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The best way to use travel credit card rewards, if you can’t be flexible with your travel plans, is to decide where you want to go and then earn the best miles or points for that trip. But if you have the luxury of being able to travel whenever a good deal is available, it’s smart to get in on the most valuable deals as often as possible.
Either way, the current limited-time offers for the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business and Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business cards are so lucrative that they can fit any travel style. Once you meet the (large) tiered minimum spending requirements, you can earn up to 200,000 Capital One miles or $2,000 cash back.
Those are massive bonuses you can use to make just about any travel dream come true.
6 best ways to use 200,000 Capital One miles or $2,000 cash back
The Spark Miles and Spark cash business credit card limited-time offers are very similar. With the Spark Miles card you will earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening and another 150,000 bonus miles when you spend $50,000 in total in the first six months. The Spark cash has a $500 cash bonus you’ll earn after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening and an additional $1,500 when you spend $50,000 in the first six months.
The rewards you earn from the Capital One Spark Cash card offer can be used toward any expense you want; you can even have the money deposited into your bank account. If you decide to go with the Capital One Spark Miles deal you have the option of transferring your Capital One miles to 15 airline partners, or using the miles to erase travel purchases at a rate of cent per mile.
The Spark Miles earns 2x miles on all purchases and the Spark Cash earns 2% everywhere. So after meeting the minimum spending, you’ll have an extra 100,000 miles or $1,000 cash to play with. Also, both of these are no foreign transaction fee credit cards.
These are both business cards, which means you’ll need some sort of a business or side hustle. But you don’t need to be running a full-time operation to qualify for a business card. If you’re an independent contractor or freelancer you can be eligible for business cards, and I’ve successfully applied for cards as both. Also, if you’re a sole proprietor, you can use your Social Security number as your tax ID. If you’d like a hand filling out the application check out our guide on completing a Capital One business card application.
Now on to those ideas:
Live in a van for a month
If #vanlife is something you want to cross off your bucket list, then these Capital One rewards card offers can get you there. The price of renting a sleeper van varies depending on your pick-up/drop-off locations, when you’re traveling and many other factors, but I was able to find all sorts of 30+ day camper van rentals for well under $2,000.
You could book a cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to New York in the spring of 2020 from $1,600. I found even better deals in New Zealand and Australia during their summer (our winter). Some month-long camper van rentals in Australia cost well under $1,000. When you’re pricing out options, keep in mind that the amenities you’re getting vary wildly and there are all sorts of add-ons that can jack up the price. Also, your credit card rental car insurance most likely won’t apply to camper van or recreational vehicle rentals, so insurance will be an extra expense.
If you really want to go with a budget rental, you can rent RVs for as little as $1 a day if you’re willing to do a relocation rental. These rentals are limited to specific city pairings because the rental companies need to move the vehicles from less-popular destinations to areas where there is more demand.
In order to use Capital One miles to erase camper van rental charges, the purchase will need to code as travel. I believe most camper van rental agencies would code as travel, but it does vary by merchant, so if you’re renting a van from a mom-and-pop shop the transaction could code as something else. If you earn cash back then you don’t need to worry about this.
Fly the whole family to Hawaii
You can transfer Capital One miles at a 2:1.5 ratio to Flying Blue (Air France and KLM) and then book awards on Delta to Hawaii. Flying Blue no longer has an award chart, but according to its miles calculator, round-trip flights from cities like L.A., Seattle and Atlanta to Honolulu are 35,000 Flying Blue miles in economy.
200,000 Capital One miles convert into 150,000 Flying Blue miles, which is more than enough to fly four people round-trip to Hawaii. When I searched for Delta flights that are bookable with Flying Blue, the website didn’t return any results, but I was able to find awards using the Flying Blue app. If those options don’t work, you can try calling 800-375-8723 and booking over the phone.
The key to getting this transfer to work out is finding the partner award space with Delta, but if that proves impossible for the dates you want to travel you’re not out of luck. You can always redeem Capital One miles for one cent each toward a travel expense like airfare, so 200,000 miles can erase $2,000 in flights. Flights to Hawaii can drop into the $500 range from the East Coast and below $300 from the West Coast. The best part is that if you book flights this way you’ll earn frequent flyer miles and elite status on your free flights.
Fly in business class to Europe with a stopover
Air Canada’s Aeroplan is a great program for booking Star Alliance awards because it gives you the option of adding a free stopover or open-jaw on awards between two different continents. Air Canada divides Europe up into two award regions. Zone One includes most of Western Europe and Zone Two includes most of Eastern Europe and other countries like Iceland and Greece. A round-trip business-class award flight from the continental U.S. to Europe costs 110,000 miles to Zone One and 115,000 miles to Zone Two, so at most, you’d need to transfer 153,400 Capital One miles to Aeroplan to book these awards.
You will pay fuel surcharges on Air Canada’s partner awards, but you can avoid these extra fees by booking flights on United Airlines, Aegean, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, SAS and Turkish Airlines. With those partners, you’ll pay around $100 per business-class award ticket in fees.
