Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card (no annual fee)
Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express Card ($45 annual fee, waived first year)
Back in 2014, Wells Fargo launched its line of Propel cards, which, at the time, included two options (the Propel 365 and the Propel World). In early 2016, it added a third card to the Propel suite — the no-annual fee Wells Fargo Propel Card.
Our review will help you decide if there’s enough room in your wallet for any of these cards.
A step up?
Rewards-wise, the Propel cards are several steps above Wells Fargo’s other offerings. For example, its Rewards card and Cash Back card offer bonus earnings for only the first six months and just 1 percent after that. That’s not the best deal in a world where cards are offering a permanent 2 percent to 6 percent back on certain static categories – and 5 percent back on rotating categories year round.
The Propel cards allow you to earn bonus points in certain categories permanently — and you get extra benefits if you have a preexisting relationship with Wells Fargo.
What you’re earning and how much it’s worth
All Propel cards will earn you points for Wells Fargo’s Go Far™
Rewards program. This is similar to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and AmEx’s Membership Rewards, in that you can redeem your points for a variety of things, including:
- Gift cards
- A deposit into a Wells Fargo Account
- Travel (booked via the Go Far Rewards program website)
- Digital rewards (including eBooks, games and music)
As with most reward programs, how much your points are worth will depend on how you redeem. Because the value of merchandise can fluctuate, so will the redemption value if you choose to cash in your points that way. The amount of points you’ll need for digital rewards varies (currently music downloads start at 24 points, audio books start at 162 points and games start at 224 points). Find out how much those downloads cost elsewhere to see how much your points are worth.
For cash back, you’ll get a value of 1 cent per point, according to the Go Far Rewards program’s terms and conditions. You can redeem either for a statement credit, or even at the ATM.
Travel redemption also give you a value of 1 cent per point, according to the card’s terms and conditions. In other words, if you want an airline ticket that’s $200 in Wells Fargo’s Rewards Program portal, you’ll need 20,000 points. Don’t have enough points? You can book with a combination of rewards and cash.
What the cards offer
All three cards offer a suite of perks, benefits and protections for travelers and shoppers.
- Discounts at participating hotel properties, car rental programs and cruise lines
- Extended warranty (up to a year on U.S. warranties of year or less)
- Retail protection, which provides coverage for eligible items if they’re damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase
- Emergency travel assistance
- Lost luggage insurance
- Rental car insurance (secondary coverage)
So what makes each card unique? Take a look:
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card (no annual fee)This is the newest and most basic Propel card. It offers no annual fee, everyday bonus rewards categories and a more pared-down collection of benefits, compared to the other two cards.
- 3X points at U.S. gas stations
- 2X points at U.S. restaurants
- 1X point on everything else
Benefits: Discounts at travel partners (including hotels and car rental companies), rental car insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, emergency travel assistance, lost luggage coverage
Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card ($45 annual fee, waived the first year)
This card has the same bonus categories as the basic Propel card, but a more robust selection of benefits.
- 3X points at U.S. gas stations
- 2X points at U.S. restaurants
- 1X point on everything else
Benefits: All the benefits the basic Propel card offers, plus: $100 off qualifying air + hotel packages at participating partners; travel accident insurance; concierge; and return protection.
Propel World ($175 fee waived the first year)
The rewards structure of this card and the extra perks it provides are designed for travelers. The annual fee is pretty steep, but you might be able to earn some if it back if you use all the card’s perks.
- 3X points on airlines
- 2X points on hotels
- 1X points on everything else
Benefits: All the benefits offered by the basic Propel and Propel 365, plus: Annual $100 credit for qualifying airline charges (such as checked bag fees and in-flight purchases); complimentary room upgrades and breakfast at participating properties; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; travel inconvenience insurance (covers things like delays and lost luggage); and premium concierge.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the cards is what’s called the “relationship bonus.” If you have another account with Wells Fargo, you’ll get bonus points each year – a percentage of the points you earned. The only other national retail bank that offers a similar bonus reward feature if you have an existing account relationship is Bank of America. Technically, you earn the bonus points each month, based on whether you owned a Wells Fargo account during that month – but the points will be deposited the 13th month after the date your card was opened (and on every anniversary thereafter).
How many bonus points you earn depends on which kind of Wells Fargo account — and which type of Propel card — you have.
For the no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card, you will earn a 10 percent bonus on points earned if you have a qualifying consumer checking account, savings account or PMA Package.
