Travel to far flung destinations with the sign-up bonus on the Capital One Venture credit card.
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Travel to far flung destinations with the sign-up bonus on the Capital One Venture credit card.
(CNN) —  

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Our quick take: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card just brought back its impressive 100,000-mile sign-up bonus, improving even further on a card that already offers a drop-dead simple 2-miles-on-everything earning rate and supports a host of redemption options.

Pros:

  • Simple earning structure: 2 miles for every dollar you spend on everything.
  • Easy to redeem miles for any travel purchase at 1 cent per mile.
  • Expert users can maximize redemptions by transferring miles to 15 airline and hotel partners.
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • One limited bonus category.
  • No introductory rate on balance transfers or purchases.
  • Transfer partner list doesn’t include any of the “Big 3” U.S. airlines.
  • No cell phone insurance.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles — 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, and an additional 50,000 miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.

Best for: Savvy travelers who appreciate simplicity in earning and redeeming travel rewards.

Digging into the Capital One Venture

Keeping up with all the nuanced features, earning rates and redemption options on your credit cards can be exhausting. The Capital One Venture Rewards is ideal for those who appreciate a good vacation, but don’t have the time or drive to treat points and miles as a full-time hobby.

While some credit cards like the Chase Freedom Flex allow you to earn more on certain purchases thanks to rotating bonus categories, keeping up with what’s what may feel like a job unto itself. (If you can feel that prior sentence in your bones, Capital One’s no-nonsense approach is apt to fit your style.)

That said, the Capital One Venture manages to accomplish something that few cards can. Not only does it appeal to those who appreciate simplicity — earning 2 miles for every dollar you spend on everything you buy, and allowing each mile to be redeemed for any travel purchase at a value of 1 cent per mile — but it caters to enthusiasts as well.

And for a limited time through June 30, 2021, Capital One has bolstered the Venture’s lineup of redemption options by adding both restaurant and streaming services to the mix. This includes eligible food delivery services such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates and other popular options — plus delivery ordered directly from local restaurants — while streaming services include Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Disney+, Kindle Unlimited and more.

You’ll get the same 1 cent per mile in value when redeeming this way, and you can use the same “Purchase Eraser” feature that you already use for travel purchases on these additional categories. Simply make an eligible purchase in one of the categories, pay for it with the Venture card, and then apply the miles you have to reduce what you owe on your statement.

Advantages of the Capital One Venture

If you're going to get the Capital One Venture card, now's the time to grab it with a 100,000-mile bonus.
Capital One
If you're going to get the Capital One Venture card, now's the time to grab it with a 100,000-mile bonus.

The Capital One Venture Rewards punches well above its weight. With just a $95 annual fee, this credit card offers above-average earning, an easy-to-understand redemption policy and a growing network of transfer partners for those who enjoy the art of getting crafty with miles in order to eke every ounce of value from each one.

This credit card is renowned for its simplicity. You earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on every single purchase you make, with no limits or thresholds. It’s an excellent credit card for everyday spend, and pairs well with cards like the Chase Freedom Flex (which offers rotating bonus categories) or The Platinum Card® from American Express (which offers extensive travel benefits and an industry-leading 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or via amextravel.com, and on prepaid hotel bookings via amextravel.com).

Related: Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.

The Venture currently offers 100,000 bonus miles to new card holders if you meet two separate minimum spending requirements. You’ll earn 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, and an additional 50,000 miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.

If you complete the entire $20,000 in spending, you’ll also earn another 40,000 miles since the card earns 2 miles for every dollar spent. That’s a total of 140,000 miles, worth a whopping $1,400 if you utilize those miles on travel purchases (or food delivery and streaming services from now through June 30, 2021), but potentially even more with the right transfer partner strategy.

Each mile you earn with the Venture can be redeemed for any travel booking you make with the card at a value of 1 cent per mile, as well as food delivery and streaming services from now until June 30. You can even redeem your miles for just a portion of the purchase and pay for the remainder with the rest of your credit card statement.

There’s no limit to how many miles you can earn with Capital One Venture, and your miles won’t expire for as long as you keep the card open.

Understanding the benefits of transfer partners

If you prefer redeeming your miles by transferring them to airline and hotel partners, the Capital One Venture has that feature, too. Better still, you don’t have to choose one way or the other. You can use some of your miles to redeem with the Purchase Eraser, while transferring other miles to a partner like Wyndham or JetBlue.

