The American Express® Gold Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card rank as our top two credit cards for travel and rewards. Both cards offer competitive rewards programs that can add up to over an estimated $2,500 in rewards over five years. (Calculated using a sample annual spending budget of $21,852 provided by location intelligence firm Esri.)
If you're looking to earn rewards and benefit from numerous perks, such as Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credits, up to $120 annual dining credit and generous welcome bonuses, one of these cards can be a great addition to your wallet.
Below, CNBC Select reviews both cards, so you can choose the one that provides the most benefit for your spending habits.
The American Express® Gold Card has a higher $250 annual fee compared to the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which is $95 annually and waived the first year. (See rates and fees)
Paying a $250 annual fee may seem like a lot, but if you look at all the benefits offered by the American Express® Gold Card, such as annual statement credits worth $220 and shopping discounts (both discussed more below), you can easily recoup the annual fee. If you're not taking full advantage of the benefits, you need to spend approximately $11,000 a year to earn enough rewards to break even on the $250 annual fee.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card holders need to spend approximately $4,750 a year (after the first year) to earn enough rewards to break even on the $95 annual fee. That said, the annual fee is effectively offset once every four years if you take advantage of the $100 credit for a Global Entry application.
Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card since the annual fee is $95 (waived the first year) versus the American Express® Gold Card's $250 annual fee.
These two cards have rewards programs geared toward very different consumers. If you're looking for a simple rewards program, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has you covered with 2X miles on all purchases. Plus, you earn more rewards on eligible travel: 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 10X miles on thousands of bookings at hotels.com/venture through January 2020.
The American Express® Gold Card is more geared toward foodies and grocery shoppers: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases.
CNBC Select worked with the location intelligence firm Esri, who provided us with a sample annual spending budget of $21,852. We used this sample budget to break down how much money you could earn (less than annual fee) if you optimized using each card over the course of five years.
The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961).
We found you could earn an estimated $2,805 after five years with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. With the American Express® Gold Card you can earn $2,631 after five years.
(While the estimates we included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your consumer habits.)
Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — You earn $174 more in rewards over the course of five years.
Both cards allow you to redeem rewards in several ways, from travel to statement credit to gift cards. You can also transfer rewards to participating airline and hotel partners. Both cards allow you to transfer points or miles to the following partners: AeroMexico, Air France KLM, Alitalia, Asia Miles, Avianca LifeMiles, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
Additionally, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card holders can transfer miles to Air Canada, EVA Air, Finnair and Qatar Airways.
American Express® Gold Card members also have access to more travel partners. They can also transfer miles to Aer Lingus, Aeroplan, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, El Al Israel Airlines, Iberia Plus, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Choice Privileges, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.
The amount of points or miles needed to redeem for rewards varies based on the redemption you choose. For example, 1 mile is worth a penny toward travel redemptions (such as airfare and hotels) with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. With the American Express® Gold Card, 1 point is worth a penny for flights booked through American Express Travel, but 1 point is only worth $0.007 for Amex Travel hotel redemptions.
Winner: Tie. Both cards offer similar redemption options. However, if you prefer to transfer miles to a participating travel program, American Express provides more options. It's a good idea to review the eligible transfer partners before choosing a card.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
The American Express® Gold Card offers 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Winner: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a larger welcome bonus and has a lower spending requirement.
Both cards offer some of the same travel and purchase related perks, but also a variety of other unique benefits. Here's a breakdown of the perks offered by both cards:
Consumers with either card can benefit from:
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card holders enjoy these added perks:
American Express® Gold Card holders enjoy these added perks:
Winner: American Express® Gold Card with over a dozen perks.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and American Express® Gold Card are two competitive rewards cards that provide premium benefits for cardholders. Whether you're looking to earn flat-rate rewards on everyday spending or higher rewards in bonus categories, one of these cards can be a great fit.
If you're looking for high travel rewards, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is the best option with 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 10X miles on thousands of hotels at hotels.com/venture (through January 2020).
However, if you rather earn more rewards on restaurants and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, the American Express® Gold Card can be a great asset with its 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
Beyond rewards, the American Express® Gold Card offers more premium perks and annual statement credits than the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which can be helpful to offset the card's higher $250 annual fee.
While both of these cards are good options for travelers, there are alternative options that may be a better fit for your needs. Check out CNBC Select's round up of the best travel credit cards. If travel isn't one of your major expenses, you might want to consider our lists of the best cash-back credit cards and best rewards credit cards.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.