Archives for January 2017

Betterment Now Offers Human Advice + Flat Fee Structure

betterment_logoThe robo-advisor evolution continues. Betterment just announced some significant changes that include the option to upgrade to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and a more simplified flat fee structure. Here are highlights from the new plans:

  • Betterment Digital. Their original product with digital portfolio management and guidance. Now at a flat 0.25% annually (no more tiers). No minimum balance. There is no longer be a $3/month fee if you don’t make monthly auto-deposits. The management fee on any assets over $2 million is waived.
  • Betterment Plus. Digital features above + an annual planning call from a “team of CFP® professionals and licensed financial experts who monitor accounts throughout the year.” You will also have unlimited e-mail access. The plan is a flat 0.40% annually. $100,000 minimum balance required.
  • Betterment Premium. Digital features above + unlimited phone access to a “team of CFP® professionals and licensed financial experts who monitor accounts throughout the year.” You will also have unlimited e-mail access. The plan is a flat 0.50% annually. $250,000 minimum balance required.

Betterment’s previous fee structure for Digital was 0.35% for balances under $10,000 with $100/mo auto-deposit (or a flat $3 a month without), 0.25% for balances of $10,000 to $100,000, and 0.15% for balances above $100,000. This means that with the new flat 0.25% fee structure, people with balances under $10k will end up paying less while those with $100k+ will be paying more. If I had a big balance at Betterment, I’d be quite unhappy with the price hike. Existing customers on the 0.15% tier will stay on that fee structure until June 1st, 2017.

Here’s how this breaks down in terms of your account size:

  • $10,000 account balance. Digital would cost just $25 a year ($2.08 a month). There is no longer any requirement for auto-deposit to avoid a $3 a month fee. Plus or Premium not available.
  • $50,000 account balance. Digital would cost $125 a year ($10.41 a month. There is no longer any requirement for auto-deposit to avoid a $3 a month fee. Plus or Premium not available.
  • $100,000 account balance. Digital would cost $250 a year ($20.83 a month). Plus would cost $400 a year ($33.33 a month) and include an annual planning call with a human advisor. Premium not available.
  • $250,000 account balance. Digital would cost $625 a year ($52.08 a month). Plus would cost $1,000 a year ($83.33 a month) and include an annual planning call with a human advisor. Premium would cost $1,250 a year ($104.17 a month) and include unlimited calls to a human advisor.

Commentary. I don’t write about robo-advisors all that often, but Betterment adding human advisors as an upgrade option signals a big change in the industry. For the investors with modest balances, the flat fee is cheaper but it has always been pretty cheap; at $50k in assets it costs the same as a Netflix subscription. Perhaps more important is knowing that as you continue to grow assets, a human advisor will become available without having to move your money elsewhere.

For those with at least $100k in assets, the upgrade cost to talk to a human advisor annually appears reasonable ($150 a year more at $100k asset level). You also get unlimited e-mail interaction for quick questions. If you go to an independent CFP and request a one-time consultation, that will usually cost a $400 to $500 flat fee. Potential concerns include that you don’t get a dedicated person but a team. However, in my experience even if you get assigned a dedicated person, they’ve often moved onto another job within a year. The wording also suggests that the pool of advisors are not all CFPs.

This move signifies both the good and bad about the current robo-advisor environment. The good is that they keep evolving and looking for ways to improve (i.e. index replication, tax-sensitive asset location, tax loss harvesting). The bad is that these can involve big changes with little notice (i.e. portfolio tweaks, fee changes). This time, the good is now you have the option to pay more for human advice. The bad is that if you already had a lot of money with Betterment, your fees got hiked by 10 basis points. This is why I prefer to DIY, because I enjoy being in control.

That said, if I had to switch I would prefer human access for estate-planning purposes (Mrs. MMB doesn’t want to manage our portfolio). Betterment says they have an advantage because they are independent. For comparison, I would look into Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (VPAS) which costs 0.30% annually and includes a team of human advisors. Possible drawbacks of VPAS include no automated tax-loss harvesting and you’ll be confined to Vanguard products.

Howark Marks Oaktree Memo: NFL Bettor’s Guide vs. Coin Flip

silver_eagleHoward Marks released another Oaktree memo earlier this month that somewhat coincides with this weekend’s Super Bowl. Inside, he revisited the New York Post NFL Bettor’s Guide, a panel of “experts” offering their opinion of winning picks for each NFL game during the season. The picks are relative to the point spread offered by the bookmakers. The experts further specify up to three “best bets” each week.

