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Shelling out hundreds of dollars in annual fees for premium credit cards is not for everyone, especially when you’re a beginner to the points and miles world. But if you consider yourself in that boat, it’s not a problem. There are plenty of credit card options that will set you back less than $100 a year and still earn lucrative travel rewards.
Among the top credit cards in this category are the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Both of these cards come with annual fees of $95, although only the Venture Card waives the fee for the first year. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how these two cards stack up in a head-to-head comparison.
Here are the basics of each of these two cards in the major categories:
|Capital One Venture Rewards||Chase Sapphire Preferred|
|Sign-Up Bonus||50,000 miles||60,000 points|
|Minimum Spending Requirement||$3,000 in 3 months||$4,000 in 3 months|
|Everyday Spend Earning Rate||2x||1x|
|Bonus Categories||10x at Hotels.com/Venture||2x on Travel and Dining|
|Value of Points/Miles||1-1.4 cents each||1.25-2 cents each|
|Annual Fee||$95 (waived the first year)||$95|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||None||None|
|Other Benefits||Secondary auto rental coverage, extended warranty protection, purchase security, travel accident insurance and lost luggage reimbursement, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years||Primary auto rental coverage, extended warranty protection, purchase protection, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel accident insurance and lost luggage insurance|
Both cards offer sign-up bonuses which are quite generous — and with the Capital One Venture you can effectively try out the card for a year without paying anything at all.
Capital One Venture: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening. At the very least, you’re guaranteed to get $500 of free travel if you redeem at a fixed value directly through Capital One. However, with airline transfer partners now available, you should get about 1.4 cents of value per Capital One mile, making this bonus worth $700.
Sapphire Preferred: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. Since points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, the bonus is guaranteed to be worth at least $750 in travel, but like the Venture card, you can get an even greater return by leveraging Chase’s transfer partners. If you do so, we estimate that you’ll get about 2 cents of value per Ultimate Reward point, making this bonus worth $1,200. But, if you’ve opened five or more personal cards with any issuer in the past 24 months, you won’t be eligible to get the Sapphire Preferred due to Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card requires an additional $1,000 of spend within the same time frame as the Venture Card, but there are plenty of ways to easily meet the higher minimum spend requirement even if you have low monthly expenses, such as picking up the tab when dining out with friends and purchasing gift cards.
Capital One Venture: 2x miles on all purchases with no annual cap — very simple. The one exception to this rule is for Hotels.com bookings. Thanks to a partnership that runs through January 2020, when you use the card to book hotels at Hotels.com using a special link (Hotels.com/Venture), you’ll earn 10 miles for every dollar spent on the purchase. That’s by far the highest bonus on hotel spend on any credit card in the market today.
Sapphire Preferred: 2x points on all restaurant and travel purchases, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The card’s definition of travel is quite broad and includes expenses like tolls, parking and subways.
Winner: Capital One Venture. Putting aside the value you’ll get for these points (more on that in a moment), the everyday earning rate is better with the Venture than the Sapphire Preferred. Plus, if you stack the Venture’s Hotels.com bonus with the Hotels.com Rewards program, you’ll essentially be getting a 20% to 24% return on hotel bookings, which can provide amazing savings even if you’re not a road warrior.
Both cards allow you to redeem points/miles toward travel, gift cards and cash back — but travel redemptions always provide the best value.
Venture: If it’s simplicity you’re after and don’t want to worry about blackout dates or finding award space, you could redeem your Venture miles at a locked value of 1 cent apiece toward booking new travel through Capital One or erasing a previous travel purchase made within the last 90 days. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the thrill of finding and booking high-value premium cabin awards, you could squeeze more value from your miles by transferring them to Capital One’s new airline transfer partners at a 2:1.5 or 2:1 rate. Since the card earns 2x miles on everyday spend and 10x on Hotels.com, you’re basically getting 1-1.5 or 5-7.5 miles or points with an airline transfer partner for every dollar you spend. Some highlights of Capital One’s transfer partners include Lufthansa business class with no fuel surcharges through Avianca LifeMiles for 63,000 miles one-way, American Airlines business class to Europe through Etihad Guest for 50,000 miles one-way and Alitalia business to Italy through the carrier’s MilleMiglia program for 48,000 miles one-way.
