Chase and Wells Fargo are two of the “Big Four” banks in the U.S. along with Bank of America and Citibank. Chase and Wells Fargo both offer a full range of traditional bank products including checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), retirement products, credit cards, auto loans and home mortgages, commercial accounts and student loans. Both offer other financial services products, including brokerage services, through subsidiaries.
In this review, we’ll see how Chase and Wells Fargo compare on what really matters to customers: rates on deposit accounts, types of accounts offered and fees and fine print.
Chase vs Wells Fargo: History
Both Chase and Wells Fargo have been around at least a century, but Chase has Wells Fargo beat on this front. Chase Bank’s founding goes back to 1799 when the Bank of The Manhattan Company was founded by Aaron Burr (yep, that Aaron Burr!). After a 1955 merger, the bank was known for many years as Chase Manhattan until it merged with JP Morgan & Co. in 2000 and became known as Chase Bank. Today, Chase is a national bank headquartered in New York City with nearly 5,000 branches in 23 states.
Wells Fargo is a diversified financial services company with roots in the California gold rush. Founded in 1852, its iconic stagecoach delivered passengers, mail and even money throughout the west. Today, through a series of mergers, the bank has nearly 5,600 branches located in 40 states across the United States.
Chase vs Wells Fargo: How their rates compare
Like most full-service banks around the country, both Chase and Wells Fargo offer similar interest rates on the products consumers want the most, including checking and savings accounts and CDs. The chart below shows the rates available in comparison to those that online banks offer.
|Chase||Wells Fargo||National average*||Online bank average*|
|Savings||0.01% to 0.40% APY depending on account type and balance||0.01% to 0.10%; Special rate of 1.50% APY for one year on balances over $25,000||0.270% APY||1.52% APY|
|Checking||0.01% APY||0.01% to 0.05% APY depending on account chosen||0.192% APY||0.41% APY|
|1-year CD||0.02% to 0.05% APY depending on amount deposited||1.25% APY||1.322% APY||2.09% APY|
|5-year CD||1.40% to 1.55% APY depending on amount deposited||1.65% APY for retirement CD. Maximum quoted term for regular CD is 39 months at 2.35% APY Contact Wells Fargo for more information.||2.236% APY||2.70% APY|
While “standard” interest rates between Chase and Wells Fargo are similar, Wells Fargo seems to offer more—and higher—special rates. For example, Wells Fargo offers a special rate on a 39 month CD of 2.35%. Special rates vary so check the Wells Fargo website for regular updates. This is significantly higher than the rates Chase offers for a longer term. While this is a special rate that is only good for the advertised period, if you are willing to put the money away for required time, there might be a benefit to taking advantage of it. With interest rates so low, even small differences in rates have a huge impact on earnings.
Still, neither bank really beats out online banks in terms of their rates, so you may be better off shopping for high-rate deposit accounts from some of the best online banks first.
Chase vs Wells Fargo: Which has better account options?
Both Chase and Wells Fargo offer three different checking account options. Chase offers a regular checking account plus the Premier and Sapphire accounts. The latter two options provide access to more services that Chase offers, such as free cashiers checks and money orders for Premier clients (also offered to Sapphire clients) and no fees on incoming and outgoing wire transfers or insufficient funds for those with Sapphire accounts. The checking account levels at Chase require different minimum balances or use of services to avoid monthly fees.
Wells Fargo also offers three levels of checking accounts, including regular, Preferred and Portfolio checking. Like Chase, each level of service that Wells Fargo provides requires different minimum balances or use of services to avoid the monthly fee. Preferred checking accounts offer depositors services such as account alerts for low balance, 24/7 security and access to Wells Fargo Mobile. Premier, the highest level of checking account service, provides depositors additional benefits such as a waiver of ATM fees and discounts on loan rates.
