The official travel-booking arm of Capital One, Capital One Travel, is a portal full of flexibility, points potential and breezy bookings for cardholders.
In 2021, Capital One ensured that it would have its most exciting year ever by announcing a string of new offerings. There’s even a new 1:1 transfer tier in the mix to take loyalty to a new level!
There’s also some big news for lounge lovers that might make them consider converting over from whatever travel program they’re plugged into already.
The emerging developments with the Capital One Travel portal make it necessary to talk about the program’s long-standing setup, recent changes and the changes that are being rolled out in the months to come.
In a world of loyalty programs and booking websites, it’s time to investigate if Capital One Travel is the one.
In this post you'll learn:
Who is it For
First, Capital One Travel isn’t a “replacement” for Expedia, Orbitz or any other booking platforms you’ve been using to book your annual vacation. This is a program for serious spenders who do some serious spending on travel.
What’s more, the best way to really maximize your miles with this program is to take advantage of 1:1 miles transfers with partner airlines. Many of the best transfer deals are with international partners. When all is said and done, Capital One Travel if for people who trot the glob! It’s especially beneficial if you rack up tons of miles on business travel.
The Basics of the Capital One Travel Portal
The concept behind Capital One Travel is nothing new in the credit card world. Cardholders who sign up can reserve flights, hotel rooms and car rentals using miles, cash or a combination of miles and cash. People who use their cards the most stand to gain the most. However, where Capital One Travel stands apart is its flexibility. Let’s cover the basics of what life looks like once you’re flying, cruising and spending with Capital One.
You can book flights, hotels and car rentals using the same portal once you’re plugged into the Capital One ecosystem. However, being a Capital One Travel user hinges on the fact that you’ve already been approved for a Capital One credit card. You’ll need one of these cards to enter the Capital One Travel portal:
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.
- Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business.
- Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business.
Owning any these cards comes with its own perks because you’re getting automatic bonuses like thousands of free miles if you spend a certain amount with the first few months of opening your card. However, the Capital One Travel portal brings the benefits to the next level by simply offering a very easy way to book your travel. It’s so easy to stay organized with your trip planning while also getting the perk of instantly applying your “free travel” in real time. No, the Capital One Travel portal isn’t really anything “brilliant” compared to most rewards sites and travel-booking platforms. However, it’s really great for what it is.
What You’ll Really Like
Let’s start with what is probably the top reason to choose Capital One Travel over another option. Capital One miles earned come with a fixed value. That means you don’t constantly feel like you’re on a game show where you have to strategize to actually make your points do something for you. Capital One’s fixed-value travel miles mean that you’re never dealing with blackout dates or reward restrictions. The points you’ve earned are fully and truly yours to keep, use and enjoy!
Yes, Capital One still has lots of catching up to do with competitors that are already firmly entrenched in the travel category. Its recent announcement about new lounges that we’ll cover in just a bit shows that Capital One is ready to get in the ring. While it’s still working out some kinks in terms of providing good transfer options, the strength of the Capital One Travel program rests in the strength of what you can do with your Capital One miles. Offering the ability to combine your miles transfers with fixed redemptions, Capital One Travel is worth looking at. Its increasing list of transfer partners makes this program much more attractive than it was even just a year ago.
Capital One also does something really neat with its travel miles that you don’t see a lot. Cardholders can actually redeem previous travel purchases that they’ve made within the last 90 days. Yes, that means that you can retroactively apply miles to flights, hotel rooms and general travel-related purchases. In fact, Capital One is shockingly lenient about what it will consider a travel-related purchase. If you used your Capital One card to make the purchases on the road, things like food delivery, streaming services and Uber rides can all count!
Booking Accommodations With Capital One Travel
Let’s start by talking about how you book flights. You’re simply entering your travel dates, departure destination and arrival destination to check for availability. Capital One gives you the option to search by lowest price if you prefer. Love a specific airline? Capital One will let you search by airline when displaying your results.
The price-comparison features in the Capital One Travel portal really make you feel like you’re not getting pushed toward the most expensive option. For instance, the default is the lowest fare based on the idea that you’ll be purchasing an economy ticket. It also offers the rare perk of actually giving you a quick rundown of price difference between fares.
Booking a hotel is equally as easy. Again, you’re just searching for available rooms based on the dates and location of your stay. This next part is where Capital One’s portal really shines as a shopper’s companion.
The platform doesn’t just display how much a room will cost you per night. It also does the math to show you the full cost of booking each room for your stay.
Next, it displays TripAdvisor ratings next to each option to help you avoid the need to leave the portal to do your “investigative” work. If you’re really serious about getting specific amenities at a hotel, Capital One gives you the option to simply turn on a filter to only see hotel rooms with specific amenities and features.
