Home Personal Finance I Went To Battle Against Wells Fargo And Won My $400 Bonus

I Went To Battle Against Wells Fargo And Won My $400 Bonus

by Dewan Gibson
"Hells Fargo" protest sign at Wells Fargo, photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I called Wells Fargo’s customer service line on a Saturday morning but code-switched into my weekday work voice. “Hi. I’m calling about a checking account bonus that may be due to me. Perhaps that’s something you can assist me with?” The agent had no idea what I was talking about. I had wasted a perfectly executed “perhaps” on someone unable to help. I explained that when I opened my checking account, I was promised a $400 bonus if I received $3,000 in direct deposits for three consecutive months. We were in the third month; I had met the threshold. She asked that I call back next month.

Nope. I called back the following Tuesday. “I’m sorry, Mr. Gibson, but it looks like your account was closed on Monday due to inactivity.” 

Inactivity? I paid bills with the account and had more than $3,000 in direct deposits going in each month. Shit, this account was hyperactive! 

I moved up the Wells Fargo chain and no one could provide an answer as to why my account was closed. The department manager told me, in his So Cal bro voice, “Even a blind man can see that your account was not inactive.” He said a more thorough investigation was needed. I was to hear more within 24 hours. I never heard from him again. 

Wells Fargo may be the worst of the worst big banks. They have been caught opening accounts without customer permission, processing transactions largest to smaller to increase the number of overdraft fees, knowingly selling mortgages with misstated borrower information, and, at the top of the list, trying to avoid paying my $400 bonus.  

So I went big on ‘em. I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (shout-out to Senator Elizabeth Warren). It’s the governmental agency that ensures banks don’t screw you over, at least not without first telling you in tiny print. I wrote:  

On February 28, 2019, I opened a checking account with Wells Fargo. As a condition of opening this account, I was eligible to receive a $400 bonus if I received $3,000 in direct deposits for three consecutive months. On Friday, May 17, 2019, I reached that objective, and called Wells Fargo on May 18, 2019 to inquire about when I would receive the $400 bonus. The customer service rep I spoke to said she did not know when I would receive the bonus. The following Tuesday, May 21, 2019, I logged into my Wells Fargo checking account and learned the account had been closed by Wells Fargo. I called customer service and was told the account was closed, “probably” due to inactivity. This despite the fact that I paid bills with the account every week, including credit card payments, my mortgage, and utilities…I believe the account was closed simply because I achieved the goal to receive the $400 bonus.

About a week later, I received two envelopes from Wells Fargo. The first letter said that my checking account had been canceled, though no reason was given. In the second envelope was my Wells Fargo bonus: a cashier’s check for $400. I deposited that bad boy instantly—in my Capital One account—and celebrated my mini-triumph over America’s fourth largest bank.

I should have known from the start not to deal with Wells Fargo. But churning bank accounts is a profitable side hustle. I open accounts for the free money and then move to the next bank, only keeping permanent accounts with my financial love, Capital One. It’s a small hassle to change direct deposit information at work, and in this case file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but it is worth the extra $1,500 or so I’ve earned in the past year. Thanks, Wells Fargo. And now I’m applying for your credit card that’s offering a $200 bonus. Hopefully we handle this without the feds.

-Dewan Gibson

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Lynne P. September 14, 2019 - 4:02 pm

I have been denied my $400 (so far) because of the way Wells Fargo calculates a “month” in determining whether I have had automatic deposits of at least $3000 for 3 “months.” I have met the requirements using the calendar, but WF is arbitrarily using 3 30-day periods, regardless of the number of days in the calendar month. This means that one of the deposits in the second calendar month (calculating from the day I opened my account in the middle of April) , is getting put in the third period by WF, leaving me a few dollars short of the $3000 requirement for the second month. If I can’t get it straightened out at my branch, I will follow your example and complain to the CFPB.

Jack October 29, 2019 - 3:13 pm

I opened my account April 18, 2019 and also have not received my $400. The eligibility requirement is “Within 150 days of account opening, receive a cumulative monthly total of $3,000 or more in a qualifying direct deposit to the checking account opened for this bonus offer for three consecutive months.”

Lynne, did you take that to mean at least $3,000 per month? I took it to mean $3,000 total for the three months and now I am being told $3,000 per month. If that had been clear at the beginning I wouldn’t have bothered opening the account.

I did not get a satisfactory resolution at my branch so I sent an email to a corporate executive figuring at least that would escalate it to a corporate flunky instead of a branch flunky. I got a call the next day with the news that I didn’t qualify but the flunky would see if an accommodation could be made. I’d be surprised if I ever see the $400.

Meantime, anybody reading this, don’t bother with your branch, send an email directly to Mary Mack, the EVP of Consumer Banking. Her email address is: mary.t.mack@wellsfargo.com

The flunky even admitted to me that there was a lot of confusion over the eligibility requirement and it would be fixed going forward.

That’s Wells Fargo for you, scam the customers as much as you can then say “oops” we’ll fix it.

Dewan Gibson November 25, 2019 - 10:12 pm

Go to the CFPB if you have yet to receive the bonus. I have no idea how WF is allowed to continually operate like this. They have no shame despite the bad press. Again, don’t wait on them, go to CFPB!

Sammy Wong December 5, 2019 - 4:33 pm

Thanks to Jack and Dewan. I also opened account when I received invite code from WF. The way I understood was the same as Jack and the Banker Kate explained to me the same way. She reminded me to make sure that there would be $3000 in my account from direct deposit at the within 150 days. I have maintained the direct deposit of $2000 per month for 8 months now and no $400 bonus in sight. The branch manager is useless as usual, so I filed complaint with banker at customer service 1-800 -869-3557. He at least recognized my complaint and gave my reference number for future calls I will continue with BBB and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Alvin Phillips April 3, 2020 - 7:26 pm

On November 24, 2019, I opened a checking account with Wells Fargo. As a condition of opening this account, I was eligible to receive a $400 bonus if I received $3,000 in direct deposits for three consecutive months. On December 4, 2019 I called Wells Fargo to verify that I was would receive the said bonus, the representative informed me that I would receive it if I meet the terms. I reached that objective, and called Wells Fargo on April 3, 2020 to inquire about when I would receive the $400 bonus. The customer service rep I spoke to said he did not know what bonus I was referring to. I escalated the situation to the customer service department, they informed me that they do see where I spoke to a representative on December 4, 2019 but do not see a record of a bonus. Wells Fargo informed me that they will open an investigation, they are giving me the run around about the bonus, and are not meeting their end of the deal/ online advertisement.

Gabrielle October 6, 2023 - 1:22 pm

2023 checking account bonus customer here….they also did me dirty. 90 days past and no bonus. was told I need to wait 45 days. Nothing like that outlined in the fine print. We need a class action lawsuit here!

Dewan Gibson October 28, 2023 - 12:11 pm

Sorry to hear that. It’s a headache. Report WF to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and they’ll act right.

Marian Moses November 4, 2023 - 2:52 pm

No one give away “free money” if they can dodge it. It’s just a scam. They structure the offer in such a way as to give themselves loopholes to use to get out of paying the “bonus.” If that doesn’t work, they play dumb and instruct their minions to give you the runaround until you give up and go away.

I receive these “offers” regularly in the mail. But I did not just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. My TIME and ENERGY are valuable to me. So these “free money” bonus scams go straight into my paper shredder.

Screw WF and the horse they rode in on.

Lan November 26, 2023 - 3:10 pm

My CFPB complaint didn’t work and WF is doubling down. ☹️ Any ideas of what I should try now?


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