The Points Guy gave out an award for ‘best new credit card of 2021’. I happen to think choosing the new Capital One Venture X is a reasonable pick. But how they dismiss the best competition is interesting.
Here’s their criteria for the award, looking at:
how lucrative the points, miles or cash-back earning of that product was. In addition, three key tenets — value-added perks, rewards flexibility and customization — were taken into consideration.
Note that we excluded welcome offers from this card analysis, since these can change from time to time, and this award is focused on a new card that is best for a wide swath of readers right now.
And here are the cards they considered:
- United Quest℠ Card
- Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
- Bilt Mastercard
- Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
- Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card is a good cash back product, largely duplicative of what’s already in the space. The BofA card is less good. Citi Custom Cash is a good strategic role player in the ThankYou Rewards ecosystem.
United Quest is strategically interesting, the innovation here is in offering a middle-ground between the expensive premium card with lounge access and the mass consumer Explorer product. I’m not sure what the size of that market will ultimately be, but I like watching experiments.
But the two game-changers TPG largely gets right, Bilt and Venture X. What’s the big game changer with Capital One isn’t just the new credit card, which is generous especially for lounge access (full Priority Pass Select with two guests and Priority Pass cards for no annual fee authorized users!) but also for other inroads into the premium travel space that Capital One has been making,
- Their new travel portal leveraging Hopper price predictions which really may save you money on airfare.
- Improving miles transfer ratios with nearly all their partners to 1:1
- Inaugurating their own airport lounge network with outstanding food and actually encouraging guests to ‘grab and go’ taking things with them to their flight.
Now, Venture X is a key part of this ecosystem. It comes with unlimited visits to their lounges, while other eligible cards are limited. And it earns points aggressively that can be transferred. This is a great card, and part of the reason why is how much Capital One has invested in the rest of their travel endeavors.
But in order to come to the conclusion that this card is the best new one on the market, let’s look at how they dismiss the new Bilt Rewards Mastercard.
The no annual fee Bilt Mastercard earns 3x on dining and 2x on travel (the same bonus categories as Chase’s Sapphire Preferred product, but without the annual fee) and it also earns 1 point per dollar on rent (up to $100,000 per year) and all unbonused eligible purchases. Bilt offers transfer partners as good or better than Chase.
In order to earn points you need to use the card at least 5 times a month – they don’t want you just using it for rent and sock drawering it.
Here’s the argument The Points Guy makes against Bilt,
- They knock it for lack of an initial bonus offer, something they mention twice even though they explicitly say this isn’t a consideration in their rankings.
- You can participate in Bilt Rewards even without the credit card (“so the card might not be totally necessary for some of the people who would benefit the most from carrying it”) which is an odd knock against them – you don’t have to take a Chase credit card to participate in MileagePlus.
- Five transaction per month minimum to earn rewards. This is not a new concept, you need to use Amex’s Everyday 20 times and Everyday Preferred 30 times a month to earn those card’s extra bonuses across spend.
Both Bilt Mastercard and Capital One Venture X are excellent new additions. They do different things. Think of the former as a no annual fee Sapphire Preferred that also earns points paying rent, while the latter is the latest entrant into the premium travel rewards market competing with Amex Platinum and Sapphire Reserve.
The funny thing is that TPG doesn’t even need to resort to non-sequiturs to conclude Venture X is the best card. They established a criteria that looks at perks not just reward for spend, and while the Bilt card spends for value-added insurance that we’ve seen issuers like Barclays and Citi walk away from, as a no annual fee card it isn’t going to come with big travel spend credits or free airport lounge access. Say Bilt is a strong points-earning card, but Venture X wins – almost by definition, as an ultra-premium card – on the basis of the perks you pay for with your annual fee.