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Does Capital One’s Travel Portal Have a Pricing Problem?

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When Capital One first unveiled its new and improved travel portal, we were impressed. With unique features like “price freeze” and automatic refunds when a price drops, it was clear Capital One's portal was a cut above its competitors.

Now, more than two years later, it's not quite the darling it once was. Some of the portal's most valuable features have been eroded and even more importantly, travelers are finding that prices charged by Capital One are often higher than other booking sites, especially for hotels. 

This isn't exclusive to Capital One: With all the different booking engines and travel portals out there, these pricing discrepancies are the name of the game. But after running hundreds of searches, it's clear these differences are regularly cutting against Capital One … and its cardholders. While the portal allows travelers to book flights and rental cars, the prices you'll see when booking hotels seem to be the problem child.

With the bank incentivizing cardholders to use the portal by offering bonus miles on travel bookings and giving those with the popular *venture x* an annual $300 travel credit, these pricing discrepancies are even more glaring. More often than not, cardholders are paying more to use those benefits.

Let's take a closer look at the Capital One Travel portal and some of the pricing issues we've uncovered.

 

Is Capital One Travel Really More Expensive?

Since its debut, we've lauded the *venture x* as one of the best travel rewards cards on the market – and most would agree. The one knock? The card's annual $300 travel credit isn't really worth $300 because Capital One often charges more than other booking engines. When compared to the $300 credit that comes with the *chase sapphire reserve*, there's really no comparison.

 

Capital One Venture x in a passport wallet

 

To be clear: This gripe wasn't coming from the team at Thrifty Traveler. No, we heard it time and time again from readers and others online. So we decided to look into it.

We started by searching for 60 random hotels, flights, and rental car bookings all over the world. We then compared the price when booking through Capital One Travel with other online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Priceline, the Chase Travel portal, and Hopper (which actually powers the Capital One Travel portal) as well as booking directly with a hotel, airline, or rental car agency. What we found was that prices deviated ever so slightly when it came to airfare and rental car bookings – certainly not enough to make us definitively say other options were cheaper than Capital One. But hotels were a different story.

So we kept digging. We expanded our sample size to 110 hotels, comparing prices on these platforms at properties in every corner of the globe – from high-end luxury resorts to boutique hotels and well-known chains. It was clear after running all these searches that more often than not, Capital One Travel was the most expensive hotel booking option.

When comparing just the cost of booking a hotel through Capital One Travel to booking directly with the hotel, Capital One Travel was the more expensive option nearly 62% of the time. 

Here's a look at what we found with our analysis.

Read more: How to Book Flights & More Through the Capital One Travel Portal

 

Hotels Often Cost More Booked Through Capital One

To do a true apples-to-apples price comparison, we ensured that room types, dates, and cancellation policies all matched across the different booking platforms. When booking direct, we didn't consider any special rates only available to elite members – or those with a corporate discount or AAA membership. Simply put: If it wasn't a publicly available rate, it didn't count.

Of the more than 100 hotels we analyzed, Capital One Travel returned the most expensive booking option 44% of the time. And if you exclude Hopper from the search results, the booking engine that powers Capital One Travel, Capital One was the most expensive option more than half of the time at 53%.

 

Capital One Travel Banner

 

Again, it's common to find pricing discrepancies across different booking channels. But given that we were looking at results from four different search engines, you'd expect each to be the most expensive choice approximately 25% of the time. Our data found Capital One was the most expensive option nearly twice as often as other competitors. When you compare that to the prices found in Chase's travel portal, it's even more startling. In our searches, Chase was the most expensive option only 19% of the time. So it certainly doesn't appear to be an issue with bank travel portals charging more than booking directly through the hotel or other third-party sites.

It's not all doom and gloom for hotel bookings through Capital One Travel, though. There were many instances where Capital One was in line with the other platforms or even cheaper. From our search results, Capital One was the cheapest option 19% of the time. It's not that you can't get a good deal when booking a hotel through Capital One, you just need to do some price shopping to know for sure.

