it waived, she said.

A look at other changes that will affect Value Checking customers:

▪ Customers can waive the monthly fee if they maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500. In the past, customers were required to maintain an average daily balance of $1,500 to have the fee waived.

▪ The fee can also be waived if the direct deposits made into the account total $500 or more a month. That's a change from a requirement that a single direct deposit of at least $250 be made a month.

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Twitter: @DeonERoberts