Last night on Twitter, a reader posted the question: Which offer is better for $50K in spend: the 200K offer available at the time of writing on the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business card or the targeted 160K Ultimate Rewards points offer that’s available on the Chase Ink Business Preferred card (by targeted mailer only)? I’ll admit that for a second, I almost said Ultimate Rewards without thinking about it. Then I quickly thought that Capital One is actually better before settling on “it depends” in my immediate response on Twitter. After sleeping on it, I got up early this morning to try to flesh out which is the better offer. This post is my thought process.
— OR97 (@Howardisthebest) October 24, 2019
First, the offers
Before diving in on this one, it’s important to note that there is a huge difference in the offers I’m discussing in terms of availability.
Capital One increased the public offers yesterday on the Capital One Spark Miles for Business credit card and the Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card. Those offers are as follows:
For the purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on the Spark Miles bonus. That’s because the Spark Cash bonus has a very clearly-defined value since it is, well, cash. Capital One “Miles” have a murkier value that’s worth more discussion.
While those Capital One offers are publicly-available, the Chase Ink Business Preferred offer against which I’m comparing is not publicly available. There have been multiple reports over the past few days of a targeted mailer being sent out via snail mail that’s good for up to 160K Ultimate Rewards points: 80K after spending $5K in the first 3 months (which matches the standard offer) plus an additional 80K after spending a total of $50K in the first 6 months. Most people will not be eligible simply because they haven’t received the mailer (and of course this card is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule).
On the flip side, Capital One is known to be stingy on approvals for those who have opened many credit cards with other issuers, so it is unlikely to be an easy approval for readers who have been particularly active in the hobby.
Ease of accessing the Ink offer aside, let’s imagine you had access to both: are you better off going after 200K bonus Capital One “Miles” or 160K bonus Ultimate Rewards points for $50K spend?
Consider opportunity cost
It’s important to keep in mind that there are many cards with great bonuses. You’ll find offer information for over 100 different cards on our Best Offers page. If you’re spending $50K in the next 6 months, you could earn a lot more points by opening 10 or more different credit cards and meeting the minimum spending requirements on each.
Of course, not everyone can or wants to open ten new cards in the next six months (and in an environment where issuers have been tightening up a bit on approvals on those who open a lot of cards, you may prefer not to open so many in short succession). You have to decide what makes sense for you. The offers discussed in this post require a lot of spend and you could likely earn a greater return on spend with just 2 or 3 new credit card applications.
I suspect that these offers with monster spending requirements mostly appeal to those who have high expenses and either have no trouble meeting minimum spend on as many cards as they care to open or only care to open a single card for simplicity.
Compare total points earned
In order to really compare apples-to-apples here, we need to compare the total points earned after completing $50K in purchases. Here’s how that breaks down on the two offers:
Capital One Spark Miles for Business
100K “miles” earned (from $50K in purchases at 2x everywhere)
+200K “miles” bonus (from spending $50K on purchases within 6 months of account opening)
300K total “miles” after spending $50K in the first 6 months
Chase Ink Business Preferred
50K URs earned (from $50K in purchases at 1x)*
+160K URs bonus (from spending $50K on purchases within 6 months of account opening)
210K total URs after spending $50K in first 6 months
*note that this could be greater if some purchases fall within bonus categories
So there you have it: $50K in purchases in the first 6 months will give you either 300K Capital One “Miles” or 210K Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Which is more valuable?
Capital One makes more cents
See what I did there?
If you’re going to redeem your points for travel, the Capital One Spark Miles card makes more sense on the surface. That’s because 300K “miles” can be redeemed at $0.01 each for a statement credit to offset travel purchases. That 300K “miles” could therefore erase $3,000 in travel purchases.
