Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wells Fargo

This just in: there have been a few bank mergers in this country over the last few decades. Pretty soon, we'll all be Bank of America customers, whether we like it or not. (Just like we'll all be AT&T customers.)

I've been a customer of Wachovia since I moved here. They do not charge me any monthly fees, and they are convenient, so I am reasonably satisfied with their banking services, even though they are one of those big, evil, major banks. (Although I am not 100% satisfied with their home mortgage division.) But starting this weekend, thanks to a recent acquisition, I will now be a customer of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is an even bigger bank. But are they more evil?

(It's hard to make out, but that's a picture of a crane installing a makeshift "Wachovia" sign over a more permanent "Wells Fargo" sign, which will become visible starting this weekend.)

Well, we'll see. They sent me detailed information on how the switch would affect our accounts, and as far as I can tell, we will still enjoy free checking and everything else. So, I see no reason to switch...yet. But the tipping point might be the debit card $5 monthly fees that Bank of America plans on implementing, and even Wells Fargo is implementing in select locations. If Wells Fargo starts charging me a new monthly fee, even if it's only a few dollars a month, I will switch to a credit union.

Now...about credit unions. I don't know much about them, but if I understand it correctly, then credit unions are just like banks, only better! If that's the case, then why isn't everyone with a credit union? Is there something bad about credit unions that I don't know about? Why does anyone bank with Bank of America, anyway?

Well, that's obvious: advertising. Do big banks advertise? Yes. (Maybe a little.) Do big banks sign agreements with universities around the country, encouraging college students to bank with them? Yes, they do. When students graduate from college, do they then gravitate towards the big banks out of familiarity, and because they don't know any better? You bet. Did I just sum up why I ended up with a big bank? Why, yes, I did.

Familiarity is the key word here. Big banks have a pretty tight grip on most everything, and would like us to believe that big banks are all that's out there. This generally works pretty well. Credit unions don't advertise, because why should they? Advertising costs money, and besides: the goal of a credit union isn't to turn a profit or grow its membership, it's to serve its existing membership. They're quite content lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile, not only do big banks advertise excessively (sometimes without us even realizing it), but like other large corporations, they are somewhat effective in lobbying lawmakers into bank-friendly legislation.

So, anyway...it's probably only a matter of time before I switch to a credit union, most likely this one. But the ball is in your court, Wells Fargo. Are you going to give me a reason to switch or not?


Brian Sherman said...

We are switching from BOA to USAA, working that now but will take time to reset auto debits, auto deposits, etc. $5 fee was a fee to far.

bubba0077 said...

The only drawbacks I know of with credit unions are: (1) they are local entities (except USAA), and even locally they generally have fewer locations and ATMs; (2) they often have per-requisites to join (must work for this group of companies, must live in this area, etc.).

Jeff said...

Of course, the $5 fee can be the result of non bank-friendly elements of legislation too: http://www.forbes.com/sites/halahtouryalai/2011/09/29/bofas-new-5-debit-card-fee-blame-dodd-frank/

James Allen said...

I've experienced slightly better service through Wells Fargo than Wachovia. We do all of our transactions online, and the WF website is better than Wachovia's was.