Wells Fargo VISA Gift Card’s Hidden Fees

Wells Fargo touts its prepaid VISA gift cards as “the perfect gift” and has sold over a million, but perhaps they would sell a little less if people knew about these terms and conditions, flushed out by Mouse Print:

• Purchase fee: $2.50
• Online shipping/handling: $2.50
• Reissue fee (for balances remaining after three years): $7.50
• Manual check issuance fee (to get remaining balance on card): $15.00
• Monthly maintenance fee after one year: $2.50
• Lost card replacement: $7.50
• Foreign currency conversion fee: 3%

Last time we consulted the pages of MAKE, you can’t construct a home-made pre-loaded gift card, at least not legally. — BEN POPKEN

Wells Fargo Gift Cards: The Perfect Gift*? [Mouse Print]


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  1. Falconfire says:

    Gift cards in general piss me off. Some are good (my Sam Goody and Old Navy cards never expire even after 6 years of not using them) but some, just piss me off how the fleece you if you dont use them in a set period.

    I wish more states put laws into place about making it illegal to have fees and terms with gift cards.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    i mean really… unless you’ve got some “benefactor” who’s funneling their trust fund through old navy gift cards, they’re usually for between $20-$100. I got Amex gift cards last year, one for $150 and two others for $50 a piece. Those I had a harder time spending, mostly because I couldn’t think of a gift to buy myself and I didn’t just want to piss them away.

    Store cards though are usually pretty easy to deal with, you either like the place they are for and can pretty easily spend money in there or you don’t, in which case you should sell the gift card to someone who does, then take the case and do whatever with it.

  3. d0x says:

    Alot of these credit gift cards are like this, they rip you off as much as possible with lame ass fee’s.

    If they want to charge a fee then fine, but do it up front so the person your giving it to isnt stuck with less money then they should have gotten.

    The Simon Mall cards which also bear the Visa logo charge you money when you call to activate it, and also charge you money if you check the balance of the card. Lets not forget the yearly fee’s they charge if you dont use it, or the fee for returning an item you bought with it.

  4. Charles Star says:

    I’m pretty sure that monthly maintenance fees and expiring cards are illegal in some states.

  5. Juancho says:

    However, if you’re smart, those gift cards are a great idea. Particularly the Simon, who charge some of the lowest activation fees I’ve found. And all credit cards are going to charge a foreign exchange conversion fee.

    a) Don’t call and check your balance. Check it online.

    b) Call to activate? Don’t you activate it in person at the mall?

    I ask this in all seriousness. I use the Simon cards all the time when I want to order something online. It helps to keep me on budget, not to mention for security purposes. I never have a problem using them within the six months before they start charging a fee.

  6. levenhopper says:

    And if you get a card to a store you don’t shop at, then throw it on eBay. Sure, you may end up selling it for less than it is worth (only by a few dollars), but you can save the money of all the hidden fees you would rack up if you don’t spend it in time.

  7. mechanismatic says:

    The pure stupidity of the visa gift card is that you could avoid all fees by giving the person cash instead. As far as I know, there are no fees associated with counting bills in your wallet or keeping it in your mattress for 50 years. The only issue you have to deal with is the silly cultural stigma that giving cash is somehow cheap, unimaginative, or unspecial. That and you can’t use cash to make online purchases, but you can just as easily put it in your bank account. And that way you avoid people stealing your gift card number…

  8. weave says:

    Wait, I’m confused. You mean every time you use it you’re charged an additional $2.50? And then on top of that it’s really hard to just use up all the remaining money on it since you can’t easily split payment methods?


    Why not just give someone cash for a present, since “Visa is everywhere.” At least with a store gift card you’re basically saying to the person “I’d like you to buy a book” (if a bookstore) or something along those lines.

    Or just say to heck with it and take them out to dinner. That’s what I like to do. I’d much rather spend time with those I care about instead of just giving them crap they probably will never use. If it’s someone I don’t want to go out to dinner with, then it’s probably someone I shouldn’t be buying a present for anyway! :)

  9. d0x says:

    Juancho, the problem isnt that the charge a fee to activate it, its that it charges the person you gave it to as a gift!

    Why not charge me when I buy the thing? Why charge all these extra fees on top of being activated?

    Simon Mall cards are a ripoff. What possible reason could they have to charge someone to check their balance? Its not like you talk to a person!

    Your making excuses for them ripping off customers, these fees are hidden, they are pointless and they make the people who receive this cards angry. Working retail over the Holidays you wouldnt believe how pissed off people get at these cards when they try and use them. Its not worth the hassle they put you through.

  10. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    This kinda reminds of of all those scams on phone cards. I recall having 3 I bought at a dollar store, for several hundred minutes each. I locked my phone and keyes in my car, and went to a pay phone. I called one town away, and all three cards (brand new) used the entire card each time just to connect the call. That is it. Just 1 minute. Real bad idea for an emergency (luckly it was sunny outside).

    More on topic, I can’t stand getting gift cards when they are for a small ammount. If someone is going to spend $10 on me, I’d rather they attempt at finding a gift. It is more personal, and comes off like there was more effort than just saying “here is $10”.

  11. chainsmoker says:

    Illegal in CT – Gift Cards NEVER expire. Not sure about the fees, I believe CT’s Atty General is suing the credit card companies.

  12. AcilletaM says:

    Wells Fargo is horrible when it comes to fees.

