Today we cover Wells Fargo (WF), a sometimes overlooked player in the credit card miles hobby. A ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial institution that is renowned for cross-selling products (e.g. signing up customers for multiple types of accounts and relationships), Wells Fargo has recently been in the news with less-than-positive coverage. Aiming for a fresh start, the bank has been on a recent PR blitz and has just revamped its’ Propel card product, making it much more attractive and competitive with other cards. Find out more about this card as well as their other products, participating in Go Far Rewards (GFR), and see if any of them are a good fit for your wallet.
While WF cards all earn Go Far Rewards, the banks’ points currency is a bit less structured that competing programs from Chase, Citi, and AMEX. Each card has variable earning rates as well as variables redemptions with none participating in transfer to travel partners. Similar to previously covered programs from Capital One and USBank, think of these points as primarily directed towards cash back with the option of also spending them for travel purposes.
WF Cards that Earn Go Far Rewards
The following is a list of the cards, which earn GFR points:
Cash Wise Visa
*Note that the Propel 365 card is not open to new applicants
#The Propel card has just been revamped and will be open to new application on 7/16/18
WF specializes in low to mid-tier cards and lacks any premium offerings, as can be seen in the spreadsheet below:
As you can appreciate, this comes with most cards either having no or a low annual fee. There are no travel credits, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefits, or other things to keep track of. Also, unlike many other issuers, WF offers the option of having Visa as well American Express cards (or both!), which all participate in the GFR program and is quite interesting. Note that the AMEX cards works on their eponymous network, but are handled and issued directly by WF. Keep in mind that the Visa cards participating in the GFR ecosystem all have foreign transaction fees, which may be an important limitation for frequent international travelers. Fortunately, the AMEX cards avoid this, even while having no annual fee. I’m not aware of any annual fee reduction that is available from WF for having a banking relationship or any other situation, with the exception that they typically waive it for your first year.
True to its’ cross-selling reputation, it seems that WF prefers that you have more than one card as its’ worst earning card – the Visa Signature – comes with the perk of offering the highest reward value rate. The Cash Wise Visa can be thought of as a simple universal cash back product, and the Propel cards are more typical in that they reward specific categories of spend. Thus, I think the these cards can be a worthwhile consideration for the right person who wishes to diversify their points portfolio, but it would be hard to call them the most valuable cards in your wallet.
Earning WF Go Far Rewards with Credit Cards
As already alluded to above, all of the listed cards earn GFR points, which are roughly equivalent among products are can be pooled/transferred. The ability to earn points is summarized below:
The Visa Signature card offers 5x points on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases up to 12,500$ of spending but this is ONLY limited to the first 6 months of having the card. After this period and for the remaining time that you hold the card, it earns a flat 1x point per dollar spent. The Cash Wise Visa simply earns 1.5% back on every dollar of spend, but bumps this up to 1.8% when using a mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, in the first year from account opening.
Finally, the Propel products rewards gas, dining, and travel purchases at 3x return, offering a competitive alternative to offerings from other banks such as AMEX’s Premier Rewards Gold, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Citi’s Thank You Premier. Also, it a nice bonus, the new Propel product offers 3x on spending with streaming services, the details of which can be found here.
WF keeps things simple and, akin to USBank, uses circular merchant code definitions for its’ categories. That is a dining purchase will be classified as such and awarded bonus points if it is coded as dining. Note that because they offer both Visa and AMEX cards, the same merchant may be classified differently in each system and there can be odd situations where you earn bonus points on only one product!
If you see than a transaction did not award you expected points, even though they were not part of any published exclusions and should have been awarded, you can give their call center and ask that they address the shortfall. Note, however, that given their specific merchant category definition statement, WF may refuse your request. My advice, especially for big purchases that you expect will earn extra points, is to make a small transaction with the same merchant to make sure that the points post correctly or use a different seller that you know has gone through without a hitch in the past. This will save you a lot of calls and potential headaches down the line.
As a welcome additional perk, like many other issues, WF offers the ability to earn extra points on top of defined category spend by using their portal, which often include in-person purchases as well as online shopping. Note, however, that they are more likely to offer cash back (such as 5-10% back at select merchants) than points.
