Is a Wells Fargo balance transfer offer the worst ever?

In many ways, you could easily make the argument that Wells Fargo is one of the best managed banks around. Because they are so conservative with lending, they came out of the recession relatively unscathed (unlike Bank of America and other big names who still continue to experience problems years later).

Unfortunately, the fact that Wells Fargo is so risk adverse also means that they’re one of the absolute worst choices you can make when it comes to credit cards:

  • Their reward programs are a joke… they’re VERY stingy with the cash back.
  • Their 0% offers are some of the worst on the market at any given time.

Wells Fargo parody

Last I checked Wells Fargo had 6 cards, that all have promotional rates for 6 months, and those come with up to a 6% introductory APR. A coincidence of 666? I think not!

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Rev. 13:18)

Okay I admit, I’m getting carried away. Obviously Jesus wasn’t talking about Wells Fargo, BUT I still think the wisdom might coincidentally apply to this situation… the Wells Fargo credit card balance transfers are bad news!

Reason #1: Even sub-prime cards may give you a longer 0% deal!

Given the fact that most of Wells Fargo cards require a great credit score, you would expect to get 0% deals with them that are top notch, right?

Yeah, that’s what you would think. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way…

Their offers fail miserably when compared to other cards out there for people with good to excellent credit. Just take a look at these 0% offers and compare for yourself.

When it comes to bottom-rung credit (sub-prime) even many of those give a more lucrative 0% promotion.

Reason #2: The 0% might only be for purchases

When I looked on, all of their advertised cards with 0% only gave it on purchases, not balance transfers.

There is an exception for current cardholders. If that’s you, they might send you a 0% promotional code in the mail/email to do a transfer. But aside from that, good luck finding one!

Reason #3: To apply online you may need a Wells Fargo bank account

When I clicked “apply now” for a credit card, I was taken to a page that asked “Are you a Wells Fargo customer?” When I clicked “no” this was the screen I was taken to…

screenshot showing no online applications

That’s ridiculous! You can apply for a card online from Chase, Citi, Bank of America, or any other major issuer even if you don’t have an account with them.

Reason #4: The transfer fees can be high

Over the past several years, almost every bank charges a transfer fee of 3% to 5%. Do I like that practice? Absolutely not. But unfortunately that’s just how it is.

So what you should do is try and find a credit card that has a fee on the lower end of that range. The Wells Fargo balance transfer fee is reasonable to start out with, but according to the application I looked at, it jumps up to 5% after the first 6 months:

transfer fees

Why pay that 3% or 5% when you can avoid it altogether…

Reason #5: The APRs can be higher than average

Again, going back to their stringent credit requirements, one would expect them to have reasonable interest rates.

Well yes, the lowest APR tiers are reasonable (11.15% to 13.5% last I checked). However if you’re one of the unlucky ones who lands at the high end of the spectrum, you could get whacked with a high rate (up to 25.99% on their reward cards). That’s significantly worse than what you see on similar cards from competing banks, which typically have a max of 21-22% for the standard APR.

Written of last updated in 2016

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