Wells Fargo Cash Wise review

In the past year, both Barclaycard and Chase have launched 1.5 percent cash back cards. And now Wells Fargo has followed suit with its Cash Wise Visa. Cash Wise is a strong offering compared to Wells Fargo’s other products, but there are several things to consider before you apply.Wells fargo cash wise card

Applying for the card

Currently (as of June 2016), if you don’t have an existing Wells Fargo relationship, you’ll need to apply for this card at a branch.

Fees

The card has no annual fee, but a foreign-transaction fee of 3 percent.

Earning rewards

With this card, you’ll earn:

  • 1.5 percent cash back on most purchases
  • 1.8 percent cash back on Apple Pay and Android Pay purchases made during the first 12 months of account opening. This is unique, as few issuers give extra rewards for using mobile wallets.

Redeeming rewards

The Cash Wise card is connected to Wells Fargo’s Go Far Rewards program, which gives you quite a few options:

  • Cash back (value: 1 cent per point) – You can redeem in the form of a check, account deposit (into an eligible Wells Fargo account), payment toward an eligible Wells Fargo loan or statement credit. You can even set up automatic redemptions when your rewards balance reaches a certain threshold. Wells Fargo’s rewards cards are unique because you can redeem your cash back at the ATM as well. For ATM redemptions, you can redeem in increments of $20. For all other cash-back options, you can redeem in increments of $25.
  • Gift cards (value: 1 cent per point, possibly more) — Gift cards with various retailers start at a $25 face value for 2,500 rewards points. Browse the “Limited-Time Offers” section for discounts on certain gift cards (and a redemption value of above 1 cent per point).
  • Merchandise (value: varies) — Electronics, luggage, home décor and more are all represented in Wells Fargo’s catalog. To calculate the redemption value, divide the cash price of the item by the number of points required.
  • Auctions (value: varies) — Use your rewards to bid on unique travel adventures, merchandise and entertainment experiences.
  • Travel (value: 1 cent per point) — Use the Go Far Rewards portal to book cruises, hotel nights, flights and rental cars. You can also book with a combination of cash and rewards.
  • Wells fargo cash wise redeeming for travel

  • Digital downloads: (value: varies): You can download single songs for as little as $0.86 in cash-back rewards — and audio books, e-books and games for a wide range of amounts. Compare the cash value of these downloads with the number of points required to make sure you’re getting a good value.

You also have the option to gift your rewards to anyone with a Wells Fargo account. You just need their full name and account number.

Is Cash Wise worth applying for?

This card represents the latest step in Wells Fargo’s progress in improving its rewards-card portfolio. If your credit is good enough to get it, the Cash Wise card certainly beats the bank’s long-standing Wells Fargo Rewards Visa (which offers just 1 percent back on most purchases and 5 percent back in certain categories for the first six months only).

It may even be better for you than the no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Propel card, if you won’t hit the Propel’s bonus categories. The Cash Wise doesn’t come with the 10 percent annual relationship bonus that the Propel has, however.

Beyond Wells Fargo cards, you have plenty of other no-annual-fee options worth considering, including:

Chase Freedom Unlimited
This card is similar in a lot of respects. Like the Cash Wise card, it offers 1.5 percent cash back and is tied to a rewards program with a lot of redemption options. Both cards also currently advertise 0 percent on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months.

What could give the Freedom Unlimited a competitive edge, though, is if you pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If so, you obtain the ability to convert your rewards into miles and points with a variety of frequent-flier and hotel-loyalty programs. Another thing to consider — the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card also doesn’t have an advertised sign-up bonus, while the Freedom Unlimited does.


Citi Double Cash
This card offers 1 percent cash back on all purchases and another 1 percent when you pay those purchases off. That means you’ll earn a total of 2 percent cash back if you pay on time. Two percent is objectively better than 1.5 percent back. However, you don’t get the entire 2 percent right away – you have to wait until you make a payment to get the second half.

Capital One Quicksilver
This card was offering a flat 1.5 percent cash back before it was cool. It has an edge over the Cash Wise card when it comes to foreign transaction fees (the Quicksilver doesn’t charge them), the fact that you don’t have to redeem rewards in fixed increments, and its advertised sign-up bonus. However, the Cash Wise card’s rewards program is more robust – you can’t redeem for travel, merchandise or digital downloads with the Quicksilver. The Quicksilver also has a shorter advertised 0 percent period on purchases and balance transfers.