Here were the results after the 2015 NFL Season (from last year’s memo):


Here were the overall results after the 2016 NFL Season:

  • The best picker was right 55.1% of the time.
  • The worst picker was right 48.8% of the time.
  • On average the pickers were right 51.6% of the time.

In terms of the “best bets” only:

  • The best picker was right 62.7% of the time.
  • The worst picker was right 43.1% of the time.
  • On average the pickers were right 54.0% of the time.

Here’s my take on the observations in the memo:

All results cluster closely around 50/50. A blindfolded squirrel (or me flipping a coin) could easily blend in with this panel of “experts”. Some do a bit better than 50/50 (but not much better), while others do a bit worse (but not much worse). This is exactly what the distribution of a high number of coin tosses looks like. It’s very hard to consistently beat the point spread created by the “market” consisting of other bettors.

Don’t forget the vigorish. When you place a bet with a sports book, they charge a fee (“the vig”) for their services. For example, you may have to bet $110 to win $100. That translates to a roughly 5% commission on each bet. Even if you were right on average 54% of the time, you would still lose money in the long run after fees.

These are results from people who are paid to observe, analyze, and write about football games. Yet their performance could be mostly explained by luck, and even any slight outperformance on average is more than negated by fees.

In terms of investing, there are also many “experts” willing to offer their opinion on winning stock picks or other financial forecasts. Most will be average, or perhaps even slightly above average. However, history (and common sense math) shows that their performance won’t be good enough to offset the higher fees that they charge. In addition, there is no surefire way to find these above-average pickers ahead of time (using past performance doesn’t work). Due the presence of such fees, you can guarantee yourself “above average” net results by simply buying low-cost index funds.

I’m not one of those people that completely dismiss the possibility of skill in investing, but you if do want to go that route you should be realistic. If you’re picking your own stocks, keep an honest tab on your performance. If a mutual fund is charging 1.5% annually today to actively manage US stocks, it is rather unlikely that it will outperform a low-cost US stock index fund in the long term. On the other hand, an actively managed mutual fund that charges 0.15% annually and has various other positive factors has a more reasonable chance of slight outperformance. However, at the same time you must also accept the possibility of slight underperformance.

ClaimDog: Simplified Unclaimed Property Search Tool

cdoglogoHere’s another website that searches public databases to collect your personal information… but instead of being scary it should work solely for your benefit! is a free service that simplifies the process of finding “unclaimed property” in your name. Just type in your first and last name along with your state(s) of residence.

Unclaimed property is created when a business owes you money or property but is unable get it to you for some reason. It could be a rebate check or a forgotten safe deposit box. You’ll need to verify your identity before they’ll send out the money. For example, apparently I was owed some money from DSL litigation in California several years ago, but moved before I could get the money. I was able to search through the public database and later get a check for about $75:


If your state makes it easy for ClaimDog to access their database, then the site will help direct you to your unclaimed property. Otherwise, it will just point you towards your state-specific website. (I also ran into some errors.) It’s still free and hopefully saves you some time.

Here are more places to check to see if you’ve got any money waiting for you:

Ally Bank 1-Day ACH Funds Transfer Review


Considering all of the things that can be done instantaneously nowadays, I’m rather disappointed that it still takes 3 business days to move money between most financial institutions. NACHA has been gradually working on same-day ACH transfers – apparently credits are live (like direct deposit), but not debits. Even then, banks may treat this as a premium service and charge a fee.

Ally Bank announced in October 2016 that they would support free 1-day ACH transfers for eligible transfers on 12/3/2016. They later announced a delay until 1/7/17. I finally got around to testing out this new feature in mid-January. Here are their own words:

We can now complete qualified transfers between your Ally Bank and non-Ally Bank accounts in 1 business day – free of charge. If 1-day delivery is unavailable, we’ll deliver your transfer in 3 business days.

Here’s their updated timing chart (note the cut-off times):


Here are the official reasons why a transfer would be ineligible for 1-day delivery:

  • Your one-time transfer is ineligible due to account inactivity, overdrafts or transfer returns.
  • Your transfer is part of a recurring transfer plan.

In my experience playing around with the website, there may be other additional factors. Here are the results of various combinations of to/from between Ally Savings/Checking and a sample External Bank B. This is what Ally is telling me upfront, before initiating the transfer.

