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

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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 when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 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 when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 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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on Chase's
secure website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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on Capital One's
secure website

Signing Promo
earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account openingEnjoy 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
Bal Trans:None
Bal Trans:None
Annual fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
  • 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 Rewards®
  • 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-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value – that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
  • Premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
  • 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 per dollar 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.

Image via iStock.

  • Jackie


    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

    • Barbara Kley Marschke

      No one has mentioned the purchase and travel protection insurance on the Sapphire card. What are those restrictions?

  • 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.

    • Tanner Chung

      Would you give an example to us? With the price you’d find at kayak vs the price you’d found through the chase site on a flight in the distant future and near future. It’d help us know what the difference is.

  • Guest

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

    • Jason

      The annual dividend goes away 12/31/15

  • 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.

    • Tanner Chung

      According to what he says that doesn’t make sense. He says that you can buy travel tickets and apply your points to the statement credit. That means the price of the ticket is entirely under your control.

  • 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.

  • Jonas Johanson

    It’s misleading to say that you earn 2 points per dollar spent. For instance, 50000 miles on the Travel plus card gets you a $800 airplane ticket, but 50,000 miles on the Sapphire card only gets you a $400 ticket. The sapphire card is a total scam.

    • Bob Jones

      But…but… With Sapphire, I can transfer those 50,000 points to United Miles 1:1 and get two round trip tickets (25,000 miles for each ticket). The value of that can easily be $1300 or more. That’s a big win…not a scam.

      • Tanner Chung

        United does a flat rate for round trip tickets?

    • acb550

      I don’t know the Travel Plus Card, but you are wrong about Sapphire. 50,000 miles on Sapphire is not $400. A penny a point would be $500. However, because of the 20% when using rewards, 40,000 pts = $500 ticket, NOT a $400. You get more back that way. 50,000 would be great to get $800. Sapphire doesn’t do that. But I can say you are wrong on the other half. Don’t mislead people, please.

      • Tanner Chung

        If the cards started at 0 bonus points, with the same spending habits and the annual fee which one would come out on top?

        • acb550

          Just depends how you use it. If you had no other card, and didn’t spend much on travel and dining then the Travel Plus is better. If you just do dining and Travel, my guess is Sapphire because you get a 20% discount when you cash in. My comment to the poster above was that he is giving FALSE info on Sapphire. It is NOT 50,000 mile for a $400 ticket. It is 40,000 for a $500 ticket.

          • Tanner Chung

            Doing the math though you have to spend $4222.33 (this includes the extra $25%) just to make up for the $95 annual fee on Chase Sapphire which will take a while to get unless all you do is dining and travel .. very unlikely and with Capital One Venture will will need to just spend $2950 with the $59 annual fee which is more likely since you get 2% on everything.

            You are also subjected to use Chase’s flight search engine to get the 25% which I don’t know anything about since it’s closed. Are the flight prices as low as Kayak? Kayak is an aggregate engine. You’re also limited to partnering airlines. With Capital One you can apply it to any flight purchase that you choose and have the freedom to use something like Kayak.

            With the bonus $500 vs $400. Chase’s annual fee will put it at break even in 6.26 years (first year free) while Capital One it’ll take 7.78 years… meanwhile as I mentioned you’ll be racking in MORE points with Capital One since it’s 2% on EVERYTHING.

            By the end of second year Chase’s bonus becomes $405 and Capital One’s becomes $341. End of the third year Chase is $310 and CO is $282.. etc. You can see that barely after the 4th year starts CO is the better option. In order to end the depreciation you’d have to spend $4222.22 IF YOU ONLY SPEND ON DINING AND TRAVEL in the second year just to cancel it out for Chase and $2950 for CO. That’s ~$1300 more.

            In the scenario that you’re spending $1000 a month anyways you lose ~4 months in the year to gaining points with Chase if you buy only dinners and travel, and only ~3 with Capital One.

            Let’s say you take a $500 flight once every quarter in a normal scenario. With Chase it’ll take you ~ 8 months before you make it up because that’s just more realistic. Capital One is still ~3 months. So Chase you get about 4 months to actually earn a variable amount of points. Capital One you have 9 months to earn 2%

            I still don’t understand aside from the original bonus points why the Chase card is a better card. You’d have to spend a ton just to make it worth ANY points at all or spend all the points and cancel the card.

  • Tanner Chung

    Booking through Chase’s site makes it 25% more does that mean 2% purchases become 2.50%

    Short term, like you said will be worth the bonus points, but long term the annual fee and losing out on all your purchases which are majority NOT travel or dining will diminish your points entirely.

    .. Unless what the guy said below is true, that the 1:1 transfer or miles to some airlines can increase your pay out to $1300 for the bonus points. The example he gave was with United.

    • acb550

      I only use 1 annual fee card. I don’t want to spend more. You can transfer 1:1 and get a lot more points that way. But I don’t fly strictly one airline so that doesn’t work for me. When you book through Chase, the points you cash in become 1.25 cents instead of 1 so the 40,000 points becomes $500. Or you could trade in a penny a point to get statement credit or money (or $400, but you lose out and it is no better than other free rewards cards so why pay for the Sapphire preferred?).

      What I like is that I can combine points with my FREE Freedom card. It has the annoying rotating categories, but if I get 5% back on gas one quarter and 5% on groceries another and so on, I can save a lot of points. Instead of just using the points on my Freedom, I can send those over to my Sapphire. So I earn 5% back on gas. Then I use those points for travel where I get another 20% off and it becomes a very good deal.

      • Tanner Chung

        Oh that’s smart I didn’t know you could transfer the points. But unless you’re hitting the 5% every purchase the annual fee for the Sapphire is still almost double Capital One’s..

        • acb550

          The 20% off travel does it for me. They didn’t have it at the time of the article I guess. And they don’t mention it with Venture either so I don’t know if they have it. I know Barclay’s (free and pay for which I looked at offer 10% back). If I do 1 trip a year I’m looking at least $1000 for me and my family. I save $200 and that doubles the annual fee. The trip pays for the card. If I don’t travel and don’t redeem the points, it is worthless, and I wouldn’t have the card. Take on the 5% and I get money back. And I mentioned in a post below that I they offer online shopping to further help. I haven’t used their portal yet, but I like 123inkjets for ink and they give 15pts to the dollar. Best Buy gives extra. A lot of places I don’t shop at. But there are ones for gift giving: flower shops, Berries, etc. These are all ways to get the points quicker. I go in much more detail on the other thread so I’ll call it here. Point is each person’s needs are different, each card suits different needs. For me, Sapphire fit the bill after a lot of research, more than Venture. For many people, or 1card people, it won’t.

  • Fred

    Hello, I’m trying to figure out what the best card for me is. I currently have a Virgin Atlantic Black Mastercard and use all of my miles to fly Premium Economy from Los Angeles to London and back, which is perfect. However, the only issue is that I hate paying the high fuel surcharges through Virgin Atlantic.

    Most of my purchases are office supplies and postage. I purchase about $10,000-$15,000 in postage a month. I was considering the Chase Sapphire card but it only gives me a 1:1 miles on my purchases. I wouldn’t really be spending a lot of food/travel, so I wouldn’t be taking advantage of the 2:1 bonus.

    Would you recommend I get the Capital One Venture card? I’m not familiar with their booking system, but I’d love to be able to fly from Los Angeles to London (in premium economy or business class) and pay as little out-of-pocket cash as possible.

    Thanks for your help!