Capital One is taking a page out of the books of Chase, American Express & Citi, adding the ability to transfer points directly to airline partners starting in December.
But there’s a lot more to unpack. With 14 partners and a not-so-simple rate at which points from your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card transfer over to airlines, there’s plenty to digest before the roll out next month.
Read on for our guide on making sense of this upcoming feature and how to make the most of it.
Falling Short of Chase and the Other Competition
There’s no question that this will be a big improvement for Capital One Venture miles. The ability to transfer points or book directly is what makes Chase Ultimate Rewards Points so valuable. That flexibility is a big part of why we’ve named the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card our #1 Starter Card.
But while the added flexibility to Capital One miles is great, the value isn’t nearly as good as Chase and other competitors. That’s because of a comparatively poor transfer ratio. Every 2 Capital One points will transfer to 1.5 airline miles, no matter which of the 12 transfer partners you utilize.
Take the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s traditional 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. Transfer it to any airline partner, and you’ll have 37,500 miles.
That’s nothing to sneeze at. But compared to the 1:1 ratio you get with most transfers through Chase, American Express and Citi, it’s disappointing as far as utilizing a sign-up bonus is concerned.
It’s a different story for ongoing spending. Because the card earns 2 points for every dollar spent, you can use this new transfer feature and get 1.5 airline miles for every $1 you put on the card. That’s great and makes a mainstay in many travelers’ wallets far more valuable.
We’re anxious to see whether Capital One will offer occasional bonuses when transferring to specific partners. Capital One didn’t comment on whether transfer bonuses would be available. We see this all the time with both Citi and American Express, such as recent promotions to get a 30% bonus on transfers to Virgin Atlantic.
Strong Partners Among 14
The transfer ratio might be a weak spot, but there are some good partners worth considering if you’ve got a stash of Capital One points.
In all, Capital One is opening the doors to 14 airline partnerships. No hotel brands have cracked the list, but banks are constantly tweaking these partnerships so that could change at some point. Here’s the full list:
|Air Canada Aeroplan||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Air France/KLM||Airline||2:1.5||Same day|
|Cathay Pacific||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|EVA Air||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Qantas||Airline||2:1.5||Up to five business days|
|Singapore||Airline||2:1||Up to five business days|
A few of these transfer partners really stand out. We’re big fans of Avianca Lifemiles, a quirky program of the South American airline Avianca that you can use to book Star Alliance partners like United, Lufthansa, ANA and many more. It has a good award chart for domestic flights in the U.S. as well as international trips. But better yet, they pass on few fees and no fuel surcharges, so the cash price on an award ticket booked through Avianca will be low.
A long-time transfer partner with Citi, Lifemiles was recently added as a transfer partner of American Express. Adding Capital One to the fold just makes it easier to pile up Lifemiles.
FlyingBlue is the combined mileage program for Air France and KLM, and it’s another program worth keeping in mind. That’s due in large part to the fact that it’s already transfer partners of all the major banks: Chase, Citi, and American Express, as well as Marriott Rewards. That makes FlyingBlue miles insanely easy to earn.
FlyingBlue recently followed Delta’s lead and axed its award chart, implementing variable pricing for award flights. But it offers monthly promo rewards flights, with big discounts on traveling between the U.S. and Europe and elsewhere.
And finally, Aeroplan is a solid transfer partner. As the airline program for Air Canada with a strong award chart, it’s a great way to book Star Alliance flights globally. The catch is that Aeroplan tends to pass on heavy fees when arriving in or departing from Europe.
Aeroplan is already a transfer partner of American Express, so the addition of Capital One will make it even easier to earn Aeroplan miles.
And finally, there’s Singapore Airlines. The world’s #1 airline, it’s got one of the best business class and first class cabins – and the only way to book them is with Singapore miles. But with a 2:1 transfer ratio, it’s not the best option. And because you can already get Singapore miles by transferring from Chase, Citi, and Amex, we’d consider transferring Capital One points that way only as a last resort.
Book Direct or Transfer? Do the Math
We’ve loved the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card because of how easy it makes redeeming points. Every point is worth a cent toward your travel. That 50,000-point sign-up bonus is good for $500 in airfare. Just use Capital One’s “purchase eraser” feature to cover the cost.
The addition of transfer partners complicates that a bit, both with a second option to book flights and a less-than-stellar transfer ratio. But that doesn’t mean there’s not immense value here. In many cases, you’ll find you’ll get more value out of your Capital One points by transferring them rather than using them directly.
Let’s look at a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark (EWR) on United Airlines later this month.
At $594 for a round-trip, you could book it directly with the airline and use 59,400 Venture miles to erase your purchase. Not exactly a steal. But thanks to its stable award chart, you could book those exact same flights through Lifemiles with 25,000 miles. To do so, you’d need to transfer just 34,000 Capital One miles to your Lifemiles account.
We could do dozens of examples. But it boils down to this: You need to do the math to get the most out of your Capital One Venture miles. It will vary on a case-by-case basis whether it’s better to pay directly or utilize a transfer partner.
If there’s one general rule of thumb: Is the cash fare cheap? Did you find a great deal on our site or from your Thrifty Traveler Premium subscription and want to pay with points? Your best bet is probably booking directly with the airline and using your Capital One Venture miles to erase the purchase from your statement.
If not, it’s worth exploring transfer partners to see if you can save some points.
Capital One’s addition of transfer partners doesn’t blow Chase out of the water. Nor does it change the landscape of travel rewards credit cards.
There are upsides and downsides here to consider. But the additional flexibility is a win nonetheless. And it’s something for Capital One Venture cardholders new and old to think about as they look to get the most out of their points.
Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0): Thomas Naas via Flickr