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Travel Card Challenge: Bank of America vs. Venture

Aug. 16, 2018
Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card are two of the most popular general travel credit cards on the market. Unlike cards tied to a particular airline or hotel chain, these cards give you tremendous flexibility. You book travel however you want, then use your credit card rewards to pay for your trip.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a big sign-up bonus and a higher standard rewards rate for each dollar you spend, but it comes with an annual fee. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has a $0 annual fee, and it offers bonuses for Bank of America® banking customers.

Let’s take a closer look at these cards.

Rewards and bonuses

Looking at these cards’ basic rewards rates, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card flies 33% higher: It gives you an unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on anything. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card gives you an unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent. Each card’s rewards have a value of 1 cent per mile or point when redeemed for travel.

Each card offers a sign-up bonus to get you started off right:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card requires more spending to claim the bonus, but you get a much bigger bonus that will take you more places.

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card does offer additional bonuses, though. You get 3 points for every $1 spent when you book travel through the Bank of America® Travel Center. More significantly, you get a points bonus on every purchase if you’re a Bank of America® customer. If you have a checking or savings account at the bank, you get a 10% bonus on every purchase, for an effective rate of 1.65 points per $1. If you’re enrolled in the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program and have at least $20,000 in combined accounts at Bank of America®, Merrill Edge® or Merrill Lynch®, you can earn bonuses of 25% or more.

See how much you’d earn in rewards based on your own spending and Bank of America® customer status with NerdWallet’s rewards calculator. Calculations assume that you earn the sign-up bonus, and they take into account the cards’ annual fees:

Redeeming rewards made easy

Both cards offer great flexibility for redeeming your rewards. With both, you get the best value by redeeming for travel — either by using your points or miles to book travel through the issuer’s online portal, or by turning your miles into statement credit to offset travel purchases.

The cards offer other options, though typically for less than the full 1-cent-per-point value. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card lets you redeem points for cash back, gift cards or charitable contributions. If you have an IRA, a 529 plan or a mortgage with Bank of America®, you can redeem rewards for contributions to those accounts or a discount on your mortgage origination fee. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has options to redeem for cash back or gift cards.

For both cards, the miles or points you earn never expire, as long as your account is in good standing. There are no blackout dates for air travel, and you can redeem your rewards for all kinds of travel-related spending, including purchases with any airline, hotels, limo or car rental, cruises and more.

Fees and APRs you need to know

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a rarity among general travel cards in that its annual fee is $0. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, on the other hand, has a fee of $0 for the first year, then $95. Frequent travelers never want to pay a foreign transaction fee, and neither of these cards tacks on that fee.

When it comes to APRs, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card will serve you better over the long term if you have excellent credit and carry a balance. The ongoing APR is 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. But if you’re looking to make a big purchase, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can give you some breathing room: 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR.

Nerd tip

Carrying a balance on a rewards credit card results in interest charges that can exceed the value of the rewards you earn. If you’re going to be carrying a balance, find a low interest rate credit card or a balance transfer credit card. When you can manage to pay off your card each month, consider applying for a rewards card.

Credit card protections

Each card is in the Visa network, so it carries multiple protections that cardholders have come to rely on: $0 fraud liability, security alerts, travel protection for lost or stolen cards, car rental insurance, extended warranty and more perks.

Making the decision

Which card is right for you depends on how much you plan to put on the card and where you do your banking.

With its waived annual fee the first year and its bigger sign-up bonus, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card gets a great head start in terms of value. Beyond the first year, when taking into account the annual fee, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card will offer more value than the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card if you spend more than $19,000 a year.

However, that assumes you’re not a Bank of America® customer. If you are, do the math with our calculator and see where you stand.

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