Honestly, it’s easy to forget that you’re not shopping with a “real” travel-booking website when you hunt for your hotel room with Capital One. They clearly aren’t just resting on the idea that you’re stuck in the funnel based on the fact that you want to cash in points.
Lastly, we get to car rentals. Capital One Travel starts you off by asking about where you want to pick up and drop off your rental vehicle. If you’re a visual person, you can select the option to see a list of available rental locations on a map. Everyone else can just scroll down the list that’s provided. In addition to being able to sort by lowest price, you can check off boxes to narrow your search down based on rental company, car type and car features. It’s beautifully straightforward.
Can You Book Travel Packages?
No, Capital One Travel doesn’t let you book packages.
However, there’s speculation that this is something that will be coming down the pipeline in the future as the company devotes more time and money to its travel program. This is the one area where it’s really lacking compared to options like Hotwire and Expedia.
If you use either of those third-party booking sites, you know that they often advertise amazing deals that place your whole trip just one simple click away. You also often get rock-bottom rates on last-minute getaway deals that bundle everything together with very little “planning” needed on your part. That’s something you’ll really miss if you’ve booked some little trips that ended up being some of the best experiences of your life all because you saw a hot deal come through in your email.
Does Your Elite Hotel Status Carry Over to Capital One Travel?
Here’s another category where going with Capital One Travel loses a few points. Due to the fact that it’s technically a third-party travel company, you’re not able to use your elite hotel status the way you can when you book directly with your preferred hotel. As a result, you’re losing the ability to take advantage of package deals the way you are with most third-party booking platforms while also losing the benefit of booking directly with the hotel chain you have elite status with. It’s a bit of a lose-lose situation if you happen to have status at a chain like Hilton or Marriott.
Honestly, someone who books frequent hotel stays might do better by using Google Flight Matrix to simply zone in on getting the cheapest flight that can be paired with a hotel room that’s booked directly with the hotel chain.
What’s New With the Portal in 2021
Spring of 2021 marked a big sea change for Capital One Travel. The common theme is expansion. For cardholders with the Capital® One Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Spark® Miles for Business Credit Card and Capital One Spark® Miles Select Credit Card, this is what’s coming:
- A new 1:1 transfer tier.
- Loyalty partnerships with more airlines.
- Access to new lounges.
- An updated, AI-powered booking app in partnership with Hopper.
Let’s start with that new 1:1 tier for miles transfers. What does it mean? For cardholders with Venture® and Spark® Miles cards, the living is already pretty easy with 2X miles dished out with every purchase made any day of the year. It’s about to get better. Under the updated policy, Venture® and Spark® Miles cardholders can now look forward to 2X travel loyalty points on every dollar they spend when transferring precious miles to any member on a long list of new partners.
A big piece of news for global travelers, this new 1:1 transfer ratio is good for major global brands like Avianca (LifeMiles), Etihad (Etihad Guest), Asia Miles, AeroMexico (Club Premier), Finnair (Finnair Plus) and Qantas (Qantas Frequent Flyer). In an exciting turn of events, it even applies for Wyndham Rewards.
This helps to take care of the “downside” covered earlier because it’s a nice loophole around not being able to use elite hotel points when booking through Capital One Travel due to the fact that it’s technically a third-party travel site. If you’re already a loyal Wyndham Rewards member, the news could not be bigger.
Most of the partners on the 1:1 ratio list previously had ratios of 2 points to 1.5 points. With the new update, members are effectively getting a boost of 33 percent more miles when they choose to travel with the 1:1 partners. All of Capital One’s other hotel and airline partners will maintain their existing ratios that range from 2 points to 1.5 points to 2 points to 1 point. The way that point values and miles values work out means that these lower transfer ratios aren’t necessarily bad deals even though they don’t have the wow factor of 1:1.
New partnerships with the loyalty programs of British Airways (Avios), Choice Hotels (Choice Privileges), TAP Air Portugal (Miles&Go) and Turkish Airlines (Miles&Smiles) are making things even more exciting. If you’re already plotting some trips, here’s a glance at what ratios look like right now when you’re using hotel and airline transfer partners:
- Aeromexico Club Premier: 1:1
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 2:1.5
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue: 2:1.5
- Alitalia MilleMiglia: 2:1.5
- Avianca LifeMiles: 1:1
- British Airways Avios: 2:1.5
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 1:1
- Emirates Skywards: 2:1
- Etihad Airways Guest: 1:1
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands 2:1.5
- Finnair Plus: 1:1
- JetBlue TrueBlue: 2:1.5
- Qantas Frequent Flyer: 1:1
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 2:1
- TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go: 1:1
- Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles: 2:1.5
- Accor Live Limitless: 2:1
- Choice Privileges: 1:1 (Pending)
- Wyndham Rewards: 1:1
The real superstars on Capital One’s list of partners are the partners that provide that 1:1 ratio while being members of major airline alliances. For instance, an airline with a 1:1 ratio like Cathay Pacific that also happens to be a member airline of OneWorld alliance opens up options for redeeming miles for flights booked with fellow OneWorld airlines like American Airlines. Similarly, a Star Alliance airline like Avianca allows you to book flights throughout the United States and Europe using sister carriers like United and Lufthansa.
