Published in: Credit Cards | Jan. 28, 2019

Capital One Miles Are Now Transferable: What This Means for You

By:  Lyle Daly

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Capital One made a major change to its travel cards by adding transfer partners as a redemption option. Here are the details on what you can do with your miles now and what those miles are worth.

A male traveler walks through a crowd with a straw hat and backpack on.

Image source: Getty Images

Here’s one I didn’t see coming -- Capital One now lets consumers with one of its travel rewards cards transfer miles to a dozen different airlines.

That’s a big shift in the popular card issuer’s approach, especially considering how much of its marketing over the years emphasized the simplicity of its fixed-rate redemptions.

There’s suddenly a lot you can do with your Capital One miles. Let’s dive in to what your options are and whether transfers are all they’re cracked up to be.

Capital One transfer partners

You can transfer Capital One miles to the following airlines:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Air France/KLM
  • Alitalia
  • Avianca
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Etihad
  • EVA
  • Finnair
  • Hainan
  • Qantas
  • Qatar

Transfers are at a 2:1.5 (or 1:0.75) ratio, so for every 2 miles you transfer, you’ll get 1.5 miles in the airline’s loyalty program.

Which Capital One cards offer transfers?

You can transfer miles with any Capital One travel rewards card, and the bank currently offers two personal travel cards. There’s the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and there’s the no-annual-fee Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.

Capital One also offers two business travel cards. The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business and the Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business is the no-annual-fee version.

Should you transfer your miles?

When you’re booking airfare with your miles, the first thing to do is compare the cash price of the ticket to the price in miles with an award booking.

You can always redeem your miles at a fixed rate of $0.01 per mile. Since you get 1.5 airline miles for every 2 Capital One miles you transfer, you would need an award ticket that gets you at least $0.0133 per mile to match the value of a fixed rate redemption. Let’s make that simpler with a couple examples.

A domestic economy ticket that costs $350 or 30,000 airline miles for an award booking would require:

  • 35,000 miles redeemed at the fixed rate
  • 40,000 miles if you transferred them to the airline

If you’re interested in an international business-class ticket that costs $1,000 or 60,000 airline miles, you’d pay:

  • 100,000 miles redeemed at the fixed rate
  • 80,000 miles if you transferred them to the airline

Fixed-rate redemptions do have some extra advantages over transfers. You can book any seat since you don’t need to worry about award availability, which makes purchasing your airfare easier. Your card’s purchase and travel protections will apply to the ticket, and you can earn airline miles on your purchase.

It’s also important to note that fixed-rate redemptions can cover a wide variety of travel purchases, whereas transfers are solely for booking airfare.

Taking those advantages into consideration, you should only transfer your miles if you’ll end up getting at least $0.014 or $0.015 per mile on your award airfare.

The best transfer opportunities

Booking high-value award airfare comes down to knowing how to find it. Here are a few tips that can help with this:

  • Look for Saver award tickets, which typically cost half as many miles or fewer as a standard award ticket.
  • Tickets with higher cash prices, especially those in business class and first class, tend to offer a better value when you book in points.
  • Start shopping as early as you can, because the best award tickets don’t stick around long.

That last point is key. The award tickets that offer the highest value are Saver tickets in business class or first class. Most airlines release a limited number of award seats per flight and an even more limited number of Saver tickets. With the business and first-class cabins already being much smaller, there are typically a select few high-value award tickets per flight.

Now let’s look at highlights from Capital One’s list of travel partners. Some of the best options include:

  • Avianca -- One-way flights from North America to Colombia and other South American destinations in business class are available starting at 33,000 miles. Avianca is also good for booking domestic flights with United, where award tickets start at 5,500 miles and have lower fees than United charges.
  • Etihad -- Partner award bookings with American Airlines are a great use of Etihad miles, including transcontinental first-class tickets within the United States starting at 25,000 miles and business-class tickets from North America to Europe starting at 50,000 miles.
  • Air France/KLM -- The Flying Blue program runs promos every month where award tickets on select routes are discounted between 20% and 50%.

Because Capital One’s roster of travel partners includes airlines flying to many different parts of the world, it helps to decide where you want to go first. Then, you can see which partners have flights to that area and check if they have any good award ticket deals available.

The value of Capital One’s travel cards

Even though this is big news, it doesn’t necessarily make a major difference in the value of Capital One’s travel cards.

The reason is that there are still other card issuers with points that are better for transferring. The Chase Ultimate Rewards® program has more travel partners (including domestic airlines, which Capital One doesn’t have) and lets you transfer points to any of them at a 1:1 ratio. American Express Membership Rewards® also has more partners, and you get a 1:1 transfer ratio with most of them.

So, if you specifically want transferable points, then the best Chase cards or American Express cards would be the place to look. That was the case before Capital One added transfer partners, and it remains the case now.

Final thoughts

After years as the card issuer that kept it simple, Capital One has done a pivot to become more like the other giants of the credit card world. It’s an interesting change when you consider how much of Capital One’s identity was wrapped up in fixed-rate redemptions that never required you to shop for award space.

Fixed-rate redemptions that you get as statement credits will probably remain the most popular way to use Capital One miles. Capital One’s transfer partners could also be valuable, though, especially when you’re looking at airfare that has a high cash price. It takes a little longer, but it’s well worth comparing the cash price and the miles price of flights before booking to see which is the better way to use your travel rewards.

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