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U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp, better known as U.S. Bank, are ranked third and seventh as biggest banks in America, so if you’re looking for prestige and confidence in opening a reliable checking account, you can’t go wrong either way. But, of course, if you’re looking to understand the nuanced differences between the two big banks, we’ve got you covered. Here is a definitive guide to the U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo decision so you can choose which is better for your personal financial situation.

What to Know About U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank has options that put the account holder in the driver’s seat. You can find U.S. Bank establishments scattered throughout 28 states. Whether you choose to utilize its silver, gold, platinum or premium checking accounts, you can access the entirety of your wealth through the institution’s banking app, its website or a standard ATM.

Furthermore, U.S. Bank ranks impressively on the national scale when it comes to its specialty options for students and seniors, demographics which some major banks do not cater to in any special way. However, for the rest of the general public, the ease and accessibility of an account with U.S. Bank might not outweigh the bank’s main drawback: its near-unavoidable monthly account fees.

U.S. Bank’s primary selling point might be its inclusionary tactics: if you’d most prefer to keep all your finances contained to one bank, U.S. Bank is the place for you. The bank separates its checking accounts by benefits and inclusions by a metric of silver, gold, platinum and premium, each of which has an opening minimum deposit of $25. Essentially, if you’re looking for a range of viable account option for your wealth, U.S. Bank has you covered.

What to Know About Wells Fargo

Almost anywhere you go in the U.S., odds are you can stop by Wells Fargo when you get there. The third-largest bank in America boasts more than 6,000 physical branches and 13,000 ATMs scattered across 40 states. It’s buttressed by a highly rated app for Apple and Android devices. It also excels with easy-to-use online information with an easily navigable website.

Wells Fargo is also at the top of its game in terms of consumer options. It has an impressive array of account options: you can take your pick from two savings accounts, three CD types, five checking accounts and a handful of different IRAs. For those looking to localize their assets to one domain, Wells Fargo has you covered there, too. Finding the right account for your particular financial situation is key to reaping the best benefits of a Wells Fargo bank account—including incurring savings. Among its many distinctive draws, Wells Fargo offers a Teen Checking aimed at educating kids and adolescents on money management.

Unfortunately, for all of its benefits, Wells Fargo accounts don’t have particularly good interest rates. This is a major detriment big bank customers face. Since these big banks have to keep up with the costs of maintaining thousands of physical locations, they often can’t afford to the best rates out there. For starters, Wells Fargo’s basic Way2Save® Savings account only earns at a 0.01% APY. Admittedly, this number is fairly standard for big banks, but you can find much better rates with high-yield checking accounts—specifically with the best online banks.

U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo: Bank Accounts

US Bank vs. Wells Fargo

In the U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo match-up, U.S. Bank may win out when it comes to breadth of accounts. That’s because of its attentiveness to certain demographics. U.S. Bank offers strong options for students and seniors looking to call make one singular bank their financial home base. To that point, U.S. Bank offers several different checking account options, tailored to suit the largest possible number of customers while still delivering prime service. Unfortunately U.S. Bank comes up short in providing the best deals for clients.

As mentioned earlier, US Bank pays special attention to senior citizens and currently enrolled full-time college students. Members of these two groups are exempt from U.S. Bank’s fairly large monthly fees. If you don’t fall into either camp but are still looking to waive the fee, you may be out of luck. U.S. Bank requires much larger direct deposits than most of its competitors in order to earn no-fee checking. This generally affects people with less money in their account, so if you’re at all unstable, it’s best to keep looking elsewhere.

A notable exception to this rule, however, is if you’re the kind of individual who fits into a special class, such as student or elderly American. Bolstered by support from AARP, you will have your own individualized account, with benefits and fee limitations/rate exemptions if you can provide your holdings. The only thing that may pose a threat is the monthly account fees, which can cause some real wear and tear to your savings if you don’t monitor them closely.

