Pros: Many locations, generally good service, access to other banks' accounts
Cons: high fees, occasional quirks and problems
(OK, so I'm still not good with titles)
My wife and I have been banking primarily with Wells Fargo since I signed up with First Interstate of California when Bank of America gobbled Security Pacific in the early 90's. Our requirements then were to find a bank that had branches and ATMs in California and Nevada, had as close to true Interstate Banking as was available at the time, and wasn't Bank of America ("Is all of America banking in your branch?"). First Interstate was one of the few multi-state banks that would accept deposits out of state. Wells Fargo actually improved on interstate banking, but my impression is that most multi-state banks now have little difference between in-state and out-of-state access to your accounts. In fact, our checking account is based in Arizona, the savings and home equity line are based in California (although the mailing address for payments to the home equity line is in Oregon).
My wife and I have checking and savings accounts, a home equity line of credit, and 2 credit cards (which we don't use) at Wells Fargo, and the family trust has a money market account. (For information on the family trust, see my review in the Living Trust category, or send E-mail.) We also have a $500 "overdraft protection" credit line attached to the checking account.
We haven't used "Bill Pay" or brokerage accounts, so I won't comment further on those.
The particular checking account type is "Stagecoach Checking (Wells Fargo of Arizona)", which has $8 monthly fees, waived if the minimum balance of $500 is kept in the account. There's a $2 monthly fee from receiving the canceled checks, also waived. This particular plan is no longer available, and I don't have the details on currently available plans. If you're not planning to keep $1000 in checking or $5000-$10000 in all deposit accounts, you may want to look elsewhere.
On the web site, I can check account balances (although I haven't signed up the family trust yet), see the lists of "items" (deposits, checks, credits, debits, fees, interest) that have cleared in the past two months or so, and transfer funds. Item lists can also be downloaded into Quicken? or MicroSoft Money?.
Using telephone banking, at 1-800-TO-WELLS, I can do pretty much the same thing, except I cannot transfer funds between deposit accounts and loan accounts for some reason. If I ever used the credit cards, I could probably make payments or get cash advances directly into my checking account over the phone, but I haven't tried. Bank operators are available 24/7 if you want to do something not covered in the automated menu. There's a $1 fee for using an operator for something that could have been done on the automated system (also waived), and $.50 each for more than (3 or 6) telephone banking transactions per month (also waived).
At ATMs, I can check account balances, get cash from the deposit accounts(*), transfer funds, and get "mini-statements" (for $1-2) covering the last ten items on an account. Oh, and make deposits and payments and make withdrawals from the deposit accounts. Deposits and transfers are available for immediate withdrawal, so that to get cash from the home equity line, I have to transfer funds from that line to checking and then make a withdrawal from checking.
The ATM card is also a MasterCard debit card. There is a $1/month fee for using it as a POS (Point of Service) card. As I have at least one credit card which I pay off every month, I rarely use it as a POS card.
Update: Home mortgage services
I recently refinanced my first mortgage with Wells Fargo. I decided it was time to refinance, but I had an existing home equity line of credit (renamed from EquityLine?, but I see no reason to change the rest of the review), so I was pretty much limited to refinancing with my original lender or with Wells Fargo. As the original lender never got back to me on an E-mailed question I submitted through their web site, I decided to go with Wells Fargo.
They now (September 2002) have a "Simple Refinance" program, with total fees $600 (due on final signing) for qualifying homeowners. The only specific requirements that I recall were that payments must be made automatically from a Wells Fargo account, a good credit score (650+), the owners must live in the home, and the home cannot be in trust. In any case, we qualified, and the loan funded in less than 45 days. The interest rates are a little high -- I would say about 1/4% higher than DiTech (at least, according to the billboards) -- but the convenience and limited out-of-pocket expense may make it worthwhile. We had limited options, but it still might be good for you.
As those who know me in person already know, my handwriting is terrible. There have been 36 instances that I've recorded since March 1996 in which a check has cleared for a different amount that I've written it for. The one time it caused an overdraft, the bank was willing to waive the overdraft fee. In the two times that the creditor credited his account with a different amount than Wells Fargo debited my account, one ($.06) was credited reasonably quickly, and the other ($.10) is still outstanding. (As that's on the home equity line, and I don't get canceled drafts on that account, it's not worth investigating. The formal appeal procedure probably involves getting a copy of the draft (nominal $3 charge -- waived if an error is found) and mailing it to an office in Portland, OR.) There was also a deposit miskeyed with a $10 error. That required ordering a copy of the microfilmed deposit (free) and going into the bank to argue.
Payments made to the equity line in bank branches take about a week to credit; payments made at ATMs take about 2-3 days to credit, but transfers made on line credit the "available credit" immediately and credit within 1-2 days.
Once I made a large payment on the home equity line by registered mail, and it took 7 days after receipt for the check to credit. This led to one bounced "check". Wells Fargo waived the bounced check charge on their end, but didn't offer to pay the creditor's bounced check charge.
For whatever reason, I cannot reorder EquityLine? checks on the Internet; and, through telephone banking, the operators usually have to call another office at Wells Fargo to call in the order to the check printer. I think there's supposed to be another 800 number for credit accounts, but nobody knows what it is. Also, the EquityLine? checks are oversized and come in books of 10, although they are free.
The $5 credit for being forced to wait more than 5 minutes in the teller line at a branch has been discontinued, but once, this past year, we did get a $5 credit for a long (30 minute) wait in a teller line. Waits usually are less than 5 minutes, and the wait for a "telephone banker" is usually under 3 minutes.
For security reasons, they restrict the browsers you can use to access their web site. Their policy is never to allow "beta" browsers, and they claim Netscape 6 caches all pages, which they consider a security flaw. I can understand that, but, they disallow Netscape Communicator 4.08 but allow Netscape Navigator 4.08. As you probably can guess, the browser component of NC 4.08 IS NN 4.08. As I still use Windows 3.1 on the obsolete machine I use at home, 4.08 is the highest version I can use. I had to download NN 4.08 and install it. Apparently it didn't effect my NC 4.08 installation, but allowed Wells Fargo to recognize the browser as NN 4.08.
Update: This patch no longer works, and NN 4.08 is no longer available with US-grade encryption from the Netscape web site, so I can no longer access the web site from home (using the really obsolete, but secure from viruses, Windows 3.1), but it seems to work OK from work and from public library internet terminals.
Update June 2003: They now admit that they don't accept connection from Microsoft Windows versions earlier than Windows 98. (At least they're honest -- now.)
Update We haven't investigated fully, but the contractor who put up our block wall had difficulty cashing the check we wrote for the balance due -- even with my wife there to confirm that the check was good. This might be because of the large dollar amount ($3,000), and the fact that he wanted cash, but it also might be because he's Hispanic. We plan to investigate further.
Update June 2003: Wells Fargo OneLook
Wells Fargo recently (March 2003?) allowed you to add access to other bank's accounts, in a view called OneLook. Once you establish Internet access to your other accounts, you can ask Wells Fargo to look at them and update the balances (and transaction histories) daily. This can be very convenient if you have many credit cards, of which you only use a few. You can see at a glance if any of the ones you don't use have balances.
Living Trusts (for information on a trust of which my wife is a trustee, which also has an account at Wells Fargo)
If you need a large interstate bank, this is probably one of the best. However, if any of the problems I've mentioned would be a show-stopper for you, try somewhere else first.