Last October I reported on a Wells Fargo blog post which provided details of how Wells Fargo was going to convert Wachovia's Way2Save program. The best feature of the new Way2Save program was the bonus in which you could earn up to $150 after the first 13 months. The other features of the account, like the premium interest rate, provided very little benefit. Based on my recent experience, it appears that many former Wachovia Way2Save customers will not be eligible for the bonus when their accounts are converted to Wells Fargo Way2Save accounts. In addition, Wells Fargo has decided not to make the Way2Save account available for new accounts in some states. I've confirmed this for Texas and California.
Texas Conversion - Disclosure Details
Last weekend my Wachovia Way2Save account was converted to Wells Fargo Way2Save account as part of the branch conversions that took place in Texas. Over the weekend I finally had time to review the conversion packet that I received in the mail from Wells Fargo. In the disclosure it did state that the "savings account is not available to be opened as a new account." The premium interest rate was described, but without any rate details. However, there was no mention of the $150 bonus that was first described in the October Wells Fargo blog post (see pdf).
Problems with Wells Fargo's Customer Service
I then tried to find out about the premium interest rate and the bonus by contacting Wells Fargo. I first sent a secure message while logged into my account. This proved to be a waste of time. The first reply just requested me to call. I then clarified my questions. One of the questions was very basic: what is the premium interest rate. This isn't listed in the disclosure or on the website. Their reply again instructed me to call without providing any useful info.
My first call was on Sunday, and the CSR told me that there was no more premium interest rate. This conflicted with the disclosure so I had my doubts. The CSR didn't appear experienced, and since it was Sunday I thought I would just call back on Monday when more experienced CSRs would likely be available.
Confirmation of No Bonus
When I called back on Monday, the CSR was more knowledgeable. However, she was having some technical problems which resulted in a hold of more than 15 minutes. This is why I prefer using secure email for questions. Finally, the CSR confirmed that the disclosure was correct regarding the premium interest. The yields were consistent with what was reported in October: 3.00% APY for up to $500 and 0.05% for over $500 for first 13 months.
Regarding the bonus, the CSR said that I would NOT be eligible. From what she explained it appeared that some customers may qualify for the bonus based on when they opened their Wachovia Way2Save accounts. It appears that many customers may not qualify for this bonus. If your Way2Save account has been converted, don't assume that you will qualify for this bonus. Make sure you verify with Wells Fargo that you do qualify.
No New Accounts
The last thing I asked the CSR was about new accounts. The disclosure had informed me that new Way2Save accounts would not be opened in Texas. The CSR said this also applies to California. New Way2Save accounts do appear to be available in some states. Colorado is one state where it's shown to be available at this Wells Fargo's webpage. If you select a different state like California or Texas, it will list the Wells Fargo Goal Savings Account instead of the Way2Save Account. For states that do offer the Way2Save account, there is no mention of the $150 bonus. The premium interest rate is mentioned for the first 13 months, but there is no mention of what the rate is.
New Way2Save Account is Not Worth It
Without the $150 bonus, I don't see any advantage of using the Way2Save account. The $500 cap of the premium interest rate limits what you can earn to about $16 in 13 months. After the 13 months ends, the standard rate takes effect which is currently only 0.05%. In addition, there are monthly fees if you don't maintain a $300 balance or if you don't have automatic recurring transfers.
Old Way2Save Account Continues Until Your State Converts
According to the Wells Fargo blog post "NOTHING will change with your current Way2Save account until the Wachovia branches in your state convert to the Wells Fargo brand." I can confirm that my Wachovia Way2Save account continued to earn the original interest rates and bonuses until the conversion took place. My Way2Save account was into its second year in which the interest rate was 2% and a 2% bonus would be applied on the amount that I had transferred into the account during the year. I had 5 months of $100 transfers since the first year bonus was paid. The 2% bonus came out to $10, and this was credited just before the conversion.
Wells Fargo Conversion Process
On a positive note, the account conversion process went smoothly. I was able to register without problems for the Wells Fargo online banking, and I was able to immediately log in and confirm my account balances.
Wells Fargo has now completed the conversion of Wachovia branches in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California. For many of the Eastern states, the conversion will likely take place later this year or in 2011. Details are listed in this Wells Fargo Store Integration Map.
If you want help in saving, the SmartyPig savings account is a much better option than this new Way2Save account. Not only is SmartyPig designed to help you save, but it also has a very competitive interest rate for up to $50K. It has no monthly fees, and it provides perks like an extra boost of your savings if you choose to convert your savings into a gift card.