U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo: Fees

When making the U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo decision, it’s important to look at fees. U.S. Bank’s fee situation could be best described as a mixed bag, where for every perk, it delivers a blow. While U.S. Bank offers competitive free checking account options for students and retirees, as well as free money market accounts (MMAs) when you create a premium checking account,  the fees are sky-high. Between grappling with a disappointing interest rate on your deposits and shouldering the burden of high monthly charges for overdrafts and wire transfers, you may find U.S. Bank’s downsides aren’t worth the hassle. What’s more, if you decide to opt out of most of the benefits to save cash, you’re still not totally out of the woods. In order to qualify for one of the bank’s free checking programs, you must meet an unusually steep minimum balance requirement, and maintain it throughout the year.

By comparison, Wells Fargo may seem more reasonable with its fees, as it does not operate on a rigid charging schedule. Rather, with the bulk of its accounts, Wells Fargo customers will incur a monthly fee with the exact amount dependent on the value of their own account. These monthly fees can be anywhere from as cheap as $5 to as steep as $30. However, unlike U.S. Bank, it is fairly easy to get out from under these fees, by such measures as setting up direct deposits through the Wells Fargo app or meeting an arbitrarily set account balance minimum. You can learn more about this by meeting with a representative at a bank branch. As with U.S. Bank, at Wells Fargo you can incur Wells Fargo fees through preventable measures.  These include overdrafts, insufficient funds or out-of-network/international ATM transactions.

U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo: Rates

When making the U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo decision, it’s important to look at interest rates.

Wells Fargo’s simple savings account earns 0.01%. Wells Fargo offers three kinds of account types, each with decent rates at each tier. Wells Fargo also allows customers to earn bonus rates up to 1.45% APY by creating and tending to a Portfolio by Wells Fargo® checking account.

U.S. Bank offers a slightly better deal, particularly in terms of its CD rates and money market accounts. However, these rates can’t quite measure up to the high rates of banks whose operations are primarily online and on mobile apps. Unless working with a bank that has a substantial brick-and-mortar presence is at the top of your list, you might want to look elsewhere to secure higher rates.

Bottom Line

us bank vs wells fargo

In terms of sheer size, Wells Fargo is bigger than U.S. Bank, but all things considered, the fees and the rates you will find at both banks—assuming an average profile—come out to roughly the same. Additionally, you won’t earn much interest at either bank. In the U.S. Bank vs. Wells Fargo comparison, U.S. Bank alone offers checking accounts at no cost for college students. It also curates options for people who may have a patchy bank history that may keep them from approval at other bank chains. But when it comes down to it, fees—and the ability to waive them—ultimately separate the two. If you bank with Wells Fargo and manage to make either $500 or $1,000 monthly direct deposits, fees are waived without discussion. U.S. Bank does not offer this. Ultimately, Wells Fargo scrapes by in first place for most consumers. But if you’re a teen or a senior citizen you might find U.S. Bank’s options better suited to you.

Tips for Finding the Right Bank for You

  • Before you decide to work with a bank for any financial need, make sure you have a thorough understanding of your current situation. Is it important for you to have a free checking account? Or are you in a solid spot to start contributing to a high-interest savings account? Take a close look at your balances, and go from there.
  • Don’t disregard credit unions. Companies like Western Union or Navy Federal are way more likely to provide high rates than are big chains like TD or Wells Fargo, who must pay the cost of operating brick-and-mortar establishments nationwide.
  • If you’re looking to save big for retirement, just picking the right bank alone won’t get you there. A qualified financial advisor can set you on the right track better than anyone can. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can greatly expedite the process of finding a financial advisor to meet your needs, in your area, on your budget.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/Vladimir Vladimirov, ©iStock.com/millann

Jane Thier Jane Thier writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. Her expertise includes banking and mortgage. Jane is currently studying at Washington University in St. Louis and serves as editor-in-chief of Armour Magazine. Jane aims to receive her Master's Degree in Journalism.
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