With Chase, you could either take a straight statement credit at $0.01 each and have $2,100 or use your points to book travel through the Chase Travel portal. If you redeem through the Chase Travel portal with the Ink Business Preferred, you would get a value of 1.25c per point. That’s $2,625 in travel bookings through Chase. In order to get that return, you’d be limited to booking through Chase. While Chase has a decent travel portal, there are definite advantages to the Capital One system that go beyond the dollar difference. For example, with Capital One you could click through a shopping portal to book your hotel, car rental, or cruise and potentially earn cash back when booking — and then later use your Capital One “miles” for a statement credit to offset the purchase. With Chase, you have to book through the Chase portal only to use your points at 1.25c each, which means no stacking of portal rewards, coupon codes, etc. Furthermore, if you have hotel elite status, bookings made through the Chase portal will typically not qualify for elite benefits like free breakfast and late checkout (nor will they earn hotel points and elite credit). With Capital One, you could book directly with the hotel and have all of those things.
However, if you are a Chase customer who also has the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can do a little better. Since Chase allows you to pool your points with those earned on your other Chase credit cards or with someone else in your household or a co-owner of your business, you could move your 210K Ultimate Rewards points to a Sapphire Reserve account and then use them at a value of 1.5c per point through the Chase Travel portal. You’d then get $3,150 in value when booking travel. If the travel you’re looking to book is mostly airfare or the types of travel where elite status or cash back are not relevant, you’d do a little bit better with Chase.
For those looking to offset paid travel expenses, I’d give the nod to Capital One here despite the ability to book a little more travel through Chase with the CSR since Capital One gives you the ability to shop around a bit, which could likely save you the $150 difference or more (especially if you’re stacking with shopping portals and promotions).
That said, I think the real debate opens up when you consider transferring points to transfer partners.
Transfer partner comparison
The following chart offers a visual comparison of transfer partners along with ratios and how many total points you would have in each program if you transferred your entire stash to that partner after meeting the $50K spending requirement and earning the bonus.
|Partner||Chase transfer Ratio||Chase bonus in miles||Capital One transfer ratio||Capital One bonus in miles|
|Air France / KLM Flying Blue||1:1||210K||1000:750||225K|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||1:1||210K||–||–|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1:1||210K||–||–|
|AeroMexico Club Premier||–||–||1000:750||225K|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||–||–||1000:750||225K|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||–||–||1000:750||225K|
|EVA Infinity MileageLands||–||–||1000:750||225K|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||–||–||1000:750||225K|
|Qatar Privilege Club||–||–||1000:750||225K|
We can see that Chase gives you access to 7 unique partners to which Capital One does not have access and they further offer a much better transfer ratio on 3 more. By comparison, Capital One gives you access to 11 unique partners to which Chase does not have access and the total miles earned from spend with the bonus included will yield more Air France / KLM Flying Blue miles despite the poor Capital One transfer ratio. It’s worth noting that Capital One also offers periodic transfer bonuses to improve their transfer ratio. For example, at the time of writing, the transfer ratio to Qantas Frequent Flyer Club is actually 1:1, which means that 300K Capital One “miles” today would transfer to 300K Qantas Miles (though note that this transfer bonus ends 10/31/19. See our current point transfer bonuses page for current and past bonus details).
To compare transfer partners, I think we should look at it from a few angles:
Best partner in each major alliance plus one outlier
This is a little subjective, but I’ll pick one “best” transfer partner from each alliance along with a brief explanation of the sweet spots that led me to choose that partner.
Total Chase transfer partners: 1 (Avios)
Best Chase oneworld transfer partner: Avios
Indeed this is the only Oneworld partner in the Chase scheme, though Avios can be quite useful. For example, you could book domestic round trips from 11K Iberia Avios or short nonstop oneworld flights around the world can be good deals using British Airways Avios. You could furthermore book a business class ticket from cities in the northeast of the US to Madrid for as few as 34K Avios each way during off-peak season. That said, Avios aren’t a great option for travel to the rest of Europe and taxes & fees can be outrageous if flying British Airways.
