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Earlier this month, Capital One announced a new flexible rewards program set to launch in early December 2018. The new mileage transfer program will feature 12 airline partners, with points transferring at a rate of 1,000 Capital One points to 750 airline miles, or a ratio of 2:1.5.
While the transfer rate may appear lower than the typical 1:1 transfer ratios we see with Chase, Citi, or Amex, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business both earn a base 2x points per dollar, effectively earning 1.5x airline miles on every dollar spent. That’s a top return on non-bonus spending, better than you’ll receive on most co-brand airline cards.
- A Closer Look at Capital One’s Airline Partners
- Final Thoughts
As a first push into flexible rewards, Capital One has done a stellar job assembling a full list of partners before the program goes live. And even if the program lacks a US-based transfer partner, there are plenty of high-value airlines on the list, plus a number of crossover partners with Chase, Citi, and Amex so you can pool points from multiple programs to reach travel goals faster.
Before we dig into the pros and cons of transferring points to each airline, here’s a quick recap of Capital One’s new airline partners.
|Transfer Partner||Transfer Ratio|
|Aeromexico Club Premier||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Alitalia MilleMiglia||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Avianca LifeMiles||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Etihad Guest||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Finnair Plus||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||2:1.5 or 1000:750|
A Closer Look at Capital One’s Airline Partners
Aeromexico Club Premier
Club Premier is a bit of a mixed bag, and one of the programs we hear little about in the US. Largely ignored due to a quirky award chart based on kilometers rather than miles, Aeromexico's sweet spots include a RTW Business Class award that allows up to 15 stopovers for the equivalent of 220K Membership Rewards points. Unfortunately, Capital One doesn’t take into account the comparatively low value of Club Premier points making transfers almost universally poor value.
- Pros: Top off your account if you lack the Membership Rewards points to cover the full balance of an award
- Cons: Poor transfer ratio as Club Premier based on kilometers, not miles (Amex Membership Rewards transfer at 1:1.6), and the call center to book awards is truly atrocious
Air Canada Aeroplan
One of the most exciting partners on the list, transferring points to Aeroplan opens up a lot of high-value awards on Star Alliance carriers, and the ability to pool points from Membership Rewards and Marriott Rewards. Aeroplan doesn’t pass on carrier-imposed surcharges on select airlines including Swiss, Turkish, Air New Zealand, Singapore, and United, and although the award rates aren’t the best available on many routes, you can extract awesome value out of the stopover and open-jaw rules on round-trip awards to create a mini RTW business class itineraries for as little as 155K miles.
- Pros: Consolidate points from other flexible rewards programs, top value across the Atlantic, maximize stopovers and open-jaws for top value awards
- Cons: Passes on fuel surcharges on many carriers including Air Canada, awards with more than one stopover must be booked over the phone
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue is one of the only programs allowing points transfers from Chase, Citi, Amex, and Marriott Rewards, and now Capital One. You can book awards on all SkyTeam partners, take advantage of some unique region definitions, or redeem miles for Flying Blue Promo Awards which offer 25-50% off the typical cost of award tickets to destinations that change every month.
- Pros: Promo awards offer top value, transfer points from all major flexible currencies, unique region definitions, allows one-way awards
- Cons: Passes on fuel surcharges, no longer publishes an award chart
Putting aside the fact that Alitalia is in deep financial strife and could very easily go the way of Air Berlin into receivership, the traditional award chart had most of its value stripped out of it back in 2016. Outside of the Upgrade Award chart, which allows you to upgrade paid tickets using miles without the need for business class award availability, Alitalia doesn’t feature high on our list of high-value partners.
- Pros: Cheap upgrade awards on paid fares
- Cons: High fuel surcharges, must book partner awards over the phone, Alitalia is under significant financial stress
Up until recently, the only way to get your hands on LifeMiles was to purchase them during one of the frequent sales online, which offer bonuses as high as a 145% on top of purchased miles. Avianca now counts Citi, Amex, and Capital One as transfer partners, and if you still can’t put together the miles for an award, Avianca allows you to purchase up to 60% of the miles required for an award. Avianca does not impose fuel surcharges, provides access to the Star Alliance network, and award rates are competitive with the likes of MileagePlus and Singapore KrisFlyer.
