Banking » Reviews » Wells Fargo Prime vs Premier Checking Account: How They Compare?
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Wells Fargo Prime vs Premier Checking Account: How They Compare?

Wells Fargo Prime and Premier Checking Account look similar, but there are key differences to know before you choose to open an account
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024
The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.
Author: Baruch Mann (Silvermann)
Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Writer, Contributor

Experience

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
Interest Rates Last Update: January 1, 2024

The banking product interest rates, including savings, CDs, and money market, are accurate as of this date.

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Table Of Content

 Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in the U.S., so unsurprisingly, this bank has an extensive product line, including several checking account options. While many customers are wondering whether Wells Fargo is a good bank, when it comes to checking accounts, many options are available.

But which one is best for you? Here, we’ll examine two of the highest tier options in a Wells Fargo Prime Checking vs. Wells Fargo Premier Checking head-to-head comparison.

How Does the Wells Fargo Prime Checking Account Work?

Wells Fargo Prime is a top-tier checking account option designed for customers with a higher account balance. This account is interest-bearing, currently offering 0.01% APY regardless of your balance.

The account has a minimum opening balance requirement and a monthly maintenance fee, which, due to being a higher tier account, has more stringent waiver criteria; namely, you’ll need $20,000 plus in qualifying linked accounts.

The account's perks include a discount on rental costs for a safety deposit box, free money orders, and cashier’s checks. There are also discounts on several Wells Fargo banking services, including non-network ATMs and wire transfers, paying bills, making transfers and set up a direct deposit with Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo pay and transfer pay bills
Wells Fargo pay and transfer pay bills (Screenshot from Wells Fargo app)

How Does the Wells Fargo Premier Checking Account Work?

As its name suggests, this account is the premier tier account. This means that you can access premier relationship banking benefits and product discounts.

This exclusive checking account does have the same minimum initial deposit requirements as the Prime account, but the highest monthly service fee, which has an even more challenging waiver criteria. You’ll need $250,000 plus in qualifying balances in your linked accounts to have the $35 monthly maintenance fee waived.

As with Prime Checking, Premier Checking is interest bearing, but the banking services fees are easier to avoid. You’ll get fee free money orders and checks, with withdrawal fees from non network ATMs waived. However, there is also no fee for stop payments and unlimited reimbursement for ATM fees worldwide, so you can use your ATM card wherever you go without incurring fees.

How These Checking Acconts Features Compare?

Since both of these accounts are top-tier Wells Fargo checking accounts, it stands to reason that they have some similarities – but also some differences. Here's a comparison:

Wells Fargo Prime
Wells Fargo Premier
Fee
$25
$35
Fee Waiver Criteria
Balance of $20,000
Balance of $250,000
APY
0.01%
0.01%
Cashier Checks/Money Order Fees
Free
Free
Customer Service
Regular
Dedicated Support
Open Account
Online/Branch
Branch Only
International Debit Card Fees
3%
0%
Incoming Wire Transfers
Free
Free
Outgoing Wire Transfers
$30
Free

Similarities

Both accounts require an initial deposit of $25 or more to open the account. However, this is a standard minimum across all Wells Fargo checking accounts.

Both the Prime Checking and Premier Checking accounts are interest-bearing, offering the same APY on any balance. 

Currently, the rate is 0.01%, but this rate is not fixed and it may be adjusted depending on changes to the base rate.

Both accounts waive the fees for cashier’s checks or money orders, so you can request these at no additional cost. This is a saving of $10 and $5, respectively, compared to the lower-tier Wells Fargo accounts.

So, if you tend to use these products regularly, it could represent significant savings for you. Also, Wells Fargo charges an overdraft fee for both accounts.

With either account, you’ll not incur any fees for balance inquiries, transfers or withdrawals made from a non network ATM.

Additionally, Wells Fargo will not impose a fee for using a non network machine to make a withdrawal when outside of the U.S.

Account holders can also enjoy domestic or international incoming wire transfers with no fee. The standard fee for this service with other Wells Fargo checking accounts is $15 or $16.

So, again, this has the potential to represent significant savings.

Differences

One of the main perks of the Premier account is the customer support. As a Premier Checking customer, you’ll have access to the Premier Banking Team Priority Customer Service.

This provides a dedicated phone line for customers to use with any queries or issues, without needing to wait on hold as you would with the regular phone lines.

Both accounts have a monthly maintenance fee, but the Premier fee is higher. Additionally, the fee waiver criteria is also radically different.

While you’ll need $20,000 plus in linked accounts to have the fee waived for Wells Fargo Prime Checking, this increases to $250,000 or more for Wells Fargo Premier Checking.

While you can open the Prime Checking in branch or online, you can only open Premier Checking in a Wells Fargo branch.

If you use your associated debit card outside of the U.S, you’ll incur the standard 3% transaction fee if you have Prime Checking.

However, this fee is waived for Premier Checking account holders. This means that Premier Checking customers can use their card anywhere without worry of incurring additional charges.

Although both Prime and Premier offer fee free incoming wire transfers, the Premier account also offers outgoing wire transfers with no fee.

Since the standard fee for this service across other Wells Fargo checking accounts is $30 each, if you tend to send multiple wire transfers each month, this can add up to significant savings.

Another fee which is waived for Premier customers is the stop payment fee. Prime checking customers will incur the same fee as with other Wells Fargo checking accounts, but it is a free of charge service for Premier customers.

Smartphone with Wells Fargo bank logo
You can open the Prime Checking in branch or online, but Premier Checking in only available in a Wells Fargo branch (Photo by Sergei Elagin/Shutterstock)

Wells Fargo Prime vs Premier Checking: Which Customer is Best Suited?

