Who doesn’t like cash flowing back into their pocket? All too often it’s the other way around. While the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card (Review) and Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review) won’t totally stem the flow, they do better than most.

It’s hard to beat 2% cash back for no annual fee. For a long time, the Double Cash reigned supreme and mostly unchallenged, until the Active Cash appeared on the scene. Both offer strong rewards and a handful of useful benefits, but what sets them apart, and which one would make a good addition to your wallet?

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

What’s the Difference Between the Active Cash and the Double Cash?

  • Each card gives 2% cash back rewards for every purchase, no matter the retailer. But the Double Cash is split: 1% for purchases, 1% for payments. But this doesn’t make a significant difference, overall.
  • The Double Cash offers a longer introductory 0% APR for balance transfers:
    • 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers
  • The Active Cash offers an intro 0% APR for both purchases and balances transfers, but for a slightly shorter window:
    • Purchase APR: 0% for 15 months
    • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months
  • The Active Cash usually has a welcome bonus:
    • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • The Active Cash only lets you redeem rewards in $25 increments.
  • The Double Cash has no shopping or travel protections, and few other benefits, but the Active Cash has a decent set of perks.

0% balance transfer offers are a great way to pay down a debt that’s accruing interest on another card. However, if you use a card for a balance transfer, and then continue to make purchases with it, you’d then be responsible for the transferred balance and the balance of the new purchases, which will usually accrue interest.

So using the Double Cash for a balance transfer somewhat complicates using it for its rewards. Balance transfers are meant to alleviate debt, but if you don’t pay your entire balance, including anything that was transferred over, the purchases you make with the card will accrue interest (because you’d lose your grace period).

The Active Cash has 0% APR offers for both balance transfers and purchases. That means you can transfer a balance over and make new purchases, and neither will accrue interest. That gives it a distinct advantage over the Double Cash card.

However, the Double Cash is still a good choice for balance transfers. It features one of the longest intro periods around, and once you’ve paid off the transferred balance, you have a solid rewards card to work with.

The other important difference is the lack of shopping and travel protections for the Double Cash. It could leave cardholders unprotected in unfortunate situations. You won’t get Cell Phone Protection or Roadside Dispatch with the Double Cash like you would with the Active Cash card.

Insider tip

Both the Active Cash and the Double Cash have balance transfer fees, although you’ll usually still save money overall by transferring. If you need to transfer a balance, there are cards specifically designed to do so, some of them with no fee. Take a look at the best balance transfer credit cards.

Customer Service: Citi vs. Wells Fargo

Another important aspect to consider is the credit card issuer. The Active Cash is issued by Wells Fargo, and the Double Cash is issued by Citi. Both are huge, international banks, so while there might be some variation in the quality of customer service, it’s pretty safe to assume neither will be as dependable as your local credit union.

That said, J.D. Power’s 2021 Credit Card Satisfaction Study gave Wells Fargo a score of 791, and gave Citi a score of 805. Not much difference there, and they’re both below the industry segment average of 809. The online community of Reddit also seems to think that Citi will likely provide a better customer service experience than Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo was in the news in 2020 for being fined $3 billion by the U.S. government. They were fined for falsely opening credit card accounts and bank accounts in customers’ names without authorization. It’s the largest fine of its kind to date. And while Wells Fargo has supposedly made changes since then, it’s hard to hide a blemish like that.

Citi isn’t perfect, either. According to Good Jobs First, it has a long history of violations and penalties, totaling $25,535,002,360 in fines since 2000 (as of September 2021).

And while Citi hasn’t been officially charged with anything as egregious as opening accounts without permission, it was hit with a $400,000,000 fine in 2020 for “unsafe and unsound banking practices,” according to the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

But again, both Citi and Wells Fargo are giant companies, and there are instances of good experiences and bad experiences with each. Your experience might be completely different, but most sources indicate you’re more likely to have a better time with Citi.

Insider tip

Interested in credit cards issued by credit unions? Consider the pros and cons and see the best ones.

The Rewards

Both cards offer a strong 2% cash back. Most flat-rate credit cards without an annual fee offer no more than 1.5% cash back. Even credit cards that ask for an annual fee rarely provide a higher flat rewards rate than 2%.

And while both cards offer that competitive rate, there are a couple notable differences in their reward programs.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
  • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

  • 2% cash back for every purchase (must pay at least the minimum due on time):
    • 1% back when you make a purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase

The most glaring difference here is that the Active Cash typically includes a welcome bonus. And if you’re using the card for every purchase, it should be relatively easy to obtain. In comparison, to earn $200 in rewards with the Double Cash, you’d need to spend $10,000. That adds considerable value to the Active Cash over the Double Cash.

However, it’s worth noting that the welcome bonus offer could change or be removed entirely by Wells Fargo.

The other difference in their rewards is how the Double Cash earns its cash back. Instead of receiving the full 2% upfront, it’s split. You get 1% when you make a purchase, and the other 1% when it’s paid off. But as we said above, this doesn’t have much of an impact. You’re still getting the full 2% cash back, and it may even encourage you to pay off your card in a more timely manner.

