Goodbye Wells Fargo, Hello Credit Union

| About: Wells Fargo (WFC)

Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) just reported its third-quarter earnings and, apparently, all is not well at the nation's fourth-largest bank, as revenue and earnings came in at $19.6 billion and $4.1 billion, respectively, short of analysts' estimates.

Too bad. Don't look for any help from me in doing better in the fourth quarter.

It really does seem to be the "least bad" of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks in the U.S. - far better than Citigroup (NYSE:C), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), and the other organizations the government has bailed out before, and will bail out again when the time comes. But I'm still closing my account with them and moving my money back to a credit union or elsewhere.

To date, the bank has been pretty good about not nickel-and-diming its customers (or at least not nickel-and-diming the customers who pay close enough attention), but the recent change of terms it announced for checking accounts was a step too far, and now I'm voting with my feet.

On November 5, there will be a nationwide effort to move money away from the TBFT banks and into smaller banks and credit unions, so it's probably not a bad idea to beat the rush.

In the mail the other day came word that Wells Fargo will now charge a monthly fee of $15 for checking accounts, unless you have a mortgage with them or three additional linked accounts with a combined balance of $7,500.

Previously you could escape any monthly service fee with a very small minimum balance or with a regular automated transfer to another account (I never understood the logic behind this, but I didn't argue). Now the only way to get free checking is to either pay them interest on a home loan or park $7,500 with them -- which, most likely, would earn virtually nothing for the foreseeable future.

Now, part of this decision has to do with our personal situation. We've been with the same credit union for 27 years (where checking has always been free, and they never tried to squeeze you for nickels and dimes) and, before we left California some years ago, the tellers would always look at us funny when we handed them a deposit slip because our account number only had five digits. If we could have continued banking with them, we would have.

I've never liked the TBTF banks and, aside from credit cards that we haven't paid any interest on for many, many years, I've never had any inclination or reason to do business with them. The only reason that we ever opened up an account with Wells Fargo was because, back in 2007, we started moving about once every year or so, and it wasn't always easy to find affiliate branches for our Southern California-based credit union.

Now that we're in Montana, we'd have to drive to Idaho just to deposit a check at our California credit union, so we really don't use those accounts much anymore, though they're still open.

Up until this latest checking account fee change, I haven't had any complaints about Wells Fargo, and we've routinely had $6,000 or $8,000 on deposit with them in checking and savings accounts, so, the new $7,500 minimum wouldn't be a big deal, but since we're now settled in here in Bozeman, Montana, after having purchased a home last fall (ironically, a Wells Fargo short-sale for which we paid cash), it's time to end our relationship with this particular TBTF bank.

There are some credit unions in town and some regional banks, all of which we'll look into before the new Wells Fargo fees go into effect next month. I know nothing about Rocky Mountain Credit Union other than its name, but already it sounds promising, as does Big Sky Bank.

I have no major complaints about our five years with Wells Fargo, but like a lot of other banking customers in the U.S. faced with new fees, we feel it's time to move on.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.