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 of 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards 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 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 its $95 annual fee is waived the first year. The kicker is that it has a 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards-point signup bonus, and if you use your Ultimate Rewards Points for travel booked through Chase, they’re worth 25% more, so the bonus is worth $500.
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 doesn’t offer a signup bonus, 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: 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Ultimate Rewards Points
Normally, the Venture would defeat the Sapphire Preferred easily. But the Sapphire’s got something up its sleeve: it gives 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points that are actually worth $500 if you redeem them for travel, contingent on spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. That’s an impressive jump over the CapOne Venture’s 10,000 No Hassle Mile signup bonus, a difference of 30,000 bonus points.
On those grounds alone, the Sapphire’s your go-to card in the short term, because you’d have to spend, well, $40,000 in non-dining and travel categories to make up for the deficit. The 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards-point 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.
Nerd showdown: the calculations
Let’s say you spend 10% of your income on dining and travel combined – the bonus categories for the Sapphire. We know that the Sapphire’s a sprinter while the Venture’s a marathoner, but in practical terms, how do you decide? You want to look at the average net rewards of all the years you’ve had the card, spreading the benefit of the signup bonus and waived first-year fee over all the years of the account’s life. We want to find the point where the average benefit of the Venture is higher than the average benefit of the Sapphire. As you spend more and more, the Venture becomes attractive more and more quickly.
|Yearly Spending||Venture Overtakes Sapphire By…|
|$30,000||End of year 2|
|$50,000||Early Year 2|
As you spend more and more, the point where the Venture becomes profitable comes closer and closer. Still, you’d have to spend over $62,500 a year in non-bonus categories to make up for the Sapphire’s signup boost.
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®||Capital One® VentureSM Rewards Credit Card|
|Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months||Earn 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $100 in travel|
|Intro APR Promo|
|$0 1st year, then $95||$0 intro for first year; $59 after that|
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.