In total, Capital One supports mileage transfers to 15 travel partners — 13 airline programs and 2 hotel alliances:

Airline/Hotel Program Transfer Ratio
Aeromexico Club Premier 2:1.5
Air Canada Aeroplan 2:1.5
Air France-KLM Flying Blue 2:1.5
Alitalia MilleMiglia 2:1.5
Avianca LifeMiles 2:1.5
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 2:1.5
Emirates Skywards 2:1
Etihad Airways Guest 2:1.5
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands 2:1.5
Finnair Plus 2:1.5
JetBlue TrueBlue 2:1.5
Qantas Frequent Flyer 2:1.5
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 2:1
Accor Live Limitless 2:1
Wyndham Rewards 2:1.5

As you can see, most of these partners transfer at a 2-to-1.5 ratio, which effectively means that for every dollar you spend on the Venture card, you’ll end up with 1.5 points or miles after you transfer them. The exceptions are Emirates, Singapore and Accor, which utilize a 2-to-1 ratio. Also, keep in mind that while some partners recognize transfers instantly, others take between 1 and 5 business days to process.

Why would you transfer miles instead of redeeming them for your own travel purchases? Because sometimes airlines and hotels sell travel for different rates depending on whether you’re paying in cash or miles. Particularly on high-demand dates and over the holidays, you can often find extraordinary deals when paying for a pricey hotel or airline ticket via transferred miles.

While many airlines and hotel chains have shifted to dynamic pricing systems for mileage awards, there are still deals to be had. And even better, many airlines allow you to use transferred miles to book travel on partners in their own program. It’s one additional logistical layer to consider, but there are plenty of hidden gems to be found if you’re willing to put in the research and effort.

High-end perks on a low-cost card

The Capital One Venture packs a host of other benefits that are typically reserved for cards with higher annual fees. This credit card has no foreign transaction fees and even includes a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit valued at up to $100.

TSA PreCheck is a program that gets you through domestic airport security faster, while Global Entry expedites your re-entry into the U.S. after you’ve traveled abroad. (If you plan to use this fee credit, we’d suggest signing up for Global Entry, as it automatically includes TSA PreCheck as well.)

The Venture also offers solid travel protections, including travel accident insurance, a car rental collision damage waiver, a 24-hour hotline for travel assistance services and $0 fraud liability (meaning if your card is lost or stolen, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges).

You'll be covered for rental car damage when you pay for the rental with the Capital One Venture.
iStock
You'll be covered for rental car damage when you pay for the rental with the Capital One Venture.

Again, you likely won’t be using any of these travel benefits right now, but when planes return to the skies and hotels reopen their doors, they can come in handy as people slowly return to the road.

For a card that bills itself as a travel card, it’s important to note that there’s no lounge access included with the Capital One Venture. You won’t get a Priority Pass Select membership, and you won’t get discounted access to any other global lounge networks. Granted, we don’t expect such luxuries from a card with such a low annual fee, but it’s worth pointing out given the travel branding.

Disadvantages of the Capital One Venture

Lots of other credit cards offer what are known as “bonus categories,” meaning you’ll earn more rewards — either cash back or points and miles — for some types of purchases. For instance, another card might offer 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases. Or you might find cards with rotating categories, where every few months the bonus categories change or can be selected from a menu of categories by the cardholder.

There’s only one bonus category on the Capital One Venture Rewards — you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar on hotels or car rentals, but only when you book them through Capital One Travel. Unfortunately, you likely won’t get elite credit or have your elite benefits honored when booking a hotel through a travel portal instead of directly with the hotel.

And other than that, you’re earning a locked 2 miles per dollar on everything — no more, no less — and that’s the downside of simplicity. So if you routinely make a large number of purchases in a particular category, you may find another credit card that offers a bonus for those purchases is a better choice for you.

Or if you don’t mind carrying multiple credit cards and regularly switching to the best one depending on what you’re buying, you can potentially out-earn the Venture Rewards overall by maximizing different bonus categories on various cards (though the Venture could still be a good “catch-all” card for purchases that don’t fall into any other card’s bonus categories).

