Wells Fargo Propel vs. Amex Blue Cash Preferred: Which card is right for you?

Oct 14, 2020

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Update: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is no longer open to new applications. View the current offers here.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. 


Every time airlines devalue their frequent flyer miles or make them harder to use (see American, Delta and United with dynamic award pricing), fixed value and cash back credit cards start to look more attractive than cobranded cards. And because air travel has plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are less likely to use their cobranded airline credit cards when there are better options to earn points and miles.

Today we’ll take a look at how two popular options, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express stack up. Both of these cards have been refreshed in the last year in order to make them more competitive. The information for the Wells Fargo Propel card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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In This Post

Current Welcome Offer

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Cash-back credit cards almost always offer lower bonuses and offers than their points and miles counterparts — and these two are no exception. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is currently offering a bonus of 20,000 points (worth $200) after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Meanwhile the Blue Cash Preferred is offering 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Cash back received in the form of statement credits. These are far from the best bonus offers available right now, meaning you’ll want to pick these cards up for their long term earning power more than the actual bonus.

The Wells Fargo Propel doesn’t have an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, so all the cash back you earn goes straight to your wallet. The Blue Cash Preferred, on the other hand, has a $95 annual fee, waived the first year (see rates & fees), and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee (see rates & fees) which can take a serious bite out of your rewards while traveling.

Another important consideration is how these cards fit into your larger strategy. While Amex’s one bonus per card per lifetime rule likely won’t prevent many people from getting the Blue Cash Preferred, there’s another important factor to consider: Amex generally limits you to a certain number of cards at a time, so picking the Blue Cash Preferred means giving up a spot that could go to a much more rewarding card like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Winner: The Propel is the clear winner here, between a decent welcome bonus and lower fees across the board.

Earning

One of the reasons these cards emerge as natural competitors is that they’re among the only cash back cards to offer bonus points in the emerging category of streaming services. Let’s take a look at all the ways you can earn bonus cash back from these two cards:

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6x (6%) N/A U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming subscriptions
3x (3%) Travel, dining, gas stations and select streaming services U.S. gas stations and transit
1x (1%) All other purchases All other purchases

Many people might find the Propel’s bonus categories more useful as they include broadly defined travel and dining categories. There are also no annual limits or geographical restrictions. At the same time, the Blue Cash Preferred is the industry leader with its 6% back on select U.S. streaming services and the limitation to U.S. supermarkets doesn’t matter all that much, since you wouldn’t want to use a card with a foreign transaction fee when traveling abroad.

Winner: While the exact choice here will depend on your personal spending patterns, I give the edge to the Propel again. Even though the Blue Cash Preferred offers bonus categories that are twice as rewarding in some areas, much of that value will be eaten up by the card’s $95 annual fee, waived the first year (see rates and fees).

Redeeming

There isn’t a whole lot of variation in how you can redeem cash back rewards, but the Wells Fargo Propel Amex still gives you a few options. Your points are worth a fixed one cent each when redeemed for travel, gift cards, charity donations or cash back, but it is possible to get more value with the right card pairing. Wells Fargo lets you pool your points across cards, so if you also hold the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card you can redeem your points for airfare at a rate of 1.5 cents each. This might be a useful option for some, but if you’re looking to earn travel rewards it’s easy to find a better card to achieve that goal.

The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Blue Cash Preferred offers similar options, allowing you to redeem your cash back rewards for a statement credit, gift cards, or to shop with your rewards. No matter how you intend on using this extra money, I strongly suggest opting for cash back. Even if you want to buy gift cards or make a travel purchase, you should charge those to your credit card to earn more rewards and use the cash back to pay off the bill.

Winner: This is a tie, at the end of the day the best use of cash back cards is to put more money in your wallet and these cards do it equally well.

Bottom Line

The decision by Amex and Wells Fargo to offer bonus rewards for select streaming services is indicative of a broader shift in American consumer demographics. As with any cash back card, you have to be really careful that your rewards each year will be greater than your annual fee in order to justify keeping the card open. The Wells Fargo Propel has a decent bonus, no annual fee and strong bonus categories, making it the better choice for most people.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

Featured photo by The Points Guy. 

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.