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