It has taken a series of emails to top corporate officials at Wells Fargo (WF) and Wells Fargo Bank to confirm their plans to impose a new and unjustified monthly fee for the use of my own debit/ATM card to make any purchases. National news stories on CNN and other media have announced that Wells Fargo Bank (formerly Wachovia) plans to start charging customers like me every month to use our own money via our debit cards. They will thus join the Banks of Infamy including such other abusers of customer trust as Bank of America, which has imposed a five dollar a month fee on debit card purchasers.
According to my own local Wells Fargo Bank branch here, the State of Georgia has been chosen as a pilot project to test, in my view, how they can best to get away with hurting customers. Now, if we had a PMA account with a $25,000 balance or equivalent banking relationship with Wells Fargo, we would be exempt from the debit card fee. So this new fee will fall on the "little guys" who can least afford it; heavy hitters with large bank balances will not have to pay it. And WF has no senior citizen or other accounts which avoid the fee. Instead, the very first time we make a purchase using our WF debit card, we will be charged the whole $3 that month. If we bought a $30 item, that fee would be 10% of its cost!
After emailing a host of top Wells Fargo officials, as both a WF mortgage holder and bank customer, it took nearly two weeks to even get a response -- which was that in less than one more week, on October 14, 2011, the new fees would start here. When I asked what specific notice had been given of those fees, one of their staff cover-up experts in the WF California headquarters left a phone message that it was on an account statement - and perhaps it is, somewhere, but that is not clear, adequate, separate, notice customers need. So, while WF shafts its customers, this abusive bank won't even do it separately and personally.
Finally, I did hear from one of WF's public relations staff in the Atlanta region, who told me that bank revenue was cut by $250 million every quarter due to recent controls and limits Congress had wisely put on merchant charges for payments made by customer debit cards. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, leading the fight against these pernicious fees, estimates that those merchant charges were some 400% of the costs of transactions. So, what WF is really doing is replacing one unfair and unjustified fee with an even worse one!
The protest movement which started on NY's Wall Street and has now spread throughout the nation is fueled in part by righteous indignation at every financial institution which abuses its customers and the public trust. American balladeer Woody Guthrie said that he did not know whether the bigger crime was to rob a bank, or to own one. Many years later, that's still a very good question -- indeed, perhaps an even better question today! Wells Fargo should be ashamed of itself.