Why Choose a Flat-Rate Credit Card?

There are a number of reasons to consider adding a flat-rate card to your wallet:

  • They’re simple. Use them for all (or most) of your purchases to earn rewards.
  • If it has no annual fee, and you use it responsibly, it’s basically free money back into your pocket.
  • They pair well with other cards. Use either the Double Cash or Active Cash with a card that earns rewards for bonus categories to maximize the return on your spending.
  • Learn the basics of using a credit card, and get in the habit of paying on time and not spending above your means.
  • Good for people who don’t track their spending.

The list goes on. Flat-rate cards offer plenty of good opportunities. While they are simple, they can be very lucrative. And once you’ve got the hang of operating a credit card, you can move on to cards that are a little more complicated.

For example, there are travel credit cards that allow for mile transfers and rewards credit cards with rotating categories. Using two cards in tandem gets a bit more complicated as well, but so long as you’re aware of the different purchases you make, it can be a rewarding strategy.

The Card Benefits

Quick Guide

Benefits for the Active Cash and Double Cash Cards

Wells Fargo Active Cash Benefits

  • Free FICO credit score: Check your FICO Score 9 online whenever you’d like, based on your Experian credit report.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Get 24/7 assistance with non-emergency tasks like travel planning, restaurant reservations, and gift hunting.
  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Pay with your card to get perks at select hotels around the world, like a $25 food/beverage credit, complimentary WiFi and breakfast for two, automatic room upgrades when available, VIP Guest status, and more.
  • Cellular Telephone Protection: Provides reimbursement for damage or theft of cell phones, up to $600 per claim and two claims per 12 month period, with a $25 deductible. You must pay your phone bill with the card to be eligible.
  • Roadside Dispatch: Call 1-800-847-2869 if you need help on the road, with some services at set prices like towing, tire changing, jump starting, and lockout service.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services: Includes help with medical and legal referrals, emergency transportation, ticket replacement, lost luggage location, emergency translation, and more.

Citi Double Cash Benefits

  • Citi Concierge: Request assistance with non-emergency tasks, like booking flights, finding coveted concert tickets, and reserving tables at your favorite restaurants.
  • Citi Entertainment: Immerse yourself in the action with special access to tickets for sporting events, concerts, and exclusive experiences.
  • Free FICO score: Monitor your credit by checking your FICO Bankcard Score 8 credit score, based on your Equifax credit report, for free.
  • Citi Identity Theft Solutions: Speak with a Citi identity theft specialist if your personal information has been stolen. They’ll help you report the incident, activate fraud alerts, monitor your credit reports, and more.
  • Citi Quick Lock: Lock your Double Cash card the moment it’s lost or stolen, and then unlock it as necessary.
  • The Lost Wallet Service: Lose your card? Contact Citi to get a replacement, usually within 24 hours. You’ll also be able to borrow emergency cash, but that’s treated as a cash advance, so we don’t recommend it.
  • Virtual account numbers: For added security while shopping online, create virtual credit card account numbers tied to specific merchants, each with its own custom spending limit and expiration date.
  • Fraud protection: Set 24-hour alerts to keep on top of fraudulent activity. Plus, if unauthorized charges appear on your account, you won’t be responsible for paying them.

The benefits are where the Active Cash really pulls ahead. It’s issued as a Visa Signature card, which means it comes with some pretty impressive perks for a no annual fee card. To name two, the card will include a Visa Signature concierge and the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.

In comparison, the Double Cash card offers no shopping or travel protections, and only limited other perks. That’s not to say the Active Cash’s perks are outstanding, but they are certainly more useful than the Double Cash’s.

Citi does offer a way to check one of your credit scores, as well as its own concierge service, so it does have some utility. But the Active Cash offers both of those and then some. Like we said above, the Double Cash could end up leaving you more vulnerable to a situation that most other cards can help you find assistance for, like car trouble.

The Active Cash’s benefits, on the other hand, make it a well-rounded choice. They touch on a bit of everything, even making it a viable travel option thanks to its concierge, Roadside Dispatch, hotel perks, and lack of foreign transaction fee (but there are dedicated travel cards that do the job better).

The benefits for these cards are secondary to their rewards, however. If you’re on the fence, they could push you one way or the other.

Which Card Comes Out on Top, the Active Cash or the Double Cash?

Either card would make a welcome addition to your wallet — they’re two of the best cash back credit cards available. But if you had to choose, the Active Cash would prove the better card, by the numbers. It offers better benefits, a more useful introductory APR offer, and a valuable welcome bonus. Where it does falter is with Wells Fargo itself.

The Double Cash is still a viable choice if you don’t feel like risking a bad customer service interaction, or if you want more time to pay off a transferred balance. However, if you’re looking for a dedicated balance transfer card, consider the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card (Review). It doesn’t offer rewards, but gives a long window to pay down a balance (and new purchases, too).

If you’re looking for a well-rounded and rewarding option that pairs well with other cards already in your wallet, the Active Cash is a good choice.

Want to learn more about cash back credit cards? We’ve got just the page.
How Do Cash Back Credit Cards Work? Plus Our 9 Favorites

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

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