Capital One Adds 12 Airline Transfer Partners

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UPDATE 12/10/18: Capital One has officially added the ability to transfer Capital One miles earned by the Capital One®Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, and the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card to 12 different airline partners like Flying Blue, Aeroplan, Etihad, and Avianca to redeem as airline miles, instead of just 1 cent a piece. This is great news for those who hold those cards and Capital One miles as it significantly increases their value and options. It also makes those cards much more attractive, if not for long-term spending at least for the first two’s lucrative sign up bonuses.

Capital One is making big moves, and it’s about time. In December, those with Capital One miles will be able to transfer them to the following 12 frequent flyer programs:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Air France/KLM (Flying Blue)
  • Alitalia
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Hainan
  • Qantas
  • Qatar

2 Capital One miles will equal 1.5 airline miles.

Then VS. Now

To be honest I’ve always (internally, and sometimes externally) scoffed when an international traveler tells me they put all their spending on a card that earns Capital One “miles”. While it made a lot of sense to redeem them on cheap flights, it made no sense to redeem Capital One’s rewards, previously just worth 1 cent each toward travel purchases, on expensive international flights. That is what airline miles are for. Capital One miles were credit card points with a fixed 1 cent a piece value pretending to be airline miles you can get outsized value from (thanks to award pricing not entirely based on the cash value).

Here’s a quick and simplified example to illustrate my point:

  • A one-way United economy plane ticket from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires costs $700. That would cost 70,000 Capital One miles redeeming them as 1 cent each toward a cash ticket. This used to be the only way you could redeem Capital One miles.
  • The same flight is bookable as a one-way economy award from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires for 30,000 Air Canada miles. That number is not based on the dynamic cash price of the ticket but rather the static* mileage price between two specific regions.

The downside to using miles versus redeeming them towards a cash ticket is that you have to understand how to find award flights, which isn’t always the most obvious process of searching point A to B (albeit sometimes it is). Either way, anyone can learn how. Or if you don’t feel like investing a little time and research you can pay an award booking service to do it for you and you’re still better off.

When it comes to credit card issuing banks with competitive travel rewards cards, Capital One is not a bank I considered to be in that category because their cards didn’t earn airline miles nor points transferrable to airline miles (like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, etc.) But as of December, you will be able to transfer your Capital One miles to various airline mileage programs. That means you’d need just 40,000 Capital One miles, as opposed to 70,000 the old way, to transfer to Air Canada’s frequent flyer program Aeroplan for redemption on that United flight between the United States and Buenos Aires (as long as you found Saver level–read, cheapest–award space).

Of course, redemption is just one side of the equation. We have to look at how quickly Capital One miles can be earned to see if this is a good return on spending in the long run beyond meeting a minimum spending requirement for a sign up bonus. More on that in the section about Capital One credit cards.

*No mileage prices are completely static as occasionally frequent flyer programs will increase their award chart prices, resulting in devaluations of mileage currencies… but the good ones don’t do it often and give customers plenty of notice.

What's that? Capital One decided to run with the big dogs? Photo by Ed Oswalt
What’s that? Capital One decided to run with the big dogs? Photo by Ed Oswalt

Transfer Partners

While none of the new transfer partners are US-based airlines, they span all three alliances and include a few non-allied options as well.

oneworld AllianceStar AllianceSkyTeam AllianceNon-Allied
Cathay Pacific Aeroplan (Air Canada)AeromexicoEtihad
FinnairAviancaAlitalita Hainan
QantasEVA AirAir France/KLM (Flying Blue)
Qatar

Right off the bat, the partners in that list that excite me the most are Flying Blue, Aeroplan, Etihad, and Avianca.

With award space sometimes scarce, long transfer times to airline partners can severely damage the value of a point, especially if you tend to book travel last minute like I do. Capital One is claiming most transfers will be instant, although some partners with older systems may take longer. We’ll get more insight on this very important detail in December when data points surface.

Other transferrable point currencies periodically offer transfer bonuses, which I hope is something we’ll see happen with Capital One mile transfers as well.

The Capital One Mile-Earning Credit Cards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

There are a couple offers available for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card at the moment: 50,000 Capital One miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months, and also 75,000 miles for spending $5,000 miles within three months. 

You’ll earn 2 of these Capital One miles per dollar spent on everything you charge to the card. You’ll also earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels booked and paid through hotels.com/venture!

The card also comes with up to $100 credit FOR TSA PRE✔® or Global Entry. It has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.

