Discover it vs. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card: Credit Showdown
The battle of the cash-back rewards cards starring Discover it and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card. Which one is the best bang for your buck? Which one works for the way you spend money? Find out the answers to all of these questions and more.
The Discover it card offers more bang for your buck
While both the Discover it and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express cards offer decent cash back rewards, you can reap higher savings using the Discover it.
But keep in mind, you'll have to take the time to stay on top of what is on offer in the changing quarterly rewards program's bonus deals.
Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex offers a juicy sign-up bonus of 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months.
Discover it will match every point you have earned throughout your first year of opening your account.
That, along with 0% introductory APR for 14 months, makes the Discover it the card with the most bang for your buck, especially if you plan on buying some big-ticket items in the first year and can pay them down before the standard APR kicks in.
The Strengths and Weaknesses
The Discover it has strong cash back bonuses and its points don't expire. It's perfect for those who love to shop
Besides being a fantastic shopping companion, you can get some super discounts and accrue points by using the Discover Bonus Points Program.
Plus, the 0% APR for 14 months is a great to buy your big ticket items in the first year while Discover matches your spend with points over the first 12 months.
Matches your points at the end of 1st year. Discover will match point-for-point all the non-bonus rewards you accrue over the first 12 months after you open your account.
Redeem any amount of cash-back points at any time. Redeem any amount over 1 cent whenever you want.
Get 5% cash back at qualifying merchants. Quarterly, rotating categories allow you to earn 5% cash back rewards on purchases.
0% APR for both purchases and balance transfers. Accrue no interest for the first 14 months of opening your account.
Points do not expire. Even if you cancel your card, Discover will credit outstanding points to your account.
Exclusive U.S.-based call center with 24/7 service. Discover's customer service is reputable and has less automated steps before you reach a human.
Security extras to keep your identity safe. Discover monitors your social security number for use on unsafe websites.
You don't have to cancel your card immediately if you have misplaced it. The Freeze it benefit allows you to suspend your card without canceling it in case you find it later.
First late payment fee is waived. Discover will give you one pass on a late payment before the fee kicks.
But the card is not as widely accepted and the 5% bonus requires quarterly activation
Discover cards are not widely accepted. Discover is still not as popular with merchants as other credit cards. If you're planning on traveling abroad, consider at the very least having another card in your wallet.
5% cash back on purchases only works if you re-enroll every quarter. If you do not pay attention to timing, you will lose out on the Cash Back Bonus Program.
The Wells Fargo Propel card offers a 10% yearly bonus on the points you earn along with a decent sign-up bonus
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card offers bonus points on gas and restaurants, as well as travel discounts and benefits.
It's designed for those who are often on the road a lot and are often stopping to eat out.
Introductory 20,000 bonus points. Spend only $1,000 in first 3 months to earn 20,000 bonus points.
Double your points on restaurants and triple your points on dining out. Bonus points for everyday spending.
Relationship Bonus adds an extra 10% on points every year. Your non-bonus points get a nice boost every year.
Great discount airline tickets and travel insurance. You can use combos of points and card to buy airline tickets at discounted prices and travel insurance, which includes lost luggage and rental car insurance coverage.
0% APR for both purchases and balance transfers. Accrue no interest for the first 12 months after opening your account.
You can pool with, or gift your points to, other people. The Go Far Rewards feature allows you to save up for big-ticket items by pooling your points with others.
The Propel card's cash redemption is limited to $25 increments and is plagued by complaints of poor customer service
Points have an expiration date and are forfeited if you cancel your card. Any points you have accrued cannot be used after 5 years.
Notoriously bad customer service experiences. Wells Fargo has been embroiled in an employee sales scandal and is moving more of its customer service centers overseas.
To really make this card work, you must have a Wells Fargo account. You are not qualified for the Relationship Bonus if you do not have a checking or savings account with the bank.
Cash-back redemption is restricted to $25. You can only redeem $25 at a time and only $20 if you are redeeming it in cash out of an ATM.
Read more about Wells Fargo credit cards with this in-depth review.
About the Companies
The retail giant (at the time) Sears helped kickoff the Discover card
In 1985, the Sears Corporation, the largest U.S. retailer at the time, was looking to expand into financial services.
