Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card Review: Is It the Best Card for Bad Credit?

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Sep 13, 2019

The Wells Fargo Secured Credit card is a credit card for bad credit or no credit that has a $25 annual fee and a low APR.

Wells Fargo markets the card as being a good fit if you’re building your credit, rebuilding it, or you’re a foreign national new to the country.

In our review of this card, we’ll tell you how it works, what its extra benefits are, the rates and fees and how this card compares to other cards for bad credit.

We’ll do a quick section on how this card can help you rebuild your credit, then end with a section about the card’s pros and cons.

How the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card Works

Quick Facts
Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card
Pros: No annual fee, low APR, cell phone protection

Cons: No rewards

Estimated Yearly Cash Rewards: None
Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee Regular APR
None None 20.99%

The most important thing you need to know about applying for this credit card is that it is a “secured” card.

This means that you need to make a cash deposit of $300 to $1,000 in order to get the card. The money you deposit comes out of your bank account when Wells Fargo approves your application.

If you don’t make one of your monthly payments, Wells Fargo will pay that payment with the money from your deposit.

The card is set up this way to protect Wells Fargo. They see your low credit scores as a risk for paying late or not paying at all. So, by getting money upfront, they provide a layer of protection.

While a deposit of at least $300 might make it hard for you to get this card. However, it can provide a safety net. If you have an emergency and you don’t have enough money to make your minimum payment, your deposit can cover your payment.

Once you have your account, you can use your card to make everyday purchases. You will have a “due date” around one month after Wells Fargo approves your account.

This due date includes a minimum payment you need to pay. If you don’t, or you pay late, you’ll pay a late fee and Wells Fargo will charge you interest on the balance you’re being billed for. We’ll talk about these charges in our section on rates and fees.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you have access to your account anytime by logging into the Wells Fargo website or downloading the Wells Fargo app. You can view your balance, your due date and a list of all your recent charges.

The Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card’s Extra Benefits

One of the main benefits of this card is that, after a certain amount of time, Wells Fargo may upgrade you to an unsecured credit card.

This means Wells Fargo will return your security deposit; you don’t need to front money to use the card.

However, Wells Fargo doesn’t tell you when they’ll review and upgrade your account. They also don’t indicate how they make their assessment.

Based on our research of other cards with a similar feature, we’d say this review could happen as soon as five or six months after you get your card. Our research indicates the best way to get an upgrade is to pay off your balance every month and on-time.

The reason we think this will work is that the companies who calculate credit scores give the most weight to your history of on-time payments (35%) and low balances (30%).

So, paying on-time and keeping your balance low will not only increase your credit score, but it could move you up to an unsecured card, too.

Another feature you’ll find helpful is that you can log into your Wells Fargo account and view your credit score. We suggest doing it weekly to keep track of any score changes.

Sometimes these changes happen because of your spending habit—higher balances mean lower scores and vice versa.

Sometimes your score could change because some has opened an account in your name and racked up a balance or made multiple late payments more than 30 days late.

If you see suspicious charges, sign up for a free-credit score website. These sites let you file disputes about incorrect information. Using these tools can reverse the inaccurate information and help you get your credit scores back to normal.

Another set of features you’ll enjoy is the combination of Wells Fargo alerts and auto payments. Wells Fargo will send you alerts when your payment is due. To ensure you always pay on time, the bank (like many banks) allows you to set up an automatic payment.

To set this up, you’ll choose the amount you want to pay and the day you want to pay. The smart choice is to choose to pay the minimum payment. Doing so means you should never have a late payment.

The last main benefit you get with this card is cell phone protection. You get this benefit for free if you pay the bill of the phone you want to be covered via your Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card.

The protection is good for damaged and/or stolen phones. It covers up to a $600 claim twice per year. A couple of things to remember, though, are:

  • Phones on prepaid plans aren’t covered
  • Phones you’re renting aren’t covered
  • Phones you borrow aren’t covered

The Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card’s Rates and Fees

As we mentioned earlier, this credit card’s rates and fees are what you’ll encounter if you make a late payment.