Total Capital One transfer partners: 4 (Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles, Finnair Plus+, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Qatar Privilege Club)
Best Capital One oneworld transfer partner: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
I’m admittedly no expert in Asia Miles, but like the British Airways and Iberia Avios, AsiaMiles offers a distance-based award chart with some gems particularly for very long distance business class travel on oneworld airlines. For shorter itineraries, consider Qantas, which can be nearly as good as Iberia Avios for very short itineraries and still decent for medium-distance oneworld itineraries.
Total Chase transfer partners: 1 (Air France KLM Flying Blue)
Best Chase SkyTeam transfer partner: Air France KLM Flying Blue
Like with oneworld above, Chase has a single transfer partner in SkyTeam. Air France KLM Flying Blue is a solid SkyTeam partner with decent award pricing. Monthly Promo Awards mean that you can sometimes fly to Europe for as few as 12K miles each way in economy or the mid 40K’s in business class. That said, Capital One would offer you a few more total Flying Blue miles after meeting minimum spending requirements and assuming no transfer bonus.
Total Capital One transfer partners: 3 (Air France KLM Flying Blue, AeroMexico, Alitalia)
Best Capital One SkyTeam transfer partner: Air France KLM Flying Blue
Capital One offers three SkyTeam partners in Aeromexico, Alitalia, and Flying Blue, but Flying Blue is clearly the best of the bunch for the reasons outlined under Chase above. Furthermore, Capital One would give you more miles after meeting minimum spending requirements. The difference could be even bigger if you’re able to take advantage of a transfer bonus.
Total Chase transfer partners: 2 (United Mileage Plus, Singapore KrisFlyer)
Best Chase Star Alliance transfer partner: United MileagePlus
Chase offers transfers to two Star Alliance programs in United and Singapore. However, United offers more competitive award pricing in many instances and offers an excellent online search tool that makes it easy to find and book awards. While business class on partners can be a bit steep (with prices like 70K each way to/from Europe or 80K to/from Asia), the ability to leverage the Excursionist Perk can make United highly valuable in the right circumstances.
Total Capital One transfer partners: 4 (Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan, EVA Infinity MileageLands, Singapore KrisFlyer)
Best Capital One transfer partner: Avianca LifeMiles
At first glance, some may consider Air Canada’s Aeroplan to be Capital One’s best Star Alliance transfer partner, but I’d argue that LifeMiles can be a better option. While Aeroplan only charges 55K miles to fly to Europe in business class versus the LifeMiles rate of 63K, Avianca charges no fuel surcharges on any partners (whereas fuel surcharges vary by partner with Aeroplan). Furthermore, mixed-cabin awards with LifeMiles can create opportunities for very competitive award pricing. Finally, Avianca offers excellent pricing for domestic awards on United, with in-zone itineraries from 7.5K (or less in some instances). Those in the east or midwest can fly to all but the western states for 10K each way or less when finding United saver availability.
Overall, I’d say that oneworld is a wash with each having very marginal advantages over the other depending on which partners and routes you’re looking to fly. Capital One has a very slight advantage in terms of SkyTeam since the bonus will add up to more Flying Blue miles with Capital One than it would with Chase. When considering just the earnings here on $50K in spend, I’d have to give the nod to Capital One for Star Alliance as well. That’s because you’d end up with 225K LifeMiles or Aeroplan miles versus only 210K with United MileagePlus from Chase. Aeroplan and Avianca offer more competitive award rates (and mixed-cabin awards can improve even further on LifeMiles rates).
Best outlier partner
Each program offers a few non-alliance transfer partners. Here is the best outlier in each transfer program in my opinion:
Hyatt is the key reason why many may assume that Chase has the superior offer. That’s because Hyatt’s award chart ranges from as few as 5K points per night to 30K points per night (with some hotels in the new partner Small Luxury Hotels of the World costing as much as 40K points per night). It’s not hard to find very nice Hyatt properties in the 15K-25K points per night range and those with Hyatt Globalist status may be able to take advantage of suite upgrades to snag really expensive rooms for low point totals.
