Photo by Teerasak Ladnongkhun/Shutterstock
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?
AFAR partners with CreditCards.com and may receive a commission from card issuers. This compensation may impact the presentation of offers or affiliate links on this site. AFAR does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Our coverage is independent and objective, and has not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are entirely those of the AFAR editorial team.
One of the best credit card offers of the past year is back! For a limited time, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is offering new applicants up to 100,000 miles–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. The bonus miles are worth up to $1,000 when redeemed for travel, but that is just the start.
Before you apply, though, remember that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Venture’s main competitor, also launched its highest sign-up bonus ever last week. Folks who sign up can earn up to 80,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months, plus up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery purchases the first year.
Both are pretty incredible offers. Which one is right for you will come down to the spending requirements of each card and how you hope to redeem your points. Here’s why it might be worth applying for the Capital One Venture right now and how to decide whether to go for it or the Chase Sapphire Preferred instead.
Travel is rebounding, but there is still a long way to go, so you might be hesitant about opening a travel rewards credit card now. But the Capital One Venture is a standout product in the field—namely because it earns two miles per dollar, plus no foreign transaction fees—and offers excellent opportunities to earn and redeem miles, even if you don’t plan to book major trips anytime soon. Here are details on the card.
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. Keep in mind that this offer is only available to new cardholders who have not previously had a Venture account.
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. Simple, right? No need to keep track of bonus spending categories like groceries or gas to make sure you’re getting the most from your card.
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 Capital One Venture, $95 per year. The Venture is also a good card to carry abroad since it waives foreign transaction fees.
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.
Article continues below advertisement
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, however, 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 and redeeming miles against the charge. You get the same value of one cent per mile this way. However, there are more options.
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.
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, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, 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 usual. 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 the Chase Sapphire Preferred is much lower—$4,000 in three months versus $20,000 in 12 months for the Capital One Venture.
In terms of everyday earning, the Sapphire Preferred accrues 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 all purchases, but it’s not the full picture.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with the 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.
Article continues below advertisement
That means cardholders can redeem their points for stays at nearly 16,000 hotels around the world. What’s more, Chase points transfer to all partners 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, saving them an average of $4 to $5 per order on food deliveries.
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 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 in March 2021.
Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips
Please enter a valid email address.
more from afar