While the accounts do have a lot of similarities, as we’ve pointed out there are some crucial differences which will determine the type of customer best suited to the different accounts.

If you’re unsure which account is best suited to your needs, there are some questions you should ask yourself:

One of the most important questions to consider is whether you have large sums of money in various Wells Fargo accounts. The Premier Checking monthly maintenance fee can only be waived if you have $250k or more in linked accounts.

So, if your holdings don’t reach this level, you’ll be stuck paying the fee. Unless the other account benefits can cover this, you’ll be better suited to the Prime Checking account. With both accounts you can open a Wells Fargo savings account – either a Platinum account or a Way2Save account.

Also, both accounts can be opened with another person (but they are not included in our best bank accounts for joint accounts). 

If you are regularly outside of the U.S, you’re likely to be aware that those small international non network ATM fees and transaction fees can quickly add up.

So, frequent travelers will find that the Premier checking account could represent significant savings, particularly as there is unlimited reimbursement of ATM fees worldwide with this account and no foreign debit card transaction charges.

Even if you don’t have the funds to have the fee waived, if you send two or more wire transfers each month, having the Premier Checking account will be beneficial for you.

With a fee of $30 per wire transfer, you can quickly negate the cost of the monthly maintenance fee.

Transfer money in Wells Fargp app
Transfer money in Wells Fargp app (Screenshot from Wells Fargo app)

If you’re the type of person who gets frustrated waiting in a queue on a phone helpline, you may be prepared to pay the higher monthly maintenance fee to get access to the Priority Customer Support team.

You’ll need to ask yourself what value this service has for you.

How to Open an Account?

If you are interested in opening an account in a branch, the Wells Fargo customer support team can walk you through the process in your local branch.

Since you can only open a Wells Fargo Premier Checking account in your local branch, we’ll look at the process of how to open a Wells Fargo account online.

  1. Visit the Product Webpage: The first step is to visit the Wells Fargo official website and look for the product page. You’ll find the Prime Checking Page under the “Checking Accounts” tab from the Personal Banking header on the top bar. You can start the application process by clicking the red “Open Account” button.
  2. Complete the Welcome Screen: The first page you’ll see is a welcome screen, which asks you to confirm if you’re an existing Wells Fargo customer. If you hold any Wells Fargo product, you can use your login details to complete this application. You’ll also need to confirm if you want a sole or joint account and that you’ve read the product disclaimer.
  3. Fill in the Application Form: This is a standard account opening application. Existing customers will find fields pre-filled, but new customers will need to complete all of the mandatory fields. These include your full name, address, Social Security Number and contact details. You will also need to click that you consent to a credit search and confirm if you are subject to any W-9 backup withholdings.
  4. Review: Once you complete the application, you’ll be directed to a screen with all the details you’ve provided and a summary of the account terms. You’ll need to read through these to ensure that the details are correct before you click “Submit.”
  5. Fund Your Account: The final stage is to fund your new account. Wells Fargo checking accounts require at least $25 to open, so you will need to provide details for your initial deposit.

FAQs

If you want to close your Premier checking account, you’ll need to call the customer support helpline or visit your local Wells Fargo branch. A representative will then guide you through the closure process.

Usually, Wells Fargo offers promotions for new customers looking to open a checking account. However, you’ll need a promotional code, which may appear in marketing materials or mailers and adhere to the promotional terms to qualify.

Unlike other Wells Fargo checking accounts, both the Prime and Premier checking accounts are interest bearing. The current rate is 0.01%, but this is subject to change.

How We Review Checking Accounts: Our Methodology

The Smart Investor team has conducted a comprehensive review of checking accounts offered by various banks, taking into account several key factors to provide a thorough evaluation. Here's how we rated them across four important categories:

  • Checking Account Features (60%): We meticulously assessed the features and benefits associated with each bank's checking accounts. Factors considered include account fees, minimum balance requirements, ATM access, overdraft protection, online and mobile banking functionalities, and additional perks such as rewards programs. Higher ratings were awarded to banks offering a wide range of features and benefits that cater to diverse customer needs, ensuring convenience and flexibility in managing finances.

  • Customer Experience (20%): A positive customer experience is essential in banking, so we evaluated each bank's performance in this area. This included assessing the ease of account opening, quality of customer service, availability of support channels, and overall user satisfaction. Ratings were based on factors such as responsiveness, efficiency, and the bank's commitment to meeting customer needs, ensuring a seamless and satisfactory banking experience.

  • Diversity of Other Financial Products (10%): We also considered the diversity of other financial products offered by each bank, such as savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and investment options. Higher ratings were given to banks with a comprehensive suite of financial products, allowing customers to meet their various banking and financial needs in one place.

  • Bank Reputation (10%): The reputation of a bank is a crucial factor in decision-making. We examined factors such as financial stability, regulatory compliance, and public perception to determine each institution's overall trustworthiness and reliability. Higher ratings were assigned to banks with strong reputations, reflecting their credibility and ability to inspire confidence among customers.

By considering these categories and assigning appropriate weights to each, our review aims to provide valuable insights to help individuals make informed decisions when selecting a checking account

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Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Mann (Silvermann)

Baruch Silvermann is a financial expert, experienced analyst, and founder of The Smart Investor.  Silvermann has contributed to Yahoo Finance and cited as an authoritative source in financial outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, CNBC Select, CNET, Bankrate, Fox Business, The Street, and more.
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