Capital One declined to address specific questions about our analysis, saying: “Travel pricing is incredibly complex, especially as it relates to hotels. Given this landscape, there can be variability in pricing across different sources.” But that variability frequently results in Capital One cardholders overpaying for hotels – far more often than travelers with cards from competing banks like Chase and American Express experience.

Let's take a closer look at some examples to see how Capital One Travel compares to the competition.

 

Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden (Berchtesgaden, Germany)

Berchtesgaden is a quaint, quiet pocket of southeastern Germany, right on the Austrian border. With beautiful mountains, lakes, picturesque nearby towns, and beer gardens, what's not to love?

While you're there, you'll have a tough time finding nicer lodging than at the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden. If you're unfamiliar with Kempinski Hotels, the Swiss-based company operates a small chain of luxury hotels around the world known for their signature European style. As such, you can typically expect to pay a pretty penny any time you're staying at a Kempinski property … and the one in Berchtesgaden is no exception.

Reserving a two-night stay in a mountain view room at the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden will set you back $1,075 when booking through Capital One.

 

Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden - Capital One Travel Booking

 

The far better choice is to book directly with Kempinski. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can easily join the Kempinski Discovery loyalty program and reserve the exact same room for 792 EUR, or approximately $857, at the time of publication. What's more, this direct booking also includes breakfast … something you won't get when booking with Capital One. So not only are you saving over $200 on your booking, but you're also getting a free meal for two each day of your stay. Not bad!
 

Kempinski Berchtesgaden Hotel Booking - Direct 

If you wanted to book with Chase instead, it would cost you $952 for the same mountain view room – and that rate also comes with breakfast. If you were deciding between booking with Capital One and Chase, this would be the far better option but it's still nowhere as good as booking direct.

 

Kempinski Berchtesgaden - Chase Booking

 

Hopper is the cheapest of all the third-party booking options – charging $897 for the same two-night stay … and that rate includes breakfast, too.

At this property, not only was Capital One Travel the most expensive booking option but it was also the only rate to not include breakfast. In this case, you'd be paying more and getting less if you only went to Capital One and didn't do a price comparison. Ouch!

 

The Liberty Hotel (Boston, MA)

The Liberty Hotel in Boston is a Marriott Luxury Collection property with tons of history. The nearly 200-year-old building sits at the foot of Beacon Hill and was once the Charles Street Jail. Oh, “if these walls could talk” … or something like that. Today, the hotel features 289 guest rooms and five different food and beverage outlets making it the perfect choice for an upscale weekend in Beantown.

If you're planning a stay here on the weekend before the Boston Marathon, it'll cost you. A two-night stay in a Deluxe King room booked through Capital One is about as much as some family's mortgage payment, ringing in at $1,792.

 

The Liberty, Boston - Capital One Travel Portal Booking

 

In this case, you're not saving a ton by going direct with Marriott as the same two-night stay here will cost you $1,772. Still, coming out $20 ahead is better than nothing. And booking direct is a necessity if you're on the hunt for Marriott elite status – or if you've already got it and want to take advantage of your elite perks like free breakfast, a potential room upgrade, and early check-in or late checkout.

If you book through Capital One or any other third-party site, you won't be eligible for any status-related benefits.

 

The Liberty, Boston Marriott Booking

 

If you don't care about elite status, opting to book through Chase's Travel portal will be your best bet as the same two-night stay only costs $1,631. That's a savings of over $160 when compared to the price Capital One is charging.

 
The Liberty - Chase Booking 

Hopper is sometimes a great choice for these kinds of bookings but in this case, it was the most expensive option of all – charging $1,864 for the exact same two-night stay. So while Capital One Travel isn't the absolute most expensive choice … it's still more expensive than most.

 

Hyatt Place Madison Downtown (Madison, WI)

Heading to Madtown for a Badger football game this fall? You could book a two-night stay at the Hyatt Place in downtown Madison through Capital One Travel for just over $750.

This refundable rate includes a room with a king-size bed and sleeper sofa. That's kind of pricey for your average Hyatt Place but you can't beat the location, just blocks from not one, but two lakes … and within walking distance of campus and several great bars and restaurants.

