Is the Wells Fargo Propel Amex a Good Card for a Light Traveler?
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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.
While many TPG readers are travel-obsessed points geeks, there’s also a huge subset of people who don’t travel a whole lot but are still interested in acquiring the right travel rewards credit card. And TPG Reader Ahmad wants to know if one particular newly enhanced credit card is a good option for an infrequent traveler…
I was wondering if you could do a review for the new Wells Fargo Propel card as a suitable option for a light traveler? Is is worth it?TPG Reader Ahmad
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card was relaunched last month with new earning categories and a large 30,000 point welcome bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Our overall review of the revamped card gave it high marks for having no annual fee, a solid sign-up bonus and a “simple yet rewarding set of bonus categories” that include extra points on some unusual categories such as select streaming services.
But how does the Propel Amex stack up for the infrequent traveler? As we’ve written before, there are travel rewards cards that offer a lot of points and a lot of perks, but which also come with large annual fees. While those cards can sometimes still make sense even for people who aren’t always on the road, some people prefer the simplicity of cash back and don’t want to shell out year-after-year for an annual fee — making the Wells Fargo Propel Amex a solid option for someone who doesn’t travel a whole lot.
The Propel earns 3x points on travel (which includes everything from flights and hotels to taxis and rental cars), dining, gas stations and popular streaming services. Those are pretty generous bonus categories for a no-annual fee card. All points are worth 1 cent apiece and you can redeem them for travel, gift cards, charity donations or cash-back through Wells Fargo’s Go Far Rewards portal. This standardized redemption rate effectively makes the Propel Amex an easy-to-use cash-back card, which can be very appealing to someone who doesn’t travel often.
However, the beauty of the Propel Amex for infrequent travelers is that if you do find you want to use the points for flights down the line, you can pair the Propel with the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card and redeem your points for airfare via the Go Far Rewards travel portal at a higher 1.5 cents per point (or 1.75 cents when you spend $50,000 a year or more on the Wells Fargo Visa Signature). That leads to a fabulous 4.5%-5.25% return on the card’s bonus categories, which is incredible for a pair of no-annual fee cards. (The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature 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.)
But will a non-frequent traveler earn a lot of points with the Propel Amex? Let’s take a look at our recent guide to “One Year of Earning and Burning With the Wells Fargo Propel Amex,” which takes US government data and calculates what the average American household spends per year would earn if they solely spent on the Propel Amex.
In the first year with the Propel Amex, the average American could earn about 78,000 points alone — equivalent to $780 in cash-back or $1,170 in airfare when combined with the Wells Fargo Visa Signature. But since we’re interested in the earning rate for a light traveler, let’s delete the expenditures for travel and lodging other than regular housing. With those items taken away, you’d still end up with over $745 in cash-back or $1,117 in airfare with the Visa Signature.
Even after the first year on an ongoing basis, the card still has great value — subtract the sign-up bonus and the travel expenses, and the average household would earn about $445 in cash back (or $667 in airfare) for a no-annual fee card.
In addition to earning points, the Propel Amex offers a unique perk anyone can appreciate — cell phone protection. If your pay your monthly cell phone bill in full with the Propel Amex and then your phone is stolen or damaged, you can get the cost reimbursed up to $600 with just a $25 deductible.
The card also comes with extended warranty coverage, return protection and coverage for other damaged or stolen items purchased with the card, all of which can save some serious cash even for intermittent travelers.
Finally, if you can pair the Propel Amex with another no-annual fee card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, you can earn 2% back on every purchase (1% when you pay and 1% when you buy) that’s not covered by the Propel’s bonus categories — boosting your earnings even more. So while the Wells Fargo Propel Amex might be a great choice all by itself for the light traveler, it’s an excellent card to pair with one other card to give your purse or wallet a one-two punch.
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