I earned more rewards from the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card in 2019 than my other four credit cards. With no annual fee, it’s giving me a rewards payout that’s comparable to some of the most popular elite cards on the market. Here are the other reasons why I love this card.
- It gives 3 points per dollar on dining, travel and popular streaming services (plus 1 point per dollar on everything else).
- Travel is defined very broadly (flights, hotels, gas stations, public transit, taxis, ride-shares, homestays, car rentals, parking, tolls, cruises and more).
- No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
- You can pair it with the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card to get 50% more value from your points (when redeeming for airfare).
- Cardholders get up to $600 in cellphone insurance per claim as long as they pay their cellphone bills with their Propel card (max $1,200 per 12-month period, with a $25 deductible).
I earned more rewards from the Propel card in 2019 than my other four credit cards. That surprised me because I don’t consider myself a big travel or restaurant person. The broad definition of travel certainly helped – my monthly commuter train pass costs $322, and my family spends about $100 per month on gas. Putting all of that routine spending on the Propel card yields $152 in cash back annually.
In terms of other travel, even occasional trips can add up in a hurry. My wife, daughter and I typically visit my wife’s parents in California twice a year. That’s roughly $6,000 in plane tickets, lodging and rental cars ($180 in cash back).
Plus, my family spends about $150 per month at restaurants. That $1,800 per year is significantly below the national average ($3,459, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Still, 3% of $1,800 is another $54 per year in free money. The point is, all of this adds up.
The payout of a premium card, without the annual fee
The way I see it, I’m getting a high-end rewards payout on travel and dining without the annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives the same 3 points per dollar on dining and most forms of travel, but it charges a $550 annual fee. To be fair, it offers numerous ancillary perks (such as a $300 annual travel credit, free access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges, a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit every four years and a $60 DoorDash credit in 2020 and another in 2021). Other than the $300 travel credit, however, I don’t think I’d get enough value from that list to justify the annual fee.
The other leading high-end cards are even less likely to fit my lifestyle. The Platinum Card® from American Express extends solid rewards on eligible airline and hotel purchases, but nothing special on dining, gas, public transportation or homestays.
The Citi Prestige, meanwhile, has generous restaurant and airline rewards, but it also lags on gas, public transit and homestays. The Amex Platinum has a $550 annual fee and the Citi Prestige charges $495. Both are partially offset by various credits that I probably wouldn’t use to their full extent.
For example, all three of those premium cards offer airport lounge access, which sounds great, but upon closer inspection is not ideal for my situation. The airports I use the most don’t have suitable lounge options, and my wife is against the concept anyway (she prefers to get in and out of airports as quickly as possible).
The other cards that exceed the Propel’s restaurant rewards don’t make sense for me, either. Two are Hilton cards, and I don’t want to focus my rewards strategy on a single hotel chain.
The American Express® Gold Card has a slightly higher earn rate than the Propel card on dining, but its travel rewards aren’t as good and it charges a substantial annual fee ($250) that I probably wouldn’t get enough value from. And the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card edges out the Propel card on dining, but it falls short on travel and charges a $95 annual fee ($0 the first year).
See related: Cash back vs. points: Which is better?
What’s right for me may not be right for you
All of these cards have something interesting to offer, but they’re not for me. Picking a credit card is subjective, and that’s why it’s so important to examine your individual circumstances.
What’s right for me may not be right for you. Although I suspect most of you can relate to this thought process. We’ve found that 72% of rewards cardholders have at least one card with no annual fee and two-thirds of credit card rewards chasers prefer cash back.
I signed up for two cards with annual fees last year, and while I’ve gotten good value from both, I’ll probably only keep one beyond the first year. My affinity for no-annual-fee cash back cards makes sense for my current lifestyle. And I’m hardly alone. I understand the appeal of high-end cards, yet I’m perfectly happy with my Propel card for now.