Together with Dean Witter Reynolds brokerage firm and Coldwell Banker real estate company, the companies launched the Sears Financial Network, which featured the first Discover card.
They promoted this new Discover credit card with a television commercial during the 1986 Super Bowl.
The Discover card differed from other available credit cards in the 1980s because it did not charge an annual fee, offered higher credit limits, and innovative cash-back rewards.
Visa and MasterCard sought to erase the new competition by forcing banks that issued those two cards to exclude Discover.
This made the card's expansion difficult, and Sears ended up dissolving its financial services section, leaving the card to Dean Witter Reynolds, later acquired by Morgan Stanley in 1997.
In 2004, Discover sued Visa and MasterCard for damages after the Supreme Court ruled against the policies that restricted banks from issuing Discover cards.
The Discover card then grew into Discover Financial Services ‒ a Direct Banking and Payments company offering credit cards, banking products, loans and payment services. It purchased the Diners Club network for $165 million in 2008.
Discover operates the PULSE ATM/Debit network, Discover Network, and Diners Club International. It is accepted in over 185 countries.
Wells Fargo went from stagecoaches to credit cards
Henry Wells and William Fargo founded the Wells Fargo & Co. in New York in 1852.
The company was a full-service bank as well as an Express service for the rapid delivery of gold, mail, and valuables across the American West.
The Express provided services to pioneer miners, merchants, and ranchers, reaching them by ship or steamer, stagecoach, the Pony Express, or railroad. Wells Fargo & Co. also operated a stagecoach service, carting travelers as well as Express packages to the Western frontier.
As the West became more settled, Wells Fargo opened offices in mining camp settlements, small towns, and growing cities. By 1918, there were over 10,000 Wells Fargo offices in the U.S.
Whose Rewards & Bonuses Are Better?
Discover it offers more cash redemption flexibility
Both cards offer cash back, but only Discover allows you to redeem it at any time and in any amount.
Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex restricts cash back redemption to $2,500 increments (which translates into $25) and only $2,000 if you redeem cash from an ATM.
If you want to use all your points for a big ticket item, Discover allows you to blow them all at one time.
What Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex offers that Discover does not is a great way to pool your points with other people, like family that wants to travel together.
It also allows you to transfer or gift your points to others.
The Discover it Cash Back Bonus Program can be lucrative.
But there is a catch.
The cash back rewards bonus program works by providing different qualifying purchases every quarter of the calendar year.
If you make purchases in the categories offered during the quarter, you can earn 5% cash-back.
Discover's online calendar informs you of what spending categories are offered.
But you won't get the 5% Cash Back Bonus if you don't enroll. Every new quarter, cardholders have to enroll online, through the Discover App or by calling customer service at 1-800-347-3085.
Otherwise, you won't get to see what deals are coming up before you enroll.
Discover Deals purchases give more bonus rewards and discounts. Partner merchants offer savings to cardholders at the point of sale, as well as extra cash-back on bonus points credited within about 10 weeks.
You can check what deals are offered to cardholders on the Discover website, but be warned, the deals come with expiration dates.
Rewards earned with Discover Deals is on top of automatic standard points. For example, if you make a purchase at Apple online, you can earn 5% cash-back bonus.
If Apple online is one of the merchants Discover is offering during the quarterly Cash Back Rewards Bonus, then you will get 10% cash-back.
Not bad, right?!
The Discover Deals categories cover all potential shopping areas. And we mean almost anything — from automotive and groceries to electronics and sporting goods.
An example of a Discover Deal in the Travel category is a cruise vacation in the Bahamas by Atlantis offering 5% cash-back bonus.
Propel offers bonus cash-back rewards on gas and restaurants
Wells Fargo Propel American Express card offers a points system where you earn points that you can redeem for cash, travel, merchandise, or gift cards.
The program allows you to earn 3 points when you use the card at gas stations and 2 points dining at restaurants.
This offer is only available in the U.S.
All other purchases are 1 point per $1 spent.
The Relationship Bonus provides 10% rewards on everything you've earned. As a "thanks for doing business with us," Wells Fargo offers a 10% bonus on the non-bonus points you have earned throughout the year.
