Wells Fargo “closed” my PMA account

Early last year, I applied for the Wells Fargo PMA account package so that I can gain access to their free trade program. However, I did not regularly use the checking (PMA) account and didn’t think much of it. Then in March this year, I read from this Bogleheads post that the PMA account might be closed for “inactivity”. So, I made a reminder to generate some sort activity at least once a year in the checking account.

However, recently, I received an email from Wells Fargo:

02-AUG-08

Our records indicate that your Bill Pay fee account XXX-XXXYYYY has been closed.  A Wells Fargo fee account is required for your Bill Pay service.  To select a new account for automatic payments, go to the Payee Details screen for each payee and select a new Default Payment Account in the Payment Details section.  If this is the only account linked to your Bill Pay service, please contact us at 1-800-956-4442.

This is not good. I log-on to my account online and true enough, my checking account is on longer listed. If the checking account is closed, then it would mean that my access to the free trade program would be terminated.

I called up Wells Fargo. The first CSR told me that my account is not closed but is “dormant” and she can fix it for me. I then asked her for the reason and she says that it is because there is no activity. I said there is one transaction in April, and her reply was that she can only look back to June. Anyway, she then requested to place me on hold. About two minutes later, she came back and told me that I need to re-activate the account “at a local branch”. I press her to see if she can do anything and she says that there is absolutely nothing she can do for me to reactivate through the phone. I was disappointed, because I hate to visit a branch and perhaps have to listen to some sales pitch while they re-activate the account.

I decided to call Wells Fargo again, hopefully I can get a more helpful CSR. This time, a gentleman answered the phone. I explained that I have a “closed” account and requested that he re-activated it. He put me on hold for a minute or so and told me that he cannot re-activate it but I can re-activate it myself by using making a purchase with using a pin-based transaction on the check card. I asked him if using the check card at an ATM machine would work. He said yes. I thanked him for his time.

Later that same day (8/2/08), I used the check card and successfully pulled out $20 from a Wells Fargo ATM machine. I also deposited a small check through the ATM to “increase the activity”. I checked online but the account is still not listed. Perhaps it will come back on the next business day.

8/4/08 Monday (next business day) morning: my checking account is still not listed. I will wait for tomorrow and see if it comes back, and update this post.

8/5/08 Tuesday: account is still not activated. Called Wells Fargo again. This time the CSR is more helpful. She agreed to send in a request to activate the account but it will take 3 to 5 business days. I asked her what caused an account to be flagged as dormant. She told me that any account without any “physical” activity for one year would be flagged as dormant. Physical activity means that you have to perform the transaction through the teller; pin-based (e.g. through the ATM) or electronic transactions (e.g. ACH transfers) DO NOT count. Oh well, looks like a trip to the bank is unavoidable if I want to get it re-activated quickly. This also means that to avoid future hassles, I should visit the branch and perform a transaction with the teller at least once a year.

8/6/08 Wednesday: My checking account has been re-activated. To see the checking account online again, I do need to choose “Add Accounts” under the  “Account Services” tab to add the account again. You can only add it back if the account is no longer flagged as dormant. Anyway, I am not sure which action caused the account to be re-activated again: whether it was my transactions last Saturday or the request I made through the CSR on the phone yesterday. I do need to think of a way to prevent it from being flagged as dormant in future.

23 Comments

  1. thad

    I don’t have the PMA account, but have run into the same trouble with Wells Fargo. Just recently, they shut my account down/inactivated it because I didn’t have “activity”, even though I have 2 monthly direct deposits to the account and 1 monthly debit to my student loans thru WF. Apparently that isn’t enough, and I need to either write a check or change my address – even though I haven’t moved, but that is sufficient to keep it open. They also gave me the option to visit a local branch, even though there are NO branches near me – closest is probably a 3 hour drive. I also ran into trouble just talking with the CSR – apparently they’ve set up my account with a phone password, and will not let me talk about certain things without the password – even though I didn’t establish the password, have no clue what it could be, and can easily verify any questions about my identity or the account. All in all, a whole lot of BS to deal with just to get a 0.25% discount on my student loan interest rate. I even have my mortgage with them, but they don’t give a discount for that, so I autopay that through my other bank.