How Will the Collaboration With Hopper Change Capital One Travel?
Of course, the big buzz is that Capital One is in the midst of revamping its travel portal app in collaboration with Hopper. Let’s rewind to discuss Hopper to demonstrate just how big this is for members.
Hopper is a travel-booking platform that uses data to get customers the lowest prices on flights, hotels and cars. This “smart” booking platform is also designed to help travelers make better booking decisions using data-driven insights. That means you’re more likely to get the right accommodations at the right prices if you believe Hopper’s “claim to fame” that its algorithms create a 95-percent accuracy rate for giving you the best travel choices based on your personal needs.
All of these customer-friendly perks are now coming to Capital One Travel members. In fact, Capital One has already revealed which dynamic features will be carried over once it integrates Hopper’s AI-powered tech into its own booking platform. Here’s a look:
- Price predictions.
- Price alerts.
- Dynamic pricing recommendations.
- Better integration of Capital One Travel and Capital One Rewards to make it easier to redeem rewards.
- Improved mobile app interface.
- Improved inter-app messaging and support capabilities that make it easier to change or cancel reservations.
The big takeaway is that customers are going to be able to book with more confidence. For existing customers, the temptation to “check rates” against what they can find on other platforms is likely to vanish. While it looks like lots of bells and whistles coming through, there’s really just one big point to focus on.
This new platform update that’s being done in collaboration with Hopper ultimately protects Capital One cardholders from price volatility. In an era when hotel chains and airlines are increasingly using dynamic pricing tools to adjust prices in real time based on demand, this is a big deal for giving customers peace of mind without the need to obsessively check rates before making booking decisions.
Did Somebody Say New Capital One Travel Lounges??
Yes! Capital One is peppering its news of an expanded and redesigned Capital One Travel portal with the announcement of two new lounges in the coming months.
The first is opening at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) before the close of 2021. The second is set to open its doors at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) in 2022. Designed to be state-of-the-art rest zones, both lounges will feature Wi-Fi, work spaces, private showers, luggage lockers, relaxation suites and workout rooms.
As Capital One enters the lounge arena to do battle with big names like American Express for the first time, there’s still a lot that’s not known. As of summer 2021, Capital One had not announced who would be eligible for lounge access. While all cardholders may be permitted to use the lounges, it’s possible that only elite cards will get you entry. It’s also very likely that cardholders will still need to pay to get in most of the time. The only thing that Capital One has revealed so far is that cardholders will be eligible for special entry rates based on card type. Of course, free lounge access may be a carrot that is dangled for some of the top-tier cards that charge higher annual fees.
Tips for Using Capital One Travel to Book Trips
If you decide to jump into the Capital One Travel pipeline, it helps to know how you’ll be redeeming the miles you earn through spending for travel. Like all programs in this vein, Capital One Travel requires that you be intentional and strategic to get the best deals.
Begin by becoming familiar with the different loyalty programs you can transfer all of your points to when you want to book a trip. This isn’t as simple as just selecting an airline because it’s on the list of partners. You’ll need to look at each airline’s reward chart to see how much the value will be when you redeem your miles.
Next, search for any reward seats that might be open.
Lastly, you can transfer your Capital One points to the loyalty program you choose. Just make sure you’re verifying the price against the value of the reward miles you have to transfer. You should never transfer your miles unless you have a specific seat ready to book!
The truth is that Capital One Travel hasn’t exactly been an industry leader. While you could sometimes get the lowest price through the portal, that wasn’t something that was to always be expected.
In fact, airfare and hotel rates pretty much sat at average compared to other booking channels. However, that’s likely to change now that Capital One is revamping it usability with Hopper. As an AI-driven, predictive platform, Capital One Travel appears to be gearing up to become the savviest booking platform in terms of pricing among credit card travel portals.
The brand’s decision to ramp up partnerships really makes this a great time to hop on if you’ve been looking for a dedicated travel portal where you can easily comparison shop while easily applying your miles.
The overall consensus is that Capital One Travel is a decent product that’s rapidly getting better.