Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don't Be Tricked By Capital One Miles!

A common complaint that often appears in my inbox comes from travel enthusiasts frustrated by the award ticket process.  These people have lots of trouble finding award seats on Delta, United, and American with their hard-earned miles.  They want to throw their hands up and just get a Capital One credit card.  They have heard great things about Capital One's "no hassle" miles policy and ease of use.

I'm telling them to think twice before jumping ship.

Capital One has done very well for themselves with their Venture Rewards credit card and aggressive marketing promotion.  They position themselves as the "easiest" miles to use without having to tediously search online for seats that may or may not be available.  If airlines advertise a seat for sale online, you can use your Venture Rewards miles to book it: no questions asked.  Check out their landing page if you don't believe me.

Those Miles Look Easy to Use, But Are They Worth Anything?
The problem with Capital One miles is they have a fixed value.  When redeeming for flights, you are redeeming at a penny per mile, no exceptions.  If you have accumulated 25,000 miles towards award travel, Capital One allows you to discount any available flight up to $250.  Capital One miles have a fixed value of one cent per mile.  That's it, no budging.

If you don't see the problem with that equation, let me explain further.  25,000 American Airlines miles will get you a domestic round trip ticket, no matter the cost.  Sure, there are dates or non-stop options that might not be available, but you are trading some ease of use for so much more value.  Those 25,000 American miles might get you a transcontinental ticket that would normally cost $500 or more!

Expensive to fly from D.C. to L.A. non-stop!
As an example, I plugged in random dates in December from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles.  Non-stop flights on American were sky-high, but I was still able to find an award seat for 25,000 miles.  The flight normally cost about $550, but I was easily able to find an award ticket at the standard level.  My American Airlines Miles had a redemptive value of 2.2 cents per mile, over double the value of Capital One miles!  Sadly, the 25,000 Capital One Venture Rewards miles I had would only reduce the cost of this flight by $250.  I would still have to pay $304 out of pocket.  That hardly seems like a free flight, does it?

It Was Easy to Find A Standard Award Using My American Miles

I'm not trying to dump on Capital One, but I want travelers to be very aware of what they are getting into when aligning themselves with Capital One.  They certainly won't have to worry about searching an award calendar to find a good itinerary, but their miles won't take them nearly as far if they had gone with a flexible value system such as American Airlines.  I will gladly tradethe ease of use Venture miles touts for the overwhelmingly better value of American Airlines miles.

If this post has been confusing, please don't hesitate to drop me an email or leave a comment.  I have really appreciated all of your emails, so please keep them coming.  One might be featured on the next mailbag!  Until tomorrow, everyone!

-Charm City Traveler

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