SmartyPig Launches OneClick, Goal-Based Savings Account Browser Plugin

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It’s not easy making savings accounts sexy, but Social Money, with its GoalSaver and SmartyPig brands, is trying. The latest innovation? A Google Chrome browser extension called SmartyPig OneClick (link), that allows users to create savings goals on the fly while shopping online.

The service launched last week and can be found in the Extensions: Shopping section of the Chrome app store. The app has 30 users according to stats displayed in the store. In comparison, the most popular shopping extension, from Amazon, has more than 600,000 users.

The SmartyPig OneClick system can be licensed by banks looking to juice their savings account feature set.

How it works
smartypig_browserbutton_300.jpg1. Install from Google Play app-store (see screenshot 1 below)

2. A SmartyPig icon is added to the upper right of the browser (see inset)

3. When shopping online (at any website), users click on the SmartyPig icon in the upper right, which launches a popup (screenshot 2)

4. After logging in (screenshot 3), users establish a goal and automatic savings plan to fund the purchase of the desired item (screenshots 4 & 5). SmartyPig automatically imports the item’s price and image and stores it for the user at SmartyPig.com. 

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Analysis
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Goal-based savings is an important feature to add to online banking (note 1). And shopping helpers are a relatively popular browser extension (Amazon’s Chrome extension has 600,000 users). So marrying the two is an interesting play.

Will this boost savings-account balances? Perhaps a little. But the more important FI benefit is getting a branded button in the corner of the user’s browser (whether anyone will remember it’s there is another matter). That’s a bit of a Trojan Horse that can be used for a variety of services (note 2).

Bottom line: I like SmartyPig’s move. Smartphones have conditioned users to look for specialized apps. I believe consumers will use full-featured online banking via direct desktop links (see also Mint’s QuickView). Although, it will take education and marketing support.

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1. Installing browser extensions is a painless process (Chrome store link)
Note: Users must allow SmartyPig to “access your data on all websites” and “access your tabs and browsing activity.” The first one is likely to give users pause.

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2. Creating a goal on the fly while shopping

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3. Login to SmartyPig via popup box

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4. Confirm the savings goal

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5. Customize the savings goal

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Notes:
1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report (Nov. 2008, subscription) detailing various ways to leverage your online/mobile channel to boost deposits.
2. Long ago, we wrote a report (Aug 2002, subscription) on ways to put your bank onto the computer desktop. The strategy is still the same, though the specific techniques are somewhat different today.

Guess Who’s Back? NetBank

imageIt’s been 5 years since NetBank failed (see our post). At the time it was the largest bank failure in 14 years. But little did we know then (Sep 2007), that the $110 million taxpayers coughed up to cover its deposits was nothing compared to what was about to happen in the financial markets (note 1).

After the failure, ING Direct bought the NetBank retail deposit business and took ownership of the domain netbank.com. But they never did anything with it besides forwarding the URL it its homepage. 

But evidently Capital One didn’t want to be associated with that failed endeavor and/or it thought the "net" was too limiting for the mobile world. So, the Netbank URL and name were sold sometime this year to Bank of Internet (note 2). The URL has pointed to BofI since at least September. No word on the purchase price, but given that investing.com just sold for $2.5 million, I’m guessing it was in the $500,000 to $1 million range. 

Anyway, the back story matters little anymore. It’s a good name, and once the Google search results no longer have those 5-year-old "failure" articles on the first page, the baggage should be reduced to almost nothing (note 3).

As you can see from the banner running across the homepage (see second screenshot below), the new NetBank is targeting the account towards the "underbanked" (note 4). But the account is positioned as "real checking" as opposed to a prepaid card.

And it has one key feature that sets it apart from most checking accounts: the ability to deposit cash into the account via Green Dot’s MoneyPak.

The checking account costs $6.95/mo with direct deposit, or $8.95 per month. It pays 0.25% interest and is loaded with all the important account features (checks, debit card, p2p transfers, rewards, PFM, mobile remote deposit and so on).

It’s a good value compared to many alt-banking products. However, consumers in good standing with the U.S. banking system and willing to forego the MoneyPak option, would save with BofI’s free checking with no overdraft charges

Bottom line: It’s good to have the brand back in the game. Now, when will someone revive NextCard’s name?

