Wells Fargo: 50 Ways to Leave Your Customer


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Honestly – we feel jilted. After my wife and I and our respective businesses spent years trying to cultivate a relationship with you, Wells Fargo, you took a page from Paul Simon’s song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and left us. Yeah, “Hop on the bus, Gus,” “Make a new plan, Stan,” “Don’t need to be coy, Roy,” and all the other 47. Now you didn’t tell us to go elsewhere. You just made it plain that we were unwanted – our long-time “Preferred Customer” (private banking) status and multiple accounts, some with high average balances, plus a sizeable mortgage notwithstanding. Heck, we even tried to give you all our retirement savings, but after your “retirement planner” couldn’t find time to develop a plan in three months, we did “cheat.” We committed an act of customer infidelity and went elsewhere.

Now, ’cause this is a blog, I’m going to skip the first 49 ways you left us, and you used them all. Other than to merely mention the time you accepted a large, multi-check business deposit at your drive-up window; issued a deposit receipt from your transaction system, indicating that you’d already linked these checks to our account; then proceeded to not only “lose” the deposited checks, but tell us you wouldn’t credit the deposit until an internal review taking up to 10 business days, plus us producing copies of our clients’ cancelled checks. Despite the fact that even a transaction system run by East Elephant’s Breath Savings & Loan would spot the error immediately when your drive-in teller couldn’t balance out at end of shift. Oh, could we ever feel the customer love!

Yeah, and the timing of these events was so special, too. We discovered you’d “lost” the checks only after you bounced a series of checks written against our “Preferred Customer,” fee-laden, sub-molecular interest-bearing rate checking account, where we keep on deposit only enough to cover checks we write. And our “Preferred Customer” private banker supposedly watching over our “Preferred Customer” accounts? She must have been out to lunch that week.

But don’t get me started…

Nor will I go on and on about your incredible creativity in inventing new fees that pop up like gophers in Minnesota lawns. Nope. Nor will I eat up space describing how your online banking system repeatedly disproves the old adage that “when the bank’s balance and yours don’t agree, trust the bank.” Gonna skip all that stuff so I can focus on the 50th “way” you left us – the one where you told us our relationship was over, done, kaput, divorce-time.

Slap number 50 came when we realized how determined you were to “play the float” with our money. Because my firm consults in the retail financial services space, we’re very familiar with a Federal Reserve Bank edict, “Reg CC,” issued to end miscreant banks’ unreasonable “extension” of check clearing time, which allowed them to earn interest on customers’ money by withholding it from customer accounts for as long as possible. Under Reg CC, barring very special circumstances the maximum time a bank is allowed to clear a local check of $5,000 or more is five days – to which a bank may add a maximum of six days for an out-of-town check. Smaller checks, of course, must be cleared faster than that. And this regulation is still so generous to you, Wells Fargo, because actual check clearing time is way less – typically taking two to three days max for any size check, even out of town checks.

So what’s the damage to us? A few bucks interest here and there? Not hardly. Anyone who’s ever run a small business that issues relatively large invoices – where these invoices are often paid late, causing subcontractor payments to be similarly delayed – knows that long check hold times screw up cash flow to a fare-thee-well. That’s why if you’re a bank that wants to cozy up to small business customers – consultants and contractors in particular – you make funds available as soon as you receive them from the fed. Which most of your competitors do, even those not particularly customer-aligned. However, you, Wells Fargo, automatically hold funds for your own use for the legal maximum, “Preferred Customer” or not. And you know what? Your practices leave execs from other banks I’ve talked to slack-jawed in amazement at your arrogance.

But you went even further. When you’re intent on dancing just within the letter of the law, it’s hard not to slip. Which you did in a most egregious manner. First, your staff gave us conflicting versions of your check-hold strategy – redrawing the $5,000 line down to $3,000, and even further down to “any large check.” We suspect that the real threshold is whatever your customers wouldn’t object to – at least vocally. Although, how many lovers leave without ever saying why? But the endgame for us was when you placed your “automatic hold” on a check to my wife’s business for less than half the $5,000 legal threshold. Worse yet, this wasn’t any check. Not only was this check drawn on a Wells Fargo checking account, but it was drawn on your very own, Wells Fargo, bill-paying service that collects the cash the very moment your bill-payment customer makes a bill-payment request. Even if it’s a “Preferred Customer” request. So you had the cash in your pocket long before we even received the check. But you decided to keep it there as long as possible. Hey, now we could really feel the love!

