For the average spend of $1000-1500USD per month, I still suggest the Venture Card from Capital One Bank because of the ability to earn double miles (points) and erase other travel charges such as hotels, train fares, etc.
However, if you prefer cards that earn true mileage, then Chase is the only game in town for earning United Miles*. And IMO, if you want to earn and use free travel, then United is the only way to go. As a side point, United wins the consumer satisfaction award every year for its reward travel program!
I have memberships in most of the reward programs and still have credit cards for most of those programs! Besides United and Capital One, I still have cards from Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines Program; Citibank’s American Airlines Card; Delta American Express Reserve Card; and USBank’s FlexPoints Awards Card.
But I will say it again. The only reward travel program that is worth having and gives you a fair chance at free travel is United. Search the internet and you will find glowing praise about the United program. It is the most popular program by a mile. No pun intended.
Lets talk about Chase Reward Cards! Chase has 3 cards to consider in order to earn frequent flyer miles. Two of them carry the United brand, but the third does not.
Mileage Plus “Explorer Card”
Mileage Plus “Club Card”
Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Everyday Purchases||1 mile per dollar||1.5 miles per dollar||1 mile per dollar|
|Tickets at United.com||2 miles per dollar||2 miles per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|Other “Travel” Purchases||1 mile per dollar||1.5 miles per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|Purchases at Restaurants||1 mile per dollar||1.5 miles per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|Annual bonus||10,000 miles/year$25,000 spend||None||7% bonus on points|
|Bag free on United||1st bag freeyou & companion||1st & 2nd bags freeyou & companion||No|
|Foreign transactionfees waived||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Priority boarding||Yes, Group 2||Yes, Group 2||No|
No foreign transaction fee credit cards are mandatory items to bring on your next trip.
Personally, the card I carry is the [NO LONGER AVAILABLE] Presidential Plus, which has been replaced with the Mileage Plus Club Card. I only earn 1 mile per dollar, but I keep it because it provides flex qualifying miles, allowing me to maintain Platinum status.
The new card offers 1.5 miles per dollar, which I think would be a better benefit for most people. This card has one of the highest annual fees of all cards, but has a benefit that regular fliers will not want to do without — United Club/Lounge access! If you fly for business, you might try to submit your annual fee to your boss as a travel expense to cover the (discounted) cost of the club membership. I did.
If you aren’t a regular flier, you will need to have a substantial annual spend on the card to justify the high annual fee. For example, it would take about $30,000 in annual spending to justify the annual fee and BREAK EVEN if you choose the Mileage Plus Club Card.
I reviewed the Sapphire card and compared it to the Capital One Venture Card, and determined that the limited 2 points per dollar earning on the Sapphire card didn’t warrant changing. I wouldn’t spend enough on travel or dining to make the changes worthwhile. (Sapphire card only gives double miles/points per dollar on dining and travel only; Capital One Venture gives double miles/points on every dollar spent regardless of category).
The Sapphire card will likely give you more miles than the basic United Explorer Card (especially if you dine out often), but you lose the free bag benefit ($50USD per round-trip ticket, for you, and for your companion). You also lose priority boarding. If you travel at least once a year on United, I don’t feel it is worth giving up these perks.
If your goal is long-term accumulation of miles for a big trip, and you don’t normally travel often, I would choose the Sapphire card because of the chance to get double miles on dining and hotels; as well as the benefit of being able to transfer your earned points 1 for 1 into your United mileage account.
And finally, you will get better value if you are saving miles for an international trip. International travel allows you to convert the miles you earned (valued at one penny each) to almost two pennies or more per mile. [Example: average international ticket is $1200.00USD; average number of miles to earn international ticket is 60,000 miles].
As I said in the beginning of this post, if your average spend is $1000-1200USD per month, and your ultimate goal is not international travel, then the Capital One Venture card may be your best card to choose.
*=Residents of Hawaii may apply for United cards from First Hawaiian Bank as well.