Why the Capital One Venture card became my first new credit card in almost 18 months
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Whenever I casually mention that I carry 19 different travel credit cards to friends or family members, I inevitably get a variety of shocked reactions. Many of these are based on fundamental misunderstandings related to credit scores (having a larger amount of available credit can actually a good thing), but I’ve enjoyed a ton of value with these cards — and will continue to do so in the future.
That said, the last couple of years have seen me take a drastically different approach to managing my credit card portfolio. While many points and miles enthusiasts frequently apply for new cards (mainly to snag a new welcome bonus), I came to a stunning realization this spring: I hadn’t added a new card to my wallet since December 2019.
There were three main reasons for this:
- Temporary bonuses: A number of my cards launched limited-time bonus opportunities for spending during the pandemic, allowing me (and other TPG staffers) to effectively earn at least 5x points or miles on virtually every purchase.
- Canceled trips: A number of postponed award trips resulted in refunds to my loyalty program balances — which climbed to more than 2 million cumulative points and miles toward the end of 2020.
- Optimal combination of cards: Finally, I felt like I had a truly optimal set of cards in my wallet — including bonuses for dining, groceries, travel, pharmacies, gas stations and everyday spending.
All that changed last week, when I applied (and was approved) for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Here’s why this became my first new card in nearly 18 months.
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The sign-up bonus
For starters, there’s no skipping over the fact that the current sign-up bonus played a large role in my decision. New applicants of the Capital One Venture card will earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
While 50,000 miles is a decent haul, I intend to reach the full bonus — and when you factor in the earnings from the $20,000 in spending it’ll take, I’ll wind up with 140,000 Capital One miles. This equates to $1,400 worth of travel, but it can lead to even more value by leveraging Capital One’s transfer partners (more on that in a moment).
These 100,000-mile bonuses come up a few times a year, and note that the Venture Card isn’t the only one with a six-figure offer right now. However, there was a key difference this time that led me to take the leap.
New transfer options
- New transfer partners: You can now transfer Capital One miles to British Airways, Turkish Airlines and TAP Portugal — with Choice Privileges coming later in the year. I already have access to BA and Choice with other transferable point programs, but Turkish is really appealing. By transferring to Turkish Miles&Smiles, just 10,000 Capital One miles can snag a one-way United flight from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii, while 60,000 can get a one-way, business-class flight from the U.S. to Istanbul (IST).
- A new, 1:1 transfer ratio for select partners: This is even more exciting, as Capital One now has eight transfer partners with a 1:1 transfer ratio (a ninth, Choice Privileges, will be added later this year). This includes very valuable programs like Avianca LifeMiles, Etihad Guest and Wyndham Rewards. When I fulfill the spending requirements for the full sign-up bonus, I’ll have the equivalent of 140,000 points or miles with these select currencies — an outstanding value.
Prior to this announcement, I had always shied away from Capital One due to the fact that transfers were made (at best) with a 2:1.5 ratio. Now, I can effectively earn two points or miles with a number of solid programs for every dollar I spend on the card — opening up a slew of award sweet spots.
I haven’t left the U.S. since November 2019 — the longest stretch in more than two decades. However, when international travel does return, I’ll be glad to have the Capital One Venture card in my wallet. The main reason? It’s good for both everyday spending and for avoiding foreign transaction fees.
In the past, any foreign purchases would go on my Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express® Gold Card. While these are great for travel and dining purchases outside the U.S. (respectively), they’re not great for non-bonus spending.
Unfortunately, my two go-to cards for purchases that fall outside bonus categories — the Chase Freedom Unlimited and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express — both add foreign transaction fees. As a result, I’d swipe the Sapphire Reserve or Amex Gold and earn a measly point for every dollar I spent.
Now, the Capital One Venture card will pick up the slack, boosting my return on everyday spending abroad. This won’t (by itself) get me a premium-class award ticket, but every extra point or mile puts me closer to my next award trip.
Finally, getting into Capital One presents another avenue for diversifying my points and miles strategy. There are some travelers who focus on a single rewards program or loyalty currency, but I firmly believe in spreading the wealth. In fact, I currently have six-figure balances in the following programs:
- Amex Membership Rewards
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (from a canceled Asia trip)
- Singapore KrisFlyer (from my rebooked Asia trip that I then had to cancel a second time)
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Hilton Honors
- World of Hyatt
This offers me an incredible amount of flexibility when it comes time to book. I can transfer my Amex points to ANA or my Chase points to United. I can use my Alaska miles on Emirates or my Singapore miles for its world-renowned, premium-class products. And I have a huge variety of hotel options with Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt.
Soon, I’ll add Capital One to the list and have even more avenues to pursue when I’m booking a trip. Maybe I simply want to redeem my miles for an Airbnb, or maybe I’ll snag a Vacasa vacation rental through Wyndham Rewards. I could also use my Capital One miles to wipe out taxes and fees on an upcoming award ticket, keeping cash in my pocket for an upcoming trip.
As long as you’re not spreading yourself too thin, diversifying your loyalty strategy can be a valuable strategy — and I’m thrilled to add Capital One to my own lucrative slate of programs.
Why I’ve become so selective
Until a couple of years ago, I would apply for between three to five new credit cards every year — and I had been pursing this strategy for a decade. I loved the quick infusion of points or miles from sign-up bonuses, as they frequently funded trips for me and my family to far-flung destinations such as the Seychelles and New Zealand.
However, as issuers continue to tighten application restrictions, I took an inventory of my credit cards — and my philosophy shifted. Not only is it harder to earn these large sign-up bonuses, I also realized that my wallet was just about perfect in terms of perks and spending.
- My Chase Quartet gives me bonuses on travel, telecommunications, office supply stores and pharmacies — plus rotating categories every quarter.
- My Amex Gold earns me 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1x) and 4x points at restaurants worldwide.
- My Blue Business Plus card earns me 2x points on everyday spending (on up to $50,000 in spending each calendar year, then 1x).
- I enjoy extensive lounge access thanks to The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required for some).
- I enjoy automatic hotel elite status and multiple reward-night certificates thanks to cards such as the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (worth up to 50,000 points) and the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (worth up to 40,000 points).
As a result, I decided that I would only apply for a new card when it offered a truly unique value proposition that wouldn’t take away from my existing strategy — and it took almost 18 months for such an opportunity to present itself.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card makes a lot of sense for a wide variety of travelers. The combination of the card’s simplicity and the potential for outsize value even earned it a 2020 TPG Award. However, it never crossed into “must have” territory for me — even with the 2018 addition of transfer partners.
Once I reach the minimum spending threshold, I’ll be 140,000 miles richer and have a versatile new currency added to my rewards portfolio. With travel’s ongoing recovery, this will set me up beautifully for one (or more) post-pandemic trips.
And that’s something to celebrate.
Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.
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