Wells Fargo Active Cash vs. Citi Double Cash: In 2%-Back Battle, Bonus Is Key

The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card gets the nod largely because of its sign-up bonus and superior intro APR offer.

Gregory KarpJul 7, 2021
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If you prefer low-hassle cash-back credit rewards, you’ll be hard-pressed to do any better than the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card or the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

These two cash-back cards both carry an annual fee of $0 and effectively offer an unlimited 2% cash back, although the Citi card expresses its rewards as 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay it off.

And unlike other 2% cash-back cards, they don’t require you to jump through hoops by requiring you to, say, join a credit union or maintain a special account (like credit card options from Fidelity, PayPal or SoFi, for example.)

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer enjoyed a long run as a consumer favorite among flat-rate cash-back rewards cards. But for most people, it’s now edged out by the newer Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card.

Here's how to decide which card is right for you.

At a glance

Annual fee

$0.

$0.

Sign-up bonus

New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

None.

Rewards

2% cash back.

2% cash back; 1% when you purchase, 1% when you pay it off.

Intro APR offer

0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

Why the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card is better for most people

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card
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Bonus

Sign-up bonuses — incentives to apply and become new cardholders — can occasionally change on credit cards. But at the time of this writing, the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card was offering the following bonus:

New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer? None.

That’s a big value difference in the first year, even if the rewards rate afterward is effectively the same.

Intro APR offer

The intro APR offers for the two cards differ.

  • Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card: A 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.

  • Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

The biggest difference is the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card has an intro APR offer for balance transfers and purchases, while its rival has one for balance transfers only. An interest-free period on purchases might be important if you have a large expense coming up that you couldn’t pay off right away.

Another subtle consequence is you lose the normal grace period on purchases if you make a balance transfer with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. That's because when you carry a balance, your credit card issuer eliminates the grace period. You begin to rack up interest on new purchases immediately after you make them. (This only matters if you take advantage of the balance-transfer offer on the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.)

Simpler

Granted, both of these cards are easy to use. You don’t have to think about where you’re using the card, whether at a gas station, restaurant or doctor’s office. The rewards are the same.

However, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer applies its 2% cash-back reward in a peculiar way: 1% when you purchase and 1% when you pay it off.

Because people looking for a flat-rate card probably value simplicity, the no-nonsense 2% rate of the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card is better.

When 2% cash back isn’t quite 2%

A minor, technical point here, but one that separates these two oh-so-similar cards: The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card gives you 2% cash back on purchases for an overall rewards rate of 2%, no matter how you redeem rewards. That one is simple.

So does the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer — if you redeem rewards as a bank deposit or paper check.

But if you redeem cash back for a credit on your account statement, you don’t earn the second 1% on that redeemed amount. You never actually pay off the redeemed cash-back amount because it’s subtracted from your bill. It’s a minor dollar amount, probably totaling a few dollars a year for most people. But the statement-credit option does not offer a full 2% cash back.

Cell phone insurance

You know we’re digging deep when a differentiating factor is a minor feature like cell phone insurance. Still, it’s a useful benefit that the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card has and its main competitor doesn’t.

Protection is secondary to your other insurance that might apply, such as homeowners or auto insurance.

Why you might want the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Citi® Double Cash Card
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Transfer partners

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer allows cardholders to transfer rewards to Citi’s ThankYou points program, effectively at a 1:1 ratio.

Depending on which other Citi cards you have and where you’re likely to travel, you might get good value from using Citi’s travel-booking site or transferring points to its multiple travel partners.

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer allows transfers of ThankYou points to JetBlue only. But if you had a Citi Premier® Card or Citi Prestige® Card, you could combine your ThankYou accounts and redeem points earned by the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer with one of those higher-end cards, which have many more transfer partners. (Keep in mind, though, that JetBlue is Citi's only domestic airline partner.)

The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card has no transfer partners.

Wells Fargo's reputation

  • Product support: Is the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card too good? Consumers loved the lucrative Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card. But after less than three years on the market, Wells Fargo paused applications for the card. (As of July 2021, Wells Fargo wasn't commenting on what cards it was permanently discontinuing.)

  • Scandals: Most large institutions experience some missteps that harm their reputation. Citigroup, parent of CitiBank, is no exception. But Wells Fargo in recent years endured a scandal of a different magnitude in terms of reputational harm. The biggest were revelations of malpractice in Wells Fargo sales divisions, such as meeting sales goals by signing up customers for accounts they didn’t ask for. If that’s an issue for you, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer might be your next-best choice.

Which card should you get?

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a top-notch card when it comes to a no-fee, flat-rate cash-back card.

But the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card gets the nod here largely because of its sign-up bonus and superior intro APR offer.


Information related to the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards. 

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