Wells Fargo Drops Debit Card Rewards

The nation’s banks are behaving like the airlines these days: As soon as one implements a new policy or program, others pile on. In this case, a mere week after Chase took the ax to its debit rewards program, news comes that Wells Fargo (along with Wachovia, which it acquired a few years ago) is doing the same.

Starting yesterday, new Wells Fargo and Wachovia customers can no longer enroll in the bank’s debit rewards program. Existing customers get to keep earning rewards for now, although that could change if Wells follows in Chase’s footsteps.
Current Wells Fargo customers — or, to be safe, any banking customers enrolled in a debit card rewards program — might want to think about setting a goal for their rewards accrual and cashing out, since banks aren’t under any obligation to let you keep your earned points. In fact, regional bank SunTrust will eliminate its debit rewards program next month, and unspent points will expire the first of next year.

So far, Bank of America and Citi haven’t made any changes to their debit rewards programs, but Citi is reported to be “evaluating” its current programs, which means changes could be on the horizon.

As we’ve pointed out over and over again, banks are blaming government regulation for their newly stingy stance on rewards. In reality, the cost of processing debit (and credit) cards that have rewards programs attached drive up fees for retailers, which leads to higher prices for everybody.

We recently spoke with Ed Mierzwinski of advocacy group US-PIRG, and Mierzwinski expressed his suspicion that banks are taking a hard line on rewards to try and create public backlash to the new regulations. Don’t fall for it.

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