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The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express® and Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Cards: Relationships Have Their Rewards

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The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express® and Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Cards: Relationships Have Their Rewards

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The release of a new travel credit card is always exciting news for the Nerds, so when we heard about the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express, we couldn’t wait to learn more. With this card you’ll earn hefty rewards on select travel purchases plus some other unique benefits not offered by competitors. For instance, the card provides a stellar relationship bonus for Wells Fargo banking customers and an annual airline incidentals allowance.

But the great news is that if the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express doesn’t meet your needs, Wells Fargo has you covered — it’s also offering the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card as part of the Propel portfolio. This card is a great choice for busy families who still want some of the perks offered by the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express. Ready to get the lowdown on both cards? Take a look at the details below.

In this article:

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card: The basics
Propel yourself to bigger rewards
Where the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express shines
When is the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card a better choice?
Where the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express falls short
How do the Propel cards stack up against industry heavyweights?
Should I consider the Propel cards?

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card: The basics

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card are both aimed at providing rewards and benefits for people on the go. In fact, the cards share a lot of features in common. These include:

  • Annual relationship bonus for qualifying Wells Fargo customers (see the next section for more details)
  • Redeem points for travel, gift cards, cash back or merchandise through Wells Fargo Rewards (see Nerd note below)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel protections, including auto rental insurance and travel accident insurance
  • Purchase protections, including extended warranty, retail protection and return protection

But each card has its own unique qualities, too. Take a look at the details:

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express

  • Signup bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in net purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 3X points per dollar spent on airlines, 2X points per dollar spent on hotels, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Chip-enabled (the card is chip-and-signature preferred, but you will receive a PIN)
  • Airline incidental fee allowance: You’ll get up to $100 per year in incidental airline expenses reimbursed in the form of a statement credit.
  • The annual fee is waived the first year and $175 every year thereafter

The Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

  • Signup bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in net purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 3X points per dollar spent at U.S. gas stations, 2X points per dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Points don’t expire, and there’s no limit to how many points you can earn
  • The $0 for the first year, then $45
Nerd note: Points earned with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card are worth $.01 each when redeemed for cash or gift cards, and potentially more if you redeem for travel. It’s unusual for a card’s points to hold their value across different redemption options, so this is a feature that makes the Propel cards special.

Propel yourself to bigger rewards

One of the most attractive aspects of both the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card cards is the annual relationship bonus they provide to Wells Fargo customers. Essentially, you get a big dividend every year on the points you’ve earned with your Wells Fargo Propel World American Express or Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card card in the 12 months prior, just for maintaining a qualifying Wells Fargo account. The structure of the bonus works like this:

  • If you have a qualifying Wells Fargo checking or savings account, you’ll receive an annual 10% points bonus
  • If you have a qualifying Wells Fargo PMA package (see Nerd note below) with less than $250,000 in deposits, you’ll receive an annual 25% points bonus
  • If you have a qualifying Wells Fargo PMA package with more than $250,000 in qualifying relationship balances, you’ll receive an annual 50% points bonus
  • Relationship bonus points are earned monthly and will be deposited into your Propel rewards account on the 13th month after your card was opened

According to Natalie Brown, vice president of consumer lending communications at Wells Fargo, “It [the creation of the relationship bonus] was a very deliberate act … we want our customers to know how much we appreciate them giving us their credit card business.”

It’s true that the relationship bonus substantially drives up the earning power of the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card; if you’re a Wells Fargo banking customer, these cards will provide you with extra value that’s worth considering.

Nerd note: PMA packages are “bundled” checking, savings and investment accounts, and are typically used by clients who deposit and/or invest a lot of money on a monthly basis. More information about premium banking products is available on NerdWallet’s banking site.

Where the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express shines

At first glance, it might seem like the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express doesn’t offer any huge benefits over other travel cards on the market. But in addition to the relationship bonus, there are some unique features of the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express that really make it stand out:

Triple points on airline spending – There are lots of travel credit cards out there that give extra rewards on travel spending, but a 3% rewards rate on airlines is hard to come by. If you devote a lot of your income to flight purchases, you’ll see a great return on your spending with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express.

Airline incidentals fee allowance – You may have initially balked at the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s high annual fee, but keep in mind that it’s partially made up for by the airline incidentals allowance. This feature will reimburse you for up to $100 annually in minor purchases or fees you make directly with airlines, including baggage fees, lounge purchases, and in-flight snacks and drinks.

What’s more, you don’t need to do anything to activate the benefit – if Wells Fargo spots one of these expenses on your card, they’ll automatically credit your account, up to $100 per year. Again, between the 3X points earned on flight purchases and the airline incidentals fee allowance, frequent fliers are likely to get a lot of value out of this card. Of course, this is enhanced all the more for Wells Fargo banking customers, who will also get the annual relationship bonus.

PIN ready – Many U.S.-issued travel cards now come chip-enabled, but most don’t come with a PIN unless you specifically request it. The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express comes ready for PIN purchases, no extra phone call required.

Flexible redemption options – Usually, the Nerds warn against using points earned on a travel credit card for non-travel redemption options; cashing in for gift cards or cash back normally means getting a crummy value out of each point. But with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express, you can redeem your points in a variety of ways (gift cards, cash back, travel, etc.) and generally still get the $.01 out of every point. This means that if you don’t have a trip on the books this year, you can redeem your points for something else and not feel guilty that you’re not squeezing the max value out of every point.

When is the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card a better choice?

If you’re a Wells Fargo banking customer and are in the market for a new credit card, it’s understandable if you’re itching to get one of the Propel cards – the relationship bonus is a pretty great benefit. But you may have a hard time deciding between the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card. If so, the main question to ask yourself is where you do most of your spending.