There are a couple of other fees in this list that aren’t related to late payments, too. We’ll explain everything after the list:

  • Interest rate for purchases and balance transfers: 20.99%
  • Interest rate for cash advances: 25.99%
  • Balance transfer fee: Up to 5%, minimum of $5
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5%, whichever is greater
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Late/returned payment fee: First one free, then up to $37
  • Annual fee: $25

The first two percentages you see are known as “APR,” or “annual percentage rate.” Wells Fargo uses this rate to calculate how much interest you have to pay every month on balances you carry.

“Carry” refers to any remaining balances you have after you make your monthly payment. Wells Fargo applies your APR to that balance and calculates an interest amount.

They add that amount to your balance and, as a result, your minimum payment is higher than if you didn’t have interest.

The balance transfer APR works the same way. It applies to any balances you transfer to your Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card.

For example, you may have a balance on another credit card that has a higher APR. When you apply for this card, you can list that balance on your application as well as its account number and Wells Fargo will add that balance to your card.

However, remember that your credit limit is equal to your deposit, which can be between $300 and $1,000. So, if you have a balance bigger than your limit, Wells Fargo won’t bring all of it onto your new card.

You’ll also pay up to a 5% fee to make the transfer, too. So, if you transfer $300, you’ll pay $15. If you make a transfer of $100 or less, you’ll pay $5.

The “cash advance” interest rate and fee refer to what Wells Fargo charges you if you put your credit card into an ATM to withdraw cash.

You’ll need to get a PIN from Wells Fargo to do this. We advise against cash advances, though, because the interest rate is high and you’ll pay a fee every time you do it.

The foreign transaction fee applies to any purchases you make outside of the United States. Wells Fargo will at $3 to a $100 purchase, for example.

The final fee is what you’ll pay whenever you make a late payment. Balances below $250 tend to get late fees below $30.

How the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card Compares to Other Credit Cards for Bad Credit

There are some clear strengths and weakness to this card but it’s hard to tell how good or bad it is without comparing it to similar credit cards:

Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card Discover it Secured Capital One Platinum Credit Card Citi Secured Mastercard Deserve Classic Mastercard TOTAL Visa Credit Card First Access Card
Intro offer None $200 None None None None None
Rewards rates None 2x/2x/1x None None None None None
Yearly rewards for $20K spending None $200 None None None None None
Minimum deposit required $300 $200 None $200 None $89 None
Annual fee $25 None None None None $75 first year, $123 after $75 1st year, $99 after
APR 20.99% 25.24% 26.99% 24.49% 24.99% 34.99% 24.90%
Penalty APR None None None 29.99% None None 29.99%
Late fees Up to $37 1st one free, up to $39 after Up to $39 Up to $39 Up to $25 Up to $39 Up to $39

We believe this chart shows that the Wells Fargo Secured Credit card is one of the best cards on this list.

Its APR is lower than every card. In fact, the 20.99% interest rate is a full 14% lower than the TOTAL Visa Credit Card and 6% lower than the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

It doesn’t have a penalty APR like the Citi Secured Mastercard and the First Access Card, which is a key if you often pay late.

However, even though it has a low APR, it has some weaknesses. First, it doesn’t offer rewards like the Discover it Secured does. Second, the late fee is up to $12 more than the Deserve Classic Mastercard.

Also, the card requires a deposit, which makes it a tougher choice for someone who doesn’t have enough free cash to pay a deposit.

In this situation, we believe the Deserve Classic Mastercard may be the better choice because it doesn’t require a deposit.

However, if you can afford a deposit, we think the Discover it Secured is a great cared because it doesn’t have an annual fee and it doubles any rewards you earn in the first year.

The Bottom Line: Pros and Cons of the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card

Based on our research, we believe the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card has some excellent features going for it. It doesn’t have an annual fee, its APR is lower than the five other cards in our comparison chart and it provides cell phone insurance.

The card’s downside is that it doesn’t offer any rewards. For this reason, we think the Discover it Secured is the better choice. In addition, Discover requires you to make a $200 deposit, whereas this card from Wells Fargo requires at least $300.

In general, we think this is an excellent credit card for those with bad credit or those who are new to the United States, have no credit card here and need one to start building their credit scores.

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