Let’s make that abuse. And you know what? We’re just not the types to put up with abusive relationships. Even abusive “Preferred Customer” relationships. So, Wells Fargo, we’re sorry you assumed that banking relationships are so entangling that you can behave any way you please and hold us under your spell – or in your case, your stagecoach wheels. But you had to know we wouldn’t stay – right? Or are you totally out to lunch?

Some customer-unfriendly cynics might say I just don’t get capitalism. That I’m naïve and innocent to think you would do anything else with our money (obviously you think it’s yours). But that misses the whole point. The very point you miss. This whole CRM/CEM/whatever-the-hell-we-want-to-call-it movement started not because some doo-dad filled software hit the market. It started because a whole lotta customers, including some of your customers, realized that they, not sellers, hold the balance of power. So we started standing up for ourselves saying, nay yelling, “We’re not going to take it any more.”

This whole saga, including our reaction to it, is all about change. What was permissible seller behavior 10 years ago, even 5 years ago in some sectors, means walking away from your own customers today. We’re no longer following you down that Pied Piper path. The days when customers would dance to your tune are fast fading. Companies like you that want only one-way relationships, and abusive ones at that, are telling us goodbye – whether your behavior is legal, or compliant, or not.

Well, sayonara to you too, Wells Fargo. The last of our accounts will be transferred by week’s end. And may your future be filled with the customers you deserve – “swingers” who will leave you in a wink for a lower rate, or a bigger “free gift.”


  1. Dick

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience with your ex-bank. I know what it is like.

    It reminds me of the crass incompetence, evasive buck-passing and rude arrogance that I experienced at the hands of my local BMW dealer in KÖln, Germany (who lost a series of credit-card payments for vehicle services and tried to make out that it was my fault) that caused me to defect from being a BMW driver.

    And how long ago was my run-in with BMW? Fifteen years ago. That’s right, fifteen years ago! I have not owned a BMW since and I will NEVER own one in the future. I now drive a couple of Toyotas and wouldn’t change back for all the tea in China.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. Dick Lee – hey Graham, next time we get together we can trade car stories, your about BMW and mine about SAAB.


  3. This is an exciting time for you and your wife ! I can assure you that your new banking relationship will fulfill your expectations for what a relationship is all about.

    This not-Wells Fargo bank will know you, take care of you and proactively seek solutions for you before you even know you had such a need. It’s time to benefit from those who are extremely loyal to an organization. Ask and listen, interview and the make your selection. Let us know who you pick and let me know if you need a referral for a personal banker.

  4. Dick Lee – after interviewing managers at a number of Twin Cities bank, we selected a multi-branch local FI, Anchor Bank. And yes, it’s nice to be recognized and greeted by name when you come in for a meeting. In fact, it’s nice to have meetings.

  5. I found your blog when googling for Wells Fargo “Preferred Customer” program, while I was on the phone with a WF sales drone trying to sell me this $5.99/month package of unlistable services. I say unlistable because they said that the program was simply too vast to give me a detailed list of all the features over the phone. Here’s the dialog:

    ME: Um, there must be _some_ feature of this service you can describe. Do I get free checking?

    WF: Well, no. That’s definitely not in the program. But other than that, it can do almost anything you can imagine. For example, you need a list of lawn mowers in your area sorted by price? PCP can do that for you!

    ME: A list of lawn mowers by price? That’s not something I’m likely to need here in Southern California, where our lawns are small enough to cut with scissors. It can do anything? Can I book airline reservations?

    WF: No, not airlines. But, you reminded me that there is an emergency travel feature, which can help you out anywhere in the world!

    ME: How does that work?

    WF: Well, if you’re travelling and have an emergency, you just call your personal Preferrred Customer phone number and they’ll help you right away!

    ME: So if I miss my flight, they’ll find me a new one?

    WF: No, nothing with the airlines. It’s a road thing. You have a flat tire, they fix it for you!

