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August 01, 2017 10:40 AM
Consumers hit by Wells Fargo’s overdraft fees may soon know whether they can keep fighting for relief through a class-action suit or have to pursue their claims through one-on-one arbitration.
This month, a federal appeals court will hear arguments affecting a 2009 class-action suit in Miami federal court that maintains Wells Fargo squeezed unsuspecting customers out of billions by manipulating debit card charges.
According to the complaint, rather than debiting fees in the order in which the charges were incurred, the bank debited the most expensive charges first. That change raised the likelihood that accounts would be charged multiple overdraft fees. In one example detailed in the lawsuit, the bank charged multiple $35 fees against a single account holder for purchases as low as $1.07 that would have been valid had the charges been assessed chronologically.
Wells Fargo wasn’t alone in this practice. Thousands of victims nationwide are part of lawsuits brought against more than 30 banks. The lawsuits have been consolidated into the class-action case in the Southern District Court of Florida.
Wells Fargo is the only major bank involved that is still trying to force its customers out of court and into a process called mandatory arbitration. Other large banks named as defendants, including Bank of America and JP Morgan, have resolved their parts of the case with settlements as high as $410 million.
If Wells Fargo’s request is granted, each customer would be forced to bring their case individually against the bank under conditions set by Wells Fargo.
In some cases, the charges were all made in the same day; in other cases they were made over several days.
Wells Fargo had been debiting accounts with largest-to-smallest charges for about a decade before it ended the practice in 2010 and began posting charges in chronological order, according to a Wells Fargo spokesperson. The company implemented chronological order for checks in 2014. Since then, the bank also has instituted low balance alerts and a daily cap of three overdraft fees per consumer account.
The plaintiffs argue that Wells Fargo’s practices were deliberately deceptive and violated consumer protection laws and its Consumer Account Agreement.
On Aug. 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear arguments on whether to grant the bank’s motion to resolve the disputes through arbitration. It is the bank’s fourth attempt to move the case to arbitration.
Opponents of mandatory arbitration argue that the practice allows companies to stack the deck, as companies choose their own arbitrators and set the standards for evidence. According to a Wells Fargo spokesman, the conditions are set by the American Arbitration Association, and that the arbitrators and standards for evidence are similarly set by the AAA.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo said in a statement, “Wells Fargo continues to believe that arbitration is a fair, efficient and effective way for a customer to pursue a legal claim and resolve a legal dispute. For many years, high-to-low posting order was standard in the banking industry.”
Between 2009 and 2016, 215 Wells Fargo customers filed arbitration cases to settle consumer banking disputes, according to a March 2017 report by a nonprofit that studies consumer arbitration. Of these cases, 48 resulted in a final hearing and award. The hearings awarded consumers a total of $440,888 and awarded Wells Fargo more than twice that.
That report was produced by the Arizona-based Level Playing Field.
In July of this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlawed the practice of mandatory arbitration for banks, credit card companies, and other lenders.
“Arbitration clauses in contracts for products like bank accounts and credit cards make it nearly impossible for people to take companies to court when things go wrong,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a public statement released at the time of the new rule. “These clauses allow companies to avoid accountability by blocking group lawsuits and forcing people to go it alone or give up.”
Since the July rule is not retroactive, it will only affect similar cases brought in the future, not the current Wells Fargo litigation.
The overdraft case now pending in Miami affects customers from 49 states. A federal judge ruled against Wells Fargo in a class-action case tried separately for California customers. In 2010, the judge ordered Wells Fargo to pay $203 million to customers in the state who were misled about the fees.
Wells Fargo’s reputation has already been battered by a number of recent scandals.
Last year, it was fined $185 million in a high-profile scandal for opening as many as 2.1 million phony accounts without customer approval, as employees faced pressure to meet quotas. The bank received preliminary approval last month to settle a related class-action lawsuit with customers for an additional $145 million.
In the most recent scandal, the company disclosed in July that it may have pushed thousands of car buyers into default by enrolling loan customers in auto insurance they didn’t want or need. On Sunday, customers filed a class-action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court in response.
This article was updated to clarify the impact of debit reordering on consumer accounts and to include Wells Fargo’s assertion that arbitration standards are set by the American Arbitration Association.
