Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card: Should You Apply?

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card: Should You Apply?

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When you're in college, your expenses can range from textbooks to late-night snacks with your roommates. As a college student, you'll want a credit card that helps you build credit while earning valuable cashback rewards at the same time. Fortunately, many credit cards cater to college students who most likely have no credit and a limited income — and have no annual fees.

The Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card is among the many options out there — and while it isn't one of the best student cards out there, it's also far from the worst. For existing Wells Fargo customers, applying for a credit card through a bank you already use could make your first credit card experience seamless. You won't have to manage multiple accounts, as your Wells Fargo account will provide your checking, savings and credit card balances in one portal.

College students can also receive decent benefits through the card — from low interest to cash back on every purchase. However, there are plenty of other student cards out there that exceed the offerings of the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card, and also come with better rewards.

Good For...

  • Students who want their first credit card with Wells Fargo

Bad For...

  • Those with no particular loyalty to Wells Fargo
  • Reward maximizers

Review: Should you apply for the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card?

The Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card provides 3% cash rewards earned for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months. Enjoy 1% cash rewards for other purchases. (The card also offers an introductory APR of 0% for six months on balance transfers and a 0% for six months on purchases followed by an APR of 11.15% to 21.15% variable.) These are adequate rewards for college students who have limited purchases, but the welcome bonus isn't up to par with competing cards that can offer $100 or more for signing up.

After this introductory six-month period with the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card, you're better off with another card that can offer more than a measly 1% cash rewards for each $1 spent on all purchases. Cards like the Discover it® Student Cash Back offer a much better earning rate and higher cashback rewards, better catered to your everyday spending habits as a college student.

Our main issue with the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card is that it has no standout features. If you're interested in a card with 0% APR, Bank of America's student credit cards can provide you with a longer 0% period. If you'd rather use a card to earn miles or better cashback rewards, then Discover, Chase, Bank of America and even Capital One have better offers. The Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card doesn't stand out from the rest of the pack, nor does it carve out any niche of its own to provide fantastic value.

Bottom line: The Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card is — at best — an average credit card option for students. It has some redeeming qualities, such as its cash back rewards and introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers. Unless you're set on getting your first credit card with Wells Fargo, there are plenty of better options.

Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card benefits and features

At best, the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card offers a mediocre rewards program and 0% APR period. However, it does integrate well with your Wells Fargo accounts, displaying all your account information on one page:

Account summary

This makes it a convenient option for an existing Wells Fargo customer, since you can track all your spending from a single location. However, we'll explain in the following section how the card falls short on many other features.

Earning and redeeming rewards

The Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card offers limited cashback rewards. As mentioned above, cardholders get 1% cash rewards for each $1 spent on all purchases.

You'll earn your cashback rewards through Wells Fargo's Go Far Rewards Program, with the following redemption options:

  • Redeem cash rewards automatically into your Wells Fargo savings account in $25 increments
  • Apply rewards as a credit toward the principal balance of a qualifying Wells Fargo mortgage, loan or credit product
  • Request a paper check or redeem in $20 increments at a Wells Fargo ATM with a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card
  • Redeem rewards for travel, gift cards and more through the GoFar Rewards portal in $25 increments

If you don't already own a Wells Fargo checking or savings account, you should refrain from applying for the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card — otherwise, you'd have to wait on a paper check through the mail to receive cash back.

The minimum redemption amounts severely limit your ability to earn and redeem cashback rewards quickly. To achieve the minimum redemption amount — $20 in cash back — you would have to spend at least $666.67 on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases for the first six months. After this introductory period, you'd need to spend $2,000 to reach the $20 redemption threshold.

Beyond pure cash back, the GoFar Rewards portal offers redemption options for merchandise, gift cards and travel. With a minimum of $25 to redeem, it may take time to reach this limit, depending on your spending habits. Redeeming your rewards for cash back may be a better option, as Wells Fargo's GoFar Rewards program is forgettable at best. Unless you're redeeming for gift cards, it's hard to accrue enough rewards to redeem for merchandise or travel — not to mention its clunky interface and subpar redemption values.

0% introductory APR and balance transfers

Additionally, the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card offers an introductory APR of 0% for six months on balance transfers and 0% for six months on purchases. After the promotional interest rate runs out, a regular APR of 11.15% to 21.15% variable will kick in.

Keep in mind that any balance transfer you perform with this card comes at a cost. During the first six months, you must pay either Introductory fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater, for 120 days from account opening. After that, up to 5% for each balance transfer, with a minimum of $5.

