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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 game. 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 that are waived 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||50,000 points|
|Spend Requirement||$3,000 in 3 months||$4,000 in 3 months|
|Everyday Spend Earning Rate||2x||1x|
|Bonus Categories||10x at Hotels.com||2x on Travel and Dining|
|Value of Points/Miles||1 cent each||1.25-2.1 cents each|
|Annual Fee||$95 (waived the first year)||$95 (waived the first year)|
|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||Primary auto rental coverage, price protection, extended warranty protection, purchase protection, trip delay and cancellation insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement|
Both cards offer sign-up bonuses which are quite generous, especially given the fact that you can effectively try out both cards 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. Since this is a fixed-value card with miles worth a flat 1 cent apiece, those 50,000 miles are guaranteed to be worth $500 in travel.
Sapphire Preferred: 50,000 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 $625 in travel, and you can get an even greater return by leveraging Chase’s transfer partners. You’ll also earn an extra 5,000 points when you add an additional user and make a purchase within the first three months. Based on TPG’s latest valuations, 55,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $1,155.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. Although both cards offer 50,000-point sign-up bonuses, the two are not equal, and you’ll get an extra 5,000 points with the CSP by adding an authorized user.
Capital One Venture: Double miles on all purchases with no annual cap — very simple. The one exception to this rule is for Hotels.com bookings. Thanks to a new partnership that runs through January 2020, when you use the card to book hotels at Hotels.com using a special link, 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: Double points on all restaurant and travel purchases, one 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 CSP. Plus, if you stack the Venture’s Hotels.com bonus with the Hotels.com Rewards program, you’ll essentially be getting 20% off hotel bookings, which can provide amazing savings even if you’re not a road warrior.
Both cards allow you to redeem points toward travel, gift cards and cash back, but travel redemptions always provide the best value.
Venture: Redeeming Venture miles is very easy, and unlike transferring points, doesn’t require jumping through any hoops. You can redeem your miles to book new travel, get a statement credit against previous eligible travel purchases, buy gift cards and get cash back. The redemption rate when using Venture miles for travel and gift cards is always 1 cent per point, but the value is cut in half when redeeming for cash. Since the miles have a fixed value, you’ll never need to worry about blackout dates or award restrictions.
Sapphire Preferred: The Preferred really shines when it comes to redemption options. First, you can use your points to book travel reservations at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point through the Chase travel portal. Like with Venture miles, as long as there’s a seat for sale on the flight you want or a hotel room available to reserve with cash, you’ll be able to use your points this way. However, you can get a significantly higher value by transferring them to one of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. You can also redeem points for gift cards and cash back, but you’ll only get 1 cent per point.
Winner: Sapphire Preferred. Since Ultimate Rewards are transferable, the points can be stretched to provide far greater value than Venture miles. Ultimate Rewards consistently maintain their place as the second-most valuable transferable currency (and the third-most valuable loyalty currency overall) in TPG’s monthly valuations. Even if you were going to redeem your points for travel using the Preferred’s fixed-value approach, the points are still worth 25% more than the Venture.
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 you own personal insurance policy at all. The CSP’s travel benefits are also superior — $500 per ticket in trip delay insurance, $10,000 in trip cancellation insurance and $100 per day for up to 5 days in baggage delay insurance. Besides purchase protection, it also includes price protection coverage.
Winner: Tie — The Sapphire Preferred offers superior coverage, but the Venture card is no slouch either, and it holds the distinction of offering a fee credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.
Which One Should You Choose?
Although for many people the Sapphire Preferred is the superior option, it really depends on how you earn and spend your rewards. For instance, if you’re willing to put in some extra time to learn about transferrable points, the CSP will take you a lot further in rewards for everyday spend. But if you prefer simpler redemptions, then the Venture would be a better bet. The Preferred has a slew of redemption options and valuable travel benefits, but the 20% savings on Hotels.com bookings with the Capital One Venture is also huge. And now that the Venture card offers an application fee credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, it’s even more competitive.
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 — just use the Venture card for Hotels.com bookings and the Preferred for all other spend. Plus, between the two sign-up bonuses, you’ll be getting over $1,500 worth of travel without paying any annual fees in the first year.
For more on the Capital One Venture Rewards card:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Review
- FAQs About the Capital One Venture Rewards/Hotels.com 10x Partnership
- How to Redeem Capital One Venture Miles
For more on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Review
- 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred Should Be Your First Card
- Who Should Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred (and Who Shouldn’t)?
New! Earn unlimited 10x miles on hotel stays booked and paid through hotels.com/venture. Pair that with the Hotels.com Rewards program and you'll essentially be getting 20% off of hotel bookings! With the 50,000 mile sign-up bonus you'll be getting the equivalent of $500 and you'll have the flexibility to redeem those miles on any purchase for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more.
- 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; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
- Travel when you want with no blackout dates
- 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