Bank of America or Wells Fargo? Which Will Better Suit Your Needs?

Wells Fargo vs Bank of America

As measured by assets, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are the second and third-largest banks in the United States. Both banks operate branches across the country, an obvious benefit to Americans who travel or move frequently.

However, this presence offers consumers and business owners when comparing Bank of America versus Wells Fargo. Both banks offer branches in convenient locations, easy access to ATMs and banking from one’s laptop or smartphone.

Thus, determining which bank might serve one’s needs better requires a closer examination. Here’s a more in-depth look at both banks to learn more.

Bank of America

Bank of America began as Nantucket Pacific Bank in 1804. Over time, it has evolved into a “global company with a local focus.” The bank operates in 35 countries. In the U.S., it serves 66 million individual and business customers at 4,300 retail financial centers and about 17,000 ATMs.

However, the bank’s savings accounts will do little to build the wealth of depositors. The bank’s basic savings account, called the Bank of America Advantage Savings account, offers an APY of between 0.01% and 0.05%.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo opened its first branch in San Francisco in 1852 amid the California gold rush. Like Bank of America, it has grown into a global bank. Today, it operates around 7,300 locations and approximately 13,000 ATMs that serve about 70 million customers.

Like with Bank of America’s savings account, an account at Wells Fargo will likely not make depositors rich. The Way2Save Savings account offers an APY of only 0.01%.

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Account Comparison

Both banks offer a wide array of FDIC-insured account types depending on one’s needs and circumstances. Bank of America and Wells Fargo provide multiple options for checking, savings, certificates of deposit and accounts for children.

Also, checking and savings accounts come with monthly maintenance fees in most cases. Here’s a quick look at the various account types each bank offers, so you can compare.

Savings

Bank of America: Advantage Savings

  • Tiered interest rates based on deposits, number of accounts
  • $100 minimum opening deposit
  • $8 monthly maintenance fee (waived under certain conditions)
  • Automatic savings options available
  • Overdraft protection
  • Online, mobile banking available

Wells Fargo: Way2Save

  • Higher balance can bring higher interest rates
  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • $5 or $12 monthly maintenance fee (waived under certain conditions)
  • Automatic savings options available
  • Overdraft protection
  • Online, mobile banking available

Checking

Bank of America: SafeBalance, Plus, Relationship options

  • $4.95, $12, or $25 monthly maintenance fee (waived under certain conditions)
  • Relationship account pays interest
  • Mobile deposits
  • Budgeting tools
  • Debit card controls
  • Can use with Zelle

Wells Fargo: Clear Access, Everyday, Preferred and Portfolio options

  • $5, $10, $15, and $30 monthly maintenance fee (waived under certain conditions)
  • Preferred, Portfolio accounts pay interest
  • Mobile deposits
  • Budgeting tools
  • Debit card controls
  • Can use with Zelle

CDs

Bank of America: Standard Term, Featured accounts available

  • Minimum Deposits:
    • Standard Term: $1,000
    • Featured: $10,000
  • Standard Term
    • Range: 28 days-10 years
    • APY: 0.03%
  • Featured
    • Range: 7-37 months
    • APY: 0.05%
  • Automatic renewals

Wells Fargo: Fixed Rate, Step Rate CDs

  • Minimum Deposits:
    • Fixed Rate: $2,500
    • Step Rate: $2,500
  • Fixed Rate
    • Range: 3 months-1 year
    • APY: 0.01%-0.02%
  • Step Rate
    • Range: 24 months
    • APY: 0.03%-0.04%
  • Automatic renewals

Youth Savings

Bank of America: Minor Savings Account

  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • No minimum balance
  • No maintenance fee if the account holder is under 18

Bank of America: Custodial (UTMA) Savings Account

  • $100 minimum opening deposit
  • $500 minimum balance
  • $8 monthly maintenance fee (waived under certain conditions)
  • ATM cards available
  • Online banking, mobile banking, alerts available

Wells Fargo: Kids Savings Account

  • $25 minimum opening deposit
  • No minimum balance
  • No maintenance fee if the account holder is under 18
  • ATM cards available
  • Online access beginning at age 13
  • UTMA/UGMA options available

Rate Comparison

The interest rates offered by both banks will likely not incentivize saving by themselves. Nonetheless, knowing such rates, particularly with higher-paying CDs, can often help in the decision-making process.

