Full Review of Wells Fargo Cash Back College
Triple rewards offer for new cardmembers
0% introductory APR for six months on purchases and balance transfers
Generous benefits for a student card, including cell-phone protection
Low cash-back rate for ongoing rewards
You must have at least $20 in rewards to redeem
Wells Fargo customer satisfaction is below par
- Triple Cash Back Rewards Rate for New Cardmembers: Many cards offer bonuses, where you get extra points or cash back rewards if you spend a certain amount within the first three months of opening an account. The Wells Fargo Cash Back College card works differently, by bumping up your earnings rate as a one-time offer. You'll earn 3% in cash back—triple the regular 1% rate—on up to $2,500 spent on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases during your first six months as a cardholder. Not all student credit cards offer reward programs, so this is a useful feature to have.
- 0% Introductory APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers: With the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for six months on purchases and balance transfers. Six months isn't a long interest-free period for a general credit card, but not all student credit cards have a 0% APR deal at all. With this, you can finance major purchases or pay off high-interest credit card debt for half a year without worrying about interest charges. Balance transfers must be completed within the first 120 days of account opening. You'll also pay a typical balance transfer fee of the greater of 3% or $5 during that time. The regular fee for balance transfers is 5% or $5.
- Generous Benefits for a Student Card: Most student credit cards have very few benefits. Compared to other student cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card's benefits are fairly robust. You’ll get protections like roadside dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services, and auto-rental collision damage waiver. Also, if you use your Wells Fargo Cash Back College card to pay your monthly phone bill, you'll get up to $600 in protection against theft or accidental damage of your cell phone, subject to a $25 deductible. (There are some caveats to coverage, as we note later.) Several other credit cards also offer cell phone protection, but most of them charge an annual fee, so this is an unusual benefit for a no-annual-fee card.
- Low Cash-Back Rate for Ongoing Rewards: With this card, you can earn 3% cash back on up to $2,500 spent on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases for the first six months. That’s a relatively high rewards rate, especially for a student credit card, but after the six month period expires, you’ll only earn 1% in cash back on all of your purchases. Other student credit cards offer higher rewards rates, with no time restrictions. For example, the Discover it Student Cash Back card allows you to earn 5% in cash back on different categories each quarter, up to a quarterly spending maximum.
- Limited Rewards Redemptions: When you earn cash-back rewards with the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card, you can redeem them for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or cash. While cash is often the most convenient, especially for college students, there are restrictions in place. If you plan on redeeming your rewards for cash online or over the phone, redemptions can only be done in $25 increments. Cash redemptions from an ATM or deposits to an eligible Wells Fargo checking or savings account are only available in $20 increments. If you have accrued less than that, you won’t be able to redeem your rewards for cash. If you're looking for a rewards card that allows you to redeem your cash more easily, consider the Discover it Chrome for Students card. You can redeem your cash back rewards for statement credits or electronic deposits to your bank account when you’ve accrued just $0.01.
- Wells Fargo Customer Satisfaction is Below Average: Most people don't interact with their credit card issuer very often. But when you need to do so, it's often a matter of some urgency and even stress, and you want a satisfying experience. Unfortunately, that's less likely to be the case with Wells Fargo than with almost any other card issuer, according the J.D. Power Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study. In its 2019 survey, Wells Fargo ranks 9th out of the 12 card issuers, with a score that places it among the least satisfying companies for credit-card customer service.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Currently enrolled in an accredited four year college or university
The Wells Fargo Cash Back College card is best suited for students who want a simple rewards card with no annual fee. After the first six months, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase you make, with no need to remember bonus categories or to activate rewards. The simplicity of the card is a big advantage for busy college students.
It's also a good option if you need to finance a major purchase. With a 0% introductory APR offer for six months, you’ll have half a year to pay off a new laptop or textbooks without having to pay interest fees.
If, like most college students, you spend a lot of time on your phone, the card's cell phone protection is a major benefit. Your phone is a significant investment, and this card gives you up to $600 in protection against damage or theft, subject to a $25 deductible.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College's Bonus
With the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card, you’ll earn 3% in cash back on up to $2,500 spent on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases during your first six months as a cardmember. While this is different than many cards' bonus offers it can translate to some welcome extra cash back earnings during the initial six months of card membership.
If you spent the maximum of $2,500 on those spending categories during the first six months after opening an account, you'd earn $75 in cash back rewards. Not all college students will be able to spend the maximum $2,500, but the ability to earn 3% in cash back on select purchases is an excellent feature for a student credit card.
Rewards Earning Details
With this card, you'll earn:
- 3% cash on up to $2,500 spent on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases for the first six months
- 1% cash back on all purchases
To put those reward rates in perspective, let's say you charged $3,500 to your credit card: $2,500 on gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases within the first six months of opening an account, and $1,000 on textbooks. You'd earn 3% cash back on the $2,500 spent in the bonus categories, giving you $75 in rewards. On the remaining $1,000 spent on textbooks, you’d earn 1% cash back, giving you an additional $10 in rewards. In total, you’d receive $85 in cash back rewards during your first year as a cardmember.
