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Wells Fargo Active Cash Card vs. the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred and the Active Cash are both great choices, but which one is better for you?

CNET'S PICK
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Apply Now

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

9.5/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo's secure website
Intro Offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Rewards rate
2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Welcome offer
Introductory APR
Annual Fee
2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Best for
Welcome offer
Introductory APR
Annual Fee
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Learn More

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

8/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Earn $250 Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
APR
19.24% - 29.99% Variable
Rewards rate
1% - 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more; 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations; 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Rewards
Card perks
6%
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
6%
6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
3%
3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
3%
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations
1%
1% Cash Back on other purchases
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more
Best for
Rewards
Card perks
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is one of the best cards for general spending, while the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express** offers one of the highest cash-back rates available for purchases made at U.S. supermarkets and for select U.S. streaming subscriptions. 

While the two cards go great together, if you have to choose between them, pick the Active Cash. It may not be as rewarding, depending on how much you spend on U.S. supermarket, select U.S. streaming subscriptions and U.S. gas station purchases, but it has no annual fee and also comes with an easier-to-obtain welcome bonus and a longer introductory APR offer. 

If you’re in need of a credit card that earns more rewards on U.S. gas stations and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, however, choose the Blue Cash Preferred. While it carries an ongoing annual fee, the rewards rate is so high your return can essentially quickly cover it. The best choice is to get both cards and use them together -- the Blue Cash Preferred on groceries, gas, transit and streaming, and the Active Cash on other purchases.

Comparing rewards programs

Winner: Blue Cash Preferred

The Blue Cash Preferred earns more rewards than the Active Cash at U.S. supermarkets, select U.S. streaming subscriptions, at U.S. gas stations and on transit. If you’re shopping elsewhere, however, the Active Cash will earn more.

The Blue Cash Preferred earns:

  • 6% cash back (on the first $6,000 spent each year, then 1%) at U.S. supermarkets
  • 6% on select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% at U.S. gas stations
  • 3% on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
  • 1% for other purchases
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit

The Active Cash earns:

  • Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

Here are a few simulated examples of yearly spending with both cards:

Spending examples

U.S. supermarketsSelect U.S. streaming subscriptionsU.S. gas stationsTransitOtherTotal spending
Yearly spending$3,600$300$650$150$1,000$5,700
Rewards from the Blue Cash Preferred$216$18$19.50$4.50$10$268.00
Rewards from the Active Cash$72$6$13$3$20$114.00

However, the Blue Cash Preferred does carry a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). Subtracting that from the total rewards -- $268 -- would make the yearly return $173 after the first year, which is still greater than what you’d earn using just the Active Cash for your spending.

However, the Blue Cash Preferred becomes less valuable the less you spend on groceries, streaming, gas, and transit. Before getting the card, try calculating the potential rewards based on your own spending habits to decide whether it’s worthwhile for you.

The best strategy here would be to use both cards in tandem, considering the Active Cash doesn’t require an annual fee. Use the Blue Cash Preferred where it earns the most and the Active Cash for everything else.

Welcome offer

Winner: Active Cash

Take a look at both credit card’s welcome offers:

  • Blue Cash Preferred: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months.
  • Active Cash: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months.

The Blue Cash Preferred offers the higher bonus, but you’ll also have to spend $2,500 more to reach it. However, you’ll have six months compared to the Active Cash’s three-month limit. That breaks down to an average spend of $500 per month for the Blue Cash Preferred and about $167 per month for the Active Cash.

Considering the Blue Cash Preferred’s welcome offer is only $50 higher than what the Active Cash provides for more than triple the spending threshold, the better bonus is the Active Cash card’s. But, if you can meet the spending requirements with your normal spending, the Blue Cash Preferred’s bonus is slightly more lucrative. 

Introductory APR offer

Winner: Active Cash

While both credit cards feature an introductory APR offer, the Active Cash provides more time to either finance a large purchase or pay down a transferred balance without accruing interest. Take a look at each card’s intro offer:

  • Blue Cash Preferred: 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 12 months from account opening (then 19.24%-29.99% variable).
  • Active Cash: 0% intro APR for purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 15 months from account opening (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR)

While neither card is exactly ideal for a balance transfer (better balance transfer cards offer introductory 0% APR periods of up to 21 months), if you want to pay down some credit card debt, the Active Cash provides a longer intro APR window.