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Before: Last known screenshot of bank before failure (20 Aug 2007, from Archive.org)

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After: NetBank’s new homepage (13 Dec 2012)

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Notes:
1. For those that want to relive those dark days, here is the 54-page U.S. Treasury audit of why Netbank failed (published 23 April 2008).
2. I don’t know whether Capital One acquired netbank.com in its ING Direct acquisition or whether ING Direct sold it directly to BofI. It was not a material asset in the $9 billion deal.
3. Someone needs to do BofI a favor and get that Wikipedia entry updated ASAP. 
4. Or at least those currently locked out of the banking system due to bad ChexSystem scores.

Bank of Internet Launches No-Overdraft-Fee Checking Account

imageI’ve been working on a blog post, “overdrafts in the digital age,” for a few days. But it’s ballooning to the point where I may turn it into a full Online Banking Report. Or just publish it in several parts here.

Either way, I’m looking for examples of new approaches to overdraft protection. For example, Bank of Internet recently did away with the fee altogether on its Rewards Checking account. The bank won’t necessarily honor the check (unless the user is covered by linked-account overdraft protection), but they won’t charge a fee if they give it the heave-ho (note 1).

The account also boasts no monthly fee, an APY up to 1.25% (if electronic transaction minimums are met), an ATM fee rebate, Intuit’s FinanceWorks PFM with Cardlytics-powered cash-back, mobile remote deposit (Mitek-powered, I presume) and Fiserv’s POPmoney P2P payments. It’s like a Finovate greatest-hits account.

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Bank of Internet homepage features Rewards Checking (27 Sep 2012)

Bank of Internet homepage featuring no-overdraft-fee checking

Rewards checking landing page (link)

BofI rewards checking landing page

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Note:
1. Bank of Internet won’t impose a fee, but the merchant who submitted the check (and who will be dinged by their bank) very likely will. So it’s not necessarily a fee-free event.
2. For info, our report on fee-based online services (subscription, May 2011)

Feature Friday: Bank Balance Forecast

imageAs Simple begins the 6-month process of converting its 100,000-person wait list into paying customers, I expect much attention will be given to its flagship UI innovation, a forecast of your “free cash” after accounting for upcoming transaction. Simple has trademarked the feature as the Safe-to-Spend balance (screenshot below).

We’ve discussed it a number of times in our Online Banking Report (subscription), but we haven’t explored it in Netbanker. Here’s why balance forecasting is so important:

  • Intuitive UI: Hundreds of millions of people worldwide log in to their bank accounts at least weekly. Why? To see their balance and to make a mental calculation of whether things are on track. Whether they consciously think it or not, they are making their own calculation of what’s left in the account to spend. And given how horrible the average person is at making complex math calculations in their head, it makes so much sense to put that number right in from of them at all times.
  • Advocacy: Doesn’t everyone want to believe that the place where they entrust their live savings is looking out for their best interests? But events of the past five years have seriously eroded consumer confidence in financial institutions, especially large banks. Providing a new tool that really helps consumer understand their financial position, and reduce the chances of overdrafting, could go a long way in restoring confidence that the bank is not the enemy.
  • Gateway to advanced PFM services: Doing important calculations on the consumer’s behalf is what PFM is all about. So showing that you have the wherewithal to make this important calculation, can be the entry point for delivering more advanced PFM services, hopefully at a profitable monthly fee (note 1).
  • Great competitive weapon: Want to compete with Bank Simple? Want to show you are ahead of the curve. This is a perfect, tangible feature/benefit.

Bottom line: This is not the easiest feature to add. Maybe one of the hardest. And you should expect to spend quite a bit of time explaining it to employees and customers. But it absolutely will be part of every online banking system and third-party PFM service (see also, HelloWallet’s “left to spend below).
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Simple makes it impossible to miss your “Safe-to-Spend” balance (22 June 2012)

Bank Simple "Safe to Spend" balance

HelloWallet’s mobile app has a “Left to Spend” balance for both in total and for the specific budget category (22 June 2012)

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Note:
1. We are putting the finishing touches on an update of our PFM report (May 2010, subscription). You’ll see an announcement here next week.

Feature Friday: Universal Checkbook from Personal Capital

imageOne of my favorite features unveiled last week, was Universal Checkbook from Personal Capital. And apparently I wasn’t the only one. Attendees voted the startup Best of Show (again) and hit Twitter with positive comments such as the one below from Brad Leimer (@leimer) of Mechanics Bank,.

Universal Checkbook (see inset) allows users to move money directly between any linked bank/brokerage accounts, providing they have check-writing capabilities.

imageWhile many banks also support interbank transfers, they usually require funds to move in and out of the host bank account. To move money between two third-party accounts requires two separate transfers. And it would take 5 or 6 days (via U.S. ACH system) if you waited for the funds to arrive in the host account before sending them elsewhere. 

