Capital One Venture Card: The King of 2% Rewards Cards

(5/5 - 232 Votes)

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The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market today. It’s one of the very few that give a full 2% rewards on all purchases, and comes with a host of traveler-friendly perks. Most importantly, the Venture, like all Capital One cards, has no foreign transaction fee. In addition, it gives concierge service and travel accident insurance. Relative to the other rewards cards out there, which dole out restrictive airline miles or points, charge for overseas purchases or give lower rewards rates, the Venture stands out as the best choice for the most people.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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starstarstarstarstar
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want—no blackout dates
  • Miles don't expire
  • No limit to the miles you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
thumbsupPros
  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee
thumbsdownCons
  • Has annual fee
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel. 13.9% - 20.9% (V) Purchase: None
Transfer: None

The benefits of the Venture Rewards:

  • The Capital One® VentureSM Rewards Credit Card is a Visa card that earns you the equivalent of 2% or more in rewards on all purchases, from the first dollar you spend to the last. The Discover Escape and Starwood American Express have lower acceptance rates.
  • There are no minimum spending requirements and no caps on rewards. The Sam’s Club Discover card eventually earns 2% rewards on all purchases, but you need to spend upwards of $10k before you get there. Similarly, other cards like the Citi Dividend cap rewards at a certain amount per year.
  • The Venture has no foreign transaction fee.This is a charge levied on all transactions made overseas, and usually runs about 3%. If you spend, say, $2,000 abroad in a year, you’ve just saved $60, and wiped out the annual fee based on the F/X savings alone.
  • No Hassle Miles are among the easiest to redeem for 1 cent per 1 mile. Miles show up electronically in your account soon after you make a purchase (no need to wait until the end of the month). You can then redeem them as a credit against travel expenses, whether that’s plane tickets, hotel rooms, gas or rental cars. Capital One is even nice enough to make suggestions as to which statement travel expenses you can offset with your miles. This makes it unlikely that you will end up with un-usuable miles.
  • You can also redeem miles for more expenses than most other travel cards. If you have, say, an airline credit card and trade 15,000 miles for a domestic ticket, you’re still on your own for taxes and fees. Others will require you to fly certain airlines on certain dates, or avoid booking through discount sites like Hotels.com or Kayak. NHM have no blackout dates.
  • No Hassle Miles also don’t expire, as long as your account is active.
  • The Venture is the rare 2% card that has a concierge service.

While we believe the Venture Rewards card is an excellent all-around card, we should also do our due diligence and take a look at the other 2%+ rewards credit cards out there.

The Competition:

The Fidelity American Express comes in three forms: the 529, Retirement Account, and Investment Account. It earns a straight-up 2% on all purchases, which is deposited back into your Fidelity account. The main advantage over the Venture is that it has no annual fee, making it a great choice for lower spenders who don’t travel often and therefore won’t get value out of statement credits against travel expenses or a waived F/X fee. The main disadvantages are that you need a Fidelity account and that, as an American Express, it isn’t accepted everywhere.

The Discover Escape earns 2 Discover Miles per $1 spent at a flat rate. It has a 25k-mile signup bonus (1,000 miles a month for 25 months) but doesn’t waive the $60 annual fee in the first year. This really doesn’t measure up to the Venture, since Discover has a poor acceptance rate, the card’s bonus is spread out over two years, and you pay extra both for the first-year fee and for foreign transaction fees.

The Starwood American Express earns 1 Starpoint per $1 and up to 5 Starpoints when you spend on Starwood Preferred Guest hotels. We value Starpoints to be worth, on average, 2.3 cents apiece (though they range in value from 1 cent to a whopping 5 cents), so the effective rewards rate is 2.3% on all purchases and up to 11.5% at SPG hotels. The annual fee of $65 is waived the first year. The rewards rate is clearly better than the Venture’s, but you get full value only if you redeem for Starwood hotel stays. If you don’t stay often, you’re out of luck. Plus, it charges a foreign transaction fee. It’s an American Express, so you run into the same coverage problems as the Fidelity credit card.

The BankAmericard Privileges probably comes closest to edging out the Venture. Like its counterpart, it pays 2 points per $1 and allows you to redeem for a statement credit against travel expenses. It even has an EMV chip. However, its annual fee is higher, so it’s a tradeoff you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Fidelity AmEx vs. Venture. Winner: Venture

The Fidelity AmEx’s main advantage is that it has no annual fee. When you balance these two factors out, purely mathematically, the Capital One card is better if you hold the card less than 3 years, and is worse if you hold it for longer.

However, the American Express card poses some other disadvantages. First of all, you need a Fidelity Retirement, 529 College Savings, brokerage, or checking account in order to qualify for the card. Second of all, American Express is only accepted at about 5 million merchants in the United States, while Visa is accepted at roughly 9 million merchants. As we mentioned already, the Capital One card also comes with the advantage of having a concierge service, which AmEx does not, and no foreign transaction fee, compared to a 1% fee with the American Express. Other fringe benefits are roughly equal between the two, such as rental car insurance, warranty extension and purchase protection.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Fidelity Amex Winner
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Credit Card
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Sign Up Bonus Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel. diddly-squat  Venture
Annual Fee $59, waived first year $0 Fidelity
Ongoing Rewards 2 No Hassle Miles per $1 spent 2% back into your Fidelity account Tie
Ease of Rewards Redemption Redeem your miles for any travel expense, no limit to the miles you can earn and miles don’t expire. 2% goes into your Fidelity account. Getting the money out might be tricky. Tie
Foreign Transaction Fee None 1% Venture
Acceptance Visa American Express Venture
Concierge Yes No Venture
Fringe Benefits Rental car insurance, extended warranty, purchase and return protection Tie

Discover Escape vs Venture. Winner: Venture.