Take advantage of regular award sales
One of the best ways to maximize the value of your airline miles to take advantage of award sales, and some airlines have regular monthly promotions. Every month Singapore Airlines has its Spontaneous Escapes deals, and Flying Blue has a new list of Promo Awards. The Singapore Airlines promotion has rotating discounts of up to 40% on specific routes and classes, but the issue is that Capital One miles transfer to Singapore Airlines at a measly 2:1 ratio, so even with the discount you’re better off using your miles elsewhere.
Flying Blue’s Promo Awards consistently offer good deals for KLM and Air France flights. In the past, we’ve seen one-way economy flights as low as 11,000 miles one-way and business class in the low 30,000s. Those are excellent deals, even when you factor in the taxes and fees you’ll pay on Flying Blue awards (around $215 for economy and $550 for business class).
One drawback of the Flying Blue sales is that they are typically for travel only one to two months in advance of booking, so the Promo Awards for October 2019 are for travel in Dec. 2019 or Jan. 2020. Having transferrable Capital One miles helps alleviate this problem, because you won’t need to commit to using your miles for Flying Blue travel until you know there is a deal that works for you.
Capital One miles transfer to 15 airlines in total, so you’ll have access to others promotions and sales that don’t occur as regularly as the ones I’ve covered here. Sign-up for our email newsletter if you want to know when these deals pop up.
Book 9+ round-trip domestic short-haul flights
You can use Capital One’s transfer partners to book awards flights with Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue or United. But transferring to partners for domestic flights isn’t always a good deal. For example, JetBlue miles are always worth 1.3-1.5 cents each toward airfare (less for Mint seats). Capital One miles transfer to JetBlue at a 2:1 ratio, so it’s never a worth transferring to JetBlue because you’ll only be getting .75 cents per mile at best. Instead you should pay for JetBlue flights with your card and then erase the charge with miles. Not only will your miles go further, but you’ll also earn miles and elite credit.
Capital One miles also transfer to Emirates and Singapore Airlines at a 2:1 ratio, so don’t bother with those partners. Most of the other airline partners you can use to book domestic flights have pretty standard award prices of 25,000+ miles for domestic travel (within the continental U.S.), and that’s before you factor in Capital One’s 2:1.5 transfer ratio.
But there are a couple of good options for booking short-haul domestic flights that can be lucrative. Short-haul domestic award flights to smaller airports are one of my favorite awards to book. I fly from my home airport in Chicago to smaller cities in South Dakota and Pennsylvania a few times a year to visit family and because there is less competition for these airports, the round-trip prices almost never fall below $300-$400 for a trip that’s under 600 miles each way. Booking these awards saves me from having to shell out cash.
If you’re in a similar situation, here are the best partners to use for booking short-haul domestic awards:
- Use Qantas to book with American Airlines – 8,000 Qantas miles for one-way flights of 600 miles or less (10,700 Capital One miles)
- Use Avianca to book with United Airlines – 7,500 Avianca LifeMiles miles one-way within the same zone (10,000 Capita One miles)
Booking with Qantas is fairly straightforward. There are no close-in booking fees and you can add connections for no extra cost. The Avianca sweet spot will apply to more specific situations because its award chart divides the U.S. into three separate zones:
If you’re traveling within a zone, it’s supposed to cost you 7,500 miles one-way, with the price increasing to 10,000 or 12,500 for one-way if you transit other zones. Those are okay prices, but for an unknown reason sometimes the prices will drop drastically on specific routes. Richard Kerr, from The Points Guy, dug up one-way flights in between zones costing as little as 3,500 LifeMiles one-way (4,700 Capital One miles). So before you pass on transferring to Avianca, be sure to double check the prices showing on its site. Even without these surprise discounts, it wouldn’t be hard to book $2,700 in expensive short-haul flights with 200,000 Capital One miles.
Book a month at a tropical beach
When I’m dreaming about all the places I could go, one website I like to spend time searching is cheapesthotelintheworld.com. The prices you see listed won’t necessarily be available, but it will still give you an idea of what’s possible. Lots of the cheapest accommodations are hostels or homeshares and you aren’t likely to find crazy deals during peak season. But you can easily book a month-long stay (or longer) in almost any city in the world (not New York) for under $2,000. Granted, if you’re visiting Chicago you’ll end up in a Motel 6 in the middle of winter for that price, but it is possible.
You could always use your miles or cash back toward a nice Airbnb booking, but if you’re willing to go international there are some spectacular beach town properties you could be relaxing in for a month straight. You won’t be able to spend a month at Miami Beach with 200,000 miles, but there are a bunch of amazing beaches in Southeast Asia where you can stay in luxury accommodations dirt cheap. Visit Danang, Vietnam or Phuket, Thailand and you can spend a month at a 4- or 5-star hotel for under $2,000, even during high season (Nov. to March), this is something you couldn’t even pull off with the best hotel credit cards. If you need inspiration, the Monarque Hotel Danang and Belle Maison Parosand Da Nang Hotel both look amazing and have great reviews.
The limited-time Spark Cash and Spark Miles business card offers can be used to fulfill just about any bucket list travel dream you have. The 200,000-miles offer could get you potentially more value, especially if you want to book premium international flights, but the $2,000 cash back offer is great if you want to be able to use your bonus for anything under the sun, including purchases that might not code as travel.
If you need help figuring out the best way to use your rewards, take a look at our guide on the best ways to use Capital One miles.
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