Shelling out hundreds of dollars in annual fees on premium credit cards isn’t for everybody. We get it.
But there are some great travel credit cards out there that earn lucrative points and miles for less than $100 each year in fees. And two titans in that space are the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – both of which are currently out with some of the biggest welcome bonuses we’ve seen.
We’ll break down these top starter cards to help you decide which one is right for you.
The annual fee on both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture card is $95. And while each card offers additional benefits that can help offset the annual fee, both will cost you $95 out of pocket each and every year you hold the card.
Previously, each of these cards waived the annual fee for your first year with the card – but that has changed. You’ll have to pay the annual fee straight away on both the Preferred and Venture card.
Welcome Offer Bonus
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture Rewards card offer generous welcome bonuses. In fact, they’re better than ever.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Bonus
Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of card membership. You’ll also get a one-time $50 statement credit to use at the grocery store in your first 12 months with the card. This is a limited-time offer!
With such an easy-to-use grocery credit – just pay for your groceries with your Preferred Card and it will automatically reimburse you for up to $50 – that takes care of more than half of your first-year annual fee of $95. And since the Chase Ultimate Rewards Points the card earns are worth at least 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, the bonus is worth at least $1,000 in travel.
Click Here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Bonus
You can earn 100,000 Capital One Venture Miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months of card membership. You’ll earn 50,000 of those miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and the additional 50,000 miles after spending the remaining $17,000 within your first year. This is a limited-time offer!
And since the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2x miles on every dollar you spend, you would end up with 140,000 Venture Miles after meeting the full minimum spending requirement. Since Capital One Venture miles are worth a minimum of 1 cent each, this bonus is worth at least $1,400 towards travel.
Click Here to learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
The point total may be smaller, but the 80,000-point bonus wins on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card wins here. Chase points are simply worth more than Capital One Venture Miles. More importantly, you’ll earn that 80,000-point bonus after spending just $4,000 – a fifth of what it takes to earn the full bonus on the Venture Card.
The points go beyond the big signup bonus. Both card will earn you more points (or miles) for your ongoing spending.
Capital One Venture Card: You will earn 2x Venture miles on all purchases. Considering each mile is effectively worth 1 cent when redeemed towards travel, you are getting a 2% return on all spending with the Venture card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on all restaurant and travel purchases and 1x point on all other purchases. Chase’s definition of travel is quite broad and includes airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges, and highways, and parking lots and garages.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred also earns 5x points per dollar spent on rides with Lyft through March of 2022.
Winner: Capital One Venture Card. Although Chase Ultimate Rewards points are simply worth more, you can’t beat earning 2x miles on each and every purchase with the Capital One Venture Card. You will simply cover more categories with the Venture Card.
Travel Portal Booking
Booking flight deals like those you find here at Thrifty Traveler or with your Thrifty Traveler Premium subscription is one of our favorite ways to use points. And in this category, one of these cards is the clear favorite.
That distinction goes to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card as your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents each when you hold the card. Capital One Venture miles are worth 1 cent each when redeemed towards travel. Here’s an example of how that works.
We recently sent Thrifty Traveler Premium members a deal from twenty-one cities to Fairbanks, Alaska (FAI) this summer starting from $118 round trip – as you can see in this Google Flights screenshot.
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents booking travel through the Chase travel portal, you could book this fare for only 9,440 Chase points. Since Capital One Venture miles are always worth a fixed 1 cent each towards travel, this same flight would cost 11,800 Capital One Venture Miles.
Transferring points to your airline accounts can unlock some serious value. It requires some extra patience and knowledge, but it’s another way to use points. And it’s a big part of the reason why flexible points programs are so valuable.
All told, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to 10 airlines and three hotel brands. And at some point in late 2021, Chase will add the Air Canada Aeroplan program as a transfer partner.
Here’s the full list of Chase’s transfer partners below. As you can see, all of the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners transfer at a 1:1 ratio. This means 1,000 Chase points will get you 1,000 airline miles or 1,000 hotel points – no matter where you are transferring them.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
|Program||Type||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Singapore Air||Airline||1:1||12-24 hours|
|World of Hyatt||Hotel||1:1||Instant|
|Marriott Rewards||Hotel||1:1||2 days|
The Capital One Venture Card added transfer partners way back in 2018, steadily adding more partners and options. Today, you’ve got the option to transfer your Capital One Venture miles to 16 different airline partners and three hotel programs.
But unlike Chase, most of these transfers are at a rate of 2:1.5. This means that for every 2 Capital One Venture miles you transfer, you will receive 1.5 airline miles or 1.5 hotel points. However, Capital One is making strides in closing the gap. Just recently, they announced a handful of new transfer partners and a new 1:1 transfer tier for a handful of transfer partners.
Here’s the full list of Capital One transfer partners.
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Air France/KLM||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles||Airline||1:1||Up to five business days|
|EVA Air||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Qantas||Airline||1:1||Up to five business days|
|Singapore||Airline||2:1||Up to five business days|
|TAP Air Portugal||Airline||1:1||TBD|
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to all of their transfer partners, Chase obviously offers more value when transferring points. We still think that the best way to use your Capital One Venture Miles is by utilizing the Capital One Purchase Eraser.
Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
Getting through airport security and clearing immigration is a breeze if you have either a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership. Considering Global Entry includes a PreCheck membership, that should be an easy choice if you plan on doing any international travel.
Capital One added a credit for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry as a benefit of holding the Venture card way back in 2018. If you charge the membership fee for either program to your Capital One Venture Card, you will be reimbursed the full amount (up to $100) once every four years. Membership in either program is good for five years, so you’re set.
This is a great benefit and one that isn’t offered on many cards with an annual fee below $100.
Since Chase only offers a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit on their premium Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, Capital One’s Venture card is the clear winner here.
Winner: Capital One Venture Card.
Trip & Rental Car Insurance
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards cards have a lot in common when it comes to offering trip and travel insurance. But one card has a slight edge.
Both cards offer similar coverage if an airline loses your bags, though the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s policy is a bit heftier. While Capital One’s policy only kicks in if your bag is lost or stolen, Chase will reimburse you for expenses (up to $100 per day for up to five days) like clothing and toiletries if your bag is delayed for six or more hours.
Both cards offer similar car rental policies as well as trip accident insurance. However, Capital One will only provide primary rental car coverage on rentals outside of the U.S. The Chase Sapphire Preferred provides primary coverage on both domestic and international rentals (with some country exclusions). This gives the edge to the Sapphire Preferred Card.
And finally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers trip delay and cancellation coverage – something the Capital One Venture Rewards card doesn’t touch.
Winner: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
By the numbers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred wins four categories while the Capital One Venture card wins two and one ends in a tie (the annual fee). But it could be an even closer call than it seems.
Every cardholder should weigh these individual categories differently. So at the end of the day, your decision should be based on which categories you value highest.
For example, if you are looking for an affordable way to get Global Entry, the Capital One Venture Card is the obvious choice. But if having the ability to get more value out of transfer partners is more important, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the clear winner.
Both the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are outstanding and tailor-made for beginners with points and miles. While we give the Chase Sapphire Preferred a slight edge overall, though you really can’t go wrong with either.