Wells Fargo Student Credit Card Review: 3% Cash Back

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Updated on Monday, June 5, 2017

Wells Fargo has a student credit card — but applying online is only available to people who already have an existing relationship (a checking account) with the bank. The card has a $0 annual fee, which we like a lot. If you pay your monthly cellphone bill with the card, you get free cellphone protection insurance, with generous coverage up to $600 per incident (subject to a $25 deductible and limited to $1,200 per year). There is a decent cash back intro bonus — you can earn 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases However, the rest of the card leaves us underwhelmed. A steep foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction converted to U.S. dollars makes traveling abroad more costly than it needs to be. A flat 1% cash back rate is very low. And with a 12.90% - 22.90% Variable APR, this is not a cheap way to borrow. The Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is featured as one of our recommendations for best student credit cards of September 2020.

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

The information related to Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Annual fee
Rewards Rate
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
12.90% - 22.90% Variable
Credit required

How the Card Works

In order to apply online, you need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer — which means you should have a checking account. (Note: If you have a Wells Fargo student checking account, you could probably get a much better deal somewhere else, especially from internet-only banks — you can find our list of the Best Online Checking Accounts here — which pay much higher interest rates and charge much lower fees than Wells Fargo.)

You can still apply for the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card if you don’t have a checking account with them, but you will need to go to a branch in person to apply for the card. Just be prepared for them to try to sell you a checking account while you’re there.

The credit card is fairly straightforward. It has a $0 annual fee, and it offers a mediocre cash back rewards program. You will earn 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases. There is no limit to the bonus. However, you only earn the bonus cash back at merchants which are coded as gas stations, drugstores, or grocery stores. If you buy your gas at Costco or your groceries at Wal-Mart, you will not get the bonus — because these “big box” retailers do not have that merchant code. After the six-month intro period, all of your purchases will get you 1% cash back.

Our favorite feature is the free cellphone insurance. If you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card, you will get up to $600 of protection (with a $25 deductible). This is great coverage for damage or theft of your cellphone, and you can make a claim up to two times each year. Just remember that this does not cover lost phones. This is a great, free way to protect your phone and avoid the financial pain of replacing or buying a new phone after an accident.

Like most student credit cards, Wells Fargo’s is a very expensive way to borrow. In fairness, Wells Fargo does offer a range of APRs (from 12.90% - 22.90% Variable). However, given that most college student will have no or limited credit history, they can expect to pay much closer to the higher variable APR.

And if you are looking to study abroad or backpack across Europe, your Wells Fargo card is an expensive way to do it. With a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction converted to U.S. dollars, the costs of using your card abroad could add up quickly.

How to Qualify for the Card

This card is for college students. However, you will need to have sufficient income to pay your bill each month — so be prepared during the application process to be asked about where you study and how much you make from campus (or other) jobs. Because this card is targeting college students, you are not expected to have a long history of credit, a great score, or high income.

However, if you have already defaulted or missed payments on other accounts, you will likely find it difficult to get approved at Wells Fargo. This card is targeting people who are new to credit, not people with bad credit histories. And if you don’t have any income (or just an allowance from your parents), you will also find it difficult to be approved.

What We Like About the Card

Although this is a relatively simple credit card, there are two standout features to the card.

$0 annual fee.

We strongly believe that building your credit while in college should be free. Fortunately, this card charges a $0 annual fee — making the card a safe choice. So long as you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month (avoiding interest charges), the card can be completely free.

Free cellular phone coverage.

This feature is unique — and a great asset for college students. So long as you make your monthly cellphone payment with your Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card, you will get free cellphone coverage. You can get up to $600 (with a $25 deductible) if your cellphone is stolen or damaged. You can make up to two claims per year, for up to $1,200. We know that every college student has a phone — and wants to avoid the steep expense of fixing a broken phone or replacing a stolen phone. This insurance policy is a great feature.

Rewards (Kind Of)

You have the opportunity to earn cash back. We don’t think you should select a credit card based upon cash back — and Wells Fargo does not pay the best cash back rate on the market. But it is still a nice bonus to have.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

You have to be a Wells Fargo customer to apply online.

If you do not have a checking account, you will need to go to a Wells Fargo branch, where they will likely try to sell you a checking account. Because of this feature, Wells Fargo is really limiting the card to their existing customers.

Very high interest rates.

Credit cards come with high interest rates. Wells Fargo is not alone (in fact, the low end of its APR range is actually better than a lot of the competition). However, the rates are still double-digit. And if you end up going into debt, interest expenses will be high.

“Gotcha” fees are very high.

If you miss a payment, expect to pay up to $37. If you travel overseas, you will be hit with a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction converted to U.S. dollars. And cash advance fees are equally painful. If you make a purchase in the U.S. (and pay it off in full and on time), you will get a good deal. Any other purchase or mistake will cost you dearly.

Alternatives to the Card

Wells Fargo offers a decent student credit card. But it does not offer the best cash back rewards, and it charges a steep foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction converted to U.S. dollars. Here are some other options.

If You Want to Earn More Rewards

If you want to earn more cash back, Discover is our favorite option. Discover it® Student Cash Back provides free access to your FICO® score. And it does something we really like: it offers a “Good Grades Reward.” You will get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years. That is on top of a cash back rewards program that earns 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically. And you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically (new cardmembers only).

If You Want to Travel Abroad

If you want to travel abroad, you should find a Visa or MasterCard option that does not charge a foreign transaction fee or annual fee. The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® does just that. In addition to the $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, you can earn up to 1.25% cash back. 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.

Bottom Line: Who Benefits Most from the Card

If you are a college student and existing Wells Fargo checking account customer, this could be a good option. By charging no annual fee, it is cheap and easy to build your score. And with the cellphone benefit on top, you can get some great value. If your goal is to earn rewards or travel abroad, there are better options out there.


Yes, you will need to demonstrate that you have income in order to qualify for the credit card. The credit card company needs to know that you will be able to make the monthly payment.

No — there is not a limitation based upon which school you attend.

Yes — it is never a good idea to max out your credit card, even if the credit limit is very low. As a general rule, never use more than 10%-20% of the credit limit. You can make payments before the statement date to help keep your statement balance low.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee. It could also lead to interest accruing on the balance and ultimately a negative mark on your credit report.

No, you do not need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, only existing Wells Fargo customers can apply online. Otherwise, you will need to go to a branch to apply.

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