For the Propel 365 and Propel World cards, the relationship bonus structure works like this:
- Checking account: 10 percent
- PMA package (a Wells Fargo’s premier interest-earning checking account package) with a balance of less than $250,000: 25 percent
- PMA package with a balance of $250,000 or more: 50 percent
There’s a slight catch with the relationship bonus, however: You won’t earn it on the extra points earned in the bonus categories. So, if you spend $500 on hotels with your World card, you will earn the relationship bonus only 500 points (a point per dollar spent) – not on the 2 extra bonus points per dollar you got from category spending.
Considering the competition
If you already have an account with Wells Fargo, these cards could be a good opportunity to get extra points via the relationship bonus – especially if you have a PMA package and one of the annual-fee cards, which automatically gets you at least 25 percent.
The Propel cards also hit some bonus-category combinations that might be a perfect fit for you. Have a long commute and eschew groceries for meals out? The Propel or Propel 365 might be a rewards powerhouse for you (compared with other cards that pair gas and groceries). Travel frequently? Earning 2 points per dollar on hotel stays and 3 points on airline purchases could get quite lucrative.
However, the Propel 365 does have that $45 annual fee, and you can match its earnings with a combination of two no-annual-fee cards (for example, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards for 3 percent back on gas and the no-annual-fee Barclaycard Arrival for 2 percent back at restaurants). If you don’t have an existing relationship with Wells Fargo (and therefore can’t cash in on the relationship bonus), this may be the route you want to take.
You might also notice that the Propel World seems to be gunning for AmEx Premier Rewards Gold Territory. The Premier Rewards Gold card is offered by American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner. The annual fee is the same, and you earn 3 points per dollar with airline purchases. And both offer a $100 airline fee credit. While the Premier Rewards Gold doesn’t offer a relationship bonus, it does offer the ability to transfer your rewards directly into partner frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs. You’ll have to decide for yourself which perk you’re likely to get more out of.
Also, if you use the $100 credit in full, for less than what you’d pay for the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee), you’re getting 3 points for every dollar spent on flights vs. the Sapphire Preferred’s 2 points on travel. That said, you have to redeem through Wells Fargo’s travel portal – and you can’t convert your points to real frequent flier miles (which the Sapphire Preferred and Premier Rewards Gold both let you do).
Why we gave them 5 and 4 out of 5 stars
The Propel cards were rated based on our standards for Flexible Rewards Programs.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card: This card is a lucrative rewards-earner with easy-to-hit bonus categories. With no annual fee, you don’t have to stress about whether you’re accumulating rewards quickly enough. Plus, you still have access to all the redemption options the higher-tier cards offer. If you already have a Wells Fargo account, the annual relationship bonus could give this card an edge over other no-annual-fee cash-back cards on the market.
Propel 365: We docked this card for not providing much in the way of benefits whose monetary value offset the annual fee. The vacation-package credit, if you use it, will offset it in one shot – but the fine print requires some effort. Still, the annual fee is quite low, and, if you make use of the card’s slightly more robust benefits (compared to the no-annual-fee version), it could be a good fit.
Propel World: We docked this card for not offering benefits that fully balance out the full $175 annual fee. However, it earned four stars for its high travel-category earnings, a well-developed redemption program and that lucrative relationship bonus.
|Star criterion||Propel (no annual fee)||Propel 365||Propel World||Explanation|
|Rewards-earning rate||Propel: This card meets our standards for no-annual-fee flexible rewards cards (at least 1X points on all spending and at least 2X points in at least one bonus category)
Propel 365 and Propel World: These cards meets our standards for annual-fee flexible rewards cards (at least 1X points on all spending and at least 2X points in TWO bonus categories)
|Rewards value||All three cards meet our standards of offering at least one redemption option with a value of 1 cent per point (gift cards, cash back, travel)|
|Unique perks||Propel: You can redeem rewards at the ATM
Propel 365: You can redeem rewards at the ATM
Propel World: You can redeem rewards at ATM; cellular phone protection for theft and damage
|Fair annual fee||Propel: No annual fee
Propel 365: This card allows you to potentially offset the annual fee with a $100 travel credit. But it can be used only against certain vacation packages. And it requires you to spend money to get it. Therefore, we did not reward a star.
Propel World: This card provides a $100 annual credit against incidental airline expenses, but no other perks to offset the entire annual fee
|Bonus opportunities||All three cards offer a lucrative relationship bonus for those with other Wells Fargo Accounts.|
Updated August, 2016