I was a huge fan of the Capital One Venture card for years. It was exciting to “erase” my travel-related purchases. However, after using my 40,000 point sign-up bonus on a flight to Puerto Rico, I never found myself accumulating more than a few thousand points at a time. It didn’t feel worth it to wait to pay for a larger purchase when I could get quickly reimbursed for all my Uber rides.
Fixed-value travel credit cards like the Capital One Venture card allow you to earn points that are generally worth $0.01 a piece. A lot of banks refer to these points as “miles” which connotes frequent flyer miles. This is misleading since airline miles are valued at greater than one cent per point. You will often get a better deal using points or miles from a hotel or airline program. For example, a night at the Hyatt Place Secaucus/Meadowlands in New Jersey often goes for over $200 a night during football season. This would require at least 20,000 points with a travel credit card like Capital One Venture but only 8,000 Hyatt points!
Nevertheless, I still keep a fixed-value travel credit card in my wallet for scenarios such as:
- Uber or cab rides
- Hotels without rewards programs
- Airbnb (or real B&Bs!)
- Domestic or regional flights while traveling abroad
- Train or bus tickets
These cards make it possible to cover pretty much any kind of travel purchase. If you want to make your travel itineraries as inexpensive as possible, consider one of the following travel credit cards: Capital One Venture, Barclaycard Arrival Plus, and Bank of America Travel Rewards.
Capital One Venture
The Capital One Venture card earns 2x points on all purchases with a 40,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The $59 annual fee is waived for the first year. Redeeming points is extremely easy on the app and is the main reason I kept using this card for so long. You can redeem points to cover travel purchases within the last 90 days no matter how small—I once redeemed points for the 50 cents I added to my subway card. Partial redemptions are allowed but you need a minimum of 2,500 points. After the first year, the break-even point to cover the annual fee is about $3,000. If you have enough points saved, you can also book future travel through their booking site powered by Orbitz.
If it weren’t for the sign-up bonus, this card might not be the best choice for travel. It’s essentially a 2% cash back card with redemption limited to travel. There’s nothing wrong with the card, but depending on your travel goals, there could be better options.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is similar to the Venture card on the surface with its 2x points on all purchases and no annual fee for the first year. However, two factors set this card apart: a higher sign-up bonus and 5% miles back from each redemption for future use. The sign-up bonus is currently the highest offer yet at 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in 90 days. This is worth $500 towards travel–$100 more than the Capital One Venture bonus. With the 5% back, you gain an additional 2,500 points worth another $25 towards travel. The bonus 5% back equates to 2.1% back on purchases. Using this valuation, you would need to spend about $4,200 to cover the $89 annual fee after the first year.
The main drawback is that redemptions start at 10,000 points meaning you can only get a statement credit on purchases of $100 or more. You can also get partial refunds of purchases. Partial refunds are done in 2,500 mile intervals. If you want to redeem miles for a $240 purchase (24,000 miles) but only have 23,941 miles, you could get a partial refund of $225 by using 22,500 miles. The redemption period is 120 days which gives you an extra month compared to the Capital One Venture card.
Bank of America Travel Rewards
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card earns 1.5 points per dollar spent. This is a good deal for a no annual fee card; it beats the 1.25 points per dollar spent from the no annual fee Capital One VentureOne card.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards card also boasts a 20,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in 90 days. This is worth $200 in travel. Partial redemptions are also allowed with this card. If you bank with Bank of America, this credit card can be quite valuable. Bank of America Preferred Rewards offers three tiers based on the combined balances of your accounts. Each tier makes your credit card rewards rate more valuable. For example, Platinum clients get an additional 50% bonus so the 1.5 points per dollar inflates to 2.25. It’s not just Barclaycard Arrival Plus vs. Capital One Venture card with this amazing offer!
Bank of America Preferred Rewards Tiers
|Credit Card Bonus
|Points per $ Spent
|20k to 50k
|50k to 100k
I have my name on a joint Bank of America account making this card a good choice for me since I can earn over 2.6 points per dollar spent.
If you don’t currently bank at Bank of America, it’s not worth it to change just for the Preferred Rewards program because you can find better interest rates elsewhere. But for a no annual fee card, 2.6 points per dollar is a great deal.
What card will you pick?
If you’re in the market for a fixed-value travel credit card to cover smaller travel purchases or ones not covered by hotel or frequent flyer programs, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a great choice especially with the 50,000 point sign-up bonus. However, if you are a preferred customer at Bank of America, the Bank of America Travel Rewards card may earn you more points with no annual fee.
What are your experiences with fixed-value travel credit cards?