Low-temperature removal of noxious environmental emissions plays a critical role in minimizing the harmful effects of hydrocarbon fuels. Emission-control catalysts typically consist of large quantities of rare, noble metals (e.g., platinum and palladium), which are expensive and environmentally damaging metals to extract. Alloying with cheaper base metals offers the potential to boost catalytic activity while optimizing the use of noble metals. In this work, we show that PtxCu100–x catalysts prepared from colloidal nanocrystals are more active than the corresponding Pt catalysts for complete propene oxidation. By carefully controlling their composition while maintaining nanocrystal size, alloys with dilute Cu concentrations (15–30% atomic fraction) demonstrate promoted activity compared to pure Pt. Complete propene oxidation was observed at temperatures as low as 150 °C in the presence of steam, and five to ten times higher turnover frequencies were found compared to monometallic Pt catalysts. Through DFT studies and structural and catalytic characterization, the remarkable activity of dilute PtxCu100–x alloys was related to the tuning of the electronic structure of Pt to reach optimal binding energies of C* and O* intermediates. This work provides a general approach toward investigation of structure–property relationships of alloyed catalysts with efficient and optimized use of noble metals.