- Pros: Competitive award chart, no fuel surcharges, multiple transfer partners, frequent sales to top off your account for an award, best use is on partners including domestic US awards, no close-in booking fees
- Cons: Website doesn’t always display all available partner awards, the call center is woefully inept if you need to book over the phone, flat $15 booking fee applied to all awards
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Despite devaluing the Asia Miles program in June 2018, Cathay still utilizes a distance based chart to calculate the price of an award, and the rates are competitive with other Oneworld frequent flyer programs. Cathay also partners with Amex and Citi, so you can now pool points from multiple programs to boost your balance. Asia Miles allows a stopover on one-way awards, and offers competitive awards from the US to many destinations including South Africa and Asia, and offer great value in AA Business Class to Europe at just 50K miles.
- Pros: Multiple transfer partners, distance-based award chart featuring many top-value rewards
- Cons: Limited ability to book partner awards online and long waits when calling in, bookings departing Hong Kong now attract higher surcharges and fees
Another airline that also partners with Citi and Amex, Etihad Guest is a unique (and frustrating) program in that it has a separate award chart for every partner, so where one partner may offer exceptional value between two destinations, another partner won’t. The best use of Guest miles isn’t on Etihad, but rather on select routes on partner airlines. Examples include flying business class on Royal Air Maroc from New York to Casablanca for 44K miles or flying Virgin Australia business class from Sydney to Queenstown in New Zealand for 13,800 miles.
- Pros: Lots of hidden award chart sweet spots on partners, multiple transfer partners
- Cons: Separate award charts for every partner, all partner awards must be booked over the phone
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
Utilizing a zone-based award chart with almost universally high award rates, Eva Infinity MileageLands appears to be the ‘vanilla pudding' of Capital One’s transfer partners, bland without any standout sweet spots to speak of. Certainly not something you would recommend to people you like. If you feel you must send your Capital One points to Eva Air, do so in the knowledge that you will likely get better redemption value transferring to LifeMiles or Aeroplan, both Star Alliance programs.
- Pros: We’ll update the post when we find one
- Cons: High redemption rates, pass on fuel surcharges on many partners (although not on Eva metal)
Much like Eva Air above, Helsinki based Finnair is another inclusion that is there to make up the numbers. A Oneworld member, Finnair Plus will set you back 125K points for a round-trip economy award between the US and Europe, a staggering amount to fly the main cabin.
- Pros: Some award sweet spots in Europe
- Cons: High redemption rates, high fuel surcharges on many routes, need to book most partners over the phone
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club
Fortune Wings Club is the frequent flyer program for Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, and some smaller domestic subsidiaries. Essentially another filler airline in this list, it’s hard to see a situation that would inspire anyone to transfer points to Fortune Wings Club over other partners on the list.
- Pros: None that stand out
- Cons: High redemption rates, passes on fuel surcharges
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Australian based Qantas Frequent Flyer is a Oneworld carrier and shares many redemption partners with Cathay’s Asia Miles, although it does have a few interesting partners outside of its alliance. For US travelers there aren’t many sweet spots outside of El Al redemptions, which won’t attract fuel surcharges, and the Qantas RTW award which will set you back 280,000 points plus fuel surcharges and fees.
- Pros: RTW tickets offer ok value but be wary of fuel surcharges and ticket restrictions
- Cons: High redemption rates, high fuel surcharges on most carriers
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Rounding out the list of Capital One’s new transfer partners is Qatar Privilege Club. The award chart doesn’t show any highlights that stand out, and Qatar added award booking fees for redeeming miles making most awards poor value. Not a recommended use of your Capital One points.
- Pros: None that stand out
- Cons: High redemption rates, high award booking fees
While not all of Capital One’s transfer partners offer the same value, there are some terrific options for folks looking to get a seat up the front of the plane, particularly when you factor in how many of the partner's crossovers with other flexible points programs allowing you to pool your points for an award.
The new transfer program will sit alongside Capital One’s current fixed-value Purchase Eraser feature, which allows you to redeem points against any travel purchase at a rate of 1¢ per point, or, every 100 points credits $1 towards your travel purchase as a statement credit.
As of December 2018, if you find award availability with one of Capital One’s airline partners, you can transfer your points to miles and redeem them for an award flight. If there are no award seats available, or you find a cheap airfare, you can purchase the flight with your Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business card, and ‘erase’ the purchase using points.
With both cards earning 2x points per dollar, you get a 2% return when redeeming points for a fixed-value, and potentially a good deal more when you transfer to airline partners.
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