Sometimes, we want simpler things in life and avoid a hassle. Why juggle multiple cards and/or strategies when there’s a less cumbersome way at saving money on something we all try to do atleast once a year – fly home!
Based on a survey I conducted (sample size 1000), an overwhelming majority of readers held fewer than 5 credit cards and most found managing multiple cards time consuming and a bit confusing at times – and I do not blame them. With so many credit cards, ecosystems, points vs miles vs cashback, it is challenging to stay on top of this game with everything else to focus on in life.
Most from this survey also preferred to use their points to cover long haul international trips once a year vs redeeming them on domestic flights within the US. They used up >90% points with a single redemption and did not want to keep opening multiple cards to keep earning sign up bonuses (and top off their balances).
And finally, may it be Chase UR or American Express MR point earning cards (most commonly observed systems people used), they used the respective travel portals to redeem their points (getting the standard 1.25CPP and 1CPP respectively).
A Gap to fill
Armed with this knowledge, I wanted to come up with a single card system that was constant in almost every way, had a user friendly and easy to understand redemption portal and offered all the premium benefits one might want while offering the ability to book completely free to atleast 50% off flights over a three year cycle (for example).
One size fits all
The card that I think is the best “one catch all card” is offered by Capital One and it is called the Venture X. At the time of writing this article, the sign up bonus is 75,000 points when you spend $4000 in the first three months of opening the card. It offers a $300 travel credit and 10K points every card anniversary year (not calendar year) with an annual fee of $395 for every year the card is open. If you consider a standard 1 CPP value for the points, you are paid $5 to keep this card every year and I think it is the best forever keeper card for the following perks/benefits.
- The card earns 2x points per dollar spent regardless of category
- The card earns 10x points on Hotels and 5x points on Flights booked using the Cap One portal
- You get the first 4 Authorized Users at no extra cost
- You and the first 4 AUs get Priority Pass Lounge membership for free
- You and each AU gets Hertz President’s Circle status (which you can use to status match with every other rental company). This is great for getting cheaper rates, guaranteed bookings and complimentary upgrades
- Cellphone protection ($800 per claim limit, $1600 annual limit)
- All other card benefits (incl travel, no forex fees, etc) are top notch
The real value
Given the card earns 10x points on flights booked using the portal and that there is price drop protection, you have the ability to book flights knowing that you can get refunded the fare difference if you find a cheaper price for the same itinerary and also redeem the points you earned to offset the price of your ticket (at 1 CPP).
Capital One Travel has an amazing calendar which tells you when the airfare are low, moderate or high. It also advises you when the best time to book tickets is and also tells you if a rate hike is imminent.
Recognizing that you’re spending a hefty annual fee on this card, I built this calculator for you to test your inputs in and get a good idea of what you can expect.
You can enter the sign up bonus and your expected spend in each category for the first year keeping the Anniversary Points blank. For the second year, you can keep the SUB blank (unless you have a retention offer) and fill out 10K points under Anniversary Points.
I also assume you will use the capital one portal to book your flights so the $300 travel credit will automatically trigger and you can choose to apply all your points at check out or, pay with your card, earn 10x points and then redeem those points to cover the travel purchase.
In your first year, you will most likely breakeven or come out ahead but from year 2 onwards, you will get atleast 40% value back. If you average out your results over three years, you’ll get a net savings rate of atleast 50% on your flights.
For the pros
For those who are comfortable with points and miles and familiar with my other articles on booking reward flights by transferring points out, you can most certainly get amazing value on flights when booked after transferring your capital one points to various partners.
My favorites are BA and Turkish. I can book any OneWorld flight via BA and I can book any domestic United saver fare using turkish for only 7500 points one way (regardless of $ cost) netting me a much higher than CPP value.
Learn here how I recently booked a one way business class flight on Qatar Airways from USA to India using points ($3500 ticket for 85K points).
I wanted to keep this article short and crisp, mainly focusing your attention on this amazing single catch all card. I’d honestly request you not to be thrown off by the annual fee because if you really do want to fly long haul international atleast once a year, the calculator will prove to you that you are actually saving atleast 40-50% on the price of those $1000 tickets.