Only a few years ago, Nakiya Bonny had to start all over again after moving to Florida from New York.
Bonny’s comeback began, however, after she landed a job as a clerk supervisor for UPS in Winter Park, Florida. The steady paycheck enabled her to open an account at a local Wells Fargo branch — though not a typical account. Known as Opportunity Checking®, the transitional account gives prospective customers a second chance at having a regular bank account.
In less than a year, she got back on track, rebuilt her credit and was able to be approved for opening a regular account. Bonny credited Wells Fargo Personal Banker Janel Howard with playing a key role in helping her.
“She worked with me every step along the way,” said Bonny, who now works as an office manager for an electrical contractor. “I knew I needed to rebuild my credit, so I got a secured credit card right away and started using that. I also started putting some money away into savings. All of that made a huge difference for me.”
“Nakiya put every effort into managing her finances well,” Howard said. “She worked so hard, and it paid off with great results for her.”
Wells Fargo’s Opportunity Checking account is one of a number of options that the bank can potentially make available to qualified customers seeking to regain the benefits of traditional banking. For many of them, it represents a possible path out of alternate financial services such as check cashing, payday advance lending, and other often problematic services that can exacerbate their problems.
How this Opportunity works
The path to Opportunity Checking, however, is a selective one. For example, a prospective customer is initially risk-screened through an industry database that tracks a person’s bank account history, including bounced checks, unpaid overdraft fees, and other issues. If the database shows the customer to be a high risk, they cannot be approved for a standard checking account.
For some applicants, however, the screening may indicate they could be considered for Opportunity Checking, which is a checking account with certain restrictions, limits, and conditions.
“It is a core value for Wells Fargo to help our customers succeed financially — including people who are working hard and making progress in overcoming financial challenges from the past,” said Ed Kadletz, head of Wells Fargo Deposit Products Group. “We’ve received very positive feedback for Opportunity Checking and that has encouraged us to continue offering it to those who qualify for a second chance account.”
Wells Fargo was the only one among the 10 largest U.S. banks to offer “actual second-chance checking accounts,” according to a 2017 survey by MyBankTracker.com, a consumer finance information and news site. Simon Zhen, a senior research analyst at MyBankTracker, gave Opportunity Checking a positive review. (Note: Some account features have been enhanced since Zhen’s review.)
Among other features, Opportunity Checking provides second-chance customers most of the same capabilities as conventional accounts, including access to online and mobile banking; bill paying; budget, spending, and tracking tools; ZelleSM peer-to-peer payments, and access to Wells Fargo’s ATM network.
While it requires a deposit of only $25 to open, Opportunity Checking also has a number of conditions that require customers to use discipline in managing their money. For example, a $10 monthly service fee can be avoided by making 10 or more posted debit purchases or payments a month, setting up direct deposits totaling at least $500 a month, or keeping a minimum daily balance of $1,500.
“There’s a reason we call it a second-chance account,” said Howard, the personal banker. “The whole point is to avoid negative impacts, be aware of what your balance is, and know what payments you owe and when your bills are due. It is really up to the customer to take personal responsibility and manage the account responsibly.”
Howard said Bonny “demonstrated those qualities right off the bat” when she was approved to open the Opportunity account three years ago. After all the work Bonny has done to rebuild her credit, it was particularly meaningful when she recently brought her teenage daughter to the bank to open a teen account.
“My daughter’s 13 now and I sure want her to start having good financial habits early,” Bonny said. “And I’ve learned enough now that I can help her with that.”