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Many travel rewards credit cards are upping their sign-up bonuses this fall.
Now, the big question: Should you apply for the Capital One Venture or Chase Sapphire Preferred?
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Update: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer mentioned below is no longer available. View the current offer here.
Hot on the heels of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card posting its highest sign-up bonus ever for new applicants, one of its main competitors, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, has upped the ante with an offer of its own. Starting today, the Capital One Venture has a limited-time sign-up bonus worth up to 100,000 miles. New cardholders can earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account, and up to 100,000 miles after spending a total of $20,000 within the first 12 months. What makes that bonus all the more impressive is that the card’s annual fee is just $95. Here’s why you might want to think about applying while the offer lasts.
While travel is still restricted in many ways and fewer folks are out on the road, it might seem like an odd time to apply for a new travel rewards credit card. But the Capital One Venture is a standout product in the field—namely because it earns two miles per dollar, not to mention no foreign transaction fees—and offers opportunities to earn and redeem miles, even if you don’t plan to book trips anytime soon. Here are details on the card and its features.
Twice the miles: The Capital One Venture usually only offers new applicants up to 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. And though this limited-time offer requires a bigger spend ($20,000) to get double the miles, it breaks down to under $1,700 per month, which might be manageable for a lot of folks. Just keep in mind that this offer is only available to new cardholders who have not previously had a Venture account.
Easy earning: One of the things that makes this card so popular among travelers is its easy-to-understand earning structure—it accrues two miles per dollar spent on every purchase. Pretty simple, right? Now through January 31, 2021, though, cardholders can earn five miles per dollar on food delivery and pickup orders through Uber Eats and five miles per dollar on hotel bookings and car rentals made through Capital One Travel.
Low annual fee and no foreign transaction fees: Although several credit cards offer a statement credit toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee worth up to $100 once every four years, few have annual fees as low as the one charged by the Capital One Venture, which is $95 per year. It’s also a good card to carry abroad since it waives foreign transaction fees and when you use it to book a trip.
So how much are those 100,000 miles actually worth? The answer depends on how you eventually hope to redeem them. The good news: Capital One Venture Miles are among the most versatile rewards currencies, especially if you want to put them toward travel.
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Fantastic fixed value: Cardholders can redeem their miles toward travel reservations made directly through Capital One Travel at a rate of one cent apiece, so if you bought a $100 airline ticket, you would need 10,000 miles for it. That puts the value of the sign-up bonus at a cool $1,000. Instead of booking through the Capital One portal, you can also just use your card to purchase travel, such as an airline ticket or hotel stay. Then you have 90 days to decide if you want to redeem miles for it by logging into your account. You get the same value of one cent per mile this way. However, there are even more options.
Partner possibilities: In addition to fixed-value travel redemptions, Capital One Venture Miles can be transferred to 15 airline mileage and hotel points programs. They currently include JetBlue TrueBlue, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Emirates Skywards, as well as all Accor Live Limitless, and Wyndham Rewards, among others. There’s a catch, though. Unlike some other points currencies, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles only transfer at a rate of 2:1 or 2:1.5 depending on the partner. So if you needed 20,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles (another partner) for an award ticket, you would have to transfer 40,000 Capital One Venture Miles into your KrisFlyer account to cover it.
Put them toward TV binges: Aside from travel redemptions and transfers, cardholders can cash in their miles for statement credits toward other purchases. For the most part, you only get a value of half-a-cent per mile this way, so it’s not a great idea. However, through December 31, 2020, Venture cardholders also have the option to redeem their miles for eligible restaurant delivery and takeout as well as for streaming subscriptions from companies like Hulu and Netflix. That gives the miles an extra level of value for the time being. Cardholders can also score gift cards from merchants like Home Depot and Best Buy using miles at a rate of one cent apiece.
The Capital One Venture is a great all-round choice for many travelers . . . but it might not be the best rewards card for everyone. The other notable credit card of the moment is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 80,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening—that’s 20,000 more points than normal for this card. Like the Venture, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee.
If you were to look at those numbers, you might think 100,000 miles sounds better than 80,000 points. But it’s not that simple. First, remember the spending requirement for theChase Sapphire Preferred is much lower—$4,000 in three months versus $20,000 in 12 months. The Sapphire Preferred earns two points per dollar on a broad range of travel purchases as well as dining, including takeout and delivery. Now through March 2022, cardholders can also register to earn five points per dollar on Lyft rides. They earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. That might not sound so great compared to the Capital One Venture, which earns two miles per dollar on most purchases, and five miles per dollar on Uber Eats, hotels, and car rentals for the rest of the year.
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Then we get to the redemption side of the equation. The Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents apiece for travel bookings like flights and cruises made through the Chase Travel portal. So its sign-up bonus is also worth $1,000 redeemed this way. Perhaps more importantly, though, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to 13 airline and hotel partners, including many that U.S.-based travelers might find more useful than Capital One’s transfer options. They include Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, British Airways Executive Club, and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (like Capital One) among others, plus hotel programs including Marriott Bonvoy, the world’s largest hotel company, World of Hyatt, and IHG Rewards. That means cardholders can redeem their points for stays at nearly 16,000 hotels around the world. What’s more, points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, which beats Capital One’s rates handily. So if you’re the type of traveler who likes to redeem miles directly through airline frequent-flier or hotel points programs, you will likely get more use out of Ultimate Rewards points.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred does not include a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit like the Venture, but cardholders who activate by December 31, 2021, can qualify for at least a year of complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership, which can save them an average of $4 to $5 per order on food deliveries. That might be more worthwhile than simply earning bonus miles for Uber Eats deliveries with the Venture. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also extends a superior slate of travel protections—including trip cancellation and interruption, baggage loss and delay, and primary rental car insurance—than those included with the Capital One Venture’s benefits package. If you want a little more security around your travel plans, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better option.
So what’s better, the Capital One Venture or the Chase Sapphire Preferred? The historically high sign-up bonuses currently being offered for both cards make this an even tougher decision than usual. However, as with all things related to points and miles—where programs can change overnight, and credit card offers come and go—your best bet is to diversify the types of points and miles you earn so you have as many choices as possible when it comes time to redeem them.
The Capital One Venture card enables members to rack up miles at a quick clip and easily redeem them at a solid, consistent rate for travel and offers the ability to transfer to various airlines and hotels. For its part, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also has a decent return on spending considering its category bonuses and redemption opportunities. Which product might be better for you, specifically, will depend on three main factors.
First, look at your spending habits to choose the card that will earn you the most points or miles on a regular basis. If travel and dining are two big spending categories for you, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might come out on top, while if you’re more of a generalist, the Capital One Venture might be more attractive. Second, consider which card’s money-saving benefits you can maximize better—will you get more out of Global Entry or from a DoorDash DashPass? Will you be booking travel where the Sapphire Preferred’s travel protections will come in handy or are you staying put for the foreseeable future? Finally, think about the redemption opportunities, including which specific airline and hotel loyalty programs you participate in, and whether you might eventually want to take advantage of either program’s transfer partners. By answering those questions, you should be able to narrow down your choice.
That said, if you can meet the minimum-spending requirements for both cards’ bonuses and the annual fees are within your budget, you might want to apply for both of them while these offers last. That way, you can rack up tens of thousands of points with both programs and have even more choices when it comes time to redeem them.
While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available. This article was originally published September 22, 2020, and was updated November 9, 2020.
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