EveryDay card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner)
This card’s main selling point is that, if you use it 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period, you earn 20 percent more points. That brings your earnings up to 1.2 points per dollar on regular spending (still lower than the Cash Wise card). But, with supermarkets as a 2X bonus category (for up to $6,000 in purchases per year), you have the potential to earn 2.4 percent back on some of your grocery purchases.

Earning points is only half of the equation, however. Redemption is the other half, and the Everyday card allows you to transfer your points into frequent-flier miles and hotel-loyalty programs. That’s a powerful way to boost the value of your points. The MR program also has some redemption options, including online shopping, that Cash Wise doesn’t have. However, the EveryDay’s redemption value for cash back is less than 1 cent per point, which makes the Cash Wise card the better choice if you plan to redeem primarily for cash.

Being a member of a wholesale club can yield big savings on bulk purchases. Yet earning credit-card rewards on these purchases isn’t always straightforward, thanks to clubs limiting the types of cards they accept and few credit cards including warehouse clubs in their bonus categories.BJs wholesale club

Plus, with the new Costco Anywhere card from Citi coming out, the playing field has changed somewhat. Keep these factors in mind to you maximize your rewards at warehouse clubs.

Consider using a generic rewards card instead of your warehouse club’s affiliated card

Getting a co-branded card from your wholesale club of choice isn’t always the best strategy, even if you fill up your cart there every week. While these cards may give bonus cash back for purchases at their affiliated stores, they’re a lot less flexible than other rewards cards when it comes to redemption. For example, with Costco and Sam’s Club, you can redeem your rewards only during a specific window of time each year. BJ’s rewards can be redeemed only in $20 increments at store registers.

Therefore, you may be better off using a generic rewards card that includes warehouse stores as a bonus category, like the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card and (through September 2016) the Chase Freedom. That way, you can redeem your rewards whenever you want for cash back or anything else in the card’s program.

If flexibility is important to you, you might even consider rewards cards that don’t include warehouse clubs as a bonus category. After all, earning just 1 point per dollar on a cart full of frozen food or a big screen TV may still be lucrative if you can transfer those points into frequent-flier programs, like you can with these cards (American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner):

Don’t forget to check which cards your warehouse club accepts

Sam’s Club and BJ’s accept credit cards from all major networks, but Costco accepts only credit cards from Visa (as of June 20, 2016). So, if you’re hoping to earn rewards at Costco (and don’t have the Costco Anywhere card), make sure you have a rewards-earning Visa in your wallet.

Credit-card acceptance at U.S. warehouse clubs
Sam’s ClubAmerican Express, MasterCard, Discover, Visa
CostcoVisa
BJ’sMasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Know your bonus categories

The cards below include at least one warehouse club in their bonus categories:

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ card (Visa): This card gives you 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3 percent on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery store/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Chase Freedom (Visa): Chase made wholesale clubs part of its 5 percent bonus categories for both Q1 and Q2. That means you can get 5 percent cash back on your warehouse club purchases through the end of September (for up to $1,500 in purchases, combined with your purchases in those quarters’ other bonus categories).

If you want elevated earnings year round, you might also consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which earns 1.5 percent cash back on everything. It’s a Visa card, so it’s accepted at all three major warehouse club chains in the U.S.: BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club.

Sam’s Club card (MasterCard): The only reason you’d use this card at Sam’s Club is if you are buying gas — you get 5 percent back at U.S. gas stations, including at Sam’s, for up to $6,000 in gas purchases per year. There’s no bonus category for other Sam’s Club purchases. However, the card has other bonus categories, including 3 percent back on dining and travel.

Costco Anywhere card (Visa): This card replaces the TrueEarnings Costco American Express card as of June 20, 2016. Unlike the Sam’s Club card, it does have a bonus category for Costco and Costco.com purchases – you’ll get 2 percent back. You also get bonus cash back in other categories, including 4 percent back on gas (including at Costco), 3 percent back on restaurants and travel.

My BJ’s Perks credit card (MasterCard): This card rewards loyal shoppers with 5 percent back on most BJ’s purchases in stores and online. It also offers 2 percent back on dining and non-BJ’s gas purchases.

Costco Credit Card Review

Costco’s partnership with American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) ended June 20, 2016. Going forward, Visa will be the only plastic accepted at Costco, and the new co-branded Costco rewards card is the Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi. costco citi anywhere

In this review, we’ll compare both cards, guide current TrueEarnings cardholders through the transition and help potential new applicants decide whether the new card is worth getting.

The transition

If you were an AmEx TrueEarnings cardholder, your new Citi card should have already arrived by mail — and you should securely destroy your old card). You can register your account for online access at citi.com/CostcoSetup. The transition should have been automatic, and Citi shouldn’t have done a new credit pull.