That is, if you have a bank account in good standing or a portfolio with Wells Fargo.
For example, say you have a Wells Fargo checking account and spend $5,000 on your card in 12 months (earning 5,000 non-bonus points).
In the 13th month, you will receive 5,500 points.
Upon card approval, Wells Fargo automatically opens you a Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards Program account for you where all of your earned rewards are calculated and kept.
The Earn More Mall provides more ways to earn points. Earn More Mall is similar to the Discover Deals.
It is essentially a portal for merchants who are offering savings and up to 10% more bonus rewards to cardholders online or in the store.
Rewards comparison chart
|Discover it||Wells Fargo Propel American Express|
|Cash Back Rewards||
|Introductory Bonus||Matches all earned cash back at the end of your first year||Earn 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months|
|Cashback Rewards Limits||Quarterly bonus purchases usually have a limit (all quarters for 2017 had a limit of $1,500), but there is no limit to the cash-back points you can accrue||None|
|Cash Redemption||Starting at 1 cent, cash is deposited into your bank account or applied to your Discover bill||
|Earn Bonus Points||
|Do Points Expire?||No, your account is credited your rewards if you close it or has not been used in 18 months||Yes, after 5 years|
|Gift Cards Redemption||
||Currently as low as 2,500 points for a $25 gift card|
|Travel Rewards & Redemption||Earn 1.5 Miles on every $1 spent||
|Other Redemption Options||
How the Benefits Compare
Propel has more benefits for travelers
The Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex also provides comprehensive travel coverage for a non-travel rewards card, including lost luggage and roadside assistance, as well as that one benefit that most consumers want when looking for a credit card — car rental insurance.
Anyone who rents cars often knows that refusing car rental insurance can save you hundreds of dollars, and a credit card that covers this is awesome.
The Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex card also offers cell phone insurance, which is a nice bonus, especially for those who are often on the road.
If you don't travel often but do like to shop a lot, the Discover it card has price protection, which means Discover will refund you the difference if your purchase can be found elsewhere for less or goes on sale right after you buy it.
Discover allows you to freeze your credit card immediately with Freeze it.
This service is great if you have misplaced your card, but don't want to cancel it completely until you know it is gone for sure.
Benefits comparison chart
|Discover it||Wells Fargo Propel American Express|
|Price Protection||Refunds the difference up to $500 on eligible items within 90 days of purchase||None|
|Purchase Protection||Covers eligible purchases up to $500 damaged or stolen within 90 days of the purchase||Covers eligible damaged or stolen purchases within 90 days of the purchase|
|Extended Warranty||Extends existing eligible warranty up to one extra year on warranties of 36 months or less||Extends existing eligible warranty up to one extra year on warranties of 12 months or less|
|Return Protection||Refunds up to $500 on eligible purchases if the original store will not accept your return within 90 days of purchase|
|Cell Phone Protection||None||
|Free Monthly FICO score||FICO score is monitored and can be viewed on your monthly bill.||FICO score is monitored and can be viewed on your online account|
How the Interest Rates Compare
Discover it APR lower than Wells Fargo Propel Am-Ex
Any way you look at it, these APR rates are high, but for a cash-back card with no annual fee perhaps that isn't a surprise.
Before you apply for either of these cards, be sure you can pay the balance monthly once the standard APR kicks in at the end of the 0% introductory offer.
If you do plan to apply for either card, be sure to take advantage of the introductory offer to make your more expensive purchases and pay them down within the time limit.
APR comparison chart
|Discover it||Wells Fargo Propel American Express|
|Introductory APR||0% for 14 months||0% for 12 months|
|Standard APR||11.99% - 23.99% variable||13.99% - 25.99% variable|
|Introductory Balance Transfer APR||0% for 14 months||0% for 12 months|
|Balance Transfer APR||11.99% - 23.99% variable||13.99% - 25.99% variable|
|Cash Advance APR||25.99% variable||24.99% to 26.99%|
Comparing the Costs & Fees
No annual fees are nice for a rewards card
Here is a tip about rewards credit cards: do not use them for balance transfers.