If you’re not seeking travel rewards, you can redeem your miles for gift cards and cash back, but at subpar redemption rates of 1 cent and 0.5 cents per mile, respectively. Or, if you’re feeling generous, you can transfer your points to someone else without any fees.
Sapphire Preferred: Like with the Venture card, points can be redeemed toward travel at a fixed value or transferred. As previously mentioned, if you book travel reservations through the Chase travel portal, points have a fixed value of 1.25 cents each. However, the way to get top value from your points is by transferring them to one of Chase’s airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. We’ve covered tips on maximizing Chase Ultimate Rewards points in depth before, but some highlights include booking top-tier Category 7 Hyatt hotels like the Park Hyatt New York for 30,000 points per night, round-trip transatlantic awards on Aer Lingus for 26,000 Avios on off-peak dates through British Airways and round-trip flights from mainland US to Hawaii on United in economy for 35,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles.
You can also redeem points for gift cards and cash back, but you’ll only get 1 cent per point.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. The card offers more favorable transfer partners, isn’t limited to airline partners and has a better transfer ratio. But depending on your own travel plans, there may be scenarios where the Venture card and Capital One miles would be more valuable.
Venture: Among the features of this card are no foreign transaction fees, extended warranty protection, purchase security and Visa Signature travel benefits such as travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and secondary Auto Rental Coverage. Plus, in June 2018 the Venture card added a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit — this is a perk generally seen on cards with higher annual fees, and it can make a huge difference in speeding up your journey through the airport.
Sapphire Preferred: Since this card is also a Visa Signature, it offers practically the same benefits, but kicked up a notch. Most notably, it includes primary rental car coverage rather than secondary, which means that you can submit claims directly to your card without needing to involve your own personal insurance policy at all. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve’s travel benefits are also superior — up to $500 in trip delay reimbursement if you’re delayed more than 12 hours or overnight, up to $10,000 in trip cancellation and interruption insurance and up to $100 per day for up to 5 days in baggage delay reimbursement if your bag is delayed more than six hours.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. The card offers more extensive travel protections, including trip delay and baggage delay reimbursement. However, the Venture card offers a fee credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application every four years, so this could tip the scales toward the Venture for some travelers.
Which One Should You Choose?
The addition of airline transfer partners to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is really exciting as it makes the card even more competitive with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Although the Sapphire Preferred card technically came out ahead in our showdown, at the end of the day, the superior option for you depends on your personal spending patterns and redemption goals. For example, while the Venture card earns more points on everyday spend, it can be easier to find value through Chase’s transfer partners than with the selection of Capital One partners. The Preferred offers a greater return on travel purchases, but the 20% to 24% return on Hotels.com bookings with the Capital One Venture is also huge.
With that said, you don’t necessarily need to consider the two cards as mutually exclusive. They’d actually serve as great complements if you got both — use the Venture card for everyday and Hotels.com purchases and the Preferred for dining and other travel spend. Plus, between the two sign-up bonuses, you’ll be getting between $1,250 and $1,900 worth of travel while just paying one $95 annual fee in the first year.
For more on the Capital One Venture Rewards card:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Review
- Why the Capital One Venture Rewards Card Now Has a Front Spot in Our Wallets
- 6 Reasons to Get the Capital One Venture Rewards Card
- Capital One Venture Card Offering 50k Bonus, Now Includes Transfer Partners
- FAQs About the Capital One Venture Rewards/Hotels.com 10x Partnership
For more on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Review
- 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred Should Be Your First Card
- 10 Years Later, Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Is Still My Top Rec for Family Travel
- Who Should (and Who Shouldn’t) Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?
- Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred 60K Offer Is a Step Up
Know before you go.
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SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $700
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 10X miles on stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com/Venture + 2x miles on everything else. Miles are now transferrable to over a dozen airline partners
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that