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Which Entry Level Travel Rewards Card Is Right For You?

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We’ve long recommended the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card as a great first travel rewards card for most people, but depending on your priorities and travel habits, it’s worth comparing it to another of our favorites, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

The two cards are remarkably similar on their face, but offer a few key differences that could make one a better fit for your wallet.

Sapphire Preferred - Earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases worldwide, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

Capital One Venture - Earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, and 10 miles per dollar on hotels booked and paid via

For the purposes of a thought experiment, let’s assume you spend $30,000 on a credit card per year, $5,000 of which goes towards dining, and $5,000 of which goes towards travel. We’ll also assume that $2,500 of those travel purchases can be spent at

In this scenario, you’d earn 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Sapphire Preferred, and 80,000 Venture Miles with the Venture. Those raw numbers don’t tell the full story, however, as we’ll get to below.

Sapphire Preferred - You’ll get a 60,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The card also has a $95 annual fee, which is not waived in the first year.

Capital One Venture - You’ll earn a 50,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in your first three months. It also has the same $95 annual fee, though it is waived in the first year.

Let’s assume you would hit either minimum spending requirement. Now, with the same spending scenario outlined above, you’d end your first year with 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (plus a $95 annual fee), or 130,000 Capital One Venture Miles.

This is where things start to diverge a bit more, though both programs offer two basic ways to spend your points/miles on travel.

Transfer Partners

Both programs let you transfer your points to a variety of transfer partners. You can see Chase’s full list of partners here, and Capital One’s list here. It won’t take you long to notice that Chase’s list has more to offer for U.S.-based domestic travelers, where Hyatt, Southwest, and United partnerships make it relatively straightforward to journey around the country.

All of Chase’s transfer partners offer a 1:1 exchange, meaning one Chase Ultimate Rewards point = one airline or hotel point.

Capital One’s partners transfer either at 1.5:1 or 2:1 rates, depending on the program, meaning you’d need to transfer 1,000 Venture Miles to a partner program to net 750 or 500 airline points. That devaluation, combined with Chase’s superior list of partners, is the Sapphire Preferred’s biggest advantage in this showdown.

Direct Booking

Both cards also allow you to spend your points/miles directly on travel with (nearly) any airline or hotel you’d like, though their implementations vary.

Chase offers its own booking portal, similar to using Expedia or Kayak, that aggregates flights, hotels, and rental cars into a single interface. When booking through this portal, your points are worth 1.25 cents each.

Capital One, on the other hand, offers a purchase eraser, which lets you use your miles at a value of 1 cent each to wipe travel (or any other) charges off of your statement.

If you were to use these methods for all of your travel redemptions, your aforementioned 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points would be worth $1,250, and your 130,000 Venture Miles would be worth $1,300.

Both cards have broadly similar protections for lost luggage and canceled travel, and both offer extended warranty protection on purchases. But the Sapphire Preferred has two unique benefits worth noting, and the Venture card has one of its own.

When you book a rental car with the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll be protected with primary rental car insurance, which in the event of an accident would be the first insurance that your rental car agency would file a claim against. The Venture card, like most credit cards, offers secondary rental car insurance, which helps you only after your own auto insurance policy has been tapped. Hopefully you never need to use it, but this is a huge difference.

Chase also offers trip delay reimbursement if you get stranded due to an airline delay for 12+ hours, or overnight. You can use this benefit to file a claim for up to $500 of reasonable expenses like a hotel room, meals, and toiletries. I even used it to get reimbursed for an emergency rental car to get from Indianapolis to Columbus overnight after we missed a connecting flight.

The Venture card counters these benefits with a TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit of up to $100 every four years. Just put the application fee on the card, and the charge will be erased from your statement. Lots of higher end cards offer this benefit, but it’s pretty rare for one with this low an annual fee.

The Capital One Venture card makes it easy to rack up points, and could be insanely lucrative for anyone that books a lot of hotel stays through The Sapphire Preferred punches back though with superior transfer partners, and better travel insurance offerings.

Personally, I give the edge to the Sapphire Preferred, mostly because I like to fly on Southwest and stay with Hyatt. But it’s a close enough fight that you could make a strong argument for either card, and the right one for you will depend on your own unique circumstances.

What’s your take? Which card is in your wallet, and why? Let us know in the comments.

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Shep McAllister

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