  • Ally Savings to External Bank B = 1-day Transfer
  • External Bank B to Ally Savings = 1-day Transfer
  • Ally Checking to External Bank B = 3-day Transfer
  • External Bank B to Ally Checking = 1-day Transfer

Update – Here’s what a commenter Craig said an Ally CSR told him. I haven’t officially confirmed this but it appears to be consistent with my experiences.

To qualify for the 1 day transfer At Ally Bank, you have to do at least one $250 transfer in and out of the external account and then it goes into effect 2 months after that is done…so ALL your transfer accounts can qualify for 1 day transfers if you follow that rule…They should mention on the website…i found it out from a CSR….

Let us not forget that Alliant reduced the amount of outgoing transfers to $25,000 where as Ally allows $150,000 per transfer…

This usually isn’t a problem since I can make an instant transfer between Ally Checking to Ally Savings and then do a 1-day transfer from there, but savings accounts are only allowed six withdrawals per month. If I have a lot of transfers in any given month, I will eventually run into delays.

Ally has redesigned and improved the user interface of their funds transfer page. They now provide a a nice illustration of when your funds will be debited and when they will be deposited at the target location. It is also explicitly states whether it is a 1-day or 3-day transfer. Here’s an Expedited 1-day transfer:


Here’s a Standard 3-day transfer (in this case technically it will take only two days):


Bottom line. Ally Bank now offers 1 business day transfers in eligible cases with an improved user experience. Overall, I’m happy with this development as it applies most of the time (see above for details). I use Ally Bank as my central hub for cash transfers with Ally Bank Savings Account (higher interest, 6 withdrawals per month) as my default location for liquid cash savings and as a free overdraft source from Ally Checking (unlimited withdrawals per month). If I find a high-interest CD that looks good, I move money to/from my Ally account to where it needs to go, so speed can matter.

Generic Epipen Alternative from CVS for $110 Cash or $10 with Insurance


If you are like me and have to purchase multiple Epipens every year, you may like to know that CVS has a new generic Epipen alternative with a cash cost of $110 with a cost of $10 for many people with commercial health insurance. In most cases, the discount can be applied right at the pharmacy counter. You have heard of Adrenaclick, but this is technically a generic version of Adrenaclick made by the same laboratory.

Patients can now purchase the authorized generic for Adrenaclick® at a cash price of $109.99 for a two-pack – the lowest cash price in the market. This authorized generic is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved device with the same active ingredient as other epinephrine auto-injector devices.

Many parents of children with allergies have to buy multiple Epipens. The school usually requires one to be stored with them at all times in the classroom. If there is an afterschool program in a different area, that’s another Epipen. You may also want one to keep one at home, one at the grandparent’s house, and more for your purse, “Go Bag”, or vehicles. On top of all that, they expire after only one year, so you have to buy them all over again every school year.

Even with health insurance, they may only cover one or two, or perhaps you have a high deductible. Epipen made the news when the cash cost reached $600, but even at lower prices it can all add up quite quickly. I haven’t tried to buy any of these CVS versions yet, but I will look into before the next school year starts.

CVS has the following advice for those switching over. Note that an existing prescription for “Epipen” may not work as that is a brand name, so you’ll need a new one written for “epinephrine auto-injector”.

How can a patient switch a prescription from EpiPen to the lowest-cost epinephrine auto-injector?
First, the patient should speak with his or her prescriber about whether the authorized generic for Adrenaclick is a good fit for their specific medical needs. The prescriber can then write a prescription for an “epinephrine auto-injector” to ensure the lowest-cost product is filled. Patients who already have a prescription on file with CVS Pharmacy can ask their pharmacist to check with the prescriber about making the change.

You may also want to print out this $100 off coupon and bring it in.

Bought Milk? Fresh Milk Class Action Settlement

milkIf you bought any dairy products between 2003 and the present, and live (or have lived) in any one of the following states:

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wisconsin.

You may be eligible for a cash settlement of roughly $5 to $15 due to the Fresh Milk Products Price-Fixing Class Action Lawsuit. Fill out your claim at by January 31, 2017. For now, all they need is your name and e-mail. It takes literally seconds. You do not need to submit proof of purchase, although as usual you are under penalty of perjury. Found via Lazy Man.

