Last month, it was widely reported that Capital One would be adding transfer partners to its Capital One Venture Rewards and Spark Miles cards. That capability has come live today. There are even a couple more transfer partners than we expected — though I’m very disappointed to see that those additions (Singapore Airlines and Emirates) do not transfer at the same ratio as other partners. While Capital One indicates that they intend to add more partners in the future, I think it’s ill-advised to have a complicated scheme of differing transfer ratios. Still, the ability to transfer remains a net win for Venture and Spark Miles cardholders and it’s great to see it come online according to the promised timeline.
Which cards earn transferable miles?
The following Capital One cards earn miles that can now be transferred to airline partners at the ratios shown above (click each card name to see our dedicated card page, where you can learn more and find an application link):
What are the transfer partners and ratios?
Most of the transfer partners launched today include those we expected and transfer at a ratio of 1,000 Venture / Spark miles to 750 airline miles. However, transfers to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Emirates Skywards will be at a 1,000 Capital One miles to 500 airline miles ratio. Here is the full list of partners and ratios (also see our Capital One Transfer Partners page):
My favorite of the transfer partners are:
- Aeroplan: Great for reasonable award rates to Europe in business and first class, though they do pass on fuel surcharges with some partners
- Avianca LifeMiles: Great for Star Alliance awards without fuel surcharges. Also terrific for domestic United flights within a single region, even with connections (especially if you live on the East Coast or in the middle of the country as it is 7.5K miles one-way within your region). Great for mixed-cabin awards as well since they charge proportionately depending on how much of your journey is in economy vs business, etc.
- Etihad Guest: Great for international travel on American Airlines (old AA award chart) or its niche sweet spots like Prague to Seoul in flat bed business for ~26K on Czech Airlines
- Singapore KrisFlyer: Note that I didn’t put this one in bold…that’s because the weaker transfer ratio makes this generally a poor choice. That said, Singapore has some nice sweet spots (like US East Coast to Hawaii in United business class for 30K), cheap award change/cancel fees, and more premium cabin award space for those booking with KrisFlyer miles. If you’re flush with Capital One miles, transferring here might not be bad
There are without a doubt some values to be found in other programs as well. The key here is that Capital One customers now get to have their cake and eat it too in many ways. For example, I like using Avianca LifeMiles to fly on United as both my home airport and that of the family members I visit most are small market airports. One-way flights are often north of $200. Redeeming Capital One Venture Rewards for a $200 flight would normally cost 20,000 Venture miles. However, if there is saver award space on United, Capital One cardholders will now be able to transfer 10,000 Capital One miles to Avianca and book that same flight for 7,500 LifeMiles plus $30.60 ($5.60 in taxes plus a $25 booking fee on all Avianca award tickets). That’s a much better value.
On the other hand, if I should catch an award sale where I can buy a ticket all-in for $100, I could instead buy my ticket with my Venture card and redeem 10,000 Capital One miles to offset that purchase — avoiding award booking fees and earning miles for my paid ticket.
That will certainly require some analysis in determining which is more advantageous (and you can rest assured that Greg is already working on that post), but it’s a nice change for sure for Capital One customers.
Of course, it’s worth noting that there are cards on the market that offer a better return if you think you’ll mostly be redeeming for paid tickets. For example, if you qualify for the Alliant Cashback Visa, you could be earning 3% cash back the first year and 2.5% cash back in subsequent years with a $59 annual fee. You would earn a greater return that you could then use to pay for flights — or anything else. The strength that Capital One adds in comparison is flexibility to turn your rewards into airline miles. I’d personally view redeeming for paid flights as a backup plan rather than a main focus with these Capital One cards.
As the Capital One Venture Rewards card and the Capital One Spark Miles card each earn 2 Capital One miles per dollar spent, you’ll be earning up to 1.5 airline miles per dollar spent, which certainly isn’t bad (though not unmatched for most of the partners included). While the Capital One VentureOne card, which only earns 1.25 Capital One miles per dollar spent, earns a sub-par return, you’ll also be able to transfer miles from that card to airline partners should you have those miles to spend. The Capital One Spark Miles Sect card earns 1.5 Capital One miles per dollar spent and can also now transfer to partners.
While I don’t have enough miles on hand to test transfers to all of the new partners, it’s worth noting that my test transfer to Avianca LifeMiles indicated that the miles would transfer today — and indeed they transferred instantly.
I assume that most other transfer partners are instant, but check the terms before you transfer. Transfers to Singapore airlines state that they may take up to 5 business days. While I doubt it’s quite that long in practice, transfers to Singapore typically take 12-24 hours from other transferable currencies, so I’m sure it likely is not instant.
Capital One will not replace my other favorite transferable currencies, but this change puts them in position to be more competitive against Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points. The flexibility to transfer points to partners or redeem them at good value against any travel purchase is definitely a strength. While you do have some ability to use points for travel with the other major transferable currencies, Capital One’s strength is in being able to book when and where you want and then redeem your miles to cover the purchase after the fact (and they also include some types of purchases that you can’t currently buy with other bank points). While using your points for a value of $0.01 each towards travel doesn’t eclipse the return you could get on a cash back card, it’s a competitive return while now adding the flexibility to transfer to partners, which I think makes the Venture Rewards and Spark Miles Business cards potential keepers. My main hang-up here is the surprise addition of Singapore and Emirates at lower transfer ratios. Barclays tried something similar with the Arrival Premier card and we all know how that worked out. That said, Capital One is offering some monster welcome bonuses on the most desirable of these cards, which is a key differentiator from that failed product.