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Wells Fargo will likely refund some debit card holders amid possible confusion over fees

Wells Fargo Bank
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Tax Day is behind us, but some Wells Fargo customers may have another refund coming their way.

The bank revealed Friday in an SEC filing that it’s reviewing old consumer account disclosures with details about minimum debit card use policies and requirements for waiving certain monthly service fees.

Because some customers may have been confused about the steps they needed to take to avoid fees, Wells Fargo expects to refund certain monthly service charges and other fees customers paid. It has already made changes so that customers better understand what’s required if they want to waive fees and track their progress toward meeting those qualifications, bank spokesman Jim Seitz says.

It’s a bank’s job to ensure that its account disclosures are comprehensive and transparent. Consumers, however, should pay close attention to the documents they receive when opening a checking or savings account. Forgetting to read the fine print — and failing to ask the right clarifying questions — can cost you.

On the mend

Wells Fargo’s decision to review past disclosures, the SEC filing says, is part of its ongoing efforts to pinpoint the ways it may have harmed customers. The bank is trying to rebound and recover after multiple missteps, including the scandal involving the creation of 3.5 million unauthorized accounts.

The filing also mentions borrowers who were denied loan modifications they should have qualified for and customers who lost their homes to foreclosure. There’s an ongoing review of the bank’s mortgage loan modification practices, the filing notes, so the number of homeowners impacted by previous calculation errors could change. If there’s proof that additional customers have been wronged, the bank says, additional remediation will be provided.

Read the fine print

Disclosures may seem long and boring, but they’re packed with information about the accounts that consumers are opening. Reading through all of the documents is particularly important when you’re opening an account online. There’s no one to warn you about fees you could incur.

Checking account fees have climbed over the years, but avoiding them is easier if you understand your bank’s policies. If you have questions, pick up the phone or connect with a representative through another channel.

Seitz says about 90 percent of Wells Fargo checking account holders pay no monthly service fees because they qualify for a fee waiver. Many customers dodge fees by frequently using their debit cards, but there are other ways to avoid monthly charges. With the bank’s Everyday Checking account, for example, the $10 monthly service fee can be avoided by meeting one of five conditions, such as maintaining a minimum balance of $1,500 or having direct deposits equal to at least $500.

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