    ME: Over the phone?

    WF: No, they’d send somebody out.

    ME: For free?

    WF: There are some restrictions, but I’m sure it would cost less than if you did it yourself.

    ME: Really? If I change the tire myself it costs me nothing. And I don’t have to wait.

    WF: If you just sign up now, you’ll get the whole package and see how wonderful it is. Trust me, it’s wonderful!

    ME: You found it wonderful? How long have you been in the Preferred Customer program? What services do you like the best?

    WF: [long pause]. I’m not in the program myself. [whispers] I haven’t been invited.

    ME: Only certain people get invited? What did I do to get invited? I’m just a regular guy with about $1,000 in my bank account.

    WF: These services are very useful, believe me. Life changing. They will change your life!

    ME: Ok, give me an example, one without lawn mowers.

    WF: Well now, let me think. Suppose you were driving along and suddenly needed to know the price of your stock. We could look that up for you! It’s just a phone call away, and personalized!

    ME: You would have a copy of my stock portfolio?

    WF: No, you’d tell us which stock to look up, and we’d look it up!

    ME: Why wouldn’t I do that myself?

    WF: You’re driving!

    ME: I have a SmartPhone, though, so I can look up stocks, or google stuff, right from my phone. But wait. Can you point me to the web site that describes all these services? Then I can make a decision.

    WF: Well, I don’t actually know the website…

    ME: Hmmmm… Shouldn’t a service that can do almost anything, including life changing things, be able to find its own web site?

    WF: [tentative laughter] Ha ha ha. I guess you’re right. Let me check. [delay for a full minute]. OK, I checked and we don’t have a Web site, because it’s all personal, you know.

    ME: Can you just send me the materials and I can sign up if I like?

    WF: No, you have to sign up now. We have all your info — you just say the word and you can be using the service in 24 hours!

    ME: Without the materials? Are you going to Fedex them?

    WF: No, they’ll arrive in two to three weeks. But you can call in right away and starting asking questions.

    ME: But I have to pay $5.95 for that privilege?

    WF: That’s not much! I spent more than that at lunch!

    ME: No, I guess it’s not much one time. Since it’s so little, will you just waive the fee in my case?

    WF: No, I’m not set up to do that. I can only turn you… I can only activate your account.

    ME: I don’t see how I can start paying for something if I don’t know what it is. I guess I’ll have to pass.

    WF: [dejected] I’m so sorry, sir, that I could not answer your questions. I will try to do better next time. I’m so, so… new at this. [obvious sympathy ploy]

    ME: Don’t blame yourself. It’s your manager’s fault. Be sure to tell them I said so. No manager worth his or her salt would send a sales rep into a cold call without so much as a web page to back them up. Can you pass that on to them?

    WF: [voice strong, impatient now}. Yes, I will sir.

    ME: In fact, since you have all my info, please have your manager call me as soon as it’s convenient. As a 20-year Wells Fargo customer I really want to pass on my suggestions directly. I’m sure WF is interested in my suggestions, no?

    WF: Thank you for taking your time with us, sir. So long!


    The Preferred Customer program may well be vast. But its marketing is half-vast.

  6. Thanks for the articleI was actually looking for info myself on this program and couldn’t find anything on it not even on the wells fargo secure site. Your dialog was very helpful and I wished i asked the same questions. Anyway I think this is like a scam to get $5.99 a month out of you. I will be canceling it since I did it thinking I’d use the “wonderful” $50.00 hotel savings card, turns out I didn’t touch it and it expired after 1 year. Also only before the 1 year expiration can you pay $10.00 more to reload with $50 more since the expiration date is for the card and not when you last used it.