As for the rewards you already earned with the TrueEarnings card, those will be automatically transferred, and you’ll receive them on your next regular February cash-back rewards coupon.

If you never had the TrueEarnings card, you can apply for the Costco Anywhere Visa on Citi’s website. according to American Express. The new Citi card is not yet open to new applicants.

If you have no intention of getting a Costco rewards card, how happy you are about the transition will depend on the cards already in your wallet. If you enjoyed using large Costco purchases to earn American Express Membership Rewards on, say, your American Express Everyday card, you’re likely not thrilled with the change, as AmEx will no longer be accepted at Costco. On the other hand, if your primary rewards-earning card is a Visa, you can start using it to rack up rewards on your bulk purchases.

The rewards

The reward structure for the new Citi product is definitely an improvement over the old card. Oddly, the old TrueEarnings card did not give extra rewards for Costco purchases, but the new Costco Anywhere card does. The new card also bumps up the amount of cash back you’ll earn on gas, dining and travel:

 NEW Costco Anywhere VisaOLD TrueEarnings American Express
U.S. gas purchases (incl. Costco)4%3%
Restaurants3%2%
Travel3%2%
Costco and Costco.com2%N/A
Other purchases1%1%

When it comes to receiving your rewards, you’ll get them annually. This is a big difference from the redeem-whenever-you-want structure of most cash-back cards. Every February, you’ll be mailed a rewards coupon with your billing statement. It’s redeemable at any Costco location for merchandise or cash. If you want cash, you’ll need to request it in person at Costco. The coupon expires in August the same year it was issued.

Fees

The TrueEarnings AmEx didn’t have an annual fee, and neither does the Citi Anywhere card. However, Costco membership is required to hold the card. Costco memberships start at $55 per year.

The American Express TrueEarnings card charged a 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee, while the Citi card charges 3 percent.

Other perks and benefits

Visa and American Express offer their own suites of protections to cardholders. While Visa offers the standard collection of damage and theft protection, purchase protection, travel accident insurance, extended warranty and secondary rental car insurance, American Express extends some unique benefits, including a popular and robust deals program (AmEx Offers) and free ShopRunner membership (which offers free shipping from certain merchants). If you made use of AmEx Offers and ShopRunner, saying goodbye might be hard. However, the boosted cash back on the new Visa card may be some consolation.

Other cards to consider

The new Citi card is a solid product for Costco members, especially now that it’s adding 2 percent back on Costco purchases. If you’re already paying the annual Costco membership fee and frequently shop at Costco, the card is an obvious choice. It offers cash back in everyday categories, in addition to what you buy at Costco. Four percent back on gas and 3 percent back on dining and travel isn’t a combination you’ll find on any other no-annual-fee card.

However, if you don’t often shop at Costco, we suggest you tap the brakes. The redemption structure is designed for avid Costco shoppers. Your rewards come annually in the form of a coupon to be redeemed at Costo. These are not the kind of rewards you can redeem for a statement credit in any amount at any time.

If you’re looking for more flexible cash-back rewards that hit similar categories, here are some ideas:

  • BankAmericard Cash Rewards™: This card hits the gas category (3 percent) and also offers 2 percent back at grocery stores AND wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter. It’s a Visa Signature card, so you’ll be able to use it at Costco post-transition. Your rewards are much more flexible, though, as you can redeem them whenever you want as a statement credit, check or deposit into a Bank of America account.
  • Capital One Quicksilver: This card keeps it simple, rewarding you with 1.5 percent cash back on everything, which you can redeem in any amount at any time via statement credit or check. It’s also a Visa card, so you can use it at Costco (and get 1.5 percent back).
  • American Express Blue Cash cards: If you still want an American Express card after your TrueEarnings card is phased out, consider one of the Blue Cash cards. The no-annual-fee version gives you 3 percent back at supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (but not at warehouses like Costco) and 2 percent back at gas stations and department stores. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee of $75, consider the Blue Cash Preferred card, which rewards you 6 percent back at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year) and 3 percent at gas stations and department stores. Just remember that you won’t be able to use either at Costco (although you can at Sam’s Club and BJ’s wholesale clubs)

Updated June 20 2016

rewards mazimizer parents
They say children pick up on everything. So what are the kids of rewards chasers picking up as their parents sign up for several rewards cards at a time and milk the resulting sign-up bonuses for family vacations?

