On the surface, the HSBC Platinum MasterCard with Cash or Fly Rewards and the Capital One Venture card seem comparable. If you like to travel, you might find their pitches enticing: Both let you earn points that you can use for plane tickets. But a cardholder charging $1,500 a month would get $460 worth of points in the first year with the Capital One card and only $180 with HSBC’s card.
Whether you’d uncover that difference is debatable. Sure, you’re a savvy consumer. But these days, picking the right rewards card seems to require an advanced degree in mathematics. Many have complex formulas for determining how much cash or how many points you’ll earn. Some cards come in two versions: one with no annual fee and another with fees, but higher rewards.