Redeem Capital One Miles for Airfare You’ve Already Purchased Redeem Capital One Miles for Airfare You’ve Already Purchased

Redeem Capital One Miles for Airfare You’ve Already Purchased

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Have you ever found a great travel deal but didn’t have the points or miles you needed to book? Or maybe the flight you want to book isn't part of a rewards program where you can book with frequent flyer miles. Today’s post covers a strategy you can use to book a flight now and redeem miles to cover the purchase up to 90 days later.

This strategy involves using Capital One miles from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Offer Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 Miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
Following the revamp of Capital One's rewards program and the addition of airline transfer partners, the Capital One Venture has catapulted into our list of top travel rewards cards. The ability to earn 2X miles on every purchase provides a decent return on spending. Plus the card offers some great perks.
  • Earn 75,000 Miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening; worth $750 in travel if redeemed for a fixed-value, or potentially much more when transferred to airline partners
  • 2 Miles on every purchase
  • Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® (up to $100)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee
  • 5X miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other purchases

Capital One Lets You Redeem Miles You Don't Have (Yet!)

The traditional way to plan a trip with miles is to decide your goals well in advance, apply for the cards that align with those goals, and use your everyday spending to accumulate the points you need. This is still the only way to secure high-value business- and first-class tickets without paying an arm and a leg.

But, for those who don’t mind economy or premium economy travel, there is an alternative approach that requires far less patience and knowledge to execute. Thanks to some unique rules for redeeming Capital One miles, it’s possible to buy a flight before you have the miles.

Related: The 7 Best Capital One Credit Cards for Every Purchase

a KLM plane parked at a gate, seen from inside the airport's windows
Credit: Oskar Kadaksoo/Unsplash

How Does It Work?

Redeeming miles for flights can be numbingly complicated. Thankfully, Capital One makes it quite simple. You can redeem Capital One miles at a fixed-value toward travel purchases you've already made by requesting a statement credit. Buy any flight — or another travel-related purchase, such as hotels or rental cars — and pay using your card that earns Capital One miles.

Unlike other types of fixed-value rewards, you don't have to book through a specific website or worry about excluded vendors. If the purchase is categorized as travel on your credit card bill, you can redeem your miles for the purchase.

Once the transaction posts to your account, you can redeem miles at a value of one cent each toward the cost of travel. For example, redeeming 20,000 miles will knock $200 off the cost of your flight or hotel stay. You'll get a credit posted to your account within a few days.

Options for redeeming Capital One miles with cover travel purchases selected

Here's the best part: When you make a qualifying travel purchase with a card that earns Capital One miles, you have up to 90 days to redeem miles towards that transaction. That means you don’t need to have all the miles you plan to redeem in your account at the time you make a purchase.

Related: Do Capital One Rewards Miles Expire?

Buy Flights To Help Meet Minimum Spend and Redeem Miles for the Purchase Later

Let's look at how this can play out. With the 90-day window to redeem miles for a purchase, you can:

  • Apply for a card that earns miles, like the Capital One Venture card.
  • Purchase your flight when the card arrives.
  • Make other purchases to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn the card's welcome bonus (currently 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.).
  • Redeem the miles earned for a statement credit after the welcome bonus posts to your account.

The cost of your flight (or other travel purchase) counts toward the minimum spend needed to earn your bonus. So, opening your account right before you need to book a trip can give you a nice boost to your normal spending.

To be clear, you shouldn’t use this strategy if you can’t afford to cover the cost of your flight upfront. You’ll need to pay your credit card bill in full when your statement closes to avoid interest. Charging the flight to a credit card can delay when that money comes out of your checking account, but you'll want to have that cash available within a month of making your initial purchase. Paying your credit card bill in full and on time is vital for building healthy credit.

The advantage of this strategy is that you can purchase a cash ticket with rewards before you actually have those rewards in your account. Once you earn your welcome bonus, you can redeem your miles for a statement credit before the 90-day window is up.

Related: How To Maximize Capital One Miles for Flights Within North America

Redeem Miles for Purchases Using the Sign-Up Bonus

The first question that typically pops up when we mention this strategy is, “Will the sign-up bonus post to my account in time to apply the statement credit within the 90-day window?

Fortunately, Capital One awards your miles as soon as the transaction posts to your account. Typically, you don’t need to wait for your statement to close to receive miles earned from regular spending. The same applies to the welcome bonus. In our experience, the bonus should post to your account as soon as you meet the required spending; worst case, it's typically in your account within three days of the statement closing date after finishing the spending requirement.

Thus, the miles should post to your account within 90 days of making the purchase in the vast majority of situations.

Related: Why You Should Never Redeem Capital One Miles Through Capital One Travel

Things To Keep In Mind When Redeeming Capital One Miles

  • You don’t need to cover the cost of the entire purchase with miles. Let's say you pay $1,000 for a flight, but you only have 70,000 miles in your account. You can still knock $700 off the cost of the ticket, slashing the out-of-pocket cost to $300.
  • There is no minimum redemption amount if you cover the entire purchase with miles. However, there's a 2,500-mile minimum ($25) if you only cover part of a travel purchase with your Capital One miles.
  • You can only get a statement credit for travel purchases made within the last 90 days.
  • The merchant must code as travel for the purchase to qualify for a statement credit. If the purchase doesn’t code as travel from the merchant, it won’t qualify. Here's how Capital One states that restriction:

“Purchases made from airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and time shares are generally considered to be travel purchases and availability for redemption is based on the merchant category code assigned to them by the merchant. Capital One is not responsible for how merchants assign these codes.”