If you are worried about the legitimacy of this website, check out this HuffPost article. If you are interested in the (sad) background, read this Bloomberg article.

Andrews Federal Credit Union 84-Month Certificate at 3.01% APY


Updated 1/23/17. It appears that Andrews FCU has quietly added back this 7-year 3% APY CD on their share certificate rates page. I don’t know how long this will last. Thanks to FI35 for the tip. Please see my Andrews Federal Credit Union Application and Account Opening Review for more details on the opening process. As I have an active account with Andrews FCU, I verified it as an option today (1/23/17) to open directly online. (Click to enlarge.)


Original post:

Let’s take a closer look at this 84-month Share Certificate at 3.01% APY. The early withdrawal penalty is a rather modest 180-days of interest. The minimum opening deposit is $1,000. No maximum balance cap. I created a spreadsheet to calculate the effective interest rate if you withdraw early, and here are the results visually:


If you withdraw after one year, you’ve still earned 1.50% APY after paying the penalty. After 2 years, you’ll have earned 2.25% APY. After 3 years, you’ll have earned 2.51% APY. At all these intervals, you are ahead of nearly all the top rates from other banks and credit unions.

If you don’t qualify directly, anyone can join the credit union by first joining the American Consumer Council for $8. Try the promo code consumer and you should be able to save that five bucks. After that, join AFCU online, and deposit the minimum $5 to open a share account. After your share account is open, you can try to open the promotional CDs online. Alternatively, you may need to call them up directly and expedite things.

Please see my Andrews Federal Credit Union Application and Account Opening Review for more details.

I am striking out the refer-a-friend bonus text below because I no longer see it advertised on their site. This way I can keep the details in case they bring it back.

$50 Refer a Friend Bonus. As part of the holiday promotion, new members can also get a $50 cash bonus if referred by an existing member. The referrer also gets $50. However, the referred person must open a checking account and set up direct deposit of $500 or more. Here are the exact terms:

Refer a friend offer available to existing Andrews Federal members who refer a new member to the credit union. New member must open a new Free or Advantage Checking account with a direct deposit of $500 or more. Direct deposit must be initiated within 30 days of opening new Free or Advantage checking account, and must be received for at least two consecutive monthly statement cycles for both members to be eligible for reward. Account must remain open and in good standing for at least 90 days; accounts closed prior to 90 days will be ineligible. $50.00 will be credited to the referring member’s and the new member’s credit union accounts within 4 weeks after the 90- day period has ended. New member must qualify for credit union membership, which includes the opening of a Base Share Savings account with a minimum balance of $5.00.

I am not exactly sure how this works in practical terms. I believe that during the application process there is a question “Where Did You Hear About Us?” and you can pick “Family/Friend Referral” and you can leave your friend’s name and Andrews FCU membership number in the comments field. If you are looking to open up a checking account and set up direct deposit, I am a member now so if you want a referral please contact me.

New Year’s Resolutions: Nudge Yourself Towards Success


It’s now late January. According to “the internet”, over 30% of people have already failed at their New Year’s Resolution. Well, I say let’s have a do-over since I haven’t even got around to making mine yet. Jonathan Clements has an excellent post called Committed where he outlines some strategies to help improve our chances of success. I’ve re-worked them below according to my own tastes. In my view, all of them involve making failure painful and/or inconvenient (really the same thing, just different levels and frequencies of pain).

  • Tell everyone. Announce your resolution on Facebook, Instagram, or other widespread manner. Somebody (frenemy?) will likely follow-up. You’ll want to avoid the mild shame from lots of people you know sorta well.
  • Tell just one important person. Share your resolution and deadline with a person whose opinion you care about. You’ll want to avoid that acute shame from a close friend or relative.
  • Tell nobody, but bet money on it. You could set up a bet with a friend, or use a website like DietBet. You’ll want to avoid the financial pain from losing money.
  • Put hurdles between you and bad habits. Want to spend less? Use cash for everything. Institute a cooling-off period of 1 week for every $100 of cost. Cut up or freeze your credit cards in ice. Cancel any “bad” subscriptions, and make yourself pay for it manually each month. (Try Trim if you need some help canceling things.) Remove junk food from the house, so you’ll have to go out and buy it. Make it a hassle.
  • Make it automatic. Make “good” subscriptions. Set up (or increase) an automatic paycheck withdrawal for 401(k) and/or IRA retirement accounts. Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. Sign up for a service like Digit. After the initial setup, the lazy thing is now the good thing.