Spending WF Go Far Rewards
Now, onto the fun part! By now you’ve hopefully amassed a ton of points from taking advantage of a record high sign-up bonus and spent the maximum allowable amount in bonus categories on your Visa Signature card, and are eager to redeem all that hand work for a first class ticket. Not so fast – there are some additional quirks to note. Let’s begin with another spreadsheet, delineating what each GFR Point is worth:
You can see that the majority of the points are created equal on the redemption side with the exception of the Visa Signature card, which increases point value by 50% (and matches the rate you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve – a premium car with a 450$ annual fee!) when used to buy airfare. Note that this only applies to tickets bought through the Go Far Rewards Travel portal and not to other travel redemptions, which earn a standard 1 cent per point across the board. If you account for the fact that the airfare booked with either is treated much like any other ticket that you purchase and earns both award miles and award dollars from the carrier, you get more than 1.5 cents in value. Your ultimate value will vary slightly based on how many extra miles you earn but it’s only fair to account for them when figuring out the true net redemption value that you receive. However, it is also possible to inadvertently book basic economy fares, especially with the Travel Center, which may negate any of the above additional mile-earning benefits, depending on the carrier (looking at you, United!), and may come with nasty surprises such as inability to select a seat without paying extra. My advice for this is to always double check the fare code of the ticket you purchased with points and reference these with the fare codes for your carrier; if you risk getting stuck in basic economy, you have 24 hours to change or cancel your purchase.
Another travel redemption benefit is the ability to buy car rental certificates with GFR points. The rates on these vary and the certificates can be redeemed at any time – it is, thus, possible to exceed 1 cent per point during peak times when fares are high, bu the general value for this is around 1 cent on most occasions. Statement credits and cash back can also be obtained at the same 1 cent rate but come with the caveat that you can only redeem points in 25$/2500 point increments. Beyond travel and statement credits, WF lets you use points for gift cards at the same flat value of 1 cent per point, which is a nice change of pace from many other issues, who try to game their rewards value with these transactions. Finally, WF allows you to buy theme park certificates (such as Disney World and Universal Studies) and vouchers for spa services and Fairmont hotel stays, but there are typically on the losing value side, generally dipping below 1 cent per point. And that’s about it! While adding some flexibility, overall WF does not offer quite as many opportunities to redeem your points as Citi, but at least they give value points the same (except with cash redemptions!) There are no merchandise purchases, but this is not necessarily a negative given that this option rarely, if ever, yields the highest redemption value.
To finish this section, I will add that WF is fortunately not as stingy as Citi and has not been known to send 1099-MISC forms, characterizing redeemed points as income. That being said, I would still be conservative and avoid excessive redemptions per calendar year as this may change at any time and there is nothing that prohibits them from doing so.
Unlike most other issuers, GFR points do expire, but the date depends on the card that they were earned with. Even after pooling points, the rules that applied to the card with which they were obtained will follow them until they are redeemed or expire. For most products, points are good for 60 months from their earning date as long as your account is current, but this may occasionally vary. Note that closing an account immediately forfeits all your points, unless you have another GFR-earning card, in which case they are transferred to it. If you only have a single card and you close it before redemption or while the redemption is pending but not finalized, you lose everything – there is NO grace period.
WF Go Far Rewards Program Summary
Whew, you made it to the end and now know as much as I do about all the intricacies of Wells Fargo’s Go Far Rewards! I hope this was instructive and serves as a helpful reference guide for you now and in the future. Despite some of this program’s quirks, I think it has a good deal to offer someone interested in a solid cash back card or occasional travel, especially if you are interested in flying, don’t want to be limited to certain airlines, and hold the Visa Signature card. By holding the newly relaunched Propel and Visa Signature cards, you can get 4.5% cash back on dining, travel, and streaming service purchases towards airline tickets with no annual fee, which is huge! Based on everything I’ve covered, I can summarize the advantages and disadvantages of the program in the following:
- Generous 1.5 cent per point value for airfare redemptions with the Visa Signature card
- Purchased airfare qualifies for elite status and additional loyalty earning, increasing the final value of redeemed points
- Value of car rental certificate redemptions may exceed 1 cent per point during peak fares
- Flat 1 cent per point redemption for virtually all other options, including cash back
- Low to no annual fee cards
- No foreign transaction fees on AMEX cards
- Ability to earn extra points and/or cash back by using shopping portal
- No 1099-MISC form for redemptions
- Points expire immediately upon closing card account if you do not have any other GFR-earning products
- Relatively low cash back rate on Cash Wise product, even with time-limited 1.8% mobile wallet spend rate and intro offer on Visa Signature
- No banking relationship or other bonuses offered
- Visa cards comes with 3% foreign transactions fees
- Lack of transfer partners
- Points expire 60 months after their earning date, regardless of transferring between accounts, for most products
- Wells Fargo can be very picky about new card accounts for customers without banking or other existing relationship
Please keep in mind that I did not have time to include any of the additional benefits of having cards with Wells Fargo nor many ancillary benefits, such as included cell phone coverage, in this review. This will follow in the future and is just as important as their Go Far Rewards program in determining whether they are a good fit for you!