In the demo, Personal Capital showed how easy it is to enroll a new bank accounts using deposit capture to grab a check image from that account. However, this enrollment option is not yet available in the production iPhone app (note 2, 3).

Pricing: There is no word on pricing, but it looks like there may be a fee eventually. On the bottom of the pay screen it says, "Try Universal Checkbook FREE for three months!" Because Personal Capital offers basic PFM services ad- and fee-free, it will likely need fees for money movement, at least for users not committing any assets to the startup.

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Tweet from Bradley Leimer (@leimer) during Personal Capital demo at FinovateSpring (8 May 2012)

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Notes:
1. We took an in-depth look at truly virtual banks (Personal Capital, Bank Simple, and PerkStreet) in our Oct 2011 Online Banking Report.
2. The app doesn’t yet explain how to enroll new payment accounts, evidently the image capture capability is still in process.
3. Universal Checkbook has not yet been incorporated into Personal Capital’s iPad or desktop versions.

Launching: EFTGuard Provides $500k in Online Fraud Protection for Business Banking Customers

image That was fast. Just two weeks after my latest appeal to the industry to provide small business owners with more security options, a new product launched today aims to do just that. And it’s packaged as a turn-key, fee-based service that could be sold by banks at a $10+ per month profit (MSRP is $25/mo).  

That all sounds too good to be true. When I was first contacted by Greenway Solutions last week, I was more than a bit skeptical. But after speaking with CEO Jerry Tylman and Managing Consultant Jon Meyer, I was convinced they had something that as a business owner, I’d definitely buy.

The product, EFTGuard, is a joint venture between Greenway Solutions and Royal Group Services. They say it’s a “win-win-win” for banks:

  • Helps banks meet “UCC requirement for commercially reasonable security and their FFIEC requirement for customer education and awareness”
  • Provides peace of mind to bank clients
  • Protects both the bank and each client up to $500,000 in unauthorized online transfers
  • Helps differentiate checking and deposit offerings

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How it works
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EFTGuard provides protection against fraudulent online-account withdrawals of $100,000 per account (with no deductible), with a maximum of $500,000 per customer. And because it’s not true “insurance” (it just behaves like it), there is no underwriting hassle and the product can be purchased in just a few minutes via online form (demo here). There is, however, the usual list of coverage exclusions; for example, it doesn’t cover insider theft. 

The catch? To qualify, business customers must download and install anti-malware software from Trusteer, Iron Key, or Webroot. And every computer accessing the business account must be running these protective software programs. For the time being, that appears to leave out any mobile access. 

Initially, banks looking to offer EFTGuard will need to work with one of these three malware-protection vendors in order to qualify their clients for the fraud protection. Other than that, EFTGuard is turn-key and comes with marketing support, a co-branded signup page, and full claims management.

The $500,000 coverage is backed by Chartis Specialty Insurance Company.

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Bottom line
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Your business customers are rightly concerned about fraud. Offering them an option to protect themselves is a great way to differentiate your deposit offerings while preventing you from getting bogged down in messy litigation with your customers.

I still have questions about how often the list of exclusions will invalidate claims when actual fraud occurs. But the company assures me that the protections are very real.

Assuming EFTGuard delivers on its protection promise AND creates a small profit center, what’s not to like? I, for one, will be the first business owner in line to buy it. 

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EFTGuard homepage (24 April 2012)

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Note:
1. I believe insurance is one of the best growth areas in retail banking, especially in niche lines that can be explained and delivered online (see our December Online Banking Report for more about banks delivering insurance online).

Westpac NZ Makes it Mobile Savings Transfers Easy with Impulse Saver

image There are two schools of thought when it comes to mobile app design:

  1. Put everything in a single app for each platform (note 1), so your customers aren’t confused about which app to download
  2. Create specialized apps for various market segments and/or apps that focus on a single function

American Express (7 for iOS, note 2); JP Morgan Chase (3 for iOS); Zions Bank (3 for iOS); Southern Bancorp (2 for iOS); and a handful of other banks have launched multiple apps. But it’s still the exception: More than 99% of banks have no more than one app for each platform. 

Westpac NZ has joined the multi-app group, though oddly it has yet to launch a full-featured mobile banking app (note 3). Yesterday, we wrote about Westpac’s clever Cash Tank, that provides a no-login gauge to monitor account balances.

The bank has another cool single-use app, Impulse Saver, which is basically just one huge red button that users press to make a transfer from their checking account to a savings account.

obr_bestofwebThe amount of each transfer, from $2 to $50, is preset using the app settings (see second screenshot).