You might use one, or you might use all of them, depending on your specific goal.

Photo credit: Angus and Phil comic by Annie Taylor-Lebel.

TurboTax Discounts with State Farm Bank Account (Discontinued for 2016)


Update. In case you were waiting, there will be no special TurboTax discount for State Farm bank and mutual fund customers for tax year 2016. Taken from the TurboTax FAQ. It was nice while it lasted. Thanks to Eric and Michael for the heads up.

For many years, State Farm has offered TurboTax for free, or at a greatly reduced price, as a special benefit to their bank and mutual fund customers. State Farm insurance customers have also received special discounts. State Farm has made the decision to discontinue this program for Tax Year 2016.

Original, Expired post from last year:

State Farm is has historically offered significant TurboTax discounts, but only for select bank and mutual fund customers. The promotional prices for 2015 were: TurboTax Federal Deluxe Online free, Premier $20, and Home & Business $30. A free state return is also included with free e-File for all online versions. Details:

  • You must have at least one State Farm Bank or Mutual Fund account linked to your online profile. This includes checking, savings, IRA, and credit card accounts. However, if you only have insurance with them, you will NOT get this discount.
  • You must register through their special promotion link.
  • Offer limited to the first 25,000 qualified customers who register through State Farm to use TurboTax Online. I don’t recall how fast this ran out, but last year I believe it did run out before April 15th.

Some history… According to my notes, from 2006-2009 State Farm offered TurboTax Deluxe for free to all customers including insurance policyholders. In 2010 or 2011, they started restricting it only to bank and credit card customers.

The easiest way to gain access to this promotion is their regular “Checking” bank account with requires a $25 minimum initial deposit and no minimum balance fee. You must link your bank account number to your online State Farm profile, after which the website will recognize you as a State Farm Bank customer and you’ll be given access to the offer. Here is what you should see:


State Farm® customers can save on TurboTax 2015 by taking advantage of special offers. To receive your special TurboTax offer, you must access and complete your return through the link below. If you access your return directly from Intuit’s site, special offers will not be applied.

The Jack Bogle Appreciation Curve

commonsenseJack Bogle is rightfully respected and there are probably over a hundred mentions of his name on this site. His message of common sense, simple, low-cost investing continues to spread since he first opened the Vanguard 500 Index fund to the public in 1975. Yet, he still has to keep pounding his drum because there is so much other noise out there. Similar to the sketches of NYT journalist Carl Richards, I present to you what I call the Bogle Appreciation Curve.


The overall shape of this curve can probably be applied to any field where there are classic fundamentals and then a bunch of fancy stuff on top. It definitely applies to investing, where there is an insatiable desire for something newer, better, and more complex.

Beginner Investor. You’re just starting out, and you read some recommended business books. There’s the classic Bogle on Mutual Funds and the much shorter one called The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (which you picked) by Bogle that really made sense and sounded reasonable. You see why low-costs and passive investing are based on common sense and basic mathematics. You understand why you should avoid high-cost, high-turnover funds sold by brokers.

Investor Who “Knows Things”. You read more about investing, learning about correlations and factors and portfolio optimization. This stuff is pretty interesting! Historically, if I bought a nice slug of “small-cap value” stocks, a bit of commodities, a sprinkle of gold, I would have higher returns with less volatility? I’d do even better with a momentum-following strategy, and now there is a smart beta ETF that will do it for me? It seems so easy to do better than a “vanilla” portfolio.

Jack Bogle says “smart beta is dumb”. Hmm, maybe he’s just not with the modern times anymore.

Older, Humbled Investor. Well, that was exhausting. The historically optimal portfolio in 1990 wasn’t the same as the historically optimal portfolio in 2000, and that was again true in 2010 and will be again in 2020. I missed out on part of the 2008-2016 surge because people told me the market was overvalued due to CAPE and PE10 and many other metrics. If I had just stayed the course through it all, I’d have done pretty good. I think someone told me to keep it simple. Who was it? Oh yeah, Jack Bogle. I need to re-read his books.

You can also keep up with John C. Bogle’s media appearances on his personal website. The updates serve as a nice, regular dose of Bogle wisdom.

New Year’s Checklists: What Is Your Financial Priority List?


Updated for 2017. You’ve worked hard and you have some money to put away for your future self. What should you do with your money? There is no definitive list, but each person can create their own with common components. You may also want to revisit it again every year.

