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Capital One has recently taken some big steps to be more competitive among travel rewards credit cards. The issuer took on several major airline transfer partners in 2018, and it offers a number of high-earning cards that make Capital One miles an attractive option for travel rewards collectors on all levels of the credit spectrum.
However, before embarking into any new rewards program, it’s vital to understand the nuances and differences of every card. Here are the most important things to know if you’re thinking about entering the Capital One miles ecosystem.
1. Get the card that matches your budget
Capital One offers a robust selection of travel rewards and cash-back cards, and it pays to do the research and find out which one (if any) makes the most sense in your wallet.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95 and the following sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.
On the other hand, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has a $0 annual fee. While the sign-up bonus is smaller, you won’t need to spend as much to qualify for it: Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
2. Get the card that matches your spending
Bonus categories vary depending on which Capital One credit card you have; if you want to maximize your earnings, you’ll need to choose the card that best matches your spending habits.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a fixed rate of 2 miles per $1 spent, regardless of category. For the VentureOne Rewards card, that rate goes down to 1.25 miles per $1.
The only bonus category either of these cards offers is 10 miles per $1 for spending through Hotels.com (through January 2020).
Likewise, the offers a fixed rate of 1.5% cash-back on all spending, while the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 4% cash-back on all dining and entertainment spending, 2% back on groceries and 1% back on all other spending.
Before applying for a card, it’s important to look at your monthly spending and understanding which one will give you the greatest value.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best Capital One cards
3. The purchase eraser makes it easy
The feature that is probably most unique to the Capital One travel rewards program is the purchase eraser. This is a valuable benefit that is easy to use and allows you to apply your miles to a wide variety of travel expenses that go beyond hotels and plane tickets.
All you have to do is log in to your account, select a qualified travel purchase that you’ve made in the past 90 days and then apply your miles for a statement credit for the expense.
This feature provides tremendous flexibility because it’s not limited to a particular hotel chain or airline and will allow you to pay for a number of expenses that aren’t always covered by most rewards programs, such as Uber rides, Airbnb, train tickets, cruises, and more.
» Learn more: What Is the Capital One purchase eraser?
4. The deal with Hotels.com is expiring
As we referenced above, one of the most attractive perks of Capital One Venture cards is earning 10x miles for every dollar spent booking hotels on Hotels.com. That’s among the highest earning rates on hotel bookings for any card.
This perk is particularly valuable when stacked with Hotels.com’s own loyalty program, which gives you one free night in a hotel after you’ve paid for 10. However, the 10x rewards rate is scheduled to end in January 2020, and there’s no guarantee it will be renewed.
5. Don’t take the money and run
Some travel rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, will let you transfer your rewards points to airline miles with various programs, redeem points for 1.25 cents each through the Chase travel portal, or redeem points for cash for 1 cent each.
While Capital One miles that you earn on Venture Rewards cards can technically be taken as cash, you’ll essentially incur a 50% penalty by doing so, compared to redeeming the points for travel purchases. In other words, if you convert 10,000 Capital One miles into cash, you’ll only receive $50, whereas you could have erased $100 in travel.
» Learn more: It’s OK if travel rewards cards aren’t for you
The bottom line
Capital One offers cards that are good for both experienced points collectors as well as those new to travel rewards. With flat-rate earning on most of their cards, people seeking simplicity don’t have to keep track of myriad different bonus spending categories. And because all of their cards are either no-fee or defer the fee for the first year, it’s easy to try their cards without running up your expenses.
But since the Capital One offers relatively high earning rates on their cards, they’re still good options for people with other credit cards who just need a card to earn more points in otherwise unbonused categories.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
How to choose a travel credit card
How to pick the best credit card for you in 4 easy steps
9 easy ways to earn travel rewards you’ll actually use