Additional card perks

Winner: Blue Cash Preferred

Here are the additional card perks that come with both credit cards:

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Card perks

Blue Cash PreferredActive Cash
Purchase protection*Cell phone protection on damage or theft
Extended warranty*Visa Signature® Concierge
Return protection*Luxury Hotel Collection
Car rental loss and damage insurance*
Global Assist Hotline
Free ShopRunner membership
Amex Offers
Up to $120 Equinox+ credit annually when you pay for an auto-renewing subscription (up to $10/month statement credit on Equinox+ purchases)
$84 The Disney Bundle credit annually (up to $7/month statement credit after you spend $9.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription; subject to auto renewal)

The Blue Cash Preferred offers far more benefits than the Active Cash, which makes sense considering it carries an annual fee. If you can take full advantage of the Equinox+ and Disney Bundle credits, the value of those statement credits alone can essentially offset the annual fee.

However, the Active Cash does offer a good number of perks for a credit card without an annual fee.

Annual fee

Winner: Active Cash

The Blue Cash Preferred has a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year) whereas the Active Cash has none. Looking at the annual fee alone, the Active Cash is the winner. 

However, in exchange for the Blue Cash Preferred’s annual fee, you earn one of the highest cash-back rates at U.S. supermarkets and for select U.S. streaming subscriptions, plus greater rewards for U.S. gas stations and for transit purchases. It also translates to more card perks.

If you spend $1,600 yearly in the Blue Cash Preferred’s highest rewards categories -- U.S. supermarkets and select U.S. streaming subscriptions -- you’ll earn $96 in rewards, enough to essentially offset the annual fee.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, households spent upwards of $5,000 on groceries in 2021. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a difficult threshold for most people to meet. The 3% cash back on U.S. gas stations and transit also helps offset the cost.

How Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card and Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express compare to other cards

CNET’S PICK
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Apply Now

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

9.5/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Annual fee
$0
APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Rewards rate
2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo’s secure website
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Learn More

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

8/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Earn $250 Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Annual fee
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
APR
19.24% – 29.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% on purchases for 12 months
Rewards rate
1% – 6% 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more; 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations; 1% Cash Back on other purchases
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Apply Now

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card

8.75/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
No current offer
Annual fee
$0
APR
18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Rewards rate
N/A This card doesn’t offer cash back, miles, or points
Apply Now
On Wells Fargo’s secure website

The bottom line

If you’re simply comparing each card by its features, the Active Cash card is more flexible and less expensive while still offering a good introductory APR offer, welcome bonus and competitive rewards. It’s the one to go with if you’re on a budget and looking to earn a solid rewards rate across your spending.

However, if you spend a lot on U.S. supermarkets, select U.S. streaming subscriptions, U.S. gas stations or transit, choose the Blue Cash Preferred. Given the high rewards rates for those categories, the cash back you earn from your everyday spending can quickly cover the $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year). The card also provides a solid selection of additional benefits that, if used to their full potential, can have a value greater than the annual fee.

The best strategy here would be to get both credit cards. Since the Active Cash doesn’t have an annual fee and earns a flat-rate for your purchases, it pairs well with an annual fee card that earns greater rewards in specific categories. Use the Blue Cash Preferred for your grocery, streaming, gas and transit spending and the Active Cash for other purchases to maximize your returns.

FAQs

Generally speaking, a credit card with an annual fee will have higher rewards, a better welcome bonus and more card perks than a card without an annual fee. However, you’ll need to make sure an annual fee fits into your budget, and that you can generate enough rewards from your normal spending to cover it.

A ShopRunner membership unlocks free 2-day shipping from a number of popular merchants.

Purchase protection covers your new purchases against damage or theft for -- depending on your card and issuer -- anywhere between 90 to 120 days, up to a certain maximum amount per account. Check your Guide to Benefits to find out the details of your plan.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, click here

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

**All information about the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Evan Zimmer has been writing about finance for years. After graduating with a journalism degree from SUNY Oswego, he wrote credit card content for Credit Card Insider (now Money Tips) before moving to ZDNET Finance to cover credit card, banking and blockchain news. He currently works with CNET Money to bring readers the most accurate and up-to-date financial information. Otherwise, you can find him reading, rock climbing, snowboarding and enjoying the outdoors.