Skift Take

A new tool coming from Capital One will make its travel credit cards more competitive with American Express and Chase. Only seasoned travel pros, however, may find it useful.

One of the more popular features among point-earning credit cards is the ability to transfer balances to a host of airline frequent flyer programs — creating, ostensibly, a virtual bank for points that can be disbursed at any measure. So far, American Express and Chase have been leaders in offering this option through a variety of credit cards. Now, Capital One is getting into the game with 12 airlines.

This new option announced by Capital One this week is coming to the Capital One Venture and VentureOne Rewards credit cards, which have long been positioned for frequent travelers. In adding the feature, the cards should better compete with the Sapphire cards from Chase and the Platinum card from Amex, all of which join wide popularity with frequent travelers.

Each of the cards that Capital One is adding the functionality to currently earns two points per dollar spent on everyday purchases and 10 points on many hotel bookings. Previously, owners of the two cards primarily used those points to book travel directly through a portal on Capital One’s website at a value of one cent per point. Spending $1,000 on everyday purchases through the card would thus result in earning 2,000 points and $20 in travel value when booking through Capital One’s portal.

Now, those points can be transferred to select airline partners at a value of 1.5 frequent flyer miles for every two Capital One points. That $1,000 purchase from before would become 1,500 frequent flyer miles.

Each channel for spending points obviously has its benefits. A typical domestic round trip award ticket, for example, should ideally cost 25,000 miles, which translates to 33,334 points or $16,667 of spend on the card. Those 33,334 points could also be used to directly book tickets through the Capital One portal though, which would cover a ticket costing $333.34.

Initial frequent flyer transfer partners include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, EVA Air, Finnair, Hainan, Qantas and Qatar Airways. Curiously, no U.S.-based air carriers are in the mix of initial transfer partners, though Oneworld, Skyteam and Star alliance networks are in play.

Indeed, given the lack of domestic partners, some may find that the traditional channel of booking travel directly with points may be easier. “I’m not wowed by the transfer partners,” said industry analyst, Ted Rossman “There’s no doubt that expert travel hackers will find lucrative sweet spots on international carriers and transferring to their U.S.-based partners, but the typical consumer wants a much simpler approach.”

Still, for those who carefully monitor award points, credit cards and airline transfer partners, Capital One’s new tool brings a great deal of possibilities to the table. And as the bank’s airline partners continue to grow into the domestic space, a greater spectrum of novice travelers will find utility in the card.

Credit card points to frequent flyer mile transfer functionality should be up and running on the bank’s website next month.


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Tags: capital one, credit cards, frequent flyer miles

Photo credit: Capital One spokesperson Jennifer Garner in a TV commercial. Capital One

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