Two popular travel rewards cards are The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® (see terms). I wrote a comparison of these two cards a few months ago, but since then so much about the cards has changed that I figured I needed to write an update.
It used to be that these cards were very similar, though there are now a lot of differences between them, so let’s take a look at those across a variety of categories:
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has a welcome bonus of 70,000 Arrival miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days. I value those points at one cent each, so that welcome bonus is worth $700 to me.
The Capital One Venture has a welcome bonus of 50,000 Venture miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. While Venture miles can be redeemed for one cent each, there are now other ways to redeem them as well. So personally I value the bonus at more than $500, but less than $700.
Winner: While the spend requirement is a bit higher, the welcome bonus on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is better.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has an $89 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.
The Capital One Venture has a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.
Winner: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has the slight edge, by $6 per year, after the first year.
Both cards are marketed as offering “miles,” though in reality only one card earns miles that can be transferred to airline programs. Historically the miles on both of these cards could primarily be redeemed to offset the cost of a travel purchase, though now there’s a new way to redeem Venture miles. So let’s compare the redemption options of the two cards.
Redeeming Arrival miles
Barclaycard Arrival Plus miles can be redeemed exclusively either towards the cost of a travel purchase, or to offset the cost of a travel purchase. They can’t be transferred to any airline partners.
Here are the basics to know about redeeming Arrival miles:
- Miles can be redeemed either to wipe out the cost of a travel purchase within 120 days from the date of the purchase, should you want to book directly with your favorite travel website, travel agent, etc.; alternatively, you can book travel through the Barclaycard Rewards & Benefits Center (though generally I’d recommend just booking direct and using miles to wipe out the cost of a travel purchase)
- You can only redeem for travel purchases of a minimum of $100, and you have to redeem a minimum of 2,500 miles for a $25 credit
- Purchases with the following types of merchants are generally eligible for redemptions (though it all comes down to them having the correct merchant category code): airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, purchase and travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries
Redeeming Venture miles
Capital One Venture miles can be redeemed either towards the cost of a travel purchase, or as of recently they can also be transferred to airline and hotel partners.
First let’s look at the basics of redeeming Venture miles towards the cost of a travel purchase:
- Miles can be redeemed either to wipe out the cost of a travel purchase within 90 days from the date of the purchase, should you want to book directly with your favorite travel website, travel agent, etc.; alternatively, you can book travel through the Capital One Rewards center (though generally I’d recommend just booking direct and using miles to wipe out the cost of a travel purchase)
- There’s no minimum redemption amount, so you could redeem even 100 points for a $1 credit towards a travel purchase
- Purchases with the following types of merchants are generally eligible for redemptions (though it all comes down to them having the correct merchant category code): airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents
On top of that, Venture miles can now be transferred to select airline loyalty programs, including the following:
|Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeromexico (Club Premier)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Air Canada (Aeroplan)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Air France KLM (Flying Blue)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Alitalia (MilleMiglia Program)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Avianca (LifeMiles)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Emirates (Emirates Skywards)||2 : 1 | 1000 : 500|
|Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|EVA Air (Infinity MileageLands)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Finnair (Finnair Plus)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Hainan Airlines (Fortune Wings Club)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Qantas (Qantas Frequent Flyer)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Qatar Airways (Privilege Club)||2 : 1.5 | 1000 : 750|
|Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer)||2 : 1 | 1000 : 500|
So this gives you a lot of flexibility with your points.
Winner: The Capital One Venture wins, for two reasons. First of all, there are no minimums to redeem, and second of all, you also have the flexibility to transfer Venture miles to select airline loyalty programs.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers 2x miles per dollar spent, plus offers 5% of your miles back when you redeem. The way I view it, the card offers a return roughly equivalent to 2.1% on your spend.
The Capital One Venture offers 2x miles per dollar spent. If redeeming Venture miles towards the cost of a travel purchase, that’s the equivalent of a roughly 2% return. Meanwhile the value will vary if you transfer Venture miles to an airline partner, since you can potentially get outsized value.
Winner: This is a toughie. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus wins if you know you’re looking for miles that can be redeemed towards travel, since the return is marginally better (~2.1% vs. ~2%). However, if you value the flexibility of transferring to airline partners, the Capital One Venture wins.
Other card perks
Both cards have some unique perks that some may get value out of.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers Chip & PIN technology, which is great for purchases in Europe.
The Capital One Venture offers a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check statement credit once every four years, worth up to $100. The card also offers 10x miles on bookings with hotels.com.
While I don’t personally use hotels.com since I value hotel elite status (and you don’t typically earn points or receive elite benefits for third party bookings), for those who aren’t loyal to a particular hotel chain, I think this is a great option. You can earn 10x miles with this card, and then you can combine that with hotels.com’s solid rewards program.
Winner: The Capital One Venture wins for offering a couple of extra useful perks.
Which card is better?
As you can see, there are perks to both cards. At the moment I’d say:
- The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a better welcome bonus, slightly lower annual fee, and a slightly better return per dollar spent if you’re looking to redeem your miles towards the cost of a travel purchase, when you factor in the 5% refund on redeemed points
- The Capital One Venture offers lower thresholds for redeeming, gives you the ability to transfer miles to airline partners, and the hotels.com 10x points category and Global Entry fee credit can also be useful
So if you know you want to earn miles that can be redeemed towards the cost of a travel purchase, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a really good option. If you want to earn more flexible miles for your purchases, the Capital One Venture is a better option, in my opinion.
You can also always try out both cards, since they have excellent bonuses and the annual fees waived for the first year.
Don’t forget there are other options out there
For a lot of people I think a simple, straightforward travel rewards card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus can make sense. It has a great welcome bonus, annual fee waived the first year, and offers a solid return on spend.
The Capital One Venture offers a similar return on spend, with the benefit of also allowing you to transfer miles to some airline programs, which gives you a lot of flexibility.
But these aren’t the only cards you should consider. I think the Venture is great if you spend a lot in non-bonused categories, but there are some other cards worth considering that earn transferrable points and that have excellent bonus categories.
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers double points on dining and travel and great travel protection ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card has a welcome bonus of up to 50K points and offers triple points on dining and travel, a $300 annual travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, a Global Entry fee credit, great travel protection, and more ($450 annual fee)
- The Citi Premier℠ Card has a welcome bonus of up to 50K points and offers triple points on travel and gas, double points on dining and entertainment ($95 annual fee, waived the first year)
- The American Express® Gold Card offers 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year), and 3x points for airfare purchased directly with airlines, plus offers a $100 annual airline fee credit and up to a $120 annual dining credit ($250 annual fee)
Which card you prefer — the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture?