Shelling out hundreds of dollars in annual fees on premium credit cards isn’t for everybody. We get it.
But there are plenty of travel rewards credit card options 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.
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. But only the Capital One Venture card waives the fee in your first year of card membership. So your out of pocket cost for year one on the Venture card $0.
Winner: Capital One Venture card. Click Here to get more information about this card.
Welcome Offer Bonus
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred & the Capital One Venture Rewards card offer generous sign-up bonuses.
Capital One Venture Card: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. Since Capital One Venture miles are worth a flat 1 cent each, this sign up bonus is worth $500 towards travel.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of card membership. Since Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, the bonus is worth at least $750 in travel.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card earns 60,000 points and they redeem at a higher rate than Capital One Venture miles (more on that shortly).
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. Also, because of Capital One’s new partnership with hotels.com, you will earn 10x miles for every dollar spent on hotel bookings through the site.
When you combine the 10x miles offered by paying with your Venture card through the Hotels.com/Venture portal with the 10% back from the hotels.com rewards program, you will effectively be getting 20% back on all hotel purchases! I don’t know of another credit card or rewards program that can offer that kind of return on spend.
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.
Winner: Capital One Venture card. Although Chase Ultimate Rewards points are simply worth more, the earning rate on all spending is better with the Capital One Venture card. Add in the partnership with hotels.com, you can earn up to 20% back on your hotel stays.
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 featured a Thrifty Traveler Premium deal from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Oslo, Norway (OSL) for $431.40 round trip.
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you could book that fare for 34,512 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Since Capital One Venture miles are always worth a fixed 1 cent each towards travel, this same flight would cost 43,140 Capital One Venture Miles.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Transferring points to your airline accounts can unlock some serious value. All told, Chase points can be transferred to 10 airlines and three hotels brands. Here’s the full list of Chase’s transfer partners below.
|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 in December of 2018. You now have the option to transfer your Capital One Venture miles to 15 different airline partners 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 in the program of your choosing. The full list of transfer partners can be found below.
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Air France/KLM||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Cathay Pacific||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|EVA Air||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Hainan||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Qantas||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Qatar||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Singapore||Airline||2:1||Up to five business days|
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.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
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.
Capital One added a credit for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry as a benefit of holding the Venture card last year. If you charge the membership fee for either program to your Capital One Venture card, you will be reimbursed the full amount once every four years. 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 Sapphire Reserve credit card, Capital One’s Venture card is the clear winner here.
Winner: Capital One Venture card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards card 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 checked luggage, 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.
And finally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers trip delay and cancellation coverage – something the Capital One Venture Rewards card doesn’t touch. Read up on all the cards offering the best travel insurance.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
By the numbers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred wins four categories while the Capital One Venture card wins three. But it could be an even closer call than it seems.
Every cardholder will 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 gain access to the Global Entry program, the Capital One Venture card should be your choice. But if having the ability to transfer your points to partner airline and hotel programs or book travel directly 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, you really can’t go wrong with either.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.