With the addition of airline transfer partners, the value of a Capital One mile is going to increase significantly. To what yet I’m not sure, I haven’t landed on a personal valuation. But what I do know is that you can look at the Venture Rewards Card as earning 1.5 airline miles per dollar spent on everything, as 2 Capital One miles translates to 1.5 airline miles (and the card earns 2x on everything). I don’t consider Capital One’s list of transfer partners as good as any of the other transferrable points partners, but it’s not that far off from the value of ThankYou Points’ transfer partners. And of course, there is inherent value in flexibility. I’m sure we will discover new award chart sweetspots thanks to all the digging into Capital One’s programs that’s in the process of happening right now.

I still consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire Reserve or Freedom UnlimitedChase Sapphire Preferred combo better for everyday spending than the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, because the Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5 Ultimate Reward points on all spend and transferring them to a Sapphire Reserve or Preferred account means you can transfer them on to Ultimate Rewards’ airline transfer partners which I consider to be better than Capital One’s. That being said, a two card combo requires a little more management than just dealing with one card for everyday spend, so the Capital One Venture Rewards Card may be the better play for someone wanting a bit more simplicity.

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business 

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business comes with a grandiose sign-up bonus for a very large minimum spending requirement. You’ll get 200,000 Capital One miles for putting $50,000 in spend–that’s correct, I did not put an extra zero in that amount–within six months of opening your account. The bonus is tiered…

  • ..with the first trigger at $5,000 spend in the first three months of account opening, which will earn 50,000 bonus Capital One miles.
  • Spending an additional $45,000 within six months of opening the card then earns you the remaining 150,000 bonus Capital One miles.

200,000 Capital One miles = $2,000 in travel credits, or 133,333 airline miles.

Your return will be the same with the Spark Miles for Business Card as it is with the Venture Rewards Card, 2 Capital One miles per dollar spend on all purchases. If you’re business can meet that spending requirement then you’ll effectively be earning 2.6 airline miles per dollar spent for the duration of spending towards the bonus. That’s an attractive offer and arguably better than the everyday spend you’d earn from the Blue Business ℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, which earns 2 Membership Rewards on all spending. It depends on how much more useful Membership Rewards transfer partners are to you than Capital One’s.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card comes with 20,000 bonus Capital One miles for spending $1,000 within three months of account opening. This card earns Capital One miles at a slower rate than the Venture Rewards card in exchange for no annual fee.

It also gets 10x on hotels booked and paid at hotels.com/venture like the Venture Rewards card, but earns 1.25 Capital One miles per dollar spent on everything else, which equates to .833 airline miles per dollar spent.

Eligibility & Applying for Capital One Credit Cards

This is what I know so far:

  • You cannot have more than foru credit cards open with Capital One to be eligible for an additional one (from the “Important Disclosures” section on applications)
  • You cannot have applied for a Capital One credit card two or more times in the last 30 days to be eligible (also from the “Important Disclosures” section on applications)
  • Capital One will pull your credit report from all three credit bureaus (general consensus)
  • Capital One Business Cards are the one type of business cards that will count in your 5/24 total (general consensus)

Again, we’ll know more over time as more data points surface. Please share your experiences applying for Capital One cards in the comments below.

Bottom Line

At some point in December Capital One Venture Rewards, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, and Capital One VentureOne Rewards cardholders will gain the ability to transfer their Capital One miles to 12 different frequent flyer programs. This increases the value of Capital One miles and therefore Capital One’s credit cards, as it will soon be possible to get outsized value from them (via airline mileage redemptions) as opposed to the prior 1 cent a piece cap. Earning 2 cents back per dollar spent, via the Capital One Venture Rewards and Spark Miles for Business Cards for redemption as travel credit, is also attractive for those who like to keep it simple and especially those who mainly fly domestically in economy.

Long story short, Capital One has legitimized their travel rewards cards by adding airline transfer partners in what appears to be an attempt to get in the sandbox with the big boys. Capital One, welcome to the conversation.

What do you guys make of all this? Any of those partners you’re particularly excited about, or partners you’d like to see Capital One add?


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. You state “That means you’d need just 30,000 Capital One miles as opposed to 70,000 the old way.” 30k Capital One miles does not equal 30k Aeroplan miles. Do you mean 40,000 Capital One miles?

  2. Thank you for the succinct and informative summary (far better than some of your peers). Have you heard anything about whose frequent flyer account you’ll be able to transfer to? I.e. Can I earn all these points and transfer it to my mom’s ff account?

    • You’re welcome! I have not heard/read anything official about transferring between accounts/pooling of points, but actually being able to transfer to your Capital One miles to your mother’s ff account is likely not to be an option as that is not the status quo. What you may be able to do is transfer Capital One miles to a Capital One mile account of hers (or pool your points)… if you live at the same address. Otherwise, I doubt you’ll be able to. But you can always just transfer Capital One miles to your own ff accounts and book her an award in her name without any issue.

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