Credit management tools for first-timers

If you're a student, this is likely the first credit card you've ever owned. Wells Fargo also offers useful credit and budget management tools for first-time card users, including My Money Map and the ability to view your credit score from FICO.

My Money Map is Wells Fargo's exclusive program to track your spending, including tools such as My Spending Report, Budget Watch and My Savings Plan. My Spending Report is a powerful money management tool that generates graphs to visualize your spending patterns. Budget Watch lets you know where your accounts stand, and allows you to create alerts for them — for instance, you'll learn when you've reached a certain spending threshold. Meanwhile, My Savings Plan monitors your progress towards your savings goals. Finally, you'll be able to view your FICO Score after a few months of card use through your Wells Fargo app or desktop sign-on.

These tools could be a big help to credit newbies worried about spending more than they can afford. To access any of these features, log in to your Wells Fargo Online account and navigate to the "Plan & Learn" tab.

Wells Fargo

How does the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card compare to other credit cards?

You should always take stock of all your options before you apply for a new card. We compare the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card to several top-notch student credit cards below:

Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card vs. Discover it® Student Cash Back

It's no surprise that the Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the most popular student cards out there. If you don't have any particular loyalty to Wells Fargo, we suggest you go with the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The only issue with Discover is that it's not as widely accepted as the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card, which is a Visa.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back has a far superior rewards program. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Here is Discover's 5% rotating bonus calendar for 2021:

January-March
April-June
July-September
October-December
Grocery stores, Walgreens & CVSGas stations, select streaming services and wholesale clubsRestaurants and PayPalAmazon.com, Target.com & Walmart.com
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The Discover it® Student Cash Back comes two outstanding offers that cardholders can receive. Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match. Additionally, this card offers a $20 statement credit each school year if your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years.

Highlights

  • $20 statement credit each school year if your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to 5 years consecutive years.
  • Dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Discover it® Student Cash Back review

Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card vs. Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a better choice for students who always pay their balance in full. The card lets you earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. In the long run, that's much better than the rewards rate on the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card.

This card is particularly appealing for those studying abroad or traveling frequently, as there are None foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside of the United States. This is a unique offering that many other student cards don't have.

While there's no welcome bonus, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One does offer a $60 streaming subscription credit. You can earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time.

The card falters, however, when you look at its APR: All cardholders get an extremely high APR of 26.99% (Variable), and there's no 0% promotional APR. With the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card, on the other hand, you get an intro APR of 0% for six months on purchases, after which your APR will fall somewhere between 11.15% to 21.15% variable. However, if you trust your ability to pay your bill in full and manage your spending carefully, we recommend the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One.

Highlights

  • 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time.
  • $60 Streaming Subscription credit — earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Journey Student Rewards from Capital One Review

Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card vs. Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

  • On Deserve's Secure Website

For international students or those who don't have a Social Security number, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is the best card for you. This is one of few credit cards that doesn't require a Social Security number to apply.

The rewards on the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students are slightly worse than the other cards in the short term. Cardholders will earn 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases — there is no introductory boost on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases like the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card.

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students does come with a couple of exciting offers, such as None foreign transaction fees and a complimentary Amazon Prime student membership for one year. Otherwise, if you have a Social Security number, you should consider applying for the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card instead.

Highlights

ValuePenguin's verdict

Your first credit card may not offer the best rewards, but it's ultimately meant to help you build and establish healthy credit habits. That being said, the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card is a convenient first card for existing Wells Fargo customers and college students. With more than 13,000 ATMs and over 5,000 branches, Wells Fargo's presence throughout the country is a huge plus.

If you're purely looking for a credit building card, this card is a reliable option worth considering. However, for better rewards rate or other perks, don't be afraid to look beyond Wells Fargo for your first credit card.

The information related to Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card, Discover it® Student Cash Back and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Stella Shon

Stella Shon is a travel credit cards writer with ValuePenguin. After studying abroad in Paris three years ago, she became determined to keep traveling. That’s when she discovered the world of points and miles, which enabled her to travel on a student budget. Since then, she’s flown over 150,000 miles and earned more than 500,000 points and miles with eight different credit cards. While in college, she even co-founded her own travel agency, helping her peers plan and book trips on a budget. As a recent journalism graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, her goal is to write about travel to make it simpler and achievable for everyone. Her work has also appeared on JetBlue, The Points Guy, Travel + Leisure and CNBC.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).