    All told, though, my dealings with WF on this make me very hesitant to even consider trying the PMA package to get the free trades. Good luck with your re-opening of your account. I’m going to make a note in my calendar to transfer some cash from ING or write a check every few months to avoid this problem the next time.

    Reply
  2. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Thad, are you saying that you have three transactions on a WF account every month and yet they de-activate it? If so my plan to generate activity using their billpay service in future would probably also fail.

    Maybe WF decided to crack down on all the people who are using their free trade program for free. I might have to start looking elsewhere soon.

    Reply
  3. thad

    Yes, I have (3) transactions EVERY month, but they don’t count as “external” activity, maybe because they are all electronic, with no action required on my part? If you use the bill-payer, and log on each month to enter the payment, that might be sufficient, but if its an auto-payment that is the exact same every month, maybe not. Either way, I think it’s a bit of a crock – I don’t know why they can’t count accessing the account online as activity – I do that every month to download the electronic statements, and it’s easy enough for them to verify.

    Reply
  4. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Yucks.

    I hope my account will be re-activated tomorrow.

    Reply
  5. Mike

    I wonder what types of transactions are sufficient to keep the account open. For example, would it be sufficient to make a small transfer from brokerage to checking (then back to brokerage)?

    Also, I wonder if this is somehow related to BillPay. I haven’t touched my PMA checking account since it was opened over a year ago, and it hasn’t been closed yet. I don’t use BillPay, and it seems that most of the people getting their account closed have been using BillPay.

    Reply
  6. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Updated on 8/25/08.

    Reply
  7. dimension

    i have a pma account too and i worry now if i will run into the same problem.
    however, what i wanted to say is WF has the worst trading platform and execution efficiency i have ever seen. u have to load a couple pages in order to check your share price, see charts, and make transactions. i told WF the problems and they said they were going to re-design a month ago but i still see nothing. i guess if nothing changes within this year, i will use other service at the next tax year.

    Reply
  8. indexfundfan (Post author)

    dimension, thanks for your comments. Actually if this does not work out, I am looking at TradeKing which I believe provide specific tax lot tracking. Also, they give a sign-up bonus and/or will reimburse your transfer out fees from Wells Fargo (taxable account only). Their trading fee is $4.95.

    Reply
  9. Tom

    Yes I actually looked into TradeKing a while a go. According to them they started implementing specific trade under “MaxIt” a few month ago. However it does not show up on their default page. See my post to ask this question in their forums (scroll to the last post for information from TradeKing staff):

    http://community.tradeking.com/forum/topics/324/forum_posts

    The process seems rather convoluted and at the end of the year I’m not sure how well the tax information is prepared if you start doing specific lots. According to everything I’ve read Fidelity has the best system however their trades are more expensive ($10.95 for $50,000+ account or $8 if you have $1mil)

    I hope the Wells Fargo thing gets resolved because you can’t beat free trades. I’m on the East Coast and there aren’t any branches near me. If it’s not resolved I may just go with Fidelity for the superior service since I trade once a month tops

    Reply
  10. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Updated 8/6/08. Account is re-activated.

    Reply
  11. jd

    How interesting! I got the exact same message you did with the same date etc. I never use my PMA checking account as there is no WF in my state, although I have on occasion ACH’d money to the account.

    I called them yesterday, got a very nice ‘banker’ CSR who said he would reactivate the account, said it would take a few days to show up online and was very nice. I also told the CSR that I do not remember ever signing up for billpay as I knew I would not use the account for that purpose and asked him to cancel the billpay. I did receive a message today cancelling the billpay. Hopefully, that did not cancel the whole account. I guess we’ll see if it does show up in a few days. As I don’t believe in check cards, I will not use my card (where ever it may be), so what I’ll probably do is write myself a check every month or so for $1.00.