If you take the 3% balance transfer fee and add the balance transfer APR after the 0% introductory offer expires (up to 25.99%), it just doesn't make any financial sense to use these cards this way.
Look for a card with a lower APR to transfer your balance, especially if you know you cannot pay the balance off within the introductory 0% time period.
The fees are about the same for both cards, however, it is a nice bonus to have one late fee payment forgiveness from Discover it.
Both cards do not charge annual fees or foreign transaction fees, which is becoming an industry standard for all credit cards.
In the tight competition for customers, waiving fees has become a good selling point.
Fee Comparison Chart
|Discover it||Wells Fargo Propel American Express|
|Balance Transfer Fee||3% of the amount||Introductory fee: The greater of $5 or 3% of the amount. After, 5% of the amount with $5 minimum|
|Cash Advance Fee||The greater of $10 or 5% of the amount||The greater of $10 or 5% of the amount|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||None||None|
|Late Payment Fee||No fee on 1st late payment, up to $37 after||up to $37|
|Returned Payment Fee||up to $37||up to $37|
Who Shines in Customer Service
Discover boasts U.S.-based service while Wells Fargo does not
Customer service experiences in the financial services industry have been notoriously frustrating for customers, but there has been a big turnaround in the last couple of years.
With the advent of non-bank online financial services, there is a real push to refocus on providing customers with solid, valuable customer services.
Discover's customer service is reputable. It boasts a completely US-based customer service department with less automated messaging before you get to speak with a human.
Wells Fargo's reputation for strong customer service is not solid.
The bank and credit card issuer is hiring more overseas call centers in the Philippines and cutting its U.S. workforce.
It doesn't seem like the wisest move since Wells Fargo is still trying to recover from the 2016 fiasco where employees created millions of phony accounts to try and relieve the undue pressure of meeting sales quotas.
That practice has led to a class-action suit against the bank for victims who had accounts, including opening credit cards, opened in their names.
Although Wells Fargo claims the call-centers in the Philippines are only the same size as its US-based centers, it still feels like another smack in the face to American employees.
But Wells Fargo has a physical presence that Discover does not. Discover does not have the 8,000 bricks-and-mortar bank branches that Wells Fargo can boast.
You can walk into a Wells Fargo if you want to discuss your account, rather than be forced to interact over the phone with Discover it.
Still, with the controversy swirling around Wells Fargo, we would take a Discover agent over the phone to dealing with a Wells Fargo employee any day.
What customers like or dislike about these cards
Discover it regularly gets kudos for customer service. Customers really like that they can talk to an actual person on the phone about their card matters.
A customer who had her identity stolen was particularly pleased with Discover's efforts to protect her.
Propel cardholders don't like the $25 limit to redeem cash-back rewards. The limitation every time you redeem is especially frustrating as there are other cash-back cards out there that let you redeem whatever amount you want (like Discover it).
Propel reportedly has unknowledgeable agents. Some don't know enough about the financial products they're selling, while others have even given erroneous information, according to customers.
Those stories always seem to end with being transferred to different departments over and over again.
Key Digital Services
Email and mobile notifications are the new big thing
Both offer activity notifications that are very handy. It's nice to know when a bill is coming up and receive a reminder text.
Wells Fargo offers extensive notifications, as well as the ability to pick and choose the information you want to receive, including real-time credit card alerts and reminders when a credit card payment is due.
Discover offers a notification program as well but the alerts are security-based. You will receive an alert when your social security number has shown up on a risky website that could compromise your identity.
Discover also offers an identity theft prevention service. Discover's Freeze it service, where you can immediately freeze your credit card account if you have misplaced it (instead of canceling) helps prevent fraud and identity theft on your account.
Both credit card issuers offer mobile apps to check balances and pay bills. Wells Fargo also has a text service where you can view your credit card account balance, as well as a mobile website designed for ease-of-use on your mobile device.
Getting Started With These Cards
Discover it or Wells Fargo Propel American Express card both require good to excellent credit scores
Generally, you will not be approved for either of these credit cards if your FICO score is less than 680 for a Discover it card or less than 750 for a Wells Fargo American Express card.
Your chance of getting a Discover it card if your credit score is 680-749 is above average, and your chance of approval for either card if your credit score is 750 and above is excellent.