You can find some examples in this Vanguard blog and see what I had down in this 2006 blog post. Here’s my current list:

  1. Invest in your 401(k) or similar plan up until any match. Company matches typically offer you 50 cents to a dollar for each dollar that you contribute yourself, up to a certain amount. Add in the tax deferral benefits, and it adds up to a great deal. Estimated annual return: 25% to 100%. Even if you are unable to anything else in this list, try to do this one as it can also serve as an “emergency” emergency fund.
  2. Pay down your high-interest debt (credit cards, personal loans, car loans). If you pay down a loan at 12% interest, that’s the same as earning a 12% return on your money and higher than the average historical stock market return. Estimated annual return: 10-20%.
  3. Create an emergency fund with at least 3 months of expenses. It can be difficult, but I’ve tried to describe the high potential value of an emergency fund. For example, a bank overdraft or late payment penalty can be much higher than 10% of the original bill. Estimated return: Varies.
  4. Fund your Traditional or Roth IRA up to the maximum allowed. You can invest in stocks or bonds at any brokerage firm, and the tax advantages let you keep more of your money. Estimated annual return: 8%. Even if you think you are ineligible due to income limits, you can contribute to a non-deductible Traditional IRA and then roll it over to a Roth (aka Backdoor Roth IRA).
  5. Continue funding your 401(k) or similar to the maximum allowed. There are both Traditional and Roth 401(k) options now, although your investment options may be limited as long as you are with that employer. Estimated annual return: 8%.
  6. Save towards a house down payment. This is another harder one to quantify. Buying a house is partially a lifestyle choice, but if you don’t move too often and pay off that mortgage, you’ll have lower expenses afterward. Estimated return: Qualify of life + imputed rent.
  7. Fully fund a Health Savings Account. If you have an eligible health insurance plan, you can use an HSA effectively as a “Healthcare Roth IRA
    where your contributions can be invested in mutual funds and grow tax-deferred for decades with tax-free withdrawals when used towards eligible health expenses.
  8. Invest money in taxable accounts. Sure you’ll have to pay taxes, but if you invest efficiently then long-term capital gains rates aren’t too bad. Estimated annual return: 6%.
  9. Pay down any other lower-interest debt (2% car loans, educational loans, mortgage debt). There are some forms of lower-interest and/or tax-deductible debt that can be lower priority, but must still be addressed. Estimated annual return: 2-6%.
  10. Save for your children’s education. You should take care of your own retirement before paying off your children’s tuition. There are many ways to fund an education, but it’s harder to get your kids to fund your retirement. 529 plans are one option if you are lucky enough to have reached this step. Estimated return: Depends.

I wasn’t sure where to put this, but you should also make sure you have adequate insurance (health, disability, and term life insurance if you have dependents). The goal of most optional insurance is to cover catastrophic events, so ideally you’ll pay a small amount and hope to never make a claim.

Wells Fargo $250 New Checking Account Bonus

wellsfargo_logoWells Fargo has a $250 bonus offer for new checking account customers. You can open any consumer checking account except for Teen Checking. The prepaid Wells Fargo EasyPay® Card is not eligible. You must open the account from the special bonus page with a minimum opening deposit of $25 by February 17, 2017. (You can charge the opening deposit on a credit card.) Within 60 days of account opening, you must also do one of the following:

  • Make 10 debit card purchases/payments.
  • Set up a qualifying Direct Deposit of $500 to your new checking account.

Note that doing any one of these activities every month also waives the $10 monthly service fee on the Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account. Other ways to waive the monthly service fee are to maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or link the account to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card.

In addition, to get the bonus you cannot be:

  • A current owner on a Wells Fargo consumer checking account
  • A Wells Fargo team member
  • A recipient of a consumer checking bonus in the past 12 months (limit 1 bonus per customer)

Thanks to Lee and Adam for the tip. The annoying part? The page is contradictory in regards to who is actually eligible. Right above the “Important things to know about the $250 offer:” it says:

This is an exclusive, nontransferable offer.

But then right below that it says:

Offer available in all Wells Fargo branches or online at

If I had to bet, I would say that Wells Fargo will give the bonus to anyone who applies through this special link and they approve your application. However, I can’t guarantee it so proceed at your own risk. This is a pretty nice offer if you were looking for a checking account at a “Mega Bank”.