Capital One: Etihad Guest
Etihad offers a couple of interesting sweet spots, including Royal Air Maroc for 44K miles in business class to Casablanca (this used to be true for connecting itineraries to the rest of the Royal Air Maroc network, but I believe that may have died), the old American Airlines award chart for AA flights, and some random spots like Czech Airways from Prague to Seoul in flat bed business class for about 26K miles each way.
What about a theoretical trip?
All of the above considered, how would the two currencies stack up with a theoretical trip abroad booked with just the rewards earned from this bonus?
Since Europe is a perennially popular vacation destination, let’s consider a hypothetical trip to Europe with either program:
As seen in our Chase Ultimate Rewards sweet spots post, if you’re looking to fly in business class to Europe, your best option may be better than any mentioned thus far above: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. That’s because Virgin Atlantic charges just 50K each way for Delta business class between the US and Europe (apart from the UK). In other words, you could use 100K of your 210K theoretical points to book a round trip business class itinerary. Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic charges for each segment separately, so you would need to travel on nonstop Delta flights. If you need to connect, your best bet may be United Mileage Plus at 70K each way (140K round trip) unless you are able to take advantage of Flying Blue promo awards (though consider the mild fuel surcharges added by Flying Blue since United adds no fuel surcharges on award tickets). Those based in New York, Boston, or Chicago who are looking to travel to Madrid should also consider using 34K Avios each way to fly in business class on Iberia during off-peak season, though availability can be hard to come by.
Assuming you’re able to book with Virgin Atlantic on Delta, that would leave you with 110K Ultimate Rewards points for your other travel costs. That’s enough for 5 nights in a 20K/nt Category 5 Hyatt or 4 nights in a 25K/nt Category 6 Hyatt (with 10K left over for booking activities through the Chase portal or transfers or to cash out for $100 in your pocket). It should be easy to find a Category 5 or Category 6 Hyatt hotel in most major European cities. Alternatively, you could book hotels through Chase Travel at a value of 1.25c per point and get $1,375 in hotel bookings, which may be enough for several more nights depending on the style of hotel that meets your needs.
With the plethora of Star Alliance airlines available, one should pretty easily be able to fly to Europe for 55K miles each way in business class through Air Canada’s Aeroplan (and we’ve shown that it’s possible to fly the long haul flight in business class and pay even less through LifeMiles if pairing with a long economy class segment either before or after the long-haul). We’ll therefore say that you’ll transfer 147K Capital One “Miles” to Aeroplan in order to have the 110K Aeroplan miles necessary to book your round trip. Note that you’ll also get a free stopover on a round trip with Aeroplan, enabling you to potentially see two cities in Europe for the price of one. That leaves you with 153K Capital One “miles”.
Capital One has no hotel transfer partners, so your only option for lodging would be to book your own hotels and use Capital One “miles” to reimburse yourself at a value of $0.01 per Capital One “mile”. That said, you’d be looking at $1,530 in “miles”, so you’d have a bit more booking power at your disposal. Furthermore, you could use Capital One “miles” to reimburse stuff like Ubers / taxis, metro fare, train fare, etc — experiencing a bit more of the “joy of free”. If you’re able to book travel through a shopping portal, you may end up getting a little more mileage out of your money.
In my opinion, if you are going to transfer to Hyatt and have elite status with Hyatt (or know someone with Globalist status who is willing to book you a guest of honor stay), you may get more value out of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. However, apart from that situation, the total “miles” earned via the Capital One bonus here can take you a bit further.
A subjective look at what you give up with each bonus
Let’s take a quick look at what you “give up” with either choice.
