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Wells Fargo taps SMS to help customers better manage finances

The Rapid Alerts service also provides consumers with real-time detection of potentially fraudulent activity. Rapid Alerts by Wells Fargo are enabled by Visa’s transaction alerts platform.

“This is a new service we are providing to customer and it is something unique in many ways,” said Peter Ho, product manager of card services and consumer lending at Wells Fargo. “We are giving customers alerts on card activity in real-time.

“When I’ll use my card for some sort of a transaction, I’ll get the Rapid Alert before I even sign the credit card receipt,” he said. 

Alerts are sent on behalf of Wells Fargo directly from VisaNet, Visa’s global processing network, typically within seconds of a transaction occurring.

Rapid Alerts are triggered when the transaction meets certain criteria previously selected by the Wells Fargo Visa account holder and delivered via text message or email.

Rapid Alerts let consumers monitor their Wells Fargo Visa credit card account activity and take immediate action if they believe a potentially fraudulent transaction is taking place.

Wells Fargo piloted Rapid Alerts in 2009 and received an overwhelming positive response from participants who said text alerts were an invaluable tool for monitoring their accounts.

“We want to help our customers succeed financially, and this is just one more tool to help them get there,” Mr. Ho said.

Rapid Alert messages contain the amount, time and date of the transaction, as well as currency conversion and information relating to the merchant, such as name and location.

Rapid Alert messages help customers track their spending and better manage their finances.

Customers also will be alerted to Wells Fargo Visa credit card payments that are declined, which may also help remind customers of recurring payments that they forgot to update due to a reissued, lost or stolen card.

“The service enables consumers to better manage and track their spending while providing them with an early warning system for potential fraudulent activities,” said Michele Janes, senior business leader of mobile initiatives at Visa, San Francisco. 

“These alerts are significant because they let consumers monitor their accounts for unusual activity and take immediate action if they believe a potentially fraudulent activity is taking place,” she said. “They also empower cardholders to take an active role in managing and protecting their account.”

Wells Fargo credit card customers are able to choose the kinds of transactions for which they wish to receive alerts. Criteria for transaction alerts that cardholders may choose include:

• Transactions that exceed a dollar amount chosen by the cardholder
• Transactions initiated internationally
• Card-not-present transactions, such as purchases made online or by telephone
• Cash withdrawals from an ATM machine
• Declined transactions
• Gasoline transactions

Consumer adoption of mobile financial services mirrors the adoption patterns of past financial services innovations such ATM, online banking and debit cards.

Mobile financial services adoption has started slowly in the U.S., but a similar pattern of building towards an inflection point, followed by accelerating mainstream adoption, should be anticipated.

A recent Mercatus study found that mobile financial services are highly valued by customers when selecting retail bank offers and can improve customer acquisition rates by as much as 60 percent.

That same study found that by 2015, more than 50 percent of the overall population is expected to adopt mobile financial services.

In addition to receiving Rapid Alerts, Wells Fargo customers can access their accounts with Wells Fargo Mobile Banking.

Wells Fargo offers three easy ways to bank on the go including its mobile web site at, an iPhone application that can be accessed by searching for “Wells Fargo Mobile” from the iTunes App Store; and text banking.

“Industry research shows that customers want confidence that their money is safe. Rapid Alerts provides that confidence,” Ms. Janes said. “Alerts are triggered when a transaction meets the cardholder’s preset criteria for notification.

“When a transaction is made, the alert is generated by VisaNet, Visa’s global processing network, and delivered to the cardholder via SMS text message or email within seconds,” she said.

“The transaction alert message sent to the account holder contains the transaction amount, time and date of the transaction, as well as information relating to the merchant, such as name and location.”