Wells Fargo Active Cash vs Capital One Venture Rewards: Which Card is Best?

Shante Abdo

Table of Contents Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ CardRewardsWelcome bonusAnnual feeIntro APRRegular APRBalance transfer feeForeign transaction feeCredit neededProsConsCapital One Venture Rewards Credit CardRewardsWelcome bonusAnnual feeIntro APRRegular APRBalance transfer feeForeign transaction feeCredit neededProsConsWelcome bonusChase Sapphire Preferred® CardRewardsWelcome bonusAnnual feeIntro APRRegular APRBalance transfer feeForeign transaction feeCredit neededProsConsRewardsPerksFeesBottom lineOur methodology Select’s editorial team works […]

Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card, which launched earlier this month, has quickly distinguished itself as one of the best cash-rewards cards on the market. With no annual fee, a decent welcome bonus, a 0% introductory APR period and 2% cash rewards on all purchases, the Active Cash Card is a simple, unfussy card that can help you earn money on everything you buy.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a similar rewards program — unlimited 2X miles for every dollar spent that you can redeem for use toward travel, gift cards or cash back. This travel credit card has a $95 annual fee and comes with a few more bells and whistles than the Active Cash Card.

While both cards offer 2X rewards on all purchases, they are fairly different. So which card is better? The travel credit card or the cash-rewards card? Select looks at the pros and cons of both to help you decide which card is better for you based on your spending habits.

Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card

On Wells Fargo’s secure site

  • Rewards

    Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for the first 15 months from account opening

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 24.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Pros

  • Unlimited cash back
  • $200 welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • Introductory APR period for first 15 months
  • Access to Visa Signature Concierge
  • Get up to $600 cell phone protection

Cons

  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 100,000 miles: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening; plus an additional 50,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 on purchases within 12 months of account opening.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Pros

  • 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every 4 years

Cons

  • No introductory APR
  • There’s a $95 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,466
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,931

Rewards totals incorporate the miles earned from the welcome bonus

Welcome bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Transfer points to leading frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate, including: IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt®
  • Free DashPass subscription for a minimum of a year when you activate by December 31, 2021
  • Travel protections include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No hotel-specific perks or credits
  • No introductory 0% APR
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,506
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,528

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

The Active Cash Card has a much more modest bonus and spending requirement than the Venture Rewards Card. If you spend $1,000 within the first three months of card membership, you’ll get $200 cash rewards. That means you’ll get 20% back.

Winner: The Venture Rewards Card. While the Active Cash Card wins if you’re just looking at the percentage of cash back you can earn based on the spending requirement, the Venture Rewards Card bonus is a lot bigger. If you manage to reach the $20,000 spend requirement, you can earn up to $1,000 worth of rewards with the Venture Rewards welcome bonus. And even if you’re only able to spend $3,000 within the first three months, you’ll still get 50,000 points, which is worth $500 in rewards.

Rewards

Both cards offer very similar rewards programs. The Venture Rewards Card is technically a travel credit card, and cardholders can earn 2X miles on all purchases and 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠.

The miles you earn on the Venture Rewards Card can be redeemed in a variety of ways: You can transfer them to hotel or airline partners, redeem them for gift cards or for cash or use it to pay for past travel costs you incurred on the card (these statement credit redemptions must be made within 90 days).

The redemption value varies so be aware that you might get less than one cent per mile. Your best bet is to use the miles for travel — if you book flights or hotel stays through Capital One Travel, one mile is worth one cent. If you choose to redeem your miles by transferring to a travel loyalty program, you’ll have your pick of more than 15 of them, including Air Canada and Avianca LifeMile.

When you redeem your miles for cash, you’ll either receive it as a check or a statement credit. The redemption value for cash is significantly lower than it is for travel, 1 mile is worth 0.5 cents. Unless you want your miles to be worth half as much, purchasing a flight or hotel room through Capital One Travel is a better choice than redeeming your miles for cash. You can also use your miles for purchases on Amazon.com, but the redemption rate is 1 mile for 0.8 cents.

However, if you prefer a more straightforward cash-rewards card that allows you to earn cash or use your rewards to pay off your credit card statement, the Active Cash Card is probably a better choice. Since it’s a flat-rate cash-rewards card, you’ll earn 2% cash rewards for every dollar you spend. Your cash rewards can be redeemed as a statement credit, through a Wells Fargo ATM by using a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card, as a direct deposit into a Wells Fargo savings or checking account or as a paper check.

When we looked at the rewards cardholders could earn over the course of a year and over five years, the Venture Rewards Card beat the Active Cash Card largely because of the welcome bonus.

We worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $22,126. (See our methodology to see how we choose the best credit cards.)

The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953).