Both Discover and Wells Fargo will check your credit report at one, two, or all three of the credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Don't understand how the whole credit score thing works? If you want to know more about how credit scores, work, check out our guide — Your Credit Score Demystified.
If you lack the credit score to receive these cards, don't feel too bad.
Credit card issuers require higher scores for rewards cards than other credit cards.
Work on improving your FICO score for 6 months to a year, and then apply so you don't ding your credit report.
The online application for each card is easy and intuitive. Wells Fargo allows you to save your application online before submitting it and finish it later.
Discover lets you choose your card design on the application.
You will need your contact information, your income, and your social security number.
Contact the credit card issuer to check the status of your applications. Discover and Wells Fargo have instant approval, but if you're not approved when you submit your application, you can contact the company to inquire about your application status.
To check the status of your Discover it application, you can go online and fill in a form with your social security number and zip code or call 1-800-347-3085.
You will also be informed of the approval decision by mail within 7-10 business days.
Wells Fargo will supply you with an ID number after you submit your application.
You can inquire about the status of your application using your ID number and calling 1-877-514-3717.
You will be notified of the approval decision by mail within 5-7 business days.
How to Cancel
You lose all your points if you cancel your Wells Fargo Propel American Express, but not with Discover it
It is easy to cancel your Discover it or Wells Fargo Propel American Express card.
You do not have to pay your balance in full before closing your account, but you will be responsible to continue paying the minimum monthly amount until you pay off the balance.
Be aware that Discover will credit your account with any outstanding rewards, but your rewards are forfeited as soon as you cancel your Wells Fargo Propel American Express card.
To cancel your Discover it card, call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683).
To cancel your Wells Fargo Propel American Express card, call 1-800-642-4720 or the number on the back of the card.
How can I get in touch with Discover it?
Payment address: Discover Financial Services, P.O. Box 6103, Carol Stream, IL 60197-6103
Customer service address: Discover Financial Services, P.O. Box 30943, Salt Lake City, UT, 84130-0943
Telephone Customer Service (24/7): 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683), Outside U.S. 1-801-902-3100, TDD 1-800-347-7449
How can I contact Wells Fargo?
What can I use my cash-back rewards for?
Discover it cash back/rewards redemption options include:
- Redeem for cash into your bank account or apply it towards your credit card bill.
- Redeem for gift cards starting at $25, with a bonus $5 for each card.
- Pay at Amazon.com checkout.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express cash back rewards redemption options include:
- Redeem for cash in $25 increments deposited into your Wells Fargo bank account, redeem for cash in $20 increments at an ATM using your Wells Fargo debit card, or request a paper check.
- Redeem for gift cards. Current price is 2,500 points for $25.
- Redeem for discounted airline tickets. Can use a points/card combo to pay.
- Redeem for purchases through Go Far Rewards website.
How does cash back credit work?
Your credit card rebates you a percentage of the purchases you make using the card. For example, if your credit card is offering 1% on purchases and you spend $1,000, you will receive $10 back from the credit card company.
How can I earn bonus cash back points using either card?
Using the Discover it card, you can earn cash back bonus points by:
- Enrolling in the Discover Bonus Rewards Program every quarter to activate your card to receive 5% bonus cash-back rewards by purchasing items up to $1,500 in the offered categories.
- Taking advantage of the Discover Match it introductory offer, where Discover will match your total of non-bonus earned rewards after your first year of opening your account.
- Purchasing items offered through Discover Deals.
Using the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card, you can earn cash back bonus points by:
- Receiving a sign-up bonus of 20,000 cash back points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account.
- Using your card at gas stations and restaurants.
- Shopping at Earn More Mall.
- Points transferred/gifted to you.
What FICO score do I need to be approved?
For the Discover it card, you need a credit score over 680, while for the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card you need a score of 750 or more.
Do the rewards expire on either card?
You must use your Wells Fargo Propel American Express rewards within 5 years or they expire, but the Discover it card's rewards do not expire.
If you have not used your Discover it card in 18 months, your rewards will be deposited into your account as cash.
Do you use either the Discover it or the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card?
How has either card worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.