An Offer Maybe You Should Refuse

BANK CREDIT CARDS TOO steep for you? Wells Fargo just introduced a service that offers its customers a pay advance--and charges up to a hair-raising 60% annual rate for the privilege. Customers using direct deposit can get $20 to $200 up to a month ahead of their next paycheck. Tapping an automatic teller machine or calling a 24-hour phone line immediately lands the advance in their checking accounts. Pay-up time comes when the next electronic paycheck arrives at Wells.

Banks everywhere are turning to fees for such services as check overdrafts, but Wells has proven more aggressive than most. For pay advances, its fee is $1 for each $20 increment borrowed. If charged as interest for a year, it would work out to an astounding 60% rate. Wells, the nation's seventh-largest bank, says any dissatisfied folks can get a refund on the fee.

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