In honor of Father’s Day, we asked some of the top players on the card rewards field (who also happen to be parents) what, exactly, they tell their kids about credit – and how they try to set a good example.

Using rewards doesn’t mean living without a budget: Leana Storts of Miles for Family

Mother of two

Storts uses her site to teach regular families how to leverage miles and points – and she’s done her fair share of that, booking family trips and bringing her parents from Europe for visits. She also stresses the importance of travel to her children.

However, Storts says being honest with kids about the family’s budget is an important counterbalance to the allure of travel and the instant gratification plastic can provide.

“A lot of trips are subsidized through credit card rewards, but we have to spend a lot of cash, too,” she says. “That’s why I try to teach my kids the concept of opportunity cost. If I buy this very expensive toy, we won’t be able to afford to go to an amusement park. It’s a little hard for them to comprehend, but we’re working on it.”

As her kids get older, Storts hopes they’ll view credit cards as a useful tool that must be used with caution but not necessarily fear.

“It’s sort of like a knife,” she says. “You can stab someone or you can use it to cut up vegetables for family dinner. I much prefer the latter.”

Don’t repeat my mistakes: John Schmoll, founder of Frugal Rules

Father of three

Schmoll chronicles his successful use of credit card rewards to pay for trips with his kids and wife. But he wasn’t always strategic when it came to credit.

“I struggled with credit cards and rang up my fair share of debt while in college,” Schmoll says. “A lot of it came down to my lack of financial literacy, and I did nothing to educate myself as to how credit cards really work.”

While Schmoll’s kids may one day learn to flex the power of credit cards, for now, he’s concentrating on financial literacy.

“We’re teaching our children that credit cards are a tool to be used wisely and that they’re only to be used when you have the money to pay for the purchase,” he says. “We teach our children risk arises when you see cards as way to inflate your lifestyle beyond your means.”

Don’t lose track of reality: Dan Miller, Points with a Crew

Father of six

Miller and his wife regularly talk to their kids about how credit cards aren’t a “money tree” and that swiping a card means money is drained from your actual bank account.

“This is actually a bit tricky, given some of the outsized value you can get with miles and points from credit cards,” Miller says. “For kids, it can be easy to confuse the jetsetter lifestyle you can get with the more frugal lifestyle you have to live in the real world.”

While Miller has used card rewards to cover a $6,500 Amtrak vacation and flights for his family of eight to Reno, he emphasizes cash with his younger children by giving them actual money as an allowance.

“I think that’s more tangible and easy to understand for younger kids,” he says.

As his kids get older, however, Miller says, it’s important to transition them from responsible use of cash to responsible use of plastic.

“That’s how it’s going to be when they get out in the real world, and if they don’t have a healthy understanding of how to be successful with credit cards, they’re asking to learn some painful and expensive lessons in their early adulthood,” he says.

Don’t break the link between spending and real cash: Brad Barrett, CPA, Richmond Savers

Father of two

Barrett has managed to pull off some impressive rewards feats, including taking his family to Disney World for free. To do that, he and his wife put 100 percent of their spending on cards.

“And the link between this spending and real cash isn’t often apparent to young kids,” he says.

To keep that link strong, Barrett requires his daughters to split their allowance into three buckets: savings, spending and charity. If they forget to bring their spending money and want to buy something while out and about, Barrett and his wife will agree to put it on the credit card but require their kids to pay them back as soon as they get home.

“This mental link between credit card spending and actual cash is crucial,” Barrett says. “We then tell the girls we are taking that money and sending it to the credit card company so they don’t charge us extra money, interest, for borrowing it for that short time.”

As his daughters get older, Barrett plans to teach them more advanced lessons, such as how it’s much more expensive to pay just the minimum instead of paying balances off in full.

Responsibility is rewarding: Angelina Aucello, travel credit cards expert at Angelina Travels

Mother of two

Aucello’s kids (age 1 and 2) are a bit too young to learn about credit. But when they’re ready, they’ll probably benefit from the example set by Aucello’s own father.

“My father taught us at a young age that you had to work hard to earn money and if you couldn’t afford it, you shouldn’t get it,” she says.

Today, Aucello has 18 active travel rewards cards and an impressive record of luxury travel.

“Sometimes people are quick to judge by thinking I must be drowning in debt for a free flight,” she says.

But her habit of using credit only when there’s money in the bank to back it up remains – and is a routine she hopes her children pick up from her example. Other habits Aucello intends to model include paying in full and on time and carefully monitoring your credit (she has an 826 credit score). She also said she plans to add her children as authorized users to a card when they’re old enough. It’s something her dad did for her, jumpstarting her credit history.

