Why I Don’t Have the Capital One Venture Card

One of the questions I frequently get from friends who are interested in learning how to leverage credit card rewards into great travel opportunities is — what about the Capital One Venture Card?   They either have it, or think they should get it.

It’s not surprising that the question comes up so often.  Capital One has several slick and pervasive ad campaigns  (Hello Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson).

What does the card offer?

2 Venture “miles” for every dollar charged on the card.   Currently, a 40,000 “mile” bonus after spending $3000 within 3 months.   Annual fee of $59, waived the first year.

So what does that mean?  After you’ve spent you will have 46,000 Capital One “miles.  That will get you exactly $460 worth of travel, no more, no less.

If you spend a total of $10,000 on the card in the first year, you will have 60,000 Capital One “miles”  (40,000 from the sign up bonus, and 20,000 from the spend, which is credited at 2 “miles” per dollar. )  This is  equivalent to $600 in travel — no more, no less.

The strong argument in favor of this card is — as Jennifer and Samuel let you know in their very frequent ads — it’s very easy to use those “miles.”  You just book the travel you want, and then apply the “miles” as a credit to your charge statement. No fuss.  Use the miles for travel anytime.

What’s Your Goal?

As with most credit card offers, in order to fully evaluate it, you need to determine your goal.  There are times when the 2 “miles” offered by the Venture card is great.  If you are generally purchasing low cost domestic economy flights, this card is going to be a good deal for you.

But, if you are considering getting into the “points game” you are probably trying to step it up, and enjoy more distant and/or luxurious travel.   You’ve seen the bloggers who travel the world on the cheap, or trip reports from business class and first class travelers who are sipping champagne while reclining in their sky beds.  The Capital One Venture card is not going to help you achieve those goals.

Compare — Can you do better with another card?

For international travel and travel in premium cabins, you will virtually always do much better with a card that offers you points in an airline’s frequent flier program.

For example, if you have 40,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, you can use those miles to fly round trip to Europe in coach class between October 15 and May 15.  That’s a ticket that is most likely worth at least $800 — and probably more, depending on where you are flying. So, in this case, you get twice the value out of your AA points.

Even for domestic coach tickets, Venture is not always your best bet.  Most airlines offer a base round trip coach domestic ticket for 25,000 miles.   This includes transcontinental flights that are usually more than $250.  So if the ticket you are thinking about buying with your Venture miles costs more that $250, you can frequently do better with another points currency.

For business class to Europe, a paid ticket would most likely cost you at least $3000  (and usually much more).  You would need 300,000 Venture miles to get that ticket  (meaning you would need to spend $150,000 on the card.)   But you can get an AA Saver award in business class to Europe for 100,000 AA miles – and you can usually get that with two credit card signups.

So yes, you can do better.   And that’s why I don’t have this card.  It is a good card, and you can get value from it.  But it doesn’t fit in with my goals, so I prefer to use other cards.

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