 

Capital One Travel Booking - Hyatt Place Madison Downtown

 

Booking directly with Hyatt will cost you $714, a savings of nearly $40 when compared to Capital One. And you'll find a nearly identical price if you go through Chase instead. While saving $40 with either Hyatt or Chase isn't life-changing, Capital One is yet again the most expensive booking option.

 

Hyatt Place Madison Downtown Booking 

Hyatt Place Madison Downtown - Chase Booking

 

In this case, Hopper is the cheapest option of all – charging $685 for two nights in a “1 King Bed” room at the Hyatt Place Madison Downtown.  That's a $30 savings over booking direct or going through Chase – and nearly $70 (or 10%) cheaper than booking with Capital One.

Why does that 10% difference seem significant? Capital One Venture X cardholders earn 10x miles on hotels when booking through the Capital One Travel portal. More on that later.

 

St. Regis Toronto (Toronto, Canada)

Just to prove that Capital One Travel isn't always a bad choice, here's a hotel where you're getting a far better deal by booking through the bank's travel portal rather than going direct or booking with Chase or Hopper.

The St. Regis in Toronto is a five-star hotel that would surely make for a great place to stay if your travels bring you north of the border. For two nights at the St. Regis in March, Capital One is charging $1,165.

 

St Regis Toronto - Capital One Travel Booking

 

After converting loonies to U.S. dollars, you can expect to pay $1,291 for the same dates, room type, and cancellation policy when booking the St. Regis Toronto directly on Marriott's site.  In this situation, you save over $100 by booking through Capital One Travel.

Again, it's worth noting that if you have Marriott elite status (or are trying to earn it), you'll need to book directly with Marriott to get perks like free breakfast, a possible room upgrade, and late check-out.

 

St Regis Toronto - Marriott Booking

 

Alternatively, you can book this property through Chase Travel and pay the same price as you would when booking with Marriott. Booking through Chase means you're again sacrificing Marriott elite night-earning and any status-related benefits.

 
St Regis Toronto - Chase Booking 

Hopper is a little cheaper than Chase and Marriott at $1,231 for the same two-night stay – but in this case, reserving your room through Capital One Travel is still the clear winner.

Again: The key is to ensure you're doing your homework before making a reservation. If you went straight to the Chase or Marriott to make a booking, it would you more than by reserving through Hopper … and significantly more than booking with Capital One.

 

Shouldn't Hopper and Capital One Prices be the Same?

It was big news when Capital One and Hopper announced they were partnering to redesign the bank's travel portal. Hopper's AI-driven price prediction and alert technology, combined with Capital One's customer-first, digital approach promised a new and innovative way to book travel. We'd agree that the two of them mostly delivered on this.

While we typically recommend steering clear of online travel agencies (OTAs), Capital One's new travel portal turned that logic on its head by addressing many of the biggest drawbacks to booking with a third-party site. By putting an emphasis on customer service and adding travel protections that customers came to expect following the COVID-19 pandemic, Capital One's travel portal was different … in a good way.

 

Hopper and Capital One Travel Logos

 

Since Hopper is powering the Capital One Travel portal, wouldn't it make sense for their prices to be the same … or at least comparable? We thought so. But after hundreds of searches, there seems to be little correlation between the two with Hopper routinely pricing out lower than what you'll find when searching through Capital One Travel.

One possible explanation? Capital One incentivizes Venture X cardholders to book through its travel portal by offering 10x miles per dollar spent on hotel and rental car bookings and 5x miles per dollar spent on flights. If you've got the lower-priced *capital one venture card*, you'll earn 5x miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through the portal. It wouldn't be totally out of the question for the bank to price travel 5% to 10% higher in its own portal to account for the bonus points it's awarding cardholders.

 

What About Capital One's Price Match Guarantee?

So what if Capital One Travel charges a higher price? They offer a “price match guarantee” so you don't actually have to pay it. You're right! Capital One does offer a price match guarantee but it’s a bit of a double whammy.

With Capital One's price match guarantee, you'll get a refund if you find a better price for a flight, hotel, or rental car on another site within 24 hours of booking. But because you can only get a price match after booking, and they now issue the difference as a Capital One Travel credit rather than a refund to your card like they previously did, you’re paying more upfront and pocketing a less useful travel credit in return.

