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- Capital One has announced a major improvement to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
- Starting in December, cardholders will finally have the option to transfer miles to airline frequent flyer partners — generally, the most valuable kind of credit card reward is transferable points.
- For a limited time, Capital One is offering a significantly increased sign-up bonus: 75,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Normally, the bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the same time frame.
- Here are some of the incredible flights you can now book with Capital One miles.
In a strong challenge to Chase and American Express, Capital One is adding points transfers to its Venture Rewards card. But there's a twist: Unlike most other transferable points programs, Capital One miles don't transfer to airline miles at an even 1:1 ratio. However, the Venture's consistently strong rewards earning rate goes a long way toward making up for that.
Here's what you need to know about this overwhelmingly positive change to the Capital One Venture card.
Capital One is positioning points transfers with this card as a wonky option for travel experts. You'll need your wits and a calculator to figure out how to get the best value out of this program. Don't let that dissuade you, though. This card can offer good value for people who are willing to put in the work to uncover it.
First, let's look at the transfer ratios. At launch, 12 airline programs will transfer at a rate of 2 Capital One Venture miles to 1.5 airline miles. This means that 75,000 Venture points equals 56,250 airline miles in the following programs:
- Aeromexico Club Premier
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- Alitalia MilleMiglia
- Avianca LifeMiles
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Etihad Guest
- EVA Infinity MileageLands
- Finnair Plus
- Hainan Fortune Wings Club
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club
The sign-up bonus of 75,000 Capital One miles (when you spend $5,000 in the first three months) can yield a total of up to 120,000 miles — although that only works if you spend the full $5,000 on hotel stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com/Venture, which would earn you 10x points per dollar. This is enough for up to 90,000 airline miles.
Of course, if you don't complete the entirety of the minimum spend with Hotels.com, you'll end up with fewer points, but still enough to make some awesome redemptions. Since the card earns 2x miles on everything besides Hotels.com, you can reasonably expect to have at least 85,000 Capital One miles after meeting the spending requirements, which can translate to about 64,000 airline miles.
New partners — should you use them?
If you have a Chase, American Express, or Citi card, you may be familiar with some of these programs. For example, Flying Blue partners with American Express, Chase, and Citi. Aeroplan, Etihad, and LifeMiles all partner with American Express. However, Capital One is the first card to offer points transfers to Qatar, Finnair, and Hainan. Additionally, the only other transfer partner to Qantas is Citi.
Unfortunately, many of the new programs are poor value. Hainan and Aeromexico, for example, awards points based on kilometers traveled rather than miles, so their award chart is relatively expensive compared to other programs. Finnair Plus offers access to oneworld partners, but at some of the most expensive redemption rates of any program member.
Meanwhile, Qatar Qmiles and Etihad Guest both recently devalued their award charts and have made redeeming points extremely difficult (all redemptions must be done online, and most partner bookings can only be done via an email form). While both airlines, in theory, offer good redemption rates for flights on American Airlines, these are just too hard to book in practice.
Top program choices, and how to get where you want to go
For most people, the best programs to focus on with the Capital One Venture card will be Flying Blue, Aeroplan and LifeMiles. All three offer some attractive "sweet spot" redemption rates and easy-to-navigate English-language websites, and they provide access to flights throughout the SkyTeam and Star Alliance networks. For access to the oneworld alliance, Qantas will generally be your best bet.
Remember that for most programs, Venture points transfer at a rate of 2:1.5 airline mile. That means if 50,000 airline miles are required for a particular redemption, you'll need 62,500 Venture miles in order to transfer enough points.
One of the best ways to Europe is via the Flying Blue program. The Flying Blue program offers the best pricing and availability on the airlines of its partners, which are Air France (including Hop and Joon), KLM, Aircalin, Kenya Airways, TAROM, and Transavia. While award pricing is variable, flights on Air France (to Paris) or KLM (to Amsterdam) from North America often cost below 25,000 points each way in economy class.
Prefer to sit up front? Enjoy a lie-flat seat to anywhere in western Europe served by SWISS, Turkish, Brussels Airways, United or TAP for just 55,000 Aeroplan points (and no fuel surcharges) one way. Other Star Alliance airlines, like Austrian and Lufthansa, are better booked with LifeMiles for 63,000 points one way, because LifeMiles doesn't pass along fuel surcharges.
Want to fly on the Hello Kitty plane? Yes, it's real and with Aeroplan, it's possible! Not only will you be on the cutest airplane in the sky, you'll enjoy some of the world's best service. Book from Los Angeles to Taipei for only 75,000 Aeroplan points one way in business class with no fuel surcharges.
While Flying Blue offers access to Asia inventory that can be hard to book with other SkyTeam partners, their pricing is generally very high. In Asia, this should mostly be considered as a program to use when you're traveling to a particularly difficult destination. There is, however, one exception: flights on Bangkok Airways. Short-haul flights on "Asia's boutique airline" cost just 20,000 Flying Blue points round-trip, providing access to adventure destinations such as Yangon and Luang Prabang, along with more conventional beach destinations like Koh Samui. Want to travel farther afield? Catch a hop from Bangkok to Male, Maldives for just 20,000 Flying Blue points one way.
G'day, mate! Throw another shrimp (and cliché) on the barbie in Sydney. Use 80,000 LifeMiles to travel in business class one way on Air Canada with no fuel surcharges (this is a better deal than paying the same number of Aeroplan miles, which require fuel surcharges).
Seats are tough to find, but with a lot of patience and flexibility, you can sometimes find economy class seats on Delta to Hawaii for as little as 30,000 Flying Blue points round-trip. Availability is much better on United, which you can book with Aeroplan or LifeMiles for 22,500 points each way in economy class. Business class is available with both programs for 40,000 points each way.
Want to visit one of the world's most beautiful places? Consider Costa Rica. English is widely spoken, you can safely drink the tap water, and best of all, it's affordable. If you're coming from the central or southern part of the US, Costa Rica is closer than Hawaii and award availability can be much better. Delta flights in economy class start from 15,000 Flying Blue points. Fly Copa, Avianca or United for just 20,000 Aeroplan or LifeMiles points.
Want a quick getaway? Canada isn't far away, but it feels a world away. This is especially true in French-speaking Quebec! Short-haul flights to (and within) Canada cost 7,500 Aeroplan points on Air Canada in economy class one way. It costs 8,000 Qantas points to fly American Airlines short-haul routes, and 10,000 Qantas points to fly Alaska Airlines short-haul routes (under 600 miles).
The bottom line
The best award travel values are for people who are willing to do some extra work and research. While few new "sweet spots" are opened up through the availability of new transfer partners, Capital One has changed the game with the Venture Rewards card.
This is a great card to pick up for the limited-time increased sign-up bonus, and an even better one to use for booking hotels.
Every award travel junkie should pick up this card, at least for the first year.
Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.