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The Best Ways to Use Capital One Miles (Including Quirky Travel Purchases You Might Not Know About!)

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The Best Ways to Use Capital One Miles (Including Quirky Travel Purchases You Might Not Know About!)

Jasmin BaronThe Best Ways to Use Capital One Miles (Including Quirky Travel Purchases You Might Not Know About!)Million Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Capital One’s broad travel category makes the points system an unsung hero.

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 rideshares services (Uber, Lyft, etc.), 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 several airline partners when you have any of these cards:

With such flexibility, you might wonder how Capital One miles should fit into your travel strategy. I’ll show you some of the best ways to use Capital One miles.

Shh… some of the best redemptions with Capital One Miles are expenses you can’t easily redeem other rewards for, like Universal Orlando theme park tickets purchased through Undercover Tourist. (Photo by Allen.G / Shutterstock.com)

The Best Ways to Use Capital One Miles

Capital One miles are easy to earn from the following cards:

Credit Card Sign-Up BonusAnnual FeeEarning Rate
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening$95, waived the first year10 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 Card20,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of account openingNo annual fee10 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 Business50,000 miles after spending $4,500 on purchases within the 3 months of account opening.$95, waived the first year2X miles per $1 on every purchase
Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business20,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account openingNo annual fee1.5 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:

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).

Capital One miles make travel planning easy, because there are never blackout dates when you redeem miles directly for travel.

And you’ve now got the option to transfer miles to several 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.

However,

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)
  • Airbnb
  • 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
Smaller travel purchases, like train tickets, are a great way to redeem Capital One miles. (Photo by Jasmin Baron/Million Mile Secrets)

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.

These include:

  • Global Entry fees
  • Aquariums
  • Airport parking
  • Gas stations
  • Homeaway.com
  • Some hotel point purchases
  • Some airline mile purchases
  • Car2Go
  • www.b-europe.com

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.  So for example, if you pay with your Capital One Venture, you can redeem ~5,400 Capital One miles to erase the cost of the ticket.

Cheap flights are a good candidate for Capital One miles redemptions – you’ll often pay fewer miles (with no blackout dates) compared to redeeming airline miles for an award flight.

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

You can transfer Capital One miles to the following airline partners:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Air France & KLM (Flying Blue)
  • Alitalia
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Qantas
  • 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, JetBlue, 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.

Bottom Line

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:

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:

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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