Wells Fargo Propel vs. Capital One Venture

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Wells Fargo Propel vs. Capital One Venture

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Wells Fargo recently launched an updated version of its Propel card, and we think it offers a great deal for a no-annual-fee card.

Besides a 30,000-point sign-up bonus, the card supplies 3 points per dollar – yes, triple rewards – on lucrative spending categories, including dining, travel and transit, gas station purchases and select streaming services. The Propel also offers very simple redemption options, allowing you to redeem your points as statement credits for any travel purchase at a value of 1 cent per point.

The surprising fact is that the Wells Fargo Propel card gives a lot of premium travel cards a run for their money. We typically argue in favor of doling out the $95 fee (or higher) for a premium rewards card, because the larger sign-up bonus and higher rewards rate easily make up for the fee.

But, in the case of the Wells Fargo Propel card, you may be better off skipping an annual fee – especially if you combine the Propel card with Wells Fargo’s other no-fee travel card, the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, which offers a 50-percent bonus on travel redemptions.

To show you what we mean, we’re pitting the Wells Fargo Propel card against the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which offers a large 50,000-mile sign-up bonus and 2 miles per dollar on every purchase and the same simple redemption option for travel statement credits as the Wells Fargo Propel card.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two cards: 

Wells Fargo Propel vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  Wells Fargo Propel card
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Venture card
Capital One Venture card
Rewards rate
  • 3 points per dollar on dining, travel and transit, gas stations and select streaming services
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 10 miles per dollar on hotel rooms booked and paid through hotels.com/venture
  • 2 miles per dollar on other purchases
Sign-up bonus
30,000 points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in 3 months
Annual fee
$0 $95, $0 first year
Estimated yearly rewards value (for someone who spends $15,900) $383 $447
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Good sign-up bonus for a no-annual-fee card
  • Very flexible redemption options – you can redeem any travel purchase for a statement credit at 1 cent per point
  • Points don’t expire
  • No limit to how many points you can earn
  • You can transfer points to the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card and redeem them for travel at 1.5 cents per point 
  • Good sign-up bonus for a no annual fee card
  • Good rewards rate for every purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rewards don’t expire as long as account is active
  • No limit on the amount of cash back you can earn
  • No restrictions on how much cash you can redeem
Cons
  • The smaller sign-up bonus makes the card less valuable in the first year, especially if you don't pair it with the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card
  • You can’t transfer cash to other rewards programs
  • You can’t earn a bonus rate on different spending categories
Who  choose this card over the other one?
  • You’re a Wells Fargo Visa Signature cardholder
  • You want a great, no-annual-fee travel card
  • You want to collect a large sign-up bonus
  • You tend to spend a really high amount on one card
  • You’re a very active member of the Hotels.com loyalty program

Best for cardholders who don’t want to pay an annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel card

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee, the choice is obvious: You should get the Wells Fargo Propel card. While the Capital One Venture card charges a $95 annual fee (which is waived the first year), the Wells Fargo Propel card offers a high rewards rate, the same simple redemption options as the Venture card and many of the same travel perks for no annual fee. In fact, we think it’s one of the best travel cards you can get without an annual fee.

Best in the first year: The Capital One Venture card

For cardholders who prefer simplicity, the Capital One Venture card provides the best value in the first year. In the simplest of scenarios – if you sign up for and use only one card – the Capital One Venture card includes a very valuable sign-up offer. You get 50,000 miles – worth $500 in travel – if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. The Wells Fargo Propel card, in comparison, only offers 30,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first three months, worth $300 in travel rewards.

Even better, the Capital One Venture card doesn’t charge an annual fee in the first year, which means – if you want to cash in on a lot of bonus points – the Capital One Venture card may be the better choice.

Best ongoing value for most cardholders: The Wells Fargo Propel card

It may surprise you, however, that the Wells Fargo is a better card in the long run for cardholders who want a single travel rewards card that they can use for every purchase. You might think that the Capital One Venture card offers the better value since it supplies 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, while the Wells Fargo Propel card only offers a 3-point bonus on some of your purchases and 1 point per dollar on the remainder. But, actually, the majority of cardholders likely will earn more rewards with the Wells Fargo Propel card.

The key point is that the Wells Fargo Propel card focuses its triple-point bonus on a few very valuable categories of spending – including restaurants, travel and gas station purchases – which results in a very high rewards rate on average. Plus, it doesn’t charge an annual fee.

We figure that a cardholder who spends an average amount in the Wells Fargo Propel card’s bonus categories will eke out an average rewards rate of 1.78 percent on their purchases.

This isn’t quite as high as the Venture card’s rewards rate of 2 percent, but once you figure in the annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel card comes out ahead for even high levels of credit card spend.

For example, a cardholder who spends $15,900 per year on the Wells Fargo Propel card would earn $283 in rewards on average. The same cardholder would only earn $223 in rewards with the Capital One Venture card, once you subtract the annual fee:

Wells Fargo Propel yearly value ($15,900 spend)
Capital One Venture yearly value ($15,900 spend)
1.78% rewards rate x $15,900 yearly spend = $283
(2% rewards rate x $15,900 yearly spend) - $95 annual fee = $223

Best ongoing card for very high spenders: The Capital One Venture card

The average cardholder would have to spend an extremely high amount with the Capital One Venture card to get a better rewards value than with the Wells Fargo Propel card.

Once again, assuming an average rewards rate of 1.78 percent for the Wells Fargo Propel card, we figure a cardholder would have to spend more than $43,182 per year (around $3,600 per month) with the Capital One Venture card to equal the value of the Propel card:

Wells Fargo Propel yearly value ($43,182 spend)
Capital One Venture yearly value ($43,182 spend)
1.78% rewards rate x $43,182 yearly spend = $769
(2% rewards rate x $43,182 yearly spend) - $95 annual fee = $769

Best for cardholders who want to rotate cards: The Wells Fargo Propel card

Here’s where things get really good: It turns out that you can transfer points from the Wells Fargo Propel card to other Wells Fargo cards, including the Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, which provides a 50-percent bonus on your points if you redeem them for travel purchases through the Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards site. Essentially, your points earned with the Wells Fargo Propel card are worth 1.5 cents per point if you also own a Wells Fargo Visa Signature card.

If you own a Wells Fargo Visa Signature card, or are willing to sign up for one, the Wells Fargo Propel card is clearly the better choice. Even in the first year, with the Capital One Venture’s 50,000-mile sign-up bonus and waived annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel card still comes out ahead:

Wells Fargo Propel first year value combined with Wells Fargo Visa Signature card ($15,900 spend)
Capital One Venture first year value ($15,900 spend)
$450 sign-up bonus + (1.78% rewards rate x $15,900 yearly spend x 1.5 cents/point) = $874
$500 sign-up bonus + (2% rewards rate x $15,900 yearly spend) = $818

Bottom line

The Wells Fargo Propel card and the Capital One Venture card are both great travel cards. You may opt for the Venture card for its large sign-up bonus and its famous “no-hassle” rewards program, but the Wells Fargo Propel card has many appealing features – including a high rewards rate and no annual fee –  to make it deserving of the top spot in your wallet.

See related: New Wells Fargo Propel card launchesMetal credit cards aren't just for the wealthy now


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Updated: 08-14-2018