  7. I think their web site is h0telsavingscard.c0m or at least that for refilling the card but I am not able to login. Dont want people to use me as link to sign up so I purposly used “0” instead of “o”

  8. I have to admit that I LOVED reading how you talked to them when they called you (I have changed a few tires in my life!). And I also have to agree that while their marketing is half-vast (just as you did, I immediately went on the defensive, asking them to justify what they could do for me) their value for specific(perhaps VERY niche) people is indeed vast.
    Who are those people the program works for? I don’t know all of them for sure, I only know that it has worked amazingly for me so let’s talk about that particular niche! I’m a divorced mom with two kids and a demanding job I love plus several very demanding hobbies. When you find yourself FINALLY going thru snail mail and personal email at midnite – well, it’s nice to have “people” you can call who will answer the phone and take care of things. What things? Things like: schedule the neutering of our cat, (who I never meant for us to adopt in the first place!)where the process takes an unbelievable five phone calls; reschedule my sons’ dentists appointments to be consecutive on one of XYZ weeks (to suit my travel schedule at work); call these people and cancel my auto-billing; get me a tennis tutor who we can use this summer based on these constraints (they gave me five options); I have bees in my eaves so find me a totally “green” way to solve the problem. Seriously and very surprisingly, this is a fantastic program for people who have interests and goals that exceed their alloted business hours – I don’t really have time from 8 to 5 to set these appointments, track down these services, etc. And I honestly don’t get how the program makes any money doing it. I am quite sure I’m sucking all their profits from everyone else and I do not even have that much money at Wells so I don’t get the benefit to them. Are they going to suddenly jack up the price to $600/yr when I tell them I want them to find a sculptor who will teach me and my children for 10 hours this summer? So far they haven’t but I promise to come back and post if they do.
    Note: the only reason I signed up is that they agreed they could do something that was worth $50 for me to have them do (that’s the annual price)- some research I had been putting off about who in my areas does this sort of thing. So that made it worth it from the beginning, but I have been exceptionally impressed by everything they have done for me. Maybe they will try to pull the plug after I am hooked unless I move my money from BofA…at which point I will seriously have to consider it! My best girlfriend says, “oh, so now you have people”, it is funny, one of these days I’m going to call said “people” and ask them to call her to reschedule something just to see how respectful they are, etc.! Actually, now that I write that, I’ll do it tonight and see what happens 🙂
    sign me:
    very, very pleasantly surprised,

  9. I just wanted to comment that I received a phone call today saying that I was invited to join the “Preferred Customer Program” and I could have a lot of “personalized” services for the LOW fee of just $9.99 (I believe he said $9.99 a month). And every time I said I was not interested, he became more aggressive in his sales pitch. He finally got the message, although I told him to call me again about the third week in January, just to get him off the phone. That should give me some time to search and find information regarding this program including checking with my branch.

    P.S. I too, found this blog when googling for Wells Fargo “Preferred Customer” program.

  10. I know this article was written over 2 years ago (and that’s an eternity in internet years), but I’m glad it’s still on the top page of Google when I searched “Wells Fargo check cashing”.

    Wells Fargo is not alone in this. Most large banks have adopted similar policies as a way to generate larger more frequent fees. Customers often mistake convenience for service and value, when in fact, they are PAYING through the nose for the convenience of spending their own money.

    My employer is not my only bank. I keep most of my money in an online bank and an online brokerage. Many online banks have better interest rates with no minimum balance. What you lose in convenience you gain in cost savings.

    If you’re uncomfortable with an online bank, find a local credit union. Non-profit credit unions can be as convenient as traditional banks. Many have excellent ATM networks for no-fee withdrawls, online banking & billpay, competitive interest rates, and lower overdraft fees.

  11. It’s not as bad as it all sounds, I said “yes” when they called, and have used the service a few times. Basically it’s a personal assistant you can call 24/7 (the call center is in Stevens Point, WI) and have them do any task they’d have access to using a phone and the internet. They can’t do anything with your private information (finances, pay bills, etc), but they can do a bit of research and report back to you.

    I lost my suit jacket at the party on New Year’s Eve, and they called the hotel every couple days to see if it turned up, then reported back to me.

    I was interested in finding schools getting certain grants, and they emailed me a list of the schools, locations, and contact numbers.

    When I got the sales pitch the guy said they could order flowers for me in the middle of the night if I forgot a special occassion, or find flights in a hurry. Due to privacy issues, I don’t think they can actually use your credit card to buy anything, so I’m not clear how it would work.

    The “bonus” money that came with signing up had so many strings attached to it that it was basically worthless, and I never used it.
    I’ve been pleased with the service overall, but haven’t used it in about 6 months, and will be unsubscribing soon. I’d rather have the $9.99/month.


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