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Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card review: The best no annual fee travel credit card for your next vacation
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is the best no annual fee travel credit card for your next vacation. CNBC Select reviews all the benefits of the card so you can decide if it's right for you.

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Nothing quite beats the excitement of planning your next vacation — except maybe saving hundreds of dollars while doing it.

Using the right rewards credit card can help save you money through exclusive discounts on travel, lodging, activities and food. But you don't have to pay an annual fee to get a solid travel rewards credit card. With the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, you can earn rewards to fund your next adventure, without paying a yearly fee or getting dinged with foreign transaction fees. There's also a number of benefits frequent travelers will appreciate, which is why it landed a spot on CNBC Select's best credit cards.

To determine which cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 credit cards available in the U.S. that anyone can apply for. When comparing rewards cards, we used a sample budget based on the latest spending data available from the location intelligence firm Esri to break down how much money each card could net you over the course of five years. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

In order to get the most benefit from your card, you want to make sure you practice responsible credit behavior, such as paying off your balance on time and in full each month and avoiding overspending and falling into debt.

Below, we break down Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card's rewards, benefits and fees to help you decide if it's the right card for you.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

  • Rewards

    3X points on dining out and ordering in; gas, rideshares and transit; flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals; and popular streaming services. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    15.49% to 27.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days, then 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • No blackout dates on air travel when redeemed through Go Far Rewards

Cons

  • Minimum reward redemption amount of 2,500 points
  • Balance transfers incur a 3% fee ($5 minimum)
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $584
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,120

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card review

  • Rewards
  • Additional benefits
  • Fees
  • Bottom line

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card rewards

This well-rounded card offers a strong rewards program whether you're a frequent traveler, a homebody or a combination of the two.

It offers unlimited 3X points per dollar spent on eating out and ordering in, gas, rideshares and mass transit, travel (flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals) and a number of popular streaming services. Plus, 1X points on all other purchases.

Commuters will appreciate the 3X points on purchases at toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages as well as at gas stations. CNBC Select found that gas station purchases alone can earn the average American $67 a year. And when you're done with the daily hustle, enjoy the 3X points on select streaming services, including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM Radio and Spotify Premium. The average American can earn an estimated $98 cash back on qualifying entertainment purchases.

Wells Fargo also makes it easy to redeem points for cash, gift cards or travel. There are no black-out dates when you make reservations through Go Far® Rewards, but you can't start redeeming points until you've earned 2,500.

There's also an impressive welcome bonus for a no-annual-fee card: Earn 20,000 points after you spend $1,000 within the first three months. That's the equivalent to $200 in cash back.

CNBC Select calculated how many rewards the average American can earn if they optimize the way they use their Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126.

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953).

Here's how many points you can earn with your Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card in each category:

  • Groceries: 5,174
  • Gas: 6,653
  • Dining out: 11,024
  • Travel: 6,733
  • Utilities: 4,862
  • General purchases: 3,953
  • Total: 38,399

Based on the annual spending budget from Esri, the average American can earn an estimated $584 in rewards the first year of card membership (including the points earned from the welcome bonus) and an estimated $2,120 in rewards over five years with the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. This assumes that cardholders are redeeming points for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point. Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value, and you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your spending habits.

There is no limit to the points you can earn with this credit card and the points don't expire as long as your account remains open. The minimum to redeem rewards is 2,500 points.

Additional benefits

The card's additional perks geared toward travelers are also worth noting. Cardholders can take advantage of lost luggage reimbursement, car rental loss and damage insurance, roadside assistance and 24/7 travel and emergency assistance.

Like the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, this card offers cell phone protection for damage to or theft of your phone up to $600 per claim and $1,200 per 12-month period ($25 deductible applies and you must pay your cell phone bill with your card to qualify). This perk can help offset or cover the cost of repairing or replacing your phone.

For online shoppers, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card offers extra rewards on purchases made through a special link via its online shopping portal. In order to earn the extra rewards, you must use the link provided through the portal and pay with the qualifying card. For example, you may receive an offer for 2X points per dollar spent at a retailer, in addition to the rewards you already earn. Other eligible cards with shopping portals are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Fees

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card stands out as both a top credit card and a top travel rewards card because there's no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

This card also provides strong financing options with a full year of no interest on purchases and balance transfers. (After the introductory period there's a 15.49% to 27.49% variable APR.) If you have large upcoming expenses that you want to pay for over time, or if you're looking to consolidate debt from a non-Amex card, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card can help you finance debt without incurring interest charges.

There is a 120-day introductory balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% (whichever is greater). After that, it is up to 5% (minimum $5) for each balance transfer.

Bottom line

If you have good credit and want a travel card but don't see yourself optimizing all the perks to justify the cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (or you just don't want to pay the steep $550 annual fee), this credit card is a great option. You can still earning 3X points per dollar spent on travel purchases and you're not limited to having to book your travel through Amextravel.com.

But if you're more of a frequent traveler, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending, which is a great flat rate. While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, it's waived during the first year. And $95 is low compared to some other rewards cards.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.