Rewards Redemption Details
Your cash back rewards from the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card are redeemable for:
- Gift cards: Redemptions start at 2,500 points—a $25 value. You can get gift cards to major restaurant chains and retailers including Old Navy, Whole Foods, and Ulta.
- Travel: You can use your rewards to book flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals.
- Merchandise: Cash back can be redeemed for merchandise like phone cases, luggage, and jewelry. Redemptions start as low as 708 points, or $7.08 in cash back rewards.
- Cash: If you redeem your cash back online or over the phone, your rewards are redeemable in $25 increments. Cash redemptions done through an ATM or to an eligible Wells Fargo bank account are redeemable in $20 increments.
Wells Fargo occasionally offers limited time gift cards that offer more value for your cash back. For example, in recent months you could redeem 2,250 cash back points—typically a $22.50 value—for a $25 gift card. However, these offers can come and go so it’s important to sign up for Wells Fargo email notifications on current redemption deals.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To get the most value from your card, use it for the first six months after opening an account to pay for all of your gas, groceries, and drugstore purchases to earn 3% cash back on up to $2,500 spent.
Assuming you don't also have another card that pays better general rewards than this one, it's also a good idea to use the card on all other essential purchases, such as textbooks, computers, and supplies.
According to The College Board, a student at a public four-year university spends $1,240 on books and supplies per year, on average. If you spent that much and used your Wells Fargo Cash Back College card to pay for it, you’d earn 1% in cash back on that amount, giving you $12.40 in rewards.
Finally, sign up to receive the occasional Wells-Fargo special offers, such as those that give you gift cards for less than the customary amount.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College's Outstanding Benefits
The Wells Fargo Cash Back College card offers one major benefit that could be beneficial for college students: cell phone protection.
Use your card to pay for your monthly cell phone bill and you'll get up to $600 in coverage, subject to a $25 deductible.This is an outstanding perk for a student credit card, and it makes the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card stand out from other options.
There are some caveats to the coverage. While theft is covered, a simple loss of the phone is not. And any eligible damage must affect the phone’s functionality, which precludes repairs for cosmetic reasons alone, or due to electronic or software failures that didn’t arise from physical damage. Finally, this is secondary coverage that kicks in after you’ve received the benefits from any other insurance coverage, including that from home or auto insurance.
This credit card has comprehensive benefits that are standard for traditional credit cards, but are unusual for a student card. Perks include:
- Emergency card replacement: Call 1-800-847-2911 to get a new card delivered to you and to get access to emergency cash.
- Roadside dispatch: If you get a flat tire or run out of gas, you can call 1-800-847-2869 for roadside dispatch. You'll have to pay a separate fee for any services provided.
- Travel and emergency assistance services: When you use your card to pay for your entire fare on a common carrier, you can call 1-800-992-6029 to access travel and emergency assistance services. They can connect you to services like translators and medical or legal referrals.
- Secondary auto rental collision damage waiver: Decline the car rental company’s coverage and use your card to pay for your rental fee to get complimentary secondary car rental insurance.
As a college student, you may not have a lot of experience with credit cards, and you may have questions. If that’s the case, you should know that Wells Fargo isn’t well known for its customer service.
According to the J.D. Power Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study, Wells Fargo was ranked ninth out of 11 issuers in customer satisfaction. The national issuer average ranking was 806, while Wells Fargo's ranking was just 783.
Wells Fargo's customer service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via secure email or at 800-642-4720.
The Wells Fargo Cash Back College card offers security features that are standard for most credit cards. The card offers zero liability protection, so you’re never responsible for unauthorized charges. And you can sign up to receive alerts about suspicious activity and payment due dates.
Fees to Watch Out For
While this card does offer 0% APR for six months on balance transfers, it charges a balance transfer fee. For the first 120 days from account opening, you’ll pay either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. After that, your fee will be 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5.
The balance transfer fee can add to your costs. For example, if you transferred $2,000 to the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card after the first 120 days, you’d pay a 5% balance transfer fee, adding $100 to your balance.
If you're looking for a student credit card with no annual fee, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College card is a nice option, at least in the first six months you'll have the card. You’ll earn 3% in cash back on select purchases, up to $2,500 spent, during that period.
The card also has some valuable benefits that aren't typical of a student credit card with no annual fee, including cell-phone protection and secondary rental-car coverage (although many students can't benefit from the latter, given the minimum age of 25 required by most car-rental companies).
But beyond its introductory offers and those benefits, there's nothing very special about the Wells-Fargo Cash Back card. You'll earn an ongoing 1% in cash back, which is a decent rewards rate for a student card but hardly a standout one. Also, the card does charge foreign transaction fees, so if you’re planning on traveling outside of the United States, you’re likely better off with another card. One option is the Deserve Edu Mastercard. It has no annual fee, doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, and you’ll also earn 1% in cash back on all purchases.