When the portal is routinely pricing hotels higher than other sites, going through the hassle of calling in to get a Capital One Travel credit each and every time you find a better rate makes booking the lower rate upfront from somewhere else seem like a better deal.

 

Bottom Line

Capital One's Travel Portal is an impressive travel booking platform with unique features not found at competing banks like Chase and Amex. But all that's for naught if using it actually costs you more. 

Time and time again, we've heard travelers complain about finding higher prices when booking with Capital One Travel rather than going direct or booking with other third-party sites. So we looked into it, and what we found was that when it comes to booking hotels in particular, Capital One Travel is consistently higher priced than its competitors.

While not always the case, if you're beginning and ending your search with Capital One Travel, you're much more likely to be overpaying for your stay.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

28 Responses

  • Good work, Jackson Newman. Thank you. I still don’t understand why people don’t book directly with a hotel (altho sometimes I find booking.com cheaper than the hotel).

    • You would only book direct with a hotel simply based on price, coupons, credit card cash back deals and cash back sites. AMEX, Wells Fargo, Chase, BOA cards regularly have cash back deals to Marriott properties, among many others.

  • It is so true that I have been booking either directly with hotels or priceline, which is my go to third party booking site. Even those 5x and 10x points with hotels and cars, it is not worth it. Also, when I tried to book a car for rental, capital one portal had a limited cars available for me to choose. So, I booked direct with a rental company. As far as flights is concerned, capital one is on par with airlines.

  • I have found this with every hotel I have tried to book. The example you used with using a loyalty program, even when free to sign up for, is also not a public rate so they won’t price match it. I have also found that often you are not able to book the “non-refundable” rates that you can when going directly to the hotel site so that costs more. This combined with the booking process being slow, failing to get to the confirmation page, or flights not being available to book have made this portal almost unusable for me.

  • I’ve had multiple experiences now where capital one travel portal booking said that breakfast was not included, only to show up at the hotel and find out that it is. So that’s been a nice surprise.

    I like price matching hotels because that’s cash I get 10% back on, and then I use thosr credits for flight bookings.

  • Totally agree re more expensive re hotels. I have found the same with flights, and few choices as well. I may keep the card one more year.

  • Yes, my experience is that hotels cost more when you book through Capital One Travel. I have been getting better prices at booking.com.

  • “With Capital One’s price match guarantee, you’ll get a refund if you find a better price for a flight, hotel, or rental car on another site within 24 hours of booking. But because you can only get a price match after booking, and they now issue the difference as a Capital One Travel credit rather than a refund to your card like they previously did, you’re paying more upfront and pocketing a less useful travel credit in return”.
    Does this price difference travel credit expire like the $300 annual credit?

  • You will not overpay because of the price match and with the 10x points per $ spent on hotels you get for Capital One portal bookings (which you left out) it is worth the 5 minute call for the price match. Example, when you book a $1,200 or combined room booking, that is worth 12,000 points. If you transfer those points to Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) you have enough to book a promo fare (available to book 7-10 days a month) flight to virtually anywhere in Europe (nonstop to Paris or Amsterdam). that flight is worth a minimum of $500 you got for free. You do the math.

  • We are long time Capital One Venture cardholders. We are currently sitting in a hotel room that we paid $100 more for (using points) than we would have paying it outright. We just discussed yesterday looking into other cards. It’s ridiculous!

  • Great article. Getting rid of P2 card for this reason. Not worth the hassle and being on the hook again for spending of credits when you call Cap1 on their prices. Just a hassle any way you cut it

  • Just booked three car rentals with Avis directly and saved approximately a third by doing so over Capital One Travel (and preserved my status to get an upgrade). Plus, I got Alaska Air points. I now feel that the $300 credit is worth $150. Did I mention I didn’t have to prepay when dealing directly with Avis so cancellations are simple? I still value the card for it’s other perks, but his credit is getting annoying.

