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Travel Card Showdown: Capital One Venture Rewards vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture Rewards are both high-profile travel rewards cards for people with excellent credit. We recommend both of them frequently because they’re similar in many ways. Each has its own merits: the Chase Sapphire’s ridiculously good bonus puts it ahead in the short term, but the Capital One Venture wins out in the long run. With its industry-leading rewards rate and low annual fee, this card is a standout for the frequent flier. Nevertheless, the Sapphire Preferred has its own redeeming qualities. The best choice will depend on your time horizon.

The basics

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives 2 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else. It has no foreign transaction fee, and it has an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 The kicker is that it has a bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. And then, 5,000 when you add an authorized user in the first 3 months and they make a purchase. If you use your Ultimate Rewards Points for travel booked through Chase, they’re worth 25% more; plus…

The Capital One Venture Rewards gives 2 No Hassle Miles on all purchases – yes, all of them. That’s like bonus rewards on everything. Like all Capital One credit cards, it has no foreign transaction fee, and its $59 annual fee is also waived in the first year. It offers a lower bonus of Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel, but No Hassle Miles are actually pretty good: they don’t expire, and you can use them to offset any travel expense.

The Chase Sapphire’s ace in the hole: the signup bonus

Normally, the Venture would defeat the Sapphire Preferred easily. But the Sapphire’s got something up its sleeve, the signup bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. That can be worth upwards of $500 if you play your cards right. That’s an impressive jump over the Capital One Venture’s Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel.

On those grounds alone, the Sapphire’s your go-to card in the short term, because you’d have to spend, quite a bit on the Venture to make up the deficit. The bonus offer puts the Sapphire ahead of the Venture (and, truth be told, most other travel cards) if you’re holding the card for 1-3 years.

Capital One’s killer rewards rate

In the rewards department, the Capital One Venture Rewards card reigns supreme. It lets you earn a flat 2% back on all your purchases, which is pretty much the best out there. In terms of long-term value, the CapOne Venture can’t be surpassed: the Sapphire’s best rewards rate is just the Venture’s baseline. The lower annual fee, too, helps it defeat the Sapphire in terms of ongoing value.

Verdict: If you’re holding the card for only 2-3 years, the Sapphire Preferred is your best bet. If you’re looking for a long-term value, then you can’t do better than the Capital One Venture.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardCapital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Signing Promo
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel
Intro APR Promo
Purchase:None
Bal Trans:None
Purchase:None
Bal Trans:None
Annual fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Details
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate RewardsSM
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus Chip and Signature enabled for international travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value — that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want—no blackout dates
  • Miles don't expire and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • 100% free Capital One® Credit Tracker — see your monthly credit score anytime and get automatic alerts

No Hassle Miles vs. Ultimate Rewards Points

How do the cards’ rewards programs stack up? The Ultimate Rewards Points are much more flexible: you can redeem for cash or gift cards at full value. Plus, with the Sapphire, you can make your points worth 25% more if you use them to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Tool. That’s what ups the rewards rate from a base of 1% to potentially 1.25%. You also get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, which earns you an additional 1-20% cash back with preferred vendors.

No Hassle Miles are more restrictive. As far as travel rewards go, they’re near the top: instead of being limited to miles on a specific airline or redeeming in 25,000-point blocks, you can redeem any number of points as a statement credit offsetting any travel expense. So if you rack up $522.98 on hotel rooms, airfare, checked bag fees and minibar food, you can trade in 52,298 miles to make the expenses disappear. Still, you can’t beat the simplicity of Ultimate Rewards’ cash back.

  • Jackie

    Hi,

    Great article! I am leaning toward the Sapphire card, but wanted to ask your opinion first. I am planning a year long, around the world trip beginning Winter or Spring of 2014. Do you think it would be smartest to open the Venture card now, and use it all year long, then a couple of months before my trip, open the Sapphire card and use those points to book airfare for my trip? Then once abroad, which card would benefit me most? Or is it best to choose one card and stick with it for the next 2 years. FYI, I plan on doing the trip cheaply, so hostels and cooking myself over hotels and dining out. Thank you for any advice!!!

    – Jackie

  • Diane Mullin

    Loved your article.
    Please give me your thoughts. I currently have a chase visa signature card-business. I am considering swithing to one of the 2 cards you recommend here or the Venture card that pays you cash back. My experience has been that when I go to book travel thru chase I am paying a slightly higher price and can’t always get the flights I want.
    So, if I am paying more for the travel, then where is the perk in earning more with points versus cash back? It seems like all of the “bonuses” I would get are moot.
    Also, it seems like dealing with the airline or hotels directly are much easier than with chase travel department.

  • Guest

    You never mentioned the 7% annual dividend on the Sapphire. Doesn’t that put Sapphire in front?

  • Chris Ali

    The author also fails to mention that Capital One requires 7500 miles to get $50 cash back while Sapphire only requires 5000 miles to get $50. Winner by a mile is Sapphire. Nice school essay.

  • CDJD

    I read somewhere that with No Hassle Miles, to buy airline tickets, you’d have to have enough miles to cover the top end of the bracket. For example, for flights $150-$350, you’d need 35,000 miles. Meaning that even if your plane ticket was $250, you’d still need to have a full 35,000 miles to purchase the ticket with miles. then for $350.01-$500, you’d need 50,000 miles even for a $400 ticket. Then anything above $600 you could finally just use the 1:1 ratio. Does this sound correct? It’s possible these brackets only apply to certain Capital One cards, but can you verify that this one doesn’t operate that way? Because if it did, that means that you could potentially lose a lot of miles unless you had exactly the right dollar amount for the higher end of a bracket.

  • Jim

    clueless author. CHASE SP is 10 times more rewarding than cap 1 venture card. also chase pulls 1 to 2 bureaus max, cap 1 pulls from all 3 which may not be good for your credit.

  • Dana

    Does the CAPITALONE VENTURE REWARDS CARD have the magnetic chip for added security? I was in Russia during the Olympics with friends and found that only the cards with magnetic chips were accepted readily.