“Bottom line,” she says, “if you’re responsible, organized and realistic about money, credit cards can unleash a world of benefits, including free travel.”

Unhappy with a purchase? When to dispute a credit card charge

I ordered custom dance shoes online a few months ago. My feet are narrow, and no brick-and-mortar shop seemed to have what I needed – at least not in the color or materials I wanted. I found a site that offered what I was looking for (and claimed it would make and deliver my shoes in 30 says). So I placed an order with my credit card.

Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Five weeks later, no shoes. I emailed the merchant, who apologized and promised my shoes would be shipped “in a few days.” Ten days later, still no shoes. The merchant ignored my follow-up emails and requests for a package-tracking number. Seven weeks from ordering, the shoes were still MIA, and the merchant wasn’t returning voicemails or emails. So I began researching a protection offered by credit cards – the ability to dispute a charge.

I reached out to Cindy Watson, assistant vice president of operational support at Meriwest Credit Union, and Melisa Brandis, card service specialist with Meriwest, to learn more about what the dispute process looks like – and when you should flex this powerful consumer protection.

How to dispute a charge

The ability for consumers to dispute charges is governed by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), although individual issuers’ processes may differ slightly from one another within that framework. It’s the same framework that allows you to dispute billing errors and fraudulent transactions.

Meriwest members can initiate a dispute by phone or via online banking, Brandis says. Either way, you’ll be required to provide documentation of the issue.

“We need to know which transaction they’re disputing, which merchant it was and things of that nature,” Watson says. “We begin the investigation as soon as the consumer reports the dispute.”

Meriwest cardholders can relay the necessary information on the phone, let the rep document it and then sign the paperwork. Or, Meriwest can mail the documents that need to be filled out (called the dispute packet) so that you can fill it out at your leisure.

Some issuers, Meriwest included, will give you a provisional credit (when applicable) for the disputed amount.

“From there we begin consistently communicating either by phone or mail with the consumer so they know the status of the investigation,” Watson says.

Behind the scenes, a process called the chargeback is unfolding. Your financial institution’s processor will work with the merchant’s bank to have the amount of the disputed charge withdrawn from the merchant’s account. The merchant may fight back. The charge may be deemed legitimate, and if so, you can expect that the provisional credit you received to be revoked. If the losing party pushes back, it might lead to arbitration.

“But our goal is to get our members’ money back,” Watson says.

Tips for a successful dispute

As frustrated as you are with a purchase, there is such a thing as filing a dispute too soon. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

Contact the merchant before your card issuer: Don’t unleash a dispute the day your package is late, or the moment you realize the dress is the wrong color. Give the merchant a chance to do right by you.

In fact, Meriwest requires members to contact the merchant first and provide documentation of that communication.

“The only time we’d consider the dispute too soon is if they haven’t attempted to resolve it with the merchant,” Brandis says.

Meriwest also requires that you wait 15 days from contacting the issuer before you initiate a dispute.

“That gives the merchant time to determine how they’re going to resolve it,” Watson says. “In some cases, they might replace the item or refund the money. Most merchants do work with the consumer.”

Don’t wait too long: Federal banking regulations give you 60 days from the date of the statement that includes the charge in question to dispute it. However, if you’ve run down that clock communicating with an uncooperative merchant, you may not be out of luck.

“Every situation is unique,” Brandis says. “If they can provide a valid reason as to why it was delayed, [the dispute] can be considered.”

In most cases, though, 60 days from the statement containing the charge is plenty of time, Brandis and Watson note. Post-60-day disputes are generally not merchandise-related, but fraud related, in Brandis’s and Watson’s experience – while you’re probably waiting for a package with baited breath, you may not be as vigilant about checking your transaction history for fraud.

Know the merchant’s return policy: Some disputes arise when a consumer returns merchandise and is confused when the merchant never issues a refund. However, if you didn’t make the return in accordance with the merchant’s terms, your dispute will not successful. For example, Watson says, maybe you bought something on clearance and don’t like it, but the merchant doesn’t allow refunds for clearance items. Or perhaps you missed the merchant’s deadline for returning the merchandise.

“Every customer should be aware of what the return policy is for every purchase they make,” Watson says. “When you’re shopping online and click ‘I agree,’ always make sure you know what you’re agreeing too.”

So was my dispute successful?

Oddly, I never needed to dispute the charge. A couple days after I interviewed Watson and Brandis, I got an email from the merchant with package-tracking information. My shoes arrived days later – and fit perfectly.