Also, while earning 2 miles per dollar is a great everyday earning rate, keep in mind that cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card earn 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — and come with no annual fee at all.

Related: CNN Underscored’s complete review of the Citi Double Cash Card.

So if you’re only going to redeem your Capital One miles for travel purchases and don’t need the other travel benefits of the Venture card, you’re probably better off with a cash back option. But if you’re going to utilize the Capital One transfer partners — even just once in a while — then the Venture card is worth the cost.

One other downside of the Venture card is its lack of cell phone insurance, which is a useful benefit included on some other cards in this category. For example, the no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card offers cell phone protection, along with other Wells Fargo credit cards.

Related: Protect your cell phone from theft or damage with these credit cards.

Finally, a word on the Capital One transfer partners. While we appreciate that the list keeps growing, Capital One’s roster of airline partners are mostly international. You won’t find Delta, Southwest, United or American Airlines here. You can get creative by leveraging partners, but we’d love to see a few US-based carriers added to the list in the future.

Stacking up the Capital One Venture against our benchmark

CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi Double Cash card as our current “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.

Here’s how the Capital One Venture scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark. Red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark, and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.

KEY DETAILS
Citi Double Cash Card Capital One Venture Rewards
Card type Mastercard Visa
Sign-up bonus None 100,000 miles in two spending tiers: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, and another 50,000 miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months after account opening
REWARDS
Earning rate 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay it off) 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel
Redemption value 1 cent (cash back) 1 cent per mile when using Purchase Eraser, 1.4 cents per mile for transfers*
Ease of basic redemptions Easy Easy
Advanced redemption options Can convert cash back to ThankYou points that transfer to 16 airline partners if you also have the Citi Premier℠ or Citi Prestige® Yes, transfer to 15 airline and hotel partners
Quality of advanced redemptions Good Good
FEES
Annual fee $0 $95
Foreign transaction fee 3% None
BENEFITS AND PROTECTIONS
Travel perks None Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
Purchase protections None Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty
Travel protections None Travel Accident Insurance, Secondary Auto Coverage, Lost Baggage Coverage
Other perks None None
INTEREST RATES ON PURCHASES AND BALANCE TRANSFERS
Introductory purchase interest rate None None
Introductory purchase interest length N/A N/A
Standard purchase interest rate 13.99%-23.99% variable 17.24%-24.49% variable
Introductory balance transfer rate 0% None
Introductory balance transfer length 18 months N/A
Balance transfer fee 3% or $5, whichever is greater N/A
* Based on point valuations calculated by frequent flyer website The Points Guy.

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.

Other credit cards similar to the Venture

The Capital One Venture card stands largely alone in the niche it’s created. It’s a low-fee card with a great sign-up bonus, a simple 2x-on-everything earning structure, a host of transfer partners for savvy travelers (or those who graduate to one) and a few perks — like a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit — that are often reserved for cards with loftier annual fees.

If you’re looking for transferable travel points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the granddaddy of the genre. It has the same $95 annual fee as the Venture, but it doesn’t earn nearly as many rewards as the Capital One Venture — it only offers 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Related: 6 reasons to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

But Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to airline and hotel partners at a 1-to-1 ratio, and the Chase transfer partner lineup is more enticing, with United Airlines, Southwest and Hyatt Hotels included on the list. So your choice between the Venture and the Sapphire Preferred might come down to which airlines and hotels you’re more likely to utilize.

To reel in a longer list of luxury travel perks (like airline lounge access and travel credits), you’ll need to look to cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the American Express Platinum or the Citi Prestige® Card, all of which have much higher annual fees of $495 and more. Those credit cards only make sense for people who travel many times a year and can take advantage of the high-end travel benefits on a regular basis.

Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the annual fee?

Should you get the Capital One Venture?

Credit card decisions are highly personal, and the right one for you may not be the right one for someone else. It’s largely based on your expectations, tolerance for complexity and spending habits. Getting a travel credit card right now is an investment in the future, since travel itself will take some time to return to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

But Capital One deserves credit for temporarily expanding its redemption menu to include some key non-travel options, and the bonus of up to 100,000 miles is a terrific value. So if you’re normally a casual traveler that values simplicity in earning and wants to dip your toe into the world of points and miles, the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card ticks all the boxes.

Learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best travel credit cards of 2021.

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