Rates Bank of America Wells Fargo
Savings Account Rates • Standard APY: 0.01%
• Gold Tier APY: 0.02%
• Platinum Tier APY: 0.03%
• Platinum Honors Tier APY: 0.05%
• Way2Save APY: 0.01%
• Platinum Savings APY: 0.01%-0.02%
Checking Account Rates • APY: 0.01%-0.02% (Advantage Relationship Account only) • Preferred Checking APY: 0.01% on $500 or more
• Portfolio Checking APY: 0.01%
CD Rates • Standard Term CD APY: 0.03%
• Featured CD APY: 0.05%
• Standard CD APY: 0.01%-0.02%
• Step Rate CD APY: 0.03%- 0.04%

Fee Comparison

Both banks charge fees for a wide array of services. However, the account maintenance fees and the overdraft fees are the ones that are likely to affect some customers on a frequent basis.

Regarding Overdraft Fees

Bank of America offers overdraft protection for all accounts except the Advantage SafeBalance checking account. However, even with the overdraft protection, the bank may charge a $12 transfer fee to move funds from a linked account when an overdraft occurs.

As mentioned before, both banks will charge a maintenance fee on both savings and checking accounts. However, customers can get that fee waived in most cases.

Both banks will waive these fees if depositors maintain a minimum balance, receive direct deposits, or link the account to other accounts at the same bank. Bank of America also waives such fees for enrollment in its Preferred Rewards program.

Below are some of the fees depositors could encounter:

Type of Fee Bank of America Wells Fargo
Monthly Maintenance $4.95, $8, $12, $25 $5, $10, $12, $15, $30
Overdraft/Nonsufficient funds $35 $35
Transfer Fee $12 $12.50
ATM • Non-Bank of America domestic: $2.50
• Non-Bank of America international: $5.00
• Non-Wells Fargo domestic: $0-$2.50
• Non-Wells Fargo international: $0-$5.00
Replacement Debit Card $5 per card $0
Cashier’s Check $15 $0-$10
Wire Transfers • Incoming domestic: $15
• Incoming international: $16
• Outgoing domestic: $30
• Outgoing international (Foreign currency): $35
• Outgoing international (U.S. Dollars): $45
• Incoming domestic: $15
• Incoming international: $16
• Outgoing domestic: $30
• Outgoing international: Varies, fees disclosed at time of service

Bank of America or Wells Fargo?

From a banking perspective, the two financial institutions offer relatively little in the way of differentiation. Both offer extremely low interest rates along with options to avoid most fees.

Hence, the question of Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo may come down to personal preferences. To help, here’s a quick look at some features to consider, and which bank appears to have the advantage.

Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo: Which Bank Has the Advantage?
Features Facts Advantage
ATM Locations • Bank of America: 17,000
• Wells Fargo: 13,000
Bank of America
Branch Locations • Bank of America: 4,300
• Wells Fargo: 7,300
Wells Fargo
Accounts • Wells Fargo tends to require lower deposit amounts.
• At least in most cases, Wells Fargo charges lower maintenance fees when applicable.
Wells Fargo
Interest Rates • When either bank pays interest at all, it ranges from 0.01%-0.05%.
• Bank of America pays slightly higher rates in some instances.
Bank of America
Fees • Bank of America only charges overdraft fees on one of its accounts.
• Wells Fargo doesn’t charge for debit card replacements. Wells Fargo also offers lower fees on its accounts that require higher minimum balances.
Wells Fargo

The Overall Choice

In general, depositors will probably gain a slight advantage by choosing Wells Fargo. However, that edge is not large, and Bank of America could serve specific customers better. In the end, customers should choose the bank that offers more convenience and is less likely to impose fees.

All fees and rates are subject to change at the bank’s discretion. Information is accurate as of Nov. 11, 2020.

About the Author

Will Healy is a freelance business and financial writer based in the Dallas area. He has covered a variety of finance and news-based topics, including the stock market, real estate, insurance, personal finance, macroeconomics, and politics. Will holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Texas A&M University, a Master of Science in Geography from the University of North Texas, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.