Now that Capital One Venture has transferrable points, is the card any fucking good?

Capital One recently surprised everyone and introduced transfer partners for their Venture card, and there great rejoicing across the land, notably among those who get paid to refer Capital One cards. Will I rejoice too? We shall see.

  • The Capital One Venture, which was previously just a glorified 2% cash-back-towards-travel card, now offers points transfers to 14 different airlines.
  • Except for a couple of specific cases, it’s still not as rewarding, either for airline transfers or paying with points, as cards offered by Chase and Amex.
  • So, Venture Rewards are no longer lame. They’re fair, like Citi FuckYou ThankYou points are, and should now be considered flexible points, rather than fixed-value or travel-back points.
  • That makes the hierarchy of flexible points systems, in my world: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi FuckYou ThankYou, Capital One Venture Rewards, Marriott Rewards.

I’ve always been a Capital One Venture hater, because what was great about that card was the marketing, rather than the rewards. “Double Miles. No Blackout Dates.” And then Jennifer Garner or Alec Baldwin gleam at you. Sounds amazing, amirite?

But those “miles” were really points (since they’re not affiliated with an airline), and they’re worth 1 cent each for travel purchases. And, unlike cards from Chase and Amex and Citi, you couldn’t transfer them to airlines and potentially score big on award travel. So if the cash price of a ticket was high, like for international business class, you’d have to use a jillion Venture points. Meh.

In other words, the Venture was just a 2% cash back card for travel. I mean, that’s hardly awful, but once you’ve pocketed the 40K or 50K signup bonus (so, $400 or $500), then you’re paying an ongoing annual fee for 2% back, restricted to travel charges. That might have been plausible when it was introduced, but now you could instead just get an actual no-fee 2% cash back card, like the Citi Double Cash or Synchrony PayPal Cash. Or there are paid 2.5%+ cash back cards like Alliant FCU Signature Visa, or Bank Of America Premium Rewards (2.625%-3.5% when you have $100K+ in holdings at BofA). And there are numerous no-fee cards to complement these, that do even better for certain categories, such as the Chase/Synchrony/Amex flavors of Amazon Prime card (5% back on Amazon purchases for Prime members), and the Barclays Uber (4% back on dining, 3% back on airfare and hotel).

But now Venture Rewards points are transferrable to airlines. (Cue dramatic music.)

As a quick boring recap, the big three of transferrable points are Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Citi FuckYou ThankYou. Of lesser note are Marriott/SPG points, which has ~45 air transfer partners, but, as of a few months ago, too much spending is required to acquire the points. And Barclays briefly came out with a transferrable points card, the Arrival Premier, which had limited transfer partners at bizarre ratios. (And no signup bonus and a high annual fee, not waived first year! Way to sell your shit, smart guys!)

The 14 Venture transfer partners are: AeroMexico, Air Canada/AeroPlan, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Alitalia, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, EVA, Finnair, Hainan, Qantas, Qatar, Singapore. Of these, eight are also available via Amex, six are available via Citi, and two are available via Chase. Finnair and Hainan are unique. I mean, not a bad batch — if you’re patient, you can probably use some of these programs, including for award tickets on partner US airlines (e.g. AeroPlan for United, Flying Blue for Delta, Qantas for American). At first blush, they’re not obviously better or worse than Citi’s partners. And I’d say the same thing as I do about Citi: without a domestic transfer partner, your options, or at least mine, are worse than with Chase or Amex.

The devil is in the details with this shit, and here, it’s the transfer ratio. It’s not awful, but not awesome. At least it’s consistent: 2 Venture points (I refuse to call them “miles”) gets you 1.5 miles in the frequent flyer program of any Venture transfer partner. So, as an example, let’s use a program that every point system transfers into: Flying Blue. With Venture, if you spend $1000, you get 2,000 points, which become 1,500 Flying Blue miles. That’s pretty reasonable. It’s comparable to what you’d get if you only put your spending on a Chase Freedom Unlimited (provided you also had a paid card like a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred to enable transfers).

However, if you’ve got a Sapphire Reserve + Freedom Unlimited combo, you could get 3 points towards dining, travel, transportation, and lodging, rather than 1.5 on everything. So there’s more upside, and all Chase transfers are instant, unlike Venture transfers. In Amex world, you could get 2 points on everything with a Blue Business Plus, which doesn’t even cost anything, and potentially more if you mix in purchases from category spending on paid cards like Everyday Preferred, Gold, or Platinum. So there’s more upside there too. Plus Chase and Amex have domestic transfer partners. Chase and Amex win over the Venture when it comes to transfers.

What about when using points as cash for any ticket? The Venture gets you a flat 2%. In Chase world, a Freedom Unlimited + Sapphire Reserve would get you 2.25%-4.5% (or 1.875%-3% with a Preferred). More upside. In Amex world, a Blue Business Plus will get you 2%, or an Everyday Preferred would get 1.5%-4.5% if you put 30 purchases on it a month. And, again, you could get more by mixing a card that offers higher category bonuses. Multiply these numbers by 1.25 if you have a Schwab branded Platinum card (you can cash out at that rate), or 1.54 if you have a Business Platinum card (limited to one yearly chosen domestic airline in economy, or business class on any airline). More upside. Chase and Amex win over Venture when it comes to paying with points.

The edge that Venture has is that it’s much simpler to collect your 2% towards any travel, using their “Purchase Eraser” to take charges off your bill. To use Chase or Amex points as cash for tickets, then you have to use their booking portal, which a) occasionally has inflated prices and b) creates complication compared to booking directly with airlines and c) is annoying.

Another possible benefit that Venture has, if you frequently purchase overseas, is that the “high non-category earning” cards offered by Chase and Amex (e.g. Freedom Unlimited, EveryDay Preferred, Blue Business Plus) all charge sucky ~3% foreign transaction fees. The Venture does not. If your goal is to get a minimum 1.5 airline miles for every single dollar spent outside of the US, and the transfer partners are good enough for you, and 2% is a high enough return for using points as cash, then the Venture is, I think, your only actual option. Since there is overlap between its transfer partners and those of its competitors, It’s probably even plausible to use the Venture abroad in tandem with a higher category earning card like the Sapphire Reserve, Amex Gold, or Citi Prestige, none of which have foreign transaction fees.

Final word: Venture Rewards is a legit new flexible points currency with decent value. I think it’s not as good as Chase or Amex offers, but it’s comparable to Citi, and better than Marriott.

For me, I’ll pass, not only for the reasons above, but also because Capital One is known to have excessive fraud alerts, to pull all three credit bureaus rather than just one during an application, and to report their small business cards to a personal credit report (not applicable to the Venture, but I don’t like it).

But I won’t spit on the Venture with as much force or phlegm as I did before.

2 thoughts on “Now that Capital One Venture has transferrable points, is the card any fucking good?

  1. JO

    I became interested in the Venture when CapOne added the 10x category for Hotels.com, since I always use Hotels.com for my overseas hotel stays. So, silly me, I applied. Did CapOne care that I had been their customer for years (Quicksilver card and online banking) and had excellent credit? No, they could not care less. Instantly denied. I no longer give a rat’s ass about CapitalOne, and I get better prices at Hotels.com from taking advantage of discounted gift cards and coupons.

    Reply
  2. Ivan X Post author

    @JO: Yeah, I didn’t get into it but in general I dislike C1, based on prior experience of low credit lines compared to others, and reports I’ve read of constantly tripping fraud alerts, poor customer service, pulling all three credit bureaus, and reporting small business cards to personal credit. They are definitely not the bank for me.

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