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The Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa® Card is a student credit card with no annual fee and a solid rewards program that includes a generous (for a student card) sign-up bonus. A nice introductory APR promotion and relatively loose credit requirements further sweeten the deal. If you’re in a position to take ample advantage of the sign-up bonus and worry that your credit isn’t good enough to qualify you for more generous cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa is very much worthy of your consideration.
However, be forewarned: Like other Wells Fargo credit cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa requires you to either have an existing Wells Fargo deposit account (or open a new Wells Fargo deposit account, which can be done online), or otherwise visit a Wells Fargo branch to apply in person.
If you’re satisfied with your current bank account and don’t want or need another, you need to go with the second option, which is inconvenient at minimum and potentially impossible if you don’t live within driving distance of a Wells Fargo branch. Even if you’re fine with opening a deposit account, you need to jump through some hoops (such as maintaining a minimum daily balance) to avoid Wells Fargo’s monthly maintenance fees.
For the first 6 months your account is open, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa earns unlimited 3% cash back on gas station, grocery store, and drugstore spending. During this period, all other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back. After the sign-up bonus period ends, gas station, grocery store, and drugstore purchases also earn unlimited 1% cash back.
Earning Cash Back Rewards
Following the sign-up bonus period, Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa earns an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.
Redeeming Cash Back Rewards
Once you accumulate at least $25 in cash back rewards, you can redeem for paper checks, statement credits, or Wells Fargo bank account deposits. The one exception: cash redemptions at the ATM, which require just $20 in rewards (as ATMs usually dispense $20 bills).
You can also redeem accumulated rewards for non-cash items at the Go Far Rewards portal. Go Far Rewards redemption options include gift cards, travel (including airfare and hotels), and general merchandise. Non-cash redemptions have less value than cash redemptions, so it’s best to stick with cash under most circumstances. However, airfare redemptions can exceed cash redemptions’ value, a potentially important benefit for students who travel regularly.
This card comes with a 6-month 0% APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers. The balance transfer rate applies to transfers made at any time during the promotional period.
Overdraft Protection for Wells Fargo Deposit Account Holders
Cardholders with Wells Fargo checking accounts can take advantage of Wells Fargo’s overdraft protection service, which connects your credit card account to your Wells Fargo checking account and prevents checking account overdrafts. In the event that you initiate a checking transaction that would normally cause your account balance to go negative, Wells Fargo steps in and covers the negative amount with a cash advance drawn on your credit card’s available credit line.
For transfers less than $50, the per-transfer (or per-day, if multiple transfers are made in the same day) cost is $12.50. For transfers (or transfer days) greater than $50, the fee is $20. The regular cash advance interest rate immediately applies to all overdraft transfers.
This card doesn’t have an annual fee. However, it does have a 3% foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% during the 6-month introductory APR period, and the greater of $5 or 5% thereafter. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%, and late and returned payments both cost $37.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa comes some additional benefits, most of which are backed by Visa. These include:
- Travel inconvenience insurance
- Complimentary car rental insurance (loss and damage)
- Emergency card replacement
This card requires fair credit. Past credit issues won’t necessarily disqualify your application, though serious events such as bankruptcy probably will.
- No Annual Fee. This card has no annual fee, which is great news for cash-strapped students who don’t want to pay a recurring charge as they build their credit and finance their day-to-day activities. Some student cards charge modest annual fees in the $25 range.
- Solid Sign-up Bonus Relative to Other Student Cards. Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa’s sign-up bonus has the potential to be quite generous for cardholders who spend heavily in the categories it favors. For instance, commuter students who drive long distances to and from class each day are likely to buy lots of gas during the intro period, and students who live in communal housing can stretch their grocery benefit further by purchasing groceries for their roommates in exchange for cash reimbursements. Students who spend, say, $5,000 across all sign-up bonus categories within 6 months of account opening earn $150. That’s more than virtually any other student card’s sign-up bonus.
- Nice Intro APR Promotion. For a student credit card, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa has an unusually generous intro APR promotion: 6 months of interest-free purchases and balance transfers. Relatively few competing student credit cards have intro APR promotions at all.
- Appropriate for People With Fair Credit. This card is open to people with fair credit. That’s a crucial perk for students who’ve struggled with credit in the past and wish to improve or rebuild their credit before graduating to more generous credit cards or applying for student loans.
- No Penalty APR. This card doesn’t charge penalty interest. That’s good news for cardholders who occasionally miss payments due to liquidity issues or unforeseen expenses – both of which are unfortunately common for students on tight personal budgets.
- Ongoing Rewards Are Middling. Aside from the sign-up bonus categories during the 6-month sign-up bonus window, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa earns cash back pretty slowly – just 1% on everything, regardless of spending category. If you’re looking for a more generous rewards card that doesn’t require excellent credit, look to Chase Freedom or Discover it, both of which have rotating 5% cash back categories. Discover it Chrome for Students has a 2% cash back category as well.
- Need to Have a Wells Fargo Deposit Account or Apply in Person. Before you apply for this card, you need to either open a Wells Fargo checking or savings account (if you don’t already have one), or visit a Wells Fargo branch to apply in person. If you want this card, but don’t want or need a new bank account, you need to choose the second option. Needless to say, this is likely to be difficult or impossible if you don’t live fairly close to a Wells Fargo branch. Alternatively, if you’re okay with opening a new Wells Fargo bank account, you need to budget for a $5 monthly maintenance fee (the cost of Wells Fargo Everyday Checking for students) unless you can manage one of the following: accept at least $500 in direct deposits each month, maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance, or make at least 10 monthly debit card purchases or payments.
- Minimum Cash Redemption Threshold. Before you can redeem your accumulated cash back for bank account deposits or statement credits, you need to earn at least $25 ($20 if you redeem for cash at the ATM). If you’re not a heavy spender – and many students are not – it can take months to reach these thresholds. By contrast, competitors such as the Discover it family of cards (including Discover’s student card) allow you to redeem for cash in any amount.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. This card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. That’s a big drawback for college students who plan to study abroad for a semester or two. And it’s a likely deal-breaker for students who wish to complete entire degree programs at foreign universities.
The Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa® Card has an unusually generous sign-up bonus (relative to other student cards) and is great for students who drive a lot, spend a lot of money on groceries, or make frequent drugstore purchases. With some advance planning, such as taking responsibility for house-wide grocery runs (and collecting cash from roommates after the fact), this bonus can be highly valuable. That alone could make this no-annual-fee card worth applying for.