Cards That Earn Capital One Miles

We have a separate article covering all of the cards that earn Capital One miles in detail, but they're worth mentioning here as well. You have multiple personal and business card options.

Personal cards:

Small-business cards:

Related: How To Get a Business Credit Card in 3 Steps

Final Thoughts

The ideal rewards strategy is to have a mix of options that includes fixed-value rewards, transferrable points, and airline miles. Each type of points/miles comes with unique advantages and disadvantages. If you’re well-diversified, you can use the type of rewards that fits your situation.

In the case of fixed-value rewards, you’ll do best in situations where paid airfare is relatively cheap or when the itinerary you want isn’t available as an award ticket.

Most frequent flyer programs require you to have enough miles to cover the entire award price at the time of booking. With up to 90 days to redeem Capital One miles retroactively, you can use the power of your future spending to earn the miles needed to cover trips you want to book now. Although fixed-value rewards can't deliver the same kind of jaw-dropping deals you can get with a well-planned award ticket, their simplicity and flexibility are great reasons to add them to your points-and-miles arsenal.

What's your favorite way to redeem Capital One miles? Let us know in the comments below.

5 / 5 - (6 votes)
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  • Christine Howard says:

    I have the option right now to erase a transaction I cancelled a couple of days later (but in a different billing cycle). If I use my points to erase the transaction any chance they will reverse it and I end up losing the points in the next billing cycle?

    • I would guess that they will reverse the credit and return the points, but I haven’t had any personal experience with this type of situation. I wouldn’t try to erase a purchase that was cancelled or it might create headaches if something goes awry.

  • To those concerned about whether it really works, I’ve had a Venture card for almost a decade, and erased several travel transactions (flights, hotels). Didn’t know about the the 90 day limit though, thanks.

  • I am working on a similar strategy with the Discover It Miles card right now — it is going to cover a significant portion of an expensive River cruise next year. It doesn’t have a sign on bonus per se but you get 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase and after the first card anniversary they award you again all the points you earned in the first year. effectively making it 3.0 points per dollar. I’m using my initial spend to cover the deposit and I should be able to cover a large portion of the cruise cost when they double my miles at the end of the first year. (I am aware that cruising is in flux right now, but I’m taking the chance.)

  • To clarify – if I buy something for $500 coded as travel the day I get the card, pay off the first statement that includes that purchase but don’t have the 50,000 pt SUB yet, I can use the points later as a $500 statement credit even though I already paid off the original purchase as long as I’m within 90 days of that purchase?

    • Exactly! That’s why the Venture is a great card to get right before booking a trip. You can take advantage of the cheap travel rates and then “erase” the purchases with the points that you earn from booking that trip!

  • I’m skeptical that the company will accurately be able to post credit after the purchase but it would be great if it works as stated.

  • It’s great to have the ability to do this, but I am always afraid it won’t code right. Then either I would have to leave it or spend the time to try and get it coded correctly. I assume that usually is not the case, however, it would be frustrating when it would come up. I would love it if they didn’t have that it would have to code as travel and just have it cover anything.

  • sounds good to me, have to try it out

  • Sounds like a interesting idea, others should follow suit.

  • Can a person receive the bonus on the Capital One Venture credit card if they received the bonus previously and had cancelled the card when the CSR became available?

    • Officially, Capital One says “Existing or previous Accountholders may not be eligible for these bonuses”. That’s so vague that it’s not helpful at all! It’s probably best to call Capital One to see if you’re eligible.

  • Caroline Sim says:

    I would totally apply for this card and perk if I knew I could travel in the next year! I have some far away destinations I’d like to visit, but due to long layovers and lack of lounges being open, I think my flights would be too painful.

  • don’t you worry about the coding of it to be able to use the points to cover the cost? With cards like the Venture I do worry about how things may code to be able to cover them. I like that it’s easy to use but redeeming just worries me.

  • Although Capital One will not give me a credit card, (I applied again, was turned down, asked them to reconsider based on my history with them…nope, not for me.) I do see the benefit of the fixed value awards. Luckily I got the Barclay Arrival Plus last time it was offered, I can use that in my overall strategy. Kudos to those who can get this card, especially with the current offer, erasing travel charges is really nice.

  • I believe you can also apply miles to “erase” the same purchase more than once and thus essentially cover other purchases.

    • Can anyone else attest to this? This would seem to be quite the loophole, since you’re only supposed to be able to erase qualifying travel purchases.

  • Don’t forget about the new Capital One transfer partners! I know this post focused on the purchase eraser feature, but finally being able to transfer points certainly adds a new layer of advantages to having this particular card.

  • Interesting concept. Thanks for sharing the tips on when to best apply this.

  • Nice explanatory post on redeeming venture miles. Have never really got into capital one cards but might give it a try!

  • I would respond to this offer in a heartbeat if overseas travel were realistically possible right now 🙁

  • I haven’t done this for flights, but I have retroactively applied venture points to other travel purchases such as train tickets.

  • I love their unique and flexible approach to miles redeeming! I wonder if all rewards redemption companies are scrambling to find a way to encourage travel, and if so, I’m very much looking forward to them all!

  • Capital One Venture miles gives a person a lot of flexibility in redeeming their miles.