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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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business
- Capital One Venture X Business
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.
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