Wells Fargo is one of the biggest, most well-regarded banking institutions in the world, and as such their brokerage system, WellsTrade, has a similarly high reputation. That being said, such innovative trading platforms and high-quality services are offset by higher-than-usual commissions and a high initial deposit that gives it a high barrier to entry.
What are WellsTrade’s Main Features?
When Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008, they rolled that brokerage firm into its own, relabeling it WellsTrade. As such, Wells Fargo transformed it into their own brokerage wing, offering Wells Fargo customers a stock trading solution alongside their own banking services and brokers.
One of the biggest advantages of WellsTrade is that the platform has a significantly high selection of funds and accounts, including 1,200 mutual funds that require no transaction fee. You can invest in stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, IRAs and mutual funds.
Wells Fargo customers also uniquely benefit from WellsTrade’s integration with their traditional banking and broker services, as transferring funds is lightning quick (same-day in most cases) and easy to do. If you want to add money from your Wells Fargo account to WellsTrade, it just takes the push of a button and it happens almost instantaneously, with no fees.
Given WellsTrade’s pedigree, it stands to reason that they would have tremendously reputable research tools, and that assertion holds water. At no additional cost, traders can get detailed research reports from Standard & Poor, one of the best market research firms available to anyone interested in investing.
There are plenty of other third-party investment researchers available as well, from Morningstar mutual fund ratings to other market commentaries.
While their research is admirable, one potential hiccup for WellsTrade is their lack of an advanced trading platform. Instead, the whole thing is fairly bare-bones, offering basic charting, gain/loss information that runs on a delay, and more.
Though the platform is reasonably featured, it can be disheartening to pay higher-than-usual commissions and fees to not get the kind of robust software you might expect from a top-tier brokerage firm.
That said, WellsTrade features can easily be accessed through Wells Fargo’s mobile app, which is a boon to traders. The investment part of the app itself is nothing to write home about, chiefly because of its integration with the banking section of the app. However, you can track orders, place trades, find quotes in real time, look at all of your accounts, and access market news at the same time, which is certainly advantageous for most traders.
Perhaps WellsTrade’s best feature is its private advisory group, which is made available to those investors who have larger than normal portfolios of over $100,000. With these advisors, traders are able to benefit from personalized trading advice, in addition to other perks and special pricing on non-investment services. This is a nice feature for high-balance traders who already bank at Wells Fargo.
One potential savings option for WellsTrade customers is their PMA, which is essentially a checking account with benefits. If you work with that, your commissions and rates go down demonstrably (from $8.95 to $6.95 for stocks and ETFs, for example). The downside to that is the tremendously high account minimums required to avoid their pricey $30 monthly fee.
What are the Pros and Cons?
- High ranking from Barron’s and other services
- Broker-assisted market orders
- No account minimum
- Personal Advisory Group for high-balance traders
- No commission-free ETFs
- Below-average Web-based trading platform
- Slightly higher commission rates and initial deposit than most other services
How Do You Open a WellsTrade Account and What are the Requirements?
When you open a WellsTrade account, all you have to do is go to the Wells Fargo website, find WellsTrade Brokerage, and open up their online form. From there, you can choose from a standard brokerage account, traditional IRA or Roth IRA. (There are also small business and commercial accounts you can start.)
For a standard account, for instance, WellsTrade will ask you for your Social Security number, the name and address of your employer, your income information and whether or not you’re already a Wells Fargo customer. No minimum deposit is required right away.
There are a few more specific questions in the application, such as whether you or your spouse are Wells Fargo employees, if you work for a publicly traded company or the SEC, or if you or your family are senior political figures in foreign governments. These are all outlier questions, of course, but ones which remove significant conflicts of interest for WellsTrade.
After that, you just have to pick out your funding sources and transfer money in order to start your account, verify your information, and go from there.
What Are the Rules for Trading on WellsTrade?
In order to start an account with WellsTrade, you need to make a $1,000 deposit. While that might be a pricey buy-in for a service unless you’re sure about its advantages, it at least gives you a leg up on your investment.
Once there, the trades are still decently affordable, while not quite as low as most of their toughest competitors. Stocks and ETFs have a baseline commission of $8.95, while options cost $9.95 (plus a whopping $1 per contract). Mutual funds cost $35 per trade, and broker-assisted stock/ETF trades cost as much as $33.95. By any metric, these feeds add up in an investor’s bank account really quickly.
Some other fees certainly apply when trading with WellsTrade, such as their $25 annual fee if your balance is lower than $5,000. Closing fees are also $35.
What Kind of Trader is WellsTrade Best For?
WellsTrade’s integration of Wells Fargo services makes it extremely advantageous for existing Wells Fargo customers, obviously. If you’ve already got your banking and financial services set up at Wells Fargo, it stands to reason that you should go with WellsTrade.
For those traders looking to save money on commissions and fees, however, it might be better to look elsewhere. Feel free to do the math for your own budget, but even some Wells Fargo customers might be better off avoiding the high $1,000 initial deposit and slightly pricier commission fees.
Traders who want good customer service for their service might find WellsTrade a little wanting, since their admittedly limited service options are fairly slow to respond. Of course, this comes with only having 24/7 phone support; no online chat option is available, and email responses are extremely limited.
Furthermore, those traders who want to invest in an affordable and well-informed way, relying on good trading data and low fees, should feel no obligation to try WellsTrade if they wouldn’t already benefit from the advantages of having a Wells Fargo account. Without that caveat, the incentive to start a WellsTrade account diminishes, especially considering the other options out there.
Other Good Products
If you’re concerned with maintaining brokerage within your own banking network, but are a member of the military, you might want to consider USAA. In addition to their normal banking and insurance features, they also have trading options for their customers. Granted, this requires military membership or being a family member of a serviceperson, but the savings are real.
If you’re ready to move to a higher-end product, check out TD Ameritrade or perhaps Schwab StreetSmart Edge.
Those traders who want much lower fees and commissions, while also offering reputable options trading and robust features in their trading platform, might want to try something like OptionsHouse or TradeKing. The fees are much more affordable without sacrificing elements like education or research tools.
A Few Final Thoughts
The overall blending of banks and investment firms over the last few years has led to services like WellsTrade, which can be a double-edged sword for many financial institutions. While the smooth, clean integration of all your financial services into one company has its advantages, it also places the burden on Wells Fargo to be the jack of all trades. However, this also means it has to be master of none.
Aside from the bigger independent online brokers, one major element of deciding which brokerage service you’re going to go for is how well it integrates with your existing financial services, like banking. As such, it might stand to reason that Wells Fargo’s WellsTrade solution provides the best possible option for those who already have accounts there, if for no other reason than convenience.
When it comes to the delicate balance between features and fees, WellsTrade comes out on the lower side of that equation. Their fees are slightly higher than most other brokers, and their features are less than ideal for the price. Perhaps if there was a sophisticated desktop platform for WellsTrade, or their commissions were lowered, a better balance could be struck.
Overall, though, many of these criticisms pale in comparison to the sheer convenience of being able to cover your investments with the same broker you bank with. Wells Fargo customers who are expert traders and seek the latest equipment and rock-bottom commissions can easily go elsewhere. Otherwise, the average Wells Fargo customer should still consider it.
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