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Capital One miles don’t always get as much love as other rewards currencies, but they are an important part of your game plan if you truly want to unlock the freedom to travel.
One of their most compelling advantages? You can redeem Capital One miles for travel purchases that can’t normally be covered by traditional miles and points from airlines, hotels, and other banks. This includes common expenses like ride shares, train tickets, buses, and alternative accommodations like Airbnb. Those costs could otherwise burn your travel budget – and who wants to spend more than you have to?
And now they’ve stepped up their game by allowing Capital One miles transfers to 14 airline partners when you have any of these cards:
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
- Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business
With all this flexibility, you might wonder about how Capital One miles should fit into your travel strategy. I’ll show you some of the best ways to use Capital One miles.
The Best Ways to Use Capital One Miles
Capital One miles are easy to earn from the following cards:
|Credit Card||Sign-Up Bonus||Annual Fee||Earning Rate|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening||$95, waived the first year||10 miles per dollar at hotels booked and paid via hotels.com/venture until January 31, 2020
2X miles per dollar on every purchase
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||20,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening||No annual fee||10 miles per dollar at hotels booked and paid via hotels.com/venture until January 31, 2020
Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business||50,000 miles after spending $4,500 on purchases within the 3 months of account opening.||$95, waived the first year||2X miles per $1 on every purchase|
|Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business||20,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening||No annual fee||1.5 miles per $1 on every purchase|
With any of these cards, you won’t have to worry about tracking bonus categories because you’ll earn the same number of miles on every purchase (2X miles per $1 with the Capital One Venture and Capital One Spark Miles for Business, 1.5X miles per $1 with the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business, and 1.25X miles per $1 with the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card).
Plus, Capital One miles don’t expire as long as you keep your account open.
Capital One miles are extra useful because you can redeem them for a wide variety of travel costs, including Airbnb stays, Uber rides, and flights or hotels with NO blackout dates. Your miles are always worth 1 cent each towards travel when you redeem them this way.
There is NO minimum redemption increment when redeeming miles. Unless you’re using miles to partially pay for a travel purchase, in which case the minimum amount is 2,500 Capital One miles ($25).
And you’ve now got the option to transfer miles to 14 airline partners for award flights.
It’s often better to use Capital One miles for travel you can’t redeem other miles and points for. Or for smaller travel purchases that might not be eligible for redemption through other programs.
Redeem Capital One Miles for Travel Expenses Beyond Flights and Hotels
I view Capital One miles as sort of a Swiss army knife in your free travel toolkit. They’re incredibly versatile, especially if you want to offset purchases that aren’t covered by regular airline miles or hotel points.
Officially, Capital One counts these expenses as a travel purchase:
Airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents, and timeshares.
Availability for redemption is based on the merchant category code assigned to them by the merchant. Capital One is not responsible for how merchants assign these codes.
That said, data points from cardholders suggest the travel category is much broader. Folks have reported good luck with:
- Online travel agencies and 3rd-party booking sites (like Orbitz)
- Hotel meals (when charged to your hotel room, including Disney hotels)
- Lyft and Uber
- Disney World tickets or other park tickets purchased through Undercover Tourist
- U-Haul storage units, according to a phone call with a Capital One representative
For example, you could use your miles to stay at a unique Airbnb. Or if you often take Uber, Lyft, or taxi rides, using Capital One miles to erase these costs is a good choice.
If you’re planning a Disney or Universal Studios trip, Undercover Tourist sells discounted tickets. And folks report these purchases qualify for a Capital One miles redemption. I’ve personally used Undercover Tourist for both Disney and Universal tickets, and their rates are often cheaper than purchasing through the theme park directly.
And lots of folks book train travel as a cheaper alternative to flying, especially in spots like Europe where prices can be very reasonable. Rail lines like Amtrak qualify as travel, too.
Keep in mind, some purchases you’d think would code as travel aren’t actually eligible.
- Global Entry fees
- Airport parking
- Gas stations
- Some hotel point purchases
- Some airline mile purchases
Redeem Capital One Miles for Cheap Airfare and Hotels
Instead of booking award flights and stays with airline miles or hotel points, it’s worth checking the cash price to see if you’ll get a better deal redeeming Capital One miles for your purchase.
For example, this one-way ticket between New York (LaGuardia) and Chicago (O’Hare) flight on American Airlines costs ~$54. If you pay with your Capital One Venture, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business, or Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, you can redeem ~5,400 Capital One miles to erase the cost of the ticket.
If you don’t mind flying Basic Economy, it’s a much better deal than redeeming 12,500 American Airlines miles for a seat on the same plane. Plus, you’ll earn airline miles and more Capital One miles for your flight.
Transfer Capital One Miles to Airline Partners
Last year, Capital One introduced the ability to transfer miles to 14 airline partners for award flights:
- Air Canada (Aeroplan)
- Air France & KLM (Flying Blue)
- Cathay Pacific
- EVA Air
- Hainan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
Most of these partners aren’t terribly exciting, especially given the transfer ratio, which is 2:1.5 for most partners, so you’ll get 1.5 airline miles for every 2 miles you transfer. The exceptions are Emirates and Singapore Airlines, which have a 2:1 transfer ratio.
That said, if you transfer to the right partner you could get outsized value from your Capital One miles. For example:
- Transfer ~74,000 Capital One miles to Air Canada Aeroplan for a one-way Business Class flight to Western Europe (55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles)
- Transfer 10,000 Capital One miles to Avianca for a one-way United Airlines coach flight in US Zone 1 (7,500 Avianca miles)
- Transfer 22,000 Capital One miles to Qantas for a round-trip short haul flight on American Airlines (16,000 Qantas miles)
If a paid ticket would otherwise be expensive, transferring Capital One miles to airline partners could make sense. But keep in mind because of the transfer ratio, you’ll likely be better off transferring other flexible bank points to airlines, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, AMEX Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.
That’s why most folks prefer saving their Capital One miles for other travel expenses like Airbnb, Uber, or boutique hotels. Always run the numbers to see if a redemption makes sense for your travel plans.
Capital One miles are valuable because they offer great flexibility and, when you redeem them directly for travel purchases, you’re not subject to blackout dates. And miles are easy to redeem. Just pay for your travel with the card, then use your miles to erase the whole charge or a partial amount within 90 days of your purchase.
These cards earn Capital One miles:
- Capital One Venture
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
It usually makes the most sense to redeem Capital One miles for travel purchases that can’t be offset by other miles and points, like boutique hotels, inexpensive Uber or taxi rides, or train tickets. You can even use Capital One miles to pay for Disney and Universal Studios tickets purchased through Undercover Tourist.
The newest redemption option is to transfer Capital One miles to airline partners for award flights. Because the transfer ratios aren’t great, you’ll have to do the math to see if you’re getting the best value for your miles. There are a few sweet spots with programs like Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca, and Qantas to consider.
What’s your favorite way to redeem Capital One miles?
More about Capital One: