Travel rewards credit cards will almost always be more rewarding than cash back credit cards, but most of the good ones carry annual fees, and the rest basically require you to be loyal to a particular hotel chain or airline.
If you'd rather not be a part of the travel rewards hamster wheel, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is a dead-simple cash back card with no annual fee, and some of the best bonus earning categories in the entire credit card industry.
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The Wells Fargo Propel doesn't have an annual fee, but new cardholders can still earn a 20,000 point bonus after spending just $1,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $200 in cash back or gift cards, meaning you'll effectively earn a bonus 20% cash back on your first $1,000 in purchases with the card.
When you make purchases with the Propel, you'll earn 3 points per dollar with restaurants, gas stations, ride sharing services, mass transit, flights, hotels, car rentals, and popular streaming services like Netflix, Spotify, and Apple Music, among others. That's one of the biggest lists of bonus categories we've seen on any credit card, making it easy for most users to rack up points quickly.
And of course, you'll still earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
The Propel card earns Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards points, but since these points are worth a fixed value of $.01 each whether you're using them for statement credits, gift cards, or charitable donations, it's effectively a simple cash back card.
And that's the double-edged sword of this kind of card. Your rewards are simple to understand and easy to use, but you'll never get to redeem them at an outsized value for high-end travel experiences. Whether those experiences are worth the annual fees and added complexities of a travel rewards card is a purely personal choice.
The exception is for Propel cardholders who also have the no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card in their wallets. If you have both cards, you'll be able to pool your points, and book airfare via the Wells Fargo portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point, or 1.75 cents if you spend $50,000 per year on the Visa Signature card. That effectively means that the card's 3x bonus categories will earn you 4.5% back, or even 5.25% back, if you use the points towards eligible flights.
Cash back cards are usually light on perks, and the Propel is no exception, but it does have one noteworthy benefit. If you use the Propel card to pay your monthly cell phone bill, you'll have access to $600 worth of smartphone equipment protection for covered damage or theft, subject to a $25 deductible.
The card also comes with standard purchase protections like extended warranty coverage and return protection, plus secondary rental car coverage inside the U.S., but you'll find those benefits on almost any credit card.
Even with its generous 3% bonus categories, the Wells Fargo Propel isn't the card for you if you value free hotel nights and award flights. But with no annual fee, an easy-to-understand award structure, and a welcome bonus worth $200, it's one of the best options out there for credit card beginners.
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.
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