If the travel that you do is mostly long-distance, involving flights and hotel stays, the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express is probably a better choice. Although it carries a much higher annual fee, the airline incidentals allowance brings its yearly cost within $30 of the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card’s.

On the other hand, if you do a lot of driving and dining out, the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card will give you more rewards bang for your buck. The Nerds think this is a great card for busy families with older children; between grabbing a bite to eat on the way to piano practice and hitting the road for a travel softball tournament, you’ll be earning bonus points on a lot of the spending you’re already doing.

Where the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express falls short

As with all credit cards, there are some drawbacks to the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express. Whether or not they’re deal breakers for you really depends on how you plan to earn and redeem your points, so be sure to take a look at these details:

“Other” travel doesn’t earn bonus points – Although you’ll be earning bonus points on airline and hotel spending with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express, other types of travel will only earn 1 point per dollar spent. Cruises, trains, campgrounds, taxis, limos and the like don’t qualify for bonus rewards earning. This isn’t the case with other popular travel credit cards (see below), so it’s something to consider.

Booking travel through discount sites probably won’t earn bonus points – If you’re a budget traveler and like to look for the best deals on flights and hotels, the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express probably won’t reward your savvy ways with bonus points. You can only earn 3X points on flights and 2X points on hotels with travel booked through companies that American Express categorizes as an airline or hotel. Expedia, Kayak and other similar sites usually don’t qualify.

Inflexible travel redemption options – Many globetrotters like a credit card that will allow them to redeem their points for travel in multiple ways. But the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express will only let you cash in your points through the Wells Fargo Rewards site. It does provide travel options (including some special promotions from time to time), but if you like the flexibility of being able to transfer your rewards to frequent flier programs or pay yourself back for the travel expense of your choice, the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express doesn’t make the mark.

How do the Propel cards stack up against industry heavyweights?

Now that you know all the details of the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card, it’s time to see how they stack up against some of their competitors:

The Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card versus Chase Freedom®

Comparing the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card to Chase Freedom® is a natural fit because both offer good rewards on gas. The Chase Freedom® provides 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 per quarter. Historically, at least 2 quarters out of the year have featured gas as a 5% bonus category, which means the annual average rate of return on gas with the card is 3% — the same as the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card.

Also, the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card offers 2% back on restaurant purchases, and the Chase Freedom® commonly features restaurants as a 5% category at least one quarter out of the year. Again, this brings the Chase Freedom®’s annual average rewards rate on restaurant spending to 2%. Because both cards provide 1% back on all other purchases, their rewards earning structures are nearly identical.

But remember that the Chase Freedom® also allows you to earn 5% back at other retailers throughout the year on a rotating basis, which the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card doesn’t. Plus, the Chase Freedom® charges an annual fee of $0. The Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card’s $0 for the first year, then $45.

All this means that if you’re not a Wells Fargo customer and therefore won’t benefit from the relationship bonus, the Chase Freedom® might be the better choice for gas and dining rewards (as long as you don’t blow through the quarterly $1,500 max).

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express versus Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express has some stiff competition in the travel market, including Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. With this card, you’ll earn 2X miles on every dollar you spend — plus you’ll get 5% of your miles back when you redeem. You can redeem your miles for a statement credit on almost any travel purchase you make with the card. This adds a layer of flexibility to earning and redeeming travel rewards that the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express doesn’t provide.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®’s sign-up bonus is similar to the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s: Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase. Its annual fee is lower — $0 for the first year, then $89. But keep in mind that it doesn’t give the airline incidental allowance. When this is factored in, the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s net annual cost is actually slightly lower than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®’s.

Deciding between the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® and the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express really comes down to a) how much you spend on flights and b) whether or not you’re a Wells Fargo banking customer. If you do more than 50% of your spending on airlines, the 3X points the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express provides on these purchases outweighs the 2X points on all spending done with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. If you have a Wells Fargo PMA account, the 25% or 50% relationship bonus bests the 5% bonus the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® gives on points redeemed for all categories.

If neither of these scenarios applies to you, you’re probably better off going with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.

The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express versus Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Another big player on the travel credit cards scene is Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and it’s easy to see why. For one thing, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card carries a hefty signup bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Depending on how you redeem your points (see below) this could amount to a much bigger bonus than the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s.

As far as rewards go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has great earning power: Every time you use the card, you’ll be getting 2 points per dollar spent on dining in restaurants and travel and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. This means you’re earning slightly less than the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express on airline purchases, but more on dining out, so if this is where you do a lot of spending, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a better bet.

Another consideration is the value of the points you earn with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express versus the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s points are each worth one cent, and generally, the Ultimate Rewards points are the same. However, you get a 25% boost in value when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform, which drives the value of each point up to 1.25 cents. This amounts to a 2.50% rewards rate for restaurant and travel spending.

Also, remember that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers the option to transfer your points to partner frequent traveler programs. This makes redeeming points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card a little more flexible than with the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card carries an $0 for the first year, then $95. This is lower than the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express’s, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t offer the $100 airline incidentals allowance. So again, the net annual cost of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is actually higher that of the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express when the all costs and benefits are considered.

Should I consider the Propel cards?

If your spending aligns with the bonus structures of either of the Propel cards and you’re a qualifying Wells Fargo customer who will benefit from the annual relationship bonus, these cards are probably a good choice. But always take some time to compare each card’s benefits with those offered by competitors before pulling the trigger on an application – you might find something that fits your needs better at a lower annual cost.

Lindsay Konsko is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @lkonsko and on Google+.


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