  • I totally agree that Capital One hotels through the Capital One travel portal are more expensive. Where I find the better deal is to go to Capital One shopping app and book the hotel through Priceline. I can still get my VIP gold discount through Priceline but also get whatever percentage of rewards that Capital One is offering, for example Marriott hotels are 15% rewards. I turn the rewards into hotels.com or other gift cards.

  • I tend to just use the $300 annual travel credit for a hotel or two through their portal and then book any of my other travel elsewhere. I mainly love the card for the lounge accesses.

  • You left out the point that the $300 coupon isn’t really $300 because you don’t get points on the coupon use. If you book a $300 hotel with the credit, that’s 3000 points you don’t get. At a MINIMUM that’s a $30 value. If you instead use it for airlines it’s 1500 points, or $15 minimum. If you have a car rental you need to do, you should use your $300 credit on that since that’s 2x points, 600 points or $6. The airline prices are exactly the same as official channels, so you might as well use it on airline bookings.

  • I’m so glad you wrote about this! I thought it was just me that was noticing all these price discrepancies. I also think Capital One makes it inconvenient to try to get the price match.

    This definitely will be a factor in my decision whether I will renew the Venture X.

  • I often see higher prices on Chase’s portal as opposed to what I find on Google flights or when I go direct to the carrier. Sometimes it’s enough that it wipes 1/2 or more of the 20% bonus you get for cashing points that way.

  • Last year I rented a car for our New England trip. Through Capital One the best price was $1,000.00. The Costco price was $650.00.

  • Yesterday I booked a car for 100 and Cap one was over 300. I definitely don’t use it as much as I used to in the past.

  • I have trying to use the Capital One Venture X Business card since October and it has been maddening. I have all but given up on booking hotels through the Capital One portal. My biggest gripe with it though is that it’s a “no limit” card but I have a clear spending cap of under $5,000. My other business cards limits: $69,300 (Chase), $45,800 (BofA) and $32,500 (Bonvoy Amex). With capital one, charge start getting declined once I have over $4,500 and all charges get declined once there’s a $4,900 balance. This made trying to spend the $30,000 required to get the 150k bonus points in fall 2023 a real challenge and frustration. Repeated calls to Capital One trying to understand how to improve spending caps were pointless. I have the card still but I hate it. My price match experience has been frustrating as well – you basically have to do twice the booking work just to get a hotel room. I am waiting for a transfer bonus to move the Capital one points to an airline partner mileage plan. Every time I see one of those Capital One ads on TV all it does is raise my blood pressure a little….it’s been miserable compared to my other credit card experiences

  • Thanks so much for doing the leg work on this piece to confirm something that most CapitalOne customers have long suspected but was hard to pin down. I have been a Venture card holder for 7 years and have gotten a good value I feel even with the $95 annual fee. Added the VentureX last fall based on a great bonus but after confirming much of what you detailed above I don’t see being able to justify the annual fee in the long run once I burn through the bonus credit and will likely look to downgrade if I can’t use at least some of the credits this year. It was a real devaluation when they changed the policy for using the $300 from a true credit into a credit on travel booked through them. When that happened I knew it was done to increase profit from the card and get out paying full value on the credit.

  • As we travel full time I don’t even bother with Capital One’s travel portal unless I am using the travel credit, which isn’t even that easy as for when booking a rental car only the base rate is covered and not the entire rental! I use the X card for 2x points on purchases and the airport lounges which is a whole other story which needs to be reviewed. Priority pass lounges are poor and if busy they refuse entry. If you need a replacement card while traveling abroad, good luck getting it. Not really finding any value over the last year!

  • I only ever book direct with hotels and especially flights because it is less of a hastle. I book rental cars through the travel portal, they are usually a better price than booking direct. For example CDG one week rental through hertz is 420 in April, C1’s travel portal had a week with a larger car through Sixt for $340 not including the 10x points.

  • Capital One Travel was higher, in some cases MUCH higher than booking direct with hotel, flight, and rental car companies. It’s not worth the hassle or disappointment after spending the time searching and assuming you’re getting the best deal from Capital One. I ended up just booking direct and will not use in the future. Your mileage may vary, but mine was pretty poor!

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