New hotel partners improve the already-strong Capital One Venture credit card

New hotel partners improve the already-strong Capital One Venture credit card

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. Sometimes we receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Our quick take: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is adding two brand new hotel partners to its transfer roster, improving even further on a card that already offers a drop-dead simple 2-miles-on-everything earning rate, has no annual fee for the first year and supports a host of easy redemption options. It combines effortless earning with an expansive partner list, making it one of our favorite low-fee credit cards for those seeking travel rewards.

Pros:

 

  • Simple earning structure: 2 miles for every dollar you spend on everything.
  • No annual fee for the first year, and a low $95 fee after that.
  • Expert users can maximize redemptions by transferring miles to 17 airline and hotel partners.
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

 

Cons:

 

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

 

Current sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

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

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its “Best credit cards of 2020.”

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 certain credit cards like the Chase Freedom 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 miles — but it caters to enthusiasts as well.

And starting on February 4, Capital One is bolstering the Venture’s lineup of transfer partners by adding its first hotel programs: Accor Live Limitless and Wyndham Rewards. In doing so, Capital One becomes the first and only U.S. credit card transfer partner for both Accor and Wyndham. Plus, in other exciting news, the bank is improving its transfer ratio to JetBlue. Starting February 4, the new transfer ratio will be 2-to-1.5, meaning that 1,000 Venture miles will get you 750 JetBlue TrueBlue points. That’s a 50% increase in the number of JetBlue points you’ll get when you transfer Venture miles going forward.

Advantages of the Capital One Venture

The Capital One Venture Rewards punches well above its weight. With no annual fee in the first year and just $95 a year thereafter, 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.

The Venture currently offers 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months after you open the account. That’s worth $500 if you utilize those miles on travel purchases, but potentially much more with the right transfer partner strategy.

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 (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).

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. No hoops to jump through, no blackout dates to worry over. You simply find the travel you want, pay for it with the card and apply the miles you have to reduce what you owe on your statement. You can even redeem your miles for just a portion of the travel purchase and pay for the remainder with the rest of your credit card statement. It’s a boon for those who aren’t fond of the idea of saving up enough points and miles for an entire vacation.

There’s no limit to how many travel 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 transferring your miles 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 toward any travel, while transferring other miles to a partner like Wyndham or JetBlue.

In total, as of February 4, Capital One supports mileage transfers to 17 travel partners — 15 airline programs and 2 hotel alliances:

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 sometime 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 are shifting 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 annual fees north of $250. 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 will not be responsible for unauthorized charges).

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

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 (not to mention one that costs nothing for the first year), 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. 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 a few 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.

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.

When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. For each criterion, we indicate whether the card is better or worse than our benchmark card, and in what way it differs. 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 typically 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 isn’t waived in the first year and it doesn’t earn nearly as many points 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. But Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to airline and hotel partners at a 1-to-1 ratio, and the Chase transfer partner lineup is somewhat 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.

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. But if you’re 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.

Earning double miles on every purchase means that you can use this card as the only credit card you own. Or if you have a card or two that you use for specific things like dining or advertising spend for your business, the Venture is a great card to use on all your spending that doesn’t neatly fall into a bonus category.

The flexibility in redeeming — cashing miles in at 1 cent per mile for any travel purchases, or transferring for savvier redemptions with 17 airline and hotel partners — allows you to grow your knowledge while providing an easy alternative. With the addition of hotel partners Accor and Wyndham, paired with a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus, it’s a great time to add the Capital One Venture to your purse or wallet.

Learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its “Best credit cards of 2020.”

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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