Wells Fargo is Not Your Father’s Bank: Much Worse

by francine Hardaway on May 5, 2012

It’s Saturday, and I am on hold for Wells Fargo for 8 minutes. I finally hang up and dial back in. Then I am on hold again until they transfer me to the business side of the bank. Then I am on hold until I get a banker to answer.

Why did I call?

I have had a business line of credit at what is now Wells Fargo for twenty or more years. I am considered a high value customer. But this month I got charges on my statement for $150 fee for having the account and $38.46 in credit protection that I didn’t buy. That’s almost $200.


When I borrow from that line of credit, I pay 9% interest when prime is close to zero.   When I opened the line, it was at 2% over prime. Shouldn’t that be enough money they make on me? Do they have to add fees? It’s insult to injury.


How can this possibly be fair to entrepreneurs and small businesses? Fortunately, I’ve been in business long enough to understand what USED to be.


What used to be: I had a $50,000 revolving business line. It was variable at 2% over prime. That was fair, because it gave the bank a spread. I understood that bigger businesses got 1% over prime, or Libor, or whatever, but I was satisfied with my little line, because it allowed me to do what I needed to do.


Oh, and it took me a decade of being continuously in business before I got it, so I had to prove myself. It wasn’t a handshake. It was given to me as a prize by a local business bank. That bank, which we will call Bank A, was later acquired by Bank B, and they both rolled up into bank C and later to Wells Fargo. I just allowed inertia to carry me along, especially since at the time Wells was in the forefront of online banking.


I used the line make payroll and buy equipment when my receivables collections were slow. In 2008, that line was mysteriously cut from $50,000 to $20,000, although I was never late.


However, optimist that I am, I considered myself lucky, because the line was never called  in its entirety. Many of my larger colleagues had that happen, and were put out of business.


Fast forward to the present.


The third call’s a charm, of a sort. A nice man waives the fee, but he can’t waive the credit protection, which he now sees has been on my account since 2010, the furthest back he can see, despite the fact that I never signed up for it.


While I am on hold, I’m typing my blog post. When I finish it, I will tweet it, share it on Facebook, and spread it via Google+. I will explain in great detail how Wells Fargo baits and switches its longest standing customers, and only waives fees if they complain.


Three years (or more) of paying almost $500 a year for something I didn’t order. I’m a goober for not having noticed it, but of course I am busy trying to help people and make money.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bgiles May 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

I agree that service levels have eroded over the years, regardless of the bank or the business in question. I also agree that we have more power than ever to publicly “out” poor service. That said, I sit on the Board of a non-profit that does great things for the Valley. Like many other non-profits, times are tough and it is only through the generous help of Wells Fargo and others that we have been able to continue serving the arts and culture community. I bring this up simply to point out that with each story of faith lost comes one that restores it.

Lloyd Dewolf May 16, 2012 at 7:37 am

Do you use mint.com? It would have monitored and notified you of the fees, though it takes many months of using it before it tunes out the alerts on spending that are false positives — though you can also disable those.

hardaway May 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

I do use Mint. I have to admit I didn’t look:-( My bad. Wells Fargo did reverse the fees when I complained, however.

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