    Reply
  12. Nicky

    I opened my account in Feb, have only had 1 transaction, that was a debit card purchase in March nothing since then, I’m in NYC so no branches here, I love this account, I’ve made good use of the free trades, I’ve used half of mine up already, I don’t care that they don’t have streaming quotes, I get my quotes from Scottrade, I transfered everything from Scottrade to Wellstrade, but thankfully I can still log into my Scottrade account, even though it’s at a $0 balance, I hope Wells Fargo doesn’t close my checking account, I don’t believe I signed up for billpay, I never even ordered checks, all I care about is the brokerage account, I don’t even know my PIN # to my card, I made a purchase using the credit option, rather then entering a PIN, lets see what happen come 2/09, One thing that I dislike is that it will not let you set stop limit sell orders for stocks under $5, besides that this is the perfect account, already saved $350 in commissions for the year and counting.

    Reply
  13. indexfundfan (Post author)

    I don’t think Billpay is what’s causing the PMA checking account to be flagged as dormant. Rather, billpay requires a funding account, and if the funding account becomes dormant, billpay triggers an email to be sent to the client. This is actually good because then you will at least get notice that the account is dormant and take appropriate actions.

    Reply
  14. Pat

    I had the same problem but with my checking account…my job requires a lot of traveling and i have been out of the country for 2 yrs. I was doing my transactions online. But two weeks back, when i tried to login to my account. It said I don’t have any accounts online. I thought it was a glitch in the web site. I tried logging in the next day but the same thing happened. I called the customer care and they it was dormant…Now when i had opened the acct in WF, the banker told me that the account would become dormant only if it were inactive. They never ever said that inactivity includes online transactions. Why are these bankers not clear on the terms and tell the customers the terms clearly. It becomes so frustrating.

    Reply
  15. Nicky

    I posted August 9th, 2008 that my only transaction with the checking account was in March of 2008, so here we are in April 09 and today I log in and my checking account is gone, In NYC so no branches, I wonder if going to Wachovia would do the trick???

    Reply
  16. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Nicky, you can try calling them first. I think last year, the 2nd CSR I spoke to on the phone agreed to send a request to have the account re-activated.

    Reply
  17. Nicky

    Sent them an email, here is their response:

    I have reviewed your account and found that your account is in an inactive status. I have forwarded your information to update the status of your account. Please allow three business days for this change to take effect. Once your account is in active status, your online access may be restored by signing on to your secure online banking session at wellsfargo.com, selecting the “Add Accounts” link under Account Information on the Account Services page.

    You can prevent your account from becoming inactive by making a deposit or withdrawal, or by contacting us to make a recorded change such as address or phone number. Deposit accounts are considered inactive when there has been no activity or contact for the following periods:

    * 11 months for Checking accounts
    * 23 months for Savings, Market Rate, and Remittance accounts (except Texas, which is 11 months)
    * 23 months for Certificate of Deposit (CD) accounts from the date of last customer activity or the first renewal date (except Texas, which is 11 months)

    Reply
  18. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Thanks Nicky. That’s good info to know! Maybe the trick is to change the phone number once every 11 months (swap between home phone / office phone / cell phone). LOL.

    Reply
  19. Nicky

    I guess I could ACH a small deposit once in a while, does anyone know from the routing #?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  20. indexfundfan (Post author)

    Nicky, if I remember correctly, the CSR told me last year that ACH or even billpay doesn’t count. Not sure if this has changed.

    Now I make a deposit with the teller in the branch once in a while.

    PS. The routing number is on your check.

    Reply
  21. Nicky

    I selected not to receive checks when I applied for the account, anyway here we are 2 days after I posted and I have access to my checking account, I’m impressed with their customer service, all questions I ever had were answered either on the same day or next day by email, so I guess I’ll post back here about April 2010, but I’ll be reading for sure, great blog you have here, thanks.

    Reply
  22. tracey davis

    my grandfather started me an account that i wasnt supposed to touch until i gradutated well i went there a few days after graduation and they said it went dormant do to no activity well dont people put money in the bank to accure. well we didnt know it had to be m3ssed and my car is gone/ but in accualiuty who are u to just give peoples stuff/

    Reply
  23. Jodi

    I left Wells Fargo all together because there were too many problems just like this, and customer service with them is a nightmare. I am absolutely happy with my new bank – not one problem, and real customer service too!

    Reply

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