Here’s a breakdown of how much cash rewards you can roughly earn in each category with the Active Cash Card, annually (dollar amount is rounded up):

  • Groceries: $104
  • Gas: $44
  • Dining out: $74
  • Travel: $45
  • Utilities: $97
  • General purchases: $79
  • Total: $443

We found that, in the first year of card membership, Active Cash Card users earned $643 in cash rewards, including the welcome bonus, and in five years, you’d earn $2,415 in cash rewards.

Here’s how many miles you can earn with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card in each category, annually:

  • Groceries: 10,349
  • Gas: 4,435
  • Dining out: 7,349
  • Travel: 6,351
  • Utilities: 9,724
  • General purchases: 7,906
  • Total: 46,113

For the Venture Rewards Card, you’d earn $1,366, including the 100,000-point welcome bonus and less the annual fee. Over five years, you would earn $2,830.

These earnings are assuming you’re getting the maximum value of 1 cent for every 1 point. Some optimizer may be able to earn more value.

Winner: The Venture Rewards Card. If you manage to score the 100,000-point welcome bonus after spending $20,000 within the first year of card membership, you’ll earn more over the short and long run. The Venture Rewards Card also gives you access to a lot travel partners, so you’ll have flexibility in how you use your points.

Perks

Since the Venture Rewards Card is a travel card, it offers more perks than the Active Cash Card. However, you should take time to decide if the perks are useful to you before you sign-up for either card.

The Active Cash Card is light on perks. Cardholders can take advantage of phone protection if they use the card to pay their cell phone bill. If your phone is damaged or stolen, Wells Fargo will reimburse the replacement or repair of your cell phone for up to $600 (with a $25 deductible).

Additionally, Active Cash cardholders get access to the Visa Concierge Service, a 24/7 personal assistance hotline that helps people with travel and entertainment related requests like making hotel reservations or getting concert tickets.

Cardholders will also have access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, a portfolio of curated hotels, resorts and properties. When cardholders book a hotel or resort stay through the collection, they’ll get perks like a food and beverage credit and complimentary breakfast.

The Venture Rewards Card is a travel card with an annual fee, so it’s not surprising it has a few more bells and whistles. Cardholders can get an up-to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years.

The Venture Rewards Card has other travel-related perks like 24-hour travel assistance services, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, car rental collision damage insurance, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, purchase protection and extended warranty protection. It’s worth looking at the terms and conditions to understand how these perks work.

Winner: The Venture Rewards Card. In terms of the number of perks, the Venture Rewards Card outshines the Active Cash Card. However, if you don’t anticipate traveling a lot, the perks offered by the Venture Rewards Card may not be much use to you.

Fees

Depending on what you choose to do with your card, the Active Cash Card and Venture Rewards Card have different benefits and drawbacks when it comes to fees.

The annual fee is one of the most notable differences between the two cards. The Venture Rewards Card has a $95 annual fee while the Active Cash Card has no annual fee. In order offset the cost of Venture Rewards Card, you’d have to spend $4,750 a year.

If you don’t think you’ll spend enough to cover the annual fee, you should consider how much you value the perks of having the Venture Rewards Card. Do you think you’ll save money by using up to $100 credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years? Will the auto rental collision damage waiver be useful if you’re not renting cars frequently? These are some of the questions you should consider when deciding if the Venture Rewards Card annual fee is worth it.

Another factor you should consider are your traveling habits. The Venture Rewards Card is best for international travelers as there’s no foreign transaction fees. The Active Cash Card, in contrast, has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

However, if you don’t have plans to travel abroad, and you’re looking to transfer credit card debt to a new card, you should opt for the Active Cash Card because of the 15-month 0% introductory APR period on purchases and qualified balance transfers (after, a variable APR of 14.99% – 24.99%).

The Venture Rewards Card doesn’t have a 0% introductory APR period, and its variable APR is 17.24% – 24.49%.

Winner: The Active Cash Card. When it comes to fees, the 0% introductory APR period and the no annual fee, the Active Cash Card stands out from the Venture Rewards Card. Though if you’re planning on using the card for purchases abroad, the lack of foreign transaction fee could make the Venture Rewards Card a better choice.

Bottom line

This was a toss-up because both cards are remarkably different when it comes to the welcome bonus, the annual fee, the foreign transaction fee and perks. What the cards did have in common was the opportunity to earn either 2X rewards on every dollar spent or 2% cash rewards on every dollar spent.

When we broke it down, the Venture Rewards Card had more to offer in spite of its $95 annual fee. The generous welcome bonus, the lack of foreign transaction fees and the numerous travel-related perks made it the better card.

However, if you’re a modest spender and don’t think you’ll receive the 100,000-point bonus or don’t plan on traveling abroad, the Active Cash Card can be a great option if you don’t need travel-related perks and want a solid cash-rewards card with no annual fee.

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value, Select analyzed popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company’s data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri’s data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

While the five-year estimates we’ve included are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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