Planning to deposit cash in your elderly mom’s account so she can pay her bills in Gustavus or Fort Yukon? Not if it’s at Wells Fargo. You’d better be a joint owner of that account or take your cash elsewhere.
In a sign that the modern world is moving to a cashless economy, the bank with the most branches in Alaska is only going to accept cash deposits into a checking or savings account if it comes from an account owner or an authorized signer. The policy takes effect in Alaska in a few weeks and will change the way some rural Alaskans handle their banking.
Most people in rural Alaska have little access to banks, and some either mail their cash and checks into the city or have others bring them in for deposit. The inconvenience of not being able to have someone deposit cash for you extends not only to family members, but can be a challenge for those who are in an emergency and are not plugged into electronic banking.
Wells Fargo is changing its policy to address drug trafficking and other criminal activity, but one of the biggest impacts in Alaska may be to those who are barely scraping by or who live a largely subsistence way of life.
Here’s what people will need to do to bank at Wells Fargo under the new rules:
If a non-account owner needs to deposit money into your account, he or she can only use a check, cashier’s check, or money order. Or he can use a person-to-person payment like PayPal. Wells Fargo suggests people use Zelle, U.S.-based digital payments network owned by Wells Fargo and six other large banks. That still doesn’t solve how people get cash into their needy relatives’ accounts.
The ban only applies to personal accounts, not commercial accounts.
All customers will be required to provide identification to make any cash deposits. If you don’t have a Wells Fargo ATM or debit card, you may use a government-issued ID, such as driver’s license or passport. It’s unclear what good it does to show ID, unless the bank is also capturing that information for law enforcement agencies.
Several of the nation’s largest banks are getting ready to implement this rule, which is not required by the government, but Wells Fargo is rolling it out in a few states before going nationwide.
Under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions are being required to crack down on money laundering, such as reporting transactions larger than $10,000. In 2014, Chase was the first big bank to stop taking cash deposits from non account holders, as its way to prevent money laundering.
The change from the time when banks were the place where you took cash to a place where cash is not welcome a sign that the coin of the realm is no longer gold, and it’s not even paper, except in the criminal world, where cash is still king.
Wells Fargo now has 46 branches in Alaska, including one each in Barrow, King Salmon, and Dillingham, where it’s the only bank in town, and other rural hubs such as Cordova, Kotzebue, Kodiak, Nome, Petersburg, Craig, Sitka.