Want Travel Flexibility? Consider the Capital One Venture Card

The new sign-up bonus makes this card ideal for people who don't want to be tied to a certain airline or hotel.

Sally FrenchSeptember 22, 2020
Travelers who prefer flexibility should look hard at the Capital One Venture card

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If you like the idea of a travel rewards credit card, but you’d rather not be tied to a stash of airline miles or hotel points for a brand that you have no plans to commit to anytime soon (perhaps a little thing called COVID-19 caused that), then the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be for you.

And the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s new welcome bonus makes it a lot more tempting: Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Of course, spending $20,000 within a year is no small feat (that averages out to $1,667 per month). To hit that spending threshold, you’ll likely find yourself either charging a major purchase — say, a kitchen renovation — to the card, or shifting the bulk of your everyday purchases to your new card.

That said, if you’re looking to shift your spending to one card, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a good pick. While some cards are great in one spending category (e.g., restaurants or gas) but "meh" for earning rewards on everything else, this one is solid all around. Here’s why:

  • You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on almost all purchases. That means no messing around with rotating bonus categories or debating which card to use at the grocery store versus the gas station to maximize rewards.

  • You earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars that you book through Capital One Travel.

  • You earn 5x miles on all food delivery and pickup orders with Uber Eats between now and Jan. 31, 2021.

Can’t spend $20,000 in 12 months? You can still get the first part of the welcome offer. Here’s how the two parts work together:

  • If you hit the $3,000 threshold within three months of account opening, you'll get 50,000 bonus miles.

  • If you hit the $20,000 threshold within 12 months of account opening, you'll get an additional 50,000 bonus miles.

  • If you didn't hit the initial three-month, $3,000 threshold but still hit the 12-month, $20,000 threshold, you'll automatically earn the full 100,000 bonus miles.

Venture miles are perfect for flexible travelers

The concept of earning “miles” on this card is a bit of a misnomer — yet it’s why we like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card for commitment-phobic travelers. Unlike earning miles specific to an airline, Venture miles can be redeemed for any eligible travel expenses. You can also redeem them for cash, though we don’t recommend it due to the lower value you'll get.

In a pre-COVID world, you might have treasured your ginormous hoard of JetBlue TrueBlue or Southwest Rapid Rewards points. But if you’re not getting on a plane anytime soon, then the ability to cover the cost of a night at the Hampton Inn during your road trip might be much more valuable.

Read more about the benefits of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, including a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee credit.

How can Venture miles be redeemed?

Covering already-paid-for travel: The most straightforward way to redeem Venture miles is to use the Purchase Eraser tool to “erase” any eligible travel purchases made in the last 90 days, including purchases with airlines, hotels and even buses. Miles used to erase travel purchases are worth 1 cent each, making the 100,000-point intro offer worth $1,000.

Booking travel through the Capital One Travel portal: The Capital One Travel portal allows you to use miles to book and pay for travel from thousands of hotel, airline and car rental options. Like with the Purchase Eraser tool, your miles are worth 1 cent each.

Transferring miles to loyalty partners: Miles can also be transferred to more than 10 different travel loyalty programs including those from JetBlue, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

This option is hit-or-miss, depending on the current rate at which you can transfer points and how much you value a mile. Airline miles are effectively a made-up currency; though we’ve come up with our own airline mile valuations based on over 2,500 real-world data points, you may find your miles are worth something different based on when and where you travel.

What’s more, Capital One occasionally changes the rate at which you can transfer points. For example, 2 Venture miles could once be exchanged for 1.5 TrueBlue points, but Capital One decreased this to a 2:1 ratio in May 2019 ... only to increase the exchange rate back to a 2:1.5 ratio in February 2020.

Paying for streaming services and ordering delivery or takeout (for a limited time): Venture cardholders can redeem their miles at a 1:1 ratio for eligible restaurant delivery, takeout and streaming service purchases from thousands of merchants through Dec. 31, 2020.

Paying for products on Amazon or buying gift cards: Even if you’re not interested in making any sort of travel-related purchases, you can also use your rewards to pay for eligible products on Amazon.com or to pay for gift cards from dozens of merchants including Apple, Whole Foods, Walmart and Home Depot.

Rewards can be redeemed via Amazon at a rate of 125 miles per $1 (that’s a value of 0.8 cent per mile). It’s a lesser deal than redeeming for travel, but if you’re skipping the big family holiday this year, then $800 to buy a new iPad so you can Zoom with Grandma is probably more valuable than a million airline miles you won’t use anyway.

Claiming cash back: We typically don’t recommend this option, as miles are worth only 0.5 cent each if redeemed for cash back.

How does the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offer compare to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card?

A similar travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card increased its welcome offer as well: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash, which makes the intro bonus worth $800 if you prefer straight cash. But if you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal for travel as noted above, points are worth 1.25 cents each, making the intro offer worth $1,000.

Here's how the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card welcome offers compare:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Welcome offer

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Value of rewards when redeemed for cash

$800

$500

Value of rewards when redeemed for travel

$1,000

$1,000

Value of rewards earned on $20,000 in general spending, when redeemed for travel

$250

$400

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer shakes out to be worth the same (when redeemed for travel) as the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s offer. The big difference is that you’ll have to spend a hefty $4,000 in just three months, while the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card gives you a longer time frame to meet the (albeit larger) spending requirement.

Where the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card really outshines the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is as an everyday spending card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns just 1 point per $1 spent on general spending (though it offers bonus points in some categories, such as travel and restaurants). Meanwhile, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar on most purchases. If you’re looking for one go-to card in your wallet, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card beats out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

The bottom line

As long as you can smartly spend $20,000 on your credit card in 12 months (and pay it off on time), the new offer on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a swell deal, especially if you’d prefer more flexibility in your travel plans versus being tied to earning points valid only at a specific hotel or airline brand.

And since the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2x miles per dollar spent, it’s an ideal go-to card for everyday spending.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

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