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Updated on Friday, March 15, 2019
When you hear the phrase, “big bank,” Wells Fargo and Bank of America likely come to mind. Founded in 1852, Wells Fargo is a San Francisco-based bank which has almost 8,000 locations. The Bank of America brand, on the other hand, first came about in 1998 and is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has about 4,300 locations available to customers.Overall, they both provide the standard financial products and deposit accounts you’d expect from giants like these. For example, both offer savings and checking accounts as well as CDs, retirement accounts, credit cards and home and auto loans. As ubiquitous brands, they (as well as other big banks) stand in a category of their own, meaning they don’t really compete with the offerings you might find at an online bank, or even a credit union. So it’s important to shop around if you want to score the best accounts and rates.
Despite the similarities these two banks share, there are subtle differences in their offerings that will dictate which comes out on top for each individual’s circumstances.
Here’s how they stack up:
Wells Fargo vs Bank of America: How their rates compare
Interest rates are an important factor to consider when choosing a bank. Readers should be aware, however, that some offerings and products from both Wells Fargo and Bank of America will depend on your location. This includes interest rates. To keep things consistent, we’ve pulled information using the corresponding ZIP codes for each bank’s headquarters (Wells Fargo: 94104; Bank of America: 28256).
|Wells Fargo||Bank of America||National average*||Online bank average*|
|Savings||0.01% APY||0.03% APY||0.270% APY||1.52% APY|
|Checking||0.00% APY||0.00% APY||0.189% APY||0.41% APY|
|1 year CD||0.05% APY||0.05% APY||1.268% APY||2.09% APY|
|5 year CD||Not Available||0.08% APY||2.206% APY||2.70% APY|
Neither Wells Fargo nor Bank of America has accounts that come close to matching (let alone outpacing) the APYs for those from the average U.S. bank, as you can see from our table above.
The checking accounts from both banks, for example, do not pay out interest. And while the savings accounts do have an APY, those are extremely low within the context of the national average. Ultimately, neither bank is competing at the same level as others (especially online banks) when it comes to offering consumer-friendly interest rates.
Wells Fargo vs Bank of America: Which has better account options?
Overall, these two banks are fairly evenly matched. But Wells Fargo edges out Bank of America, particularly for those interested in the brick-and-mortar banking experience. Part of that is due to its size — Wells Fargo has almost double the amount of physical branches, which means it should be easier for the average American to access. (Of course the actual value of that increased availability will vary depending on your location and how often you travel.)
Another negative for Bank of America is its extremely low APYs. While it has an ever-so-slightly higher rate for its basic savings account than Wells Fargo (and it offers a five year CD while Wells Fargo does not), its overall offerings leave much to be desired. That’s especially true when you consider its CD products, which offer only an incrementally better return than its savings account. It’s one year CD, for example, falls short of the APY offered by online banks by more than two full percentage points. Wells Fargo, on the other hand, offers a rate higher than the national average for its one year CD. That difference that could mean a lot of lost interest earnings for those who opted for Bank of America.
Wells Fargo vs Bank of America: How they compare on fees
As noted above, a few of the offerings vary based on location. So we’ve used the banks’ respective headquarters’ ZIP codes for consistency.
|Wells Fargo||Bank of America|
|Standard savings account||$5 monthly service fee||$5 per month|
Standard checking account
|$10 monthly service fee||$14 per month maintenance fee per statement cycle|
|ATM fee||$2.50 per transaction at a non-Wells Fargo ATM||$2.50 for non-Bank of America ATMs|
|Overdraft fee||$35 per item||$35 per overdraft|
These two banks are essentially evenly matched when it comes to fees (though Bank of America’s $14 monthly maintenance fee for its standard checking account is a bit higher than Wells Fargo’s.) So, at a surface level, Wells Fargo seems to come out just slightly ahead of Bank of America when it comes to fees.
However, it’s important to note that both banks offer consumers ways to avoid those monthly fees. In fact, both banks will waive the monthly fee for basic savings accounts for those who maintain a minimum balance of $300 (though there are other ways to do it, too). Both will waive the fee for basic checking accounts when customers maintain a daily balance of $1,500 or more, among other options.
Check out our round-up of the best free checking accounts.
Who should bank with Wells Fargo?
If you’re someone who wants the convenience of a widely accessible bank, and the humans who work inside those, Wells Fargo is likely a better option since it has a more dominant physical presence in the U.S. than Bank of America. It also carries with it the security of a household name, over 150 years in business, plus $1.9 trillion in assets at its disposal.
That can provide a small confidence boost for the bank-weary consumer. Considering that level of security, it’s not that surprising that Wells Fargo also provides customers with better rates for their CDs — a product which is inherently a guaranteed return on your investment — than you would see from the average national bank.
So for those who aren’t too concerned about making interest off their more basic products, like checking and savings accounts, but crave that kind of financial assurance, it’s a solid option.
Who should bank with Bank of America?
Bank of America is best for those who prefer a no-frills approach to banking. Provided interest earnings aren’t your top priority, these accounts get the job done. And in addition to the many banks and ATMs, there’s also an app (available through Google/Android and for Apple users) customers can use to quickly check out their balances, make transfers, do mobile check deposits and use its virtual financial assistant function to help you manage your finances.
That’s useful for those who find themselves frequently using their phone to conduct business, or do things like budget. Lastly, Bank of America may be a good option for those who want to get a CD, but can’t afford the steep $2,500 minimum that comes with a Wells Fargo CD. Bank of America’s minimum for a standard term CD is just $1,000, making it much more accessible for those with less cash to spare.
When it comes to brick-and-mortar banking, these two giants are classic choices — they’re households names and they’re equipped to provide face-to-face services to customers across the country. But if you’re looking for rewards, you might be better served looking elsewhere. Online banks, for example, often offer lower fees and better rates on basic accounts like checking and savings, meaning you could stand to profit more off of your basic banking needs. Those who are open to an online banking experience can compare the best online banks at MagnifyMoney to find the best option for them and their finances.
*National and Online bank averages and any fees mentioned in this article were compiled and are accurate as of the date of publishing.