The Discover Escape is very similar to the Venture, and the rewards program works exactly the same way. The Discover fringe benefits are also pretty shoddy. American Express really blazed the path here, and arguably has the best fringe benefits out of any credit card network. Discover inarguably has the worst. In terms of credit card rental insurance, Discover offers paltry coverage compared to the other three networks, a trend that generally pervades the fringe benefits. And let’s not forget it’s a Discover card, not a Visa, so you may run into acceptance issues.

And because the Venture waives the annual fee in the first year while the Escape doesn’t, you’re losing out on an extra $60.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Discover Escape Winner
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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on Capital One's
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Sign Up Bonus Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel. diddly-squat  Venture
Annual Fee $59, waived first year $60 Venture
Ongoing Rewards 2 No Hassle Miles per $1 spent 2 Discover Miles per $1 spent Tie
Ease of Rewards Redemption Redeem your miles for any travel expense, no limit to the miles you can earn and miles don’t expire. You can redeem miles against statement travel expenses, at a rate of 1 cent per mile. Tie
Foreign Transaction Fee None None Tie
Acceptance Visa Discover Venture
Concierge Yes No Venture
Fringe Benefits Rental car insurance, extended warranty, purchase and return protection Poorer rental car insurance Venture

Starwood AmEx vs Venture. Winner: Depends

The Starwood American Express is potentially the best rewards card, so long as you frequent Starwood hotels such as the W, Sheraton, Four Points, Westin, and the St. Regis. However, the points lose their abnormally high value if you don’t redeem them for hotel nights, because the only 2+ cent redemption options are hotels. When you exchange Starpoints for airline miles, the best you can expect is 1.25 cents per 1 Starpoint, because you can exchange 20,000 Starpoints for 25,000 miles on many domestic airlines. You can also redeem Starpoints for hotel points at many chains, again generally at a lower value than you’d get if you redeem for Starwood. The rewards rate of 2.3% holds if you frequent SPG hotels.

However, we’d much rather have the convenience of being able to use No Hassle Miles to buy the cheapest possible tickets or hotel rooms, and not worry about having to redeem Starpoints at expensive hotels just to get our money’s worth. There is also quite a large difference between a 2.7% foreign transaction fee with the Starwood card, versus a 0% foreign transaction fee with the Venture Rewards. This equals $100 in savings for every $3,704 you spend overseas (and you’ll spend that much in no time if you’re staying at Starwood hotels)!

Finally, the Starwood card has a slightly higher annual fee than Venture, though $6 per year isn’t really much of a consideration relative to the other factors. To conclude, yes, Starwood has a mathematically higher rewards rate, at 2.3% rather than 2% if you redeem for the Starpoints’ average value. But No Hassle Miles are a heck of a lot easier to redeem. Therefore, we’d much rather take our 2% that we can use on any travel expense, and in odd denominations, rather than rack up points that are worth 2.3 cents each, but are difficult to use. Your personal favorite, though, will depend on how often you stay at Starwood.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Starwood AmEx Winner
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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American Express Starwood Credit Card
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Sign Up Bonus Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel. Earn up to 25,000 bonus points: 10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 within the first 6 months of Cardmembership.  Starwood
Annual Fee $59, waived first year $65, waived first year Venture
Ongoing Rewards 2 No Hassle Miles per $1 spent 1 Starpoint per $1 spent. We estimate Starpoints are worth 2.3 cents each. Starwood
Ease of Rewards Redemption Redeem your miles for any travel expense, no limit to the miles you can earn and miles don’t expire. If you want full value, you need to redeem for Starwood hotel stays. Venture
Foreign Transaction Fee None 2.7% Venture
Acceptance Visa American Express Venture
Concierge Yes No Venture
Fringe Benefits Rental car insurance, extended warranty, purchase and return protection Tie
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  • Dan Roberts

    PenFed Platinum Rewards is the best rewards card if you can qualify for it. 5% on gas, 3% on groceries 1% on everything else. No annual and no foreign transaction fees.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Great point, Dan! Anecdotally we’ve heard that it’s nigh impossible to qualify for, requiring beyond-excellent credit.

    • Cash

      How do you feel now about your PenFed crap card?

  • Cash

    2% Priceline Visa is the King of all 2% rewards cards (for those who have it). Not offered anymore. 2% straight cashback or up to 3% cash back if redeemet for name your own price purchases.

  • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

    It’s definitely worth a shot! Different issuer, but I got the Chase Freedom when it had a $200 signup bonus and they upped it to $300 a week later. I called and asked for the $300 bonus, and they said yes.