Thank you to Capital One for sponsoring this post.
I’ve written a lot the past year on how important frequent flyer miles are in allowing us to travel as much as we do. When people contact me asking about how they can afford to travel, my first question is always: do you have a credit card that earns you frequent flyer miles? If you’re not getting miles from all of your credit card purchases, you’re basically giving up the ability to travel for free.
Capital One’s Venture card has always impressed me. The primary benefits for us have been:
- A signup bonus of 50,000 miles when we spent $3,000 within the first three months
- A $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. I HIGHLY recommend Global Entry! It’s saved us dozens of hours in security and immigration lines.
- No foreign transaction fees
- Two miles for every dollar spent
- 10 miles for every dollar spent at Hotels.com/venture through January 2020
The Hotels.com benefit has been particularly great. The promotion was announced in January 2018, and over the course of the year I’ve booked 29 room nights at hotels.com/venture, at an average of $239/night. I’ve earned 69,390 miles for those hotel nights – at hotels we would have booked anyway. Added to the 50,000 mile sign up bonus, we’ve earned 119,390 miles, not even including our normal monthly spending. And through Hotels.com’s loyalty program, we’ve earned two free nights already (one for each 10 nights booked) and are just one stay away from a third free night. Combining that with the bonus Venture miles means that we’re effectively saving 20% on every hotel stay.
Spending Your Miles (Direct Redemption)
Traditionally, Capital One miles have been able to be redeemed towards travel expenses. If you charged a $450 plane ticket (or hotel room or train ticket or any other travel expense), you can simply log into your Capital One account and apply 45,000 miles to that charge, eliminating it completely. Nice and simple. My 119,390 miles mentioned above are worth $1,193.90 towards travel purchases.
Spending Your Miles (Airline Transfers)
But now there’s a new option for using your Capital One Venture miles. Instead of applying miles to travel expenses, you can transfer them to your frequent flier account at 12 airline loyalty programs at the rate of 2 Venture miles to 1.5 airline miles: Aeromexico (Club Premier); Air Canada (Aeroplan); Air France KLM (Flying Blue); Alitalia (MilleMiglia Program); Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles); Avianca (LifeMiles); Etihad Airways (Etihad Guest); EVA Air (Infinity MileageLands); Finnair (Finnair Plus); Hainan Airlines (Fortune Wings Club); Qantas (Qantas Frequent Flyer); and Qatar Airways (Privilege Club), and to two other programs – Emirates (Emirates Skywards) and Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer) – at a transfer rate of 2 Venture miles to 1 airline mile. So I could transfer my 119,390 miles to one of the first 12 listed programs and receive 89,542 miles in my frequent flier account, or transfer them to my Emirates or Singapore Airlines accounts and receive 59,695 miles.
But why would I want to do that? Because sometimes the value of the miles when applied directly to mileage reward tickets is higher than the $0.01/mile that a direct redemption would get you. And if you already have miles in your airline account from flying, adding in the Capital One Venture miles could get you up to a redemption plateau.
An example: According to Avianca’s current award chart, a business class ticket from Los Angeles, California to Athens, Greece is 63,000 miles each way, or 126,000 miles round trip. The average cost of that ticket whenever I’ve priced it is $4,000. So, if I purchase that ticket and charge it to my Capital One Venture card, I would require 400,000 Capital One Miles to essentially eliminate the cost of that ticket. By using miles in my frequent flier account instead, I would need only 168,000 Capital One Venture miles for that ticket (converted to Avianca LifeMiles at 2/1.5).
(A disclaimer: I picked Avianca at random for this example. Every partner airline has its own awards chart, and some may be more beneficial to you than others based on where you want to travel. Frequent flier tickets are always subject to availability and blackout dates. And there are typically taxes/fees on airline award tickets.)
So you may be asking yourself: why would I want a frequent flier account for one of these airlines, when none are based in the US? For two primary reasons. First, all of these airlines fly to the US. If your goal is to travel to Hong Kong, for example, an award ticket on Cathay Pacific could work perfectly for you. Second, they have partners. The three primary airline alliances, Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance, are all nicely represented among the Capital One partner programs, and the airlines allow you to use your miles for tickets on any alliance partners. You can redeem Qantas miles for a ticket from New York to Hawaii, for example, even if Qantas doesn’t fly that route.
Tips for Using Frequent Flyer Miles
My next blog post will detail my advice on redeeming frequent flyer miles, including how to maximize value, and I’ll include some of my biggest mileage redemption successes. But even if you find the process confusing (and you’re not alone), at the very least make sure you’re earning miles starting NOW! And it’s a great time to get the Capital One Venture card, since you can earn 50,000 welcome miles, which are worth $500 towards travel expenses, or potentially more when transferred to an airline partner. Click here to sign up.
The redemption rates and travel rewards programs described above are current as of December 2018 and may change. It’s always best to review the most current information directly on the loyalty program’s site.