If you choose to go after the Chase bonus, these are (in my opinion) the best transfer partners you’re missing:
- Air Canada’s Aeroplan (55K each way in biz / 70K each way in 1st to Europe. 80K each way in biz to Oceania. Other sweet spots)
- Avianca’s LifeMiles (63K each way in biz / 87K each way in 1st to Europe w/ no fuel surcharges, often promos for 60K’s in biz to Asia)
- Etihad Guest (good for niche stuff like Royal Air Maroc for 44K in biz, old AA award chart, other specific routes)
- Qantas and AsiaMiles for oneworld (each good in their respective oneworld sweet spots – Qantas for short connecting itineraries and AsiaMiles for long ones)
If you choose to go after the Capital One bonus, these are (in my opinion) the best transfer partners you’re missing:
- Hyatt (great for hotel redemptions with awards ranging from 5K-30K and premium suites costing double a standard award)
- Virgin Atlantic (great for Delta flights to Europe or Asia and ANA First Class)
- Avios (since Avianca gives you access to good deals on shorter domestic itineraries, I think the key sweet spot you’re giving up is Iberia business class to Europe, though that’s not always easy to find)
- United (great for the Excursionist Perk. Also good for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges, but Avianca makes up for that)
- Emirates, JetBlue, or Singapore: While these are partners with both programs, the poor Capital One transfer ratio means you’d be giving up miles if you intend to transfer to one of these programs
In my opinion, the key difference comes down to how much you value Hyatt and Virgin Atlantic versus how much you value Aeroplan and LifeMiles. Chase gives you access to Hyatt and Virgin Atlantic. Capital One gives you access to Aeroplan and LifeMiles. The other differences above, while they can be valuable in the right instances, strike me as mostly situational. Hyatt, Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, and LifeMiles are likely to be the four key partners to which the difference boils down. I’ll add a small caveat: those who already earn United miles thanks to flying United regularly may also add United to the equation for the ability to easily top off their United account for the right award tickets.
I think it’s nearly impossible to have a subjective analysis as to which partners matter more as that varies so much based on your situation. I love staying in Hyatt hotels when I have the chance and if my goal were to travel to a single city in Europe and stay in a nice hotel, I think I’d probably take the Chase bonus.
That said, in terms of overall flexibility, I think the Capital One bonus offers more (and in many cases better) options. You’ll get much better Star Alliance award pricing via Aeroplan and LifeMiles and be able to book travel through shopping portals to earn a greater return on paid hotel stays, rental cars, etc. You can book hotels using coupon codes and get easy access to elite benefits on paid stays. If Hyatt isn’t where you want to be or you are looking at staying with other chains, Capital One is a clear winner for hotel bookings and it adds greater flexibility for all paid travel bookings. Note that while Marriott and IHG are additional Chase transfer partners, I think it isn’t common that you’ll find that transferring to those partners beats either booking paid travel and using your points or buying hotel points with your rewards (though note that I’m not sure whether or not you could erase such a purchase with Capital One “miles”). There are surely some exceptions, but I think that most who collect Ultimate Rewards wouldn’t ordinarily consider transferring to those partners.
The question remains: is your $50K in spend better rewarded with the targeted Ink Business Preferred offer or the publicly-available Spark Miles for Business offer? If we’re looking at $50K spend in a vacuum, I think the Capital One offer is slightly superior even without taking advantage of their transfer bonuses. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the above comparison assumes that none of your $50K spend on the Ink Business Preferred comes in bonus categories. In reality, you may end up with more Chase points if a lot of your spend is in 3x bonus categories and/or if you’re shopping through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal to earn additional points on purchases. If you know that you’ll earn significantly better than 1x on many purchases, the Chase offer could certainly be better. Furthermore, if you already have some other valuable Chase cards, it might make sense to add this offer and card to your portfolio. On the other hand, if most of your spend is unbonused, I like the Spark Miles offer because I think it’s easier to get a better value out of the larger balance of Capital One “miles” thanks to some key transfer partners and greater flexibility in booking paid travel. The Spark Miles card is also more rewarding long-term for unbonused spend, but when considered against no-fee options from Chase that earn 1.5x everywhere it may lose its luster. But I digress: if you’re going to spend $50K in the next 6 months and have both offers at your disposal, I think the Capital One offer is marginally better. That said, the same offer has come around publicly twice this year on the Spark Miles card whereas the Chase offer is much rarer — you’ll need to do your own calculus on that part of the equation.