In Fall 2009, I went to Wells Fargo bank Castro Street Branch to talk to a Mortgage Consultant regarding refinancing. Another WF employee approached me for opening a Home Equity Line of Credit account. I immediately refused as we had already remodeled our house and we did not need any additional credit given our financial status. My wife and I have never carried any credit card balances and each of us has a credit score of 800+/-. I could not think of any reason why we needed the extra credit. Later when my wife and I were in the branch again to refinance, the same female employee (later we learnt that her name was Claudette K.) followed us and interrupt our conversations from time to time, trying to open checking and savings accounts for us, as well as the Home Equity Line of Credit account. She told us that HELOC is completely free to open and maintain. I specifically asked her if there are any penalties to close the account, she said "None. You can close it anytime." Silly us - we have never had HELOC before and we believed what she said. We got nagged to a point that we said okay so that she would leave us alone to continue our refinance process. It was a big mistake that we did not read the documents we took home about the HELOC agreement that we had signed. We had already a lot of documents to read about the loan, and at the same time we also got a lot of brochures from another WF financial advisor who was "building our portfolio".
Later last year, we wanted to close this HELOC account because we really did not need it. We have never used a penny from the $29K credit. Another WF employee persuaded us to keep it open "because it's free and it's good to have it". No one has mentioned to us that actually we had to pay to close the account! That is why recently when we were refinancing again with a non-WF mortgage broker, we were asked if we wanted to keep this extra loan or subordinate, we chose to close this account. To our surprise, three days before the funding, we got an email from the escrow officer stating that there was total $597 charged by Wells Fargo to close this account, including $500 Termination Fee, $57 Lien Release/Recording Fee, etc. Our first reaction was ¡°this can¡¯t be true. The WF employee guaranteed us they would be no fee to open or close it.¡±
I then went to the branch trying to talk to the Claudette K. who opened this HELOC for us. An assistant manager Marc A. told me that Claudette K. is no longer working there ¨C he had issues with her. I asked him if they could waive the closing fee since we were pushed and misled by their ex-employee. We did not request nor used this account. Marc A. said if we would refinance with Wells Fargo, they could waive the HELOC Termination Fee. I told him that our last refinance experience with Wells Fargo was unpleasant, plus we were getting better rates with the outside broker. Then the assistant manager told me that he would send our request the ¡°upper management¡± and get back to us by email. Once I came back home, I got an email from Marc A., without addressing my name nor any content in the email body, just an attachment ¡°Loan Agreement Copy¡±. I replied and told him that I did notice in the document he sent us our signature was only on the last page of the document; our initials were missing on all other pages. He did not reply. Later that day, I emailed him again asking if he had any updates from the ¡°upper management¡±. There was not a single word from this Assistant Manager ever since!
If we had known there would be a fee to close the HELOC, we would not agree to open it at the first place. Or if we were told later last year about the Termination Fee, this time we would have kept it open. However, now we did not have enough time to go back to the underwriter to re-approve our loan with this HELOC open. We felt that we had been tiptoeing around these financial traps, but we still got caught this time! We have refused several ¡°products¡± that some other Wells Fargo employee tried to hard-sell to us, such as the variable life insurance, variable annuity, etc. but we were not firm this time. We trusted Claudette K. because we could not believe an employee from such a large financial institute would have lied to us. Unfortunately this did really happen in Wells Fargo. This is one of the reasons that a lot of Americans got into trouble during the subprime mortgage crisis - they were pushed/deceived into getting extra loans/credit that they did not need and/or could not afford. Sadly, the banks do not take responsibilities over their employees' mistakes. How Wells Fargo handled our request/complaint is unprofessional and disappointing.
This incident, together with our other rough experience with Wells Fargo has made me decide to terminate the relationship with them. To my knowledge, many of our friends and colleagues have already done so. My advice to our fellow Mountain View residents is, whether being approached in person or by phone, do not easily accept their "offers" from the bank. Often times, they play hard sales tactics to get their commissions, not to reflect your best interest. There is no free lunch. If you are not careful, the bankers' next lunch will be on you.