Credit card showdown: Capital One Spark Cash for Business vs Spark Miles for Business

Apr 2, 2020

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The Spark line of business credit cards from Capital One is built for small-business owners craving rewards for everyday non-bonus spending. The two cards in the family with annual fees — the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business – are solid cards. If you’re debating which one to apply for, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Would I rather have cash to put back into my business or save up for a future travel redemption?
  • How much effort am I willing to put into learning about advanced redemption schemes?

The answers to these questions will help determine which Spark card is best for you. But regardless, both of these cards land on TPG’s current list of best business credit cards and have a lot in common. Let’s take a look.

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Comparison overview

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Annual fee $95 (waived for the first year) $95 (waived for the first year)
Earning rates 2% cash back on all purchases 2x miles per dollar on all purchases
Sign-up bonus Earn $500 after you spend $4,500 in the first three months of account opening. Earn 50,000 miles (worth $700 based on TPG’s valuations and not provided by the issuer) after you spend $4,500 in the first three months of account opening.
Value of rewards N/A 1.4 cent per mile
Employee cards Free Free

Each card charges the same annual fee and waives that fee during the first year of card ownership. Each also comes with authorized user cards for employees for no fee. The biggest difference is in the redemption value, but let’s walk through each of them.

Sign-up bonus

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

The Spark Cash card comes with a $500 cash bonus after you meet the $4,500 minimum spending requirement within three months of account opening. The cash back can be redeemed in the form of a statement credit or a check.

The Spark Miles card earns 50,000 miles after you meet the same $4,500 spending requirement in the first three months. The miles can be used to book travel directly through Capital One, to erase a previous travel purchase made within the last 90 days at a value of one cent per mile or transferred to one of Capital One’s transfer partners.

Depending how you redeem your miles, you could get significantly greater value from them by leveraging transfer partners. That’s why TPG values Capital One miles (bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer) at 1.4 cents apiece, which makes the welcome bonus on the Spark Miles card worth $700. The icing on the cake is that with both of these cards, you’ll also earn rewards while spending your way to the welcome bonus, since you’re getting at least 2% cash back (on the Spark Cash) or 2x miles (on the Spark Miles) for all your purchases. That means after spending $4,500 on regular business purchases, you’ll walk away with 59,000 total miles or $590 cash back.

Right now, no one is really redeeming for travel (and with good reason), but that doesn’t mean you can’t get value from the Spark Miles. Once COVID-19 concerns subside, travel (both for business and pleasure) will resume. Using this time while we’re all at home to rack up miles is a great way to ensure you can indulge in a great redemption once this is all over.

Related reading: Best ways to redeem Capital One miles

Earning rates

For the Spark Cash, you’ll earn 2% cash back on all purchases. That’s a pretty standard return, so you can use this card to maximize non-bonus spending and make out OK. The Spark Miles, on the other hand, earns 2 transferable miles per dollar on everyday business purchases. Since we value Capital One miles at 1.4 cents apiece, the Spark Miles effectively offers a 2.8% return on all spend.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Related reading: Best business credit cards for each category 

Redemption options

Here’s the big difference between the two cards. As mentioned earlier, rewards from the Spark Cash can be redeemed for a statement credit or a check. You can set up automatic redemptions at a set time each calendar year or when you hit a specific dollar figure in earned cash back — very straightforward. You can also redeem for credits for previous purchases or for gift cards — though that redemption option is temporarily on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic disrupting supply.

With the Spark Miles, you can redeem your miles at a fixed value of one cent apiece by booking travel directly through Capital One or erasing a previous travel purchase made within the last 90 days. As with cash back, this redemption method is very simple. If, on the other hand, you enjoy the thrill of finding and booking high-value premium-cabin awards, you could squeeze much more value from your points by transferring them to Capital One’s 15 airline or two hotel partners.

Related reading: How much are transferable Capital One Miles worth? The TPG experts weigh in

Miles transfer to each of the following partners at a 2:1.5 rate, except for Emirates, Accor and Singapore which transfer at a 2:1 ratio. JetBlue has an improved transfer ratio, from  2:1 to 2:1.5. In many ways this lets you think of the Spark Miles card as earning 1.5x partner airline miles per dollar spent.

Program Transfer Time
Accor Live Limitless Unsure
Aeromexico Club Premier Instant
Air Canada Aeroplan Instant
Air France-KLM Flying Blue Instant
Alitalia MilleMiglia Instant
Avianca LifeMiles Instant
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 5 business days
Emirates Skywards Instant
Etihad Guest 24-hour turnaround
EVA Infinity MileageLands 36-hour turnaround
Finnair Plus Instant
Hainan Fortune Wings Club 36-hour turnaround
JetBlue TrueBlue Instant
Qantas Frequent Flyer 24-hour turnaround
Qatar Airways Privilege Club 24-hour turnaround
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 36-hour turnaround
Wyndham Rewards Instant

These transfer partners span all three major alliances and are useful whether you’re interested in long-haul premium cabin travel or multiple shorter domestic flights. For example, you could book a Lufthansa first-class award seat for 116,000 Capital One miles through Avianca LifeMiles or an American Airlines business-class seat to Europe for about 67,000 Capital One miles through Etihad Guest.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)
Transfer your miles to book a seat in business class on Etihad. (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

I know it can seem counterintuitive to apply for a travel credit card during a pandemic that is disrupting travel plans. While TPG is recommending that all readers follow CDC advice and stay home during this time, travel will resume eventually. When figuring out which card you should apply for, look at the long-term value it will provide. If you are a business owner who will travel frequently in the future, it’s still worth considering grabbing the Spark Miles over the Cash—even if you are staying grounded for the time being.

Other benefits

Neither of these cards charge foreign transaction fees, which comes in handy if you will travel internationally in the future. Both cards also come with identical Visa Business benefits, including auto damage and collision protection and purchase protection.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Rental car insurance Primary if the rental is for commercial or business purposes; secondary if for personal reasons Primary if the rental is for commercial or business purposes; secondary if for personal reasons
Lost luggage reimbursement Up to $3,000 per person Up to $3,000 per person
Travel accident insurance $250,000 for common carrier loss-of-life benefit; $125,000 for loss of a hand or foot, sight of one eye, speech or hearing $250,000 for common carrier loss-of-life benefit; $125,000 for loss of a hand or foot, sight of one eye, speech or hearing
Purchase protection Up to $500 per claim and up to $2,500 per year Up to $500 per claim and up to $2,500 per year

With both cards, you can receive custom itemized quarterly and year-end summary reports to help you plan your budget.

Bottom line

If in normal circumstances you lean toward travel spending and are willing to put time into figuring out how to redeem miles for maximum value, your answer is the Spark Miles, a transferable points-earning credit card. Otherwise, the Spark Cash is a cash-back credit card that’s solid for everyday business expenses but won’t get you outsized value when it comes to travel.

Either of these cards could make sense for your business. You’ll just need to judge how you want to collect your hard-earned rewards. If it’s travel rewards you’re after for future redemptions, the Spark Miles would be the no-brainer. The beauty of the card is that it doesn’t force you to make a serious time commitment to benefit from it, because you will earn a minimum of 2% back on every purchase you make even if you don’t utilize the airline transfer partners. However, if you’d rather use your rewards toward putting money back into other business expenses, the Spark Cash might be the better pick for you.

Apply for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business here.

Apply for the Capital One Spark Cash for Business here.

Additional reporting by Mike Cetera, Madison Blancaflor and Jason Stauffer.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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