Last Reviewed: 2/16/2012
Today’s post focuses on comparing the Capital One Spark Miles business credit card versus the CapitalOne Spark Miles Select card. While these cards are both positioned as “travel cards”, the reality is that they are more like cash back cards with some redemption restrictions. We’ll cover the key differences between Spark Miles and Miles Select, including what types of users should apply for each. And for those interested in the Spark Miles business card, we’ll show you another Spark Card that’s even better.
|Spark Miles||Spark Miles Select|
|Base Rewards||2 miles per dollar of spend on all purchases.||1 mile per $1 of spend + 50% bonus at the end of each year.|
|Spend Target Bonus||Earn 10,000 miles after spending $1,000 within 3 months of card approval.||None|
|Other Bonuses||Earn 5,000 bonus miles when you sign up for 1 or more employee cards within 60 days of card approval||None|
|Rewards Expiration||No expiration||No expiration|
|Rewards Earning Caps||No caps||No caps|
|Redemption Options||Statement credit applied to travel expenses made with your CapOne Card. Can also redeem for cash.||Statement credit applied to travel expenses made with your CapOne Card. Can also redeem for cash.|
|Best Redemption Strategy||Redeeming for travel (statement credit)||Redeeming for travel (statement credit)|
|Annual Fee||$0 first year, then $59||None|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||None||None|
Earning Points: Spark Miles Versus Spark Miles Select
While Spark Miles gives you a straightforward (and nice!) 2 miles per dollar of spend, Spark Miles Select makes you work for it. You only get 1 mile per dollar of spend, and at the end of your cardmember year, you get a 50% bonus—which on the surface means you are earning 1.5 miles per dollar of spend.
However, there are a couple of obvious drawbacks to the 50% bonus. The major drawback is that if you ever cancel the card, you’ll end up forfeiting the 50% bonus points (meaning, for that year your Spark Miles Select card would have performed as a 1% cash back card). The other drawback is simply the delay factor—not having access to those miles until a year out (miles that could have come in handy in booking a vacation, for example).
So How Do I decide Between the Annual Fee and No Annual Fee Versions
Well, assuming that the delayed gratification issue of the Spark Select is not a deal killer for you, your next logical question is likely “How do I choose between the two, given the annual fee of the Spark Miles Card?” Fortunately, you won’t need to go to a tarot card reader for the answer.
The math is pretty simple. The table below breaks out the numbers, but the long and short of it is that if you plan on spending more than about $980 on either card, then the Spark Miles card will outperform the Select version. Also bear in mind the other detracting factors of the Select card (namely the delay in getting your 50% bonus). Also, 2 other considerations: Spark Miles has the opportunity to earn 15,000 bonus miles and there is no annual fee for the first year (those weren’t factored into the simple break-even analysis below). We recommend using the GetDebit Ranking Engine with your own specific spending information to get a full picture over any time frame you care to see.
|Credit Card||Miles Per Dollar||Annual Spend on Card||Miles Earned||$ Value of Miles||Annual Fee||Net Rewards Earned|
|Capital One Spark Miles Select||1.5||$11,800||17,700||$177||$0||$177|
|Capital One Spark Miles||2||$11,800||23,600||$236||$59 (after 1st year)||$177|
Redeeming Rewards with CapitalOne Spark Miles or Spark Miles Select for Business
You can book travel online using your miles through CapitalOne or by calling the Rewards Center. You can also book travel through any carrier, website or travel agent, pay with your CapitalOne Miles credit card, and then call to redeem the miles for the full cost of the trip. Miles translate into one penny each, so 15,000 would buy a $150 ticket.
While this information was not listed on the Capital One site, a Live Chat representative confirmed what I’d read elsewhere: You must have enough miles to cover your entire purchase; you cannot redeem miles to cover just a portion of a purchase. You can also redeem miles for hotel stays, and the same rule applies. It’s not a deal-killer in my opinion, but just another difference between this type of rewards system versus true cash back credit cards.
The CapitalOne website also says that you can redeem miles for cash or merchandise. Miles are worth 0.5% of their value in cash. So, 15,000 miles would be worth $150 if used for airlines tickets, but only $75 in cash back. So for the zombies out there: DO NOT redeem your miles for cash!!
Marginally Useful Factoid: You can transfer points from any of your Capital One Cash credit cards to your Spark Miles or Miles Select credit card, but you can’t transfer Miles to your Capital One Cash credit cards.
A Better Spark Alternative
If you’ve determined that you like the Spark Miles Card, then we strongly urge you to consider the Spark Cash Business credit card instead. Why? Simple: they have identical rewards systems (same points earned per dollar, same spend target bonus, same annual fee structure, etc), but with Spark Cash you earn…cash…so basically you get a much more user-friendly redemption system (no more waiting to accumulate enough miles for a redemption, etc). We just can’t think of a single reason, from a rewards perspective, why you would get Spark Miles over Spark Cash. You can read our review of Spark Cash here.
GetDebit’s Final Thoughts on the Capital One Spark Miles Credit Cards
If you’re going to spend around $900 or more per month on your credit card, then the Spark Miles Card will outperform the Select version, but, per above, you’re better off in that case with the Spark Cash Card. But it’s also worth noting that when I ran the GetDebit Ranking Engine, both the Spark Miles and Spark Cash ended up on page 3 out of 11 pages. So while the Spark Miles card is definitely a better-than-average card by a long shot, there are definitely some other cards out there that will outperform it.