    In fact, WF is trying to figure out how to charge its customers $1 for reading this post and $2.50 for non-customers.

  13. datruesurfer says:

    With few exceptions I dont see what the problem is…

    • Purchase fee: $2.50 – Reasonable. Wells Fargo isnt making any money off these cards and they have to give Visa a cut.
    • Online shipping/handling: $2.50 – Your paying them to personalize the card and ship it to you, which does take time. WF’s site says you can get them with no personalization at one of their branches and avoid this fee.
    • Reissue fee (for balances remaining after three years): $7.50 – Wells Fargo has to pay to send out a new card and give Visa another cut for providing a new account number.
    • Manual check issuance fee (to get remaining balance on card): $15.00 – You should just use the balance on the card anyway.
    • Monthly maintenance fee after one year: $2.50 – I personally think that one year is plenty of time to deplete the balance on most cards.
    • Lost card replacement: $7.50 – Again, new account number, new card = $$$
    • Foreign currency conversion fee: 3% – Anyone who is traveling abroad should know that currency conversion with Visa is a rip-off.

  14. Xkeeper says:

    Manual check issuance fee (to get remaining balance on card): $15.00 – You should just use the balance on the card anyway.

    There’s a difference between “This brand-new card is worth $100” and “This card I’ve had sitting in my wallet and used occasionally is worth some arbitrary amount of money”.

  15. Juancho says:


    Like, I said, I buy these to use myself all the time. I only use them online, where I’m saving so much money over bricks and mortar that the small activation fee is a small price to pay for online security and a way to keep me on budget. And cash doesn’t work online, last time I checked.

    Simon charges you the activation fee when you purchase the card and load the money onto it. That’s it. If you lose the card or whatnot, hey, that’s your fault.

    I would agree that you’re wasting money if you buy a card and then pay to have it sent to someone. In that case, just give it to the person, or send cash.

    And for those of you who would tell me to man up and not be afraid to use my regular cards online, I work in a library, and the identity theft issues I see everyday would make your head spin.

  16. The Unicorn says:

    Also, surfer, the credit card “gift cards” aren’t the same as store gift cards in terms of using up the full amount. If you have a $75 purchase and a (let’s say, Old Navy) gift card that has $46.50 left on it, then the cashier will run the gift card and then ask you for $28.50 via some other payment method.

    But credit card “gift cards” work like debit cards, so if you tried to use a Visa gift card in the above example, the card will just decline (the same way it would if you were trying to use a debit card tied to an underfunded checking account). The only way you can use these cards is to either a) in one fell swoop, make a purchase identical to or just under the amount on the card (which is difficult at best, & ends up wasting a small amount of the card’s value at worst) or b) ask the cashier to ring up the gift card for a specific amount (i.e., “can you put $46.50 on this Visa gift card, and the rest of the balance here on this AmEx”)…provided that you’re at a register that’s capable of splitting credit card transactions, which isn’t always the case.

    Anyways, bottom line, I think these cards are generally more trouble than they’re worth, but to charge a fee for checking the balance is truly ludicrous, as it’s difficult to use the card without that capability — and I mean, if you want to force someone to spend a gift card all at one store, then why would you get them a supposedly more flexible credit card “gift card”?

  17. acambras says:

    When I got my Motorola phone and Bluetooth earpiece from Cingular just over a year ago, there were rebates involved (surprise). I sent off the paperwork and actually did get my rebates. The annoying thing was that the rebates weren’t awarded in check form — they were VISA gift cards. So they had all the problems that The Unicorn outlined in the post above. Not only that, but instead of giving me one gift card to cover both rebates, they sent two separate cards (double your trouble).

    It WAS in the fine print that the rebate funds would come in the VISA gift card form, so that wasn’t a surprise. But I was disappointed at what a pain in the ass the cards were (as if the rebate process wasn’t bothersome enough). I would definitely prefer a regular check. That goes for rebates or gifts.

  18. synergy says:

    “you can’t construct a home-made pre-loaded gift card, at least not legally.”

    Sure you can. It’s called buying a box of Christmas cards and sticking a $20 or $50 dollar bill inside. Done.

  19. synergy says:

    weave: Finally! Someone else who agrees with me! Yes, a gift card is just like handing someone money and telling them to go spend it in just one place.

    I figure if you were in the damn store you THOUGHT I might like to buy something, then maybe you should take the ten minutes to pick something while you’re in there. If the person isn’t worth the 10 minutes, then you shouldn’t be buying them anything.

  20. Antediluvian says:

    Gift cards in Mass., like gift certificates, cannot have an expiration date and have a whole host of benefits to the consumer — no maintenance fees, none of that crap.

    That said, those stupid Visa / Simon cards are, last I heard, not covered by the state’s gift certificate regs. :-(

    Avoid those like the plague. Or better yet, send me money in $2.50 increments.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    BofA has one as well. Same ludicrously baroque restrictions, fees, etc.

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    Oh, and another really annoying, consumer-hostile feature: stores can’t swipe the card to see what the balance is. They can only charge it and see if it’s approved. Or not.

    So if you have a couple cards with different balances, three months after initially using them (thus have forgotten that $14.55, $52.49 and $23.07 are the magic numbers), it’s a MAJOR pain to clear out the balances when on the go.

    I’m sure this “feature” isn’t accidental: all those pennies (and dollars) add up. For Visa.