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Review: Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card – August 2017
- Get this card if … you want to earn cash back and pay no annual fees.
- Pick something else if … you want travel rewards or better points to dollars.
- Good to excellent credit score of 690 to 850 recommended.
This Wells Fargo credit card has no annual fee, comes with a 0% intro APR for 12 months and could earn you 1.5% unlimited cash back on purchases. If you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months you receive a cash reward bonus of $200.
- $5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater, for the first 12 months
- $5 or up to 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater, thereafter
- $12.50 if the total overdraft protection advance for the day is $50 or less
- $20 if the total overdraft protection advance for the day exceeds $50
- Bonus reward. You’ll qualify for the $200 cash rewards bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. The bonus becomes redeemable within one to two billing cycles from when it is earned.
- Earn cash rewards. The card comes with 1.5% unlimited cashback on purchases. If you use the Android Pay or Apple Pay mobile wallet, you’ll earn 1.8% cashback for the first 12 months. There are no category restrictions or minimum quarterly spend requirements.
- Redeem rewards. You may use your Wells Fargo ATM or debit card to withdraw cash rewards in $20 increments, or you can walk into a branch for cash redemption. Direct deposits will get your rewards to your Wells Fargo savings or checking account. Another option is to apply the rewards as a credit to your qualified Wells Fargo mortgage principal.
- Low intro APR. A 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers stays in place for the first 12 billing cycles.
- No annual fees. You’ll pay no annual fees for the life of the card.
- Cell phone damage and theft coverage. You’ll receive protection of up to $600 for your phone against damage and theft, with a maximum of two claims per year, provided you use this card to pay your monthly cellphone bill.
- Security. This chip-enabled card comes with rapid alerts, 24/7 fraud monitoring and zero liability protection.
- Foreign transaction fees. If you use this card outside the US, you’ll pay 3% of your transaction in fees.
- Limited intro APR. Once the intro APR offer expires, you’ll pay interest on all outstanding balances from purchases and balance transfers.
- Fees and penalties. Late and returned payments can set you back by up to $37. Balance transfers, cash advances and overdraft protection advances come with fees as well.
- You want greater variety in rewards. You can find cards that come with airline rewards, hotel perks, gas rewards and even combinations of spending options.
- You don’t want to pay foreign transaction fees. If you plan to use your new card overseas, you might be better off getting one that comes with no foreign transaction fees.
To apply for the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card, you’ll need to be:
Always consider your options and your financial situation before you apply for a credit card.
To complete your application, you’ll need to provide your:
You have a better chance of application approval with a credit score of 690 or higher.
2. If you’re an existing Wells Fargo customer, enter your log in details. Or click Continue.
3. Provide the information needed to complete your application.
4. Make sure the information you’ve provided is correct and click Submit.
You’ll find out about your application’s conditional approval almost as soon as you submit it online.
- Avoid interest. Make sure that you understand when your intro APR expires. Paying off your outstanding balances from purchases and balance transfers before this happens can help you avoid unnecessary interest.
- Contact customer service. For support, call 1-800-642-4720. Or contact the bank via Twitter @WellsFargo or Facebook @WellsFargo.
This decent card comes with a flat 1.5% cash back and no annual fees. The 0% intro APR is a perk if you’re planning a big purchase. But if you’re looking for an array of rewards for your spending, you might want to compare other options.
Common questions about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card
No. As a Wells Fargo cardholder, you’re automatically signed up for the Go Far Rewards program.
Yes, but you’ll need to hold an existing Wells Fargo checking account to sign up with the optional overdraft protection service.
I signed up for this card in a Wells Fargo branch. How do I sign up for online account access?
1. Go to the Wells Fargo website and click Sign Up.
2. Enter the requested information.
3. Create a username and password.
4. Follow the instructions to complete your enrollment.
5. Accept the e-sign consent and agree to the terms of the online access agreement.
0 For the first year
75 For the first year
75 For the first year
0 For the first year
Disclaimer - We endeavor to ensure that the information on this site is current and accurate but you should confirm any information with the product or service provider and read the information they can provide. If you are unsure you should get independent advice before you apply for any product or commit to any plan.