Both Chase and Wells Fargo offer savings accounts that can be linked to your checking account although there are differences in the rates the two banks offer. Both offer a full range of CDs, although Wells Fargo seems to offer depositors a fuller range of customizable CDs in terms of length of deposit and also offers higher promotional interest rates on some of these products. Based on rates alone, since services offered and fees are equal, Wells Fargo appears to be a better choice for consumers.
Chase vs Wells Fargo: How they compare on fees
|Standard savings account||$5 monthly fee applies unless: |
-The balance at the beginning of each day is $300 or more, or
-There is at least one repeating automatic transfer of $25 or more from your personal Chase checking account or Chase Liquid® Card, or
-The account owner is under age 18, or
-The account is linked to a Chase Premier Plus or Sapphire checking account or Chase Private Client checking
|$5 monthly fee applies unless:|
- The account has a $300 minimum daily balance, or
-You make an automatic transfer of $25 or more a month from a Wells Fargo checking account.
|Standard checking account||Monthly service fee of $12. |
Fee can be waived if the account has $500 or more in direct deposits or a $1,500 balance at the beginning of each day, or an average beginning of day balance of $5,000 or more or is linked to qualifying Chase checking, savings or other balances.
|Monthly service fee of $10. |
Fee can be waived if the account has 10 or more posted debit card purchases or qualifying deposits of $500 or more or $1,500 minimum daily balance or is linked to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card (for college students) or the primary account owner is between 17 and 24 years old.
|ATM fee||No charge for Chase ATMs|
$2.50 per use for non-Chase ATM in U.S. Fees waived for certain checking accounts.
|No charge for Wells Fargo ATMs|
$2.50 per use for non-Wells Fargo ATM. Fees waived for certain checking accounts.
|Overdraft fee||$34 per item for insufficient funds or returned items to a maximum of three fees per day.||$35 per item, $15 per item for Teen Checking. Limit of three fees per day for consumer accounts and two for Teen Checking|
The fees that Chase and Wells Fargo charge for similar banking services are essentially the same or have very small differences or slightly different ways to avoid paying the fee. This means that the two banks have essentially the same fee structure and that fees do not represent a significant factor in choosing one bank over the other. Consumers should instead base their decisions on other factors such as secondary services the bank may offer or convenience of local branches.
Who should bank with Chase?
As with any brick and mortar bank, many consumers who decide to bank with Chase do so because of convenience. Perhaps a Chase branch is located closest to your home or a branch is located in the building where you work. The basic banking services that Chase offers, including, checking and savings, as well as credit cards, loan services and commercial banking products are similar to those their competitors offer. Interest rates on those products that pay interest are very similar to their competitors, particularly to Wells Fargo. Why should you bank with Chase? Because convenience is the most important factor to you.
Who should bank with Wells Fargo?
Similarly, many consumers will decide to bank with Wells Fargo for the similar factor of convenience and because being able to walk into the bank where they do business is important to them. One additional factor seems to weigh in favor of Wells Fargo. They offer a number of promotional interest rates on savings and CD products to attract new depositors. In a time of low interest rates, the small difference in rates is significant to many depositors. When the promotional period is up, you can weigh current rates at that time to decide whether to remain a depositor or move to a different institution. Otherwise, the products offered and fees charged by Wells Fargo are comparable with their large competitors and with Chase Bank in particular.
If you aren’t sure a large bank is the best option for you, there are alternatives. In recent years, online banks have become more common and offer low fees and interest rates that are frequently higher than those offered by the big banks. If you aren’t committed to being able to visit a branch and are willing to conduct your business online, you can search online at MagnifyMoney.
What should you look for? While this depends on the products and services you need based on your situation, in addition to low fees and high interest rates, look for banks that offer the kind of services you want. This includes an 800 number to resolve account problems, the ability to make deposits easily using your phone and a robust website to find out about account services and resolve account questions. What doesn’t matter? Where the bank is located because all of your business is online.
*National and Online bank averages and any fees mentioned in this article were compiled and are accurate as of the date of publishing.
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