Bottom line: With Impulse Saver and Cash Tank, Westpac NZ has raised the bar for simple no-login mobile banking, earning an OBR Best of the Web (note 4).  
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Westpac’s Impulse Saver iPhone app (20 March 2012)

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Notes:
1. By single app, we mean one app per major platform, i.e., one app for iPhones, one for Android, one for iPad, etc.
2. In addition, American Express offers at least six more content apps through American Express publishing.
3. A number of reviewers in Apple’s App Store have been criticized for not having a full-featured app. For example, in June 2011 “crazfulla” wrote, “This is a great idea; however, we need a real app that has all the banking capabilities.”
4. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online or mobile banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. If anyone knows of other financial institutions offering a similar feature, let us know and we’ll update the post. Westpac is is the 86th company to win the award and the third in 2012. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.

Is BancVue’s Kasasa to Checking What "Intel Inside" was to PCs?

image I just spent the better part of two days attending BancVue’s monthly client/prospect meeting called BTAN (note 1). I knew they would have high-energy presentations, great ideas, and outrageous antics; after all, I’ve seen them take home three Finovate Best of Show trophies. They know how to drive a point home.

But what I didn’t expect was to come home believing its Kasasa strategy might really work. Kasasa launched at FinovateFall 2009 (video here) and is the first major attempt to create a nationwide brand around the checking account. They are trying to do for checking what Visa/MasterCard did for the credit card or what Intel did for PC manufacturers with “Intel inside.”

Bancvue's about us page One very different element here is that BancVue is creating a national brand exclusively for use by community banks and credit unions. Large banks are viewed as the enemy (see inset from BancVue’s “about us” page) and are not allowed to “stock” the Kasasa brand.

On the surface it seems impossible. How could hundreds, if not thousands, of proud, local financial institutions — many who’ve been building a local brand for many decades — unite under a nutty brand called “Kasasa” of all things?

But is it crazy like the iPod was crazy? Smaller banks and credit unions are being taken to the cleaners by the big banks, losing more than half their market share in the past two decades. They have the local ties, the human connection, but it is usually hard to maintain the product set, marketing power, and online/mobile UI, of Bank of America or Chase.

But what if someone was able to level the playing field with best-of-class products and combine the marketing power of 1,000 financial institutions into a national brand? (note 3) Then the community banks/CUs could go ahead and compete on service, price, value and local connections.

It sounds too good to be true, really. And I was skeptical when I heard the pitch two years ago. But after seeing how BancVue has signed up more than 600 FIs for rewards checking, hit #23 in the Inc 500, and witnessing their passion in person, I think they have a real shot.

Bottom line: It takes a long time to build a national financial brand, especially one centered on lowly checking accounts. Other than PayPal, what’s the last one you can think of? Capital One, founded 1988, maybe. Discover Card, launched in 1985, perhaps (note 4). And I can think of a hundred reasons why it won’t work.

But Kasasa is definitely out of the gates and gaining traction. Having just finished my review of the most important trends of 2011, I have a feeling Kasasa could make this list in 2012 or 2013. 

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Kasasa product set (11 Jan 2012)

Kasasa product set

Kasasa products dominate the homepage of Farmers Citizens Bank (link)
Question: Do Kasasa ads clutter the Farmer’s homepage? No more than any other promotion. And they are at least attention getting. 

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Landing page at Farmers Citizens (link)

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Notes:
1. I attended the event at the invitation of BancVue. But I am not consulting for them or their customers. BancVue is a customer of The Finovate Group for our event and our published reports just like hundreds of other companies. However, they did feed me really well, which, as my family will attest, is a powerful motivator in my life. So I can’t say I’m totally unbiased.
2. After hearing the detailed reasoning behind the branding decision, I actually think the Kasasa choice makes sense. But you’ll need to see the presentation to get it. The Financial Brand breaks it down here.
3. BancVue says that with 1,000 financial institutions offering Kasasa it would be bigger than the largest U.S. bank in branch network and marketing budget.
4. I can’t think of any major national banking brands that have appeared in the Internet age other than PayPal, and perhaps NetBank (RIP). ING Direct made it, but they were a spinoff of a powerful international brand, and even then they spent more than a BILLION in the United States alone during the past 12 years making ING Direct a household name. E*Trade, Ally also come to mind, but the former is more associated with brokerage and the latter is a name change from GMAC. Bank of Internet is doing well, but is hardly a household name.

Can Savings Accounts Be Social?

image I glanced at my ING Direct eStatement alert today (screenshot below) to see what they had to say in the new year. The soon-to-be-Capital-One direct bank is usually pretty creative in its copywriting. And I was not disappointed today. Here’s the pitch inside the alert:

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I love the idea of a “Social Network…of Savers,” a Facebook-like place where friends help each other keep spending in check and achieve politically correct savings goals such as the down payment on a home, the college fund, or a rainy day reserve.

But I don’t think the Facebook model works in the real world (note 1). Even though it might be interesting to follow your friends’ drunk spending (note 2), most users want this info to be kept VERY private (note 3). And in most circles, money accumulation is never openly discussed. Who wants to read about someone’s “trip to Tahiti” savings goal when you are trying to get off unemployment?

In its recent email, ING Direct is NOT looking to create the Facebook of savings in any way. While the bank celebrates savings throughout its marketing (e.g., Wethesavers.com), this email offer isn’t about sharing with your network, it’s about selling to your network to earn a $10 referral fee per new account, up to $500. And that’s OK, because everyone loves to share “found money.”   
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ING Direct email (4 Jan 2012, 9 AM Pacific)

ING Direct estatement email alert 

Referral landing page (link)
Note: There’s even a Flash demo of the referral split for the math challenged.

ING Direct referral landing page

Notes:
1. I’m not saying that all sharing is a dead end. For example, sharing savings/spending goals can work very well within tight-knit groups such as extended families. And compiled/masked data about peer spending/savings is very promising (see Citi’s Bundle joint venture). Finally, there are numerous opportunities for “social investing” (our 2008 Online Banking Report on the subject), because it’s much more complicated and often openly discussed.  
2. There is room for “social savings” in the context of sharing discounts, money-savings tips, and so on. But that’s not what ING Direct is talking about in this message.
3. Hence the pivots by the two “class of 2010” startups, Blippy and Swipely, which were founded on a “transaction-sharing” model.
4. And the bank makes its win-win. The new customer gets the biggest share, $25 for a savings account, a 70/30 split of the $35 up for grabs. New checking customers get $50, from an 85/15 split of $60.
5. For info on family banking, deposit gathering, transaction sharing, social investing, and much more, see our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report.

Wells Fargo Pitching Wachovia’s Way2Save Account at Login

imageWells Fargo generally does a good job with its login product pitches. I like how the bank provides a "Remind me later" and "No thanks" option next to "Apply Now."

However, in today’s pitch for the rebranded Wachovia Way2Save account (see old logo, inset), the bank seems to have forgotten an important part of consumer decision process: explaining what the account is. There is no Learn More button to be found on the ad or landing page.

I had to leave the app and search the Wells Fargo website to determine the rate and unique features of Way2Save (see note 1). The main benefit: users receive a 3% APY on the first $500 in the account for one year, provided they use one or these automated savings features:

  • $25+ per month or $1+ per day transferred from Wells Fargo checking (outside accounts not an option, except for initial account funding)
  • Automatic $1 transfer from WF checking to savings with every debit card purchase or pre-authorized debit  

After one-year interest drops to the prevailing rate, currently just 5 basis points, 1/60th the premium rate. 

Online application process: Choosing Apply Now on the interstitial drops users directly into the bank’s generic online app where’s it’s difficult to even confirm what you are applying for (see upper right corner of second screenshot). 

Since I only have a Wells Fargo credit card, the bank offers me a $5/mo checking account, which is free if I have direct deposit or $1500 on deposit. But the checking account is not required. You can setup a standalone savings account, though it won’t qualify for the interest rate bonus or be able to use the automation tools.

On the final page users can fund the account with a transfer from a Wells or non-Wells deposit account or they can deposit up to $500 via credit or debit card. 

Bottom line: Automatic savings are a win-win. And offering a $15 interest bonus is a good way to improve signups. But Wells needs to explain the offer better so that customers customers are motivated to complete the application.    

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Wells Fargo interstitial login ad for Way2Save (10 Nov 2011)

Wells Fargo interstitial login ad for Way2Save

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landing page, which is the first page of the online application (link)

Landing page, which is the first page of the online application

Wells Fargo online application (page 2)
Note: The bank is still disclosing at $3 debit card usage fee

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Notes:
image1. Way2Save was inherited from Wachovia (previous posts). Here’s the cached 6 Nov page from Google. The page now redirects to Wells Fargo savings.
2. Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008.
2. For info on online account opening, deposit gathering and much more, see our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report.