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For many years, there have been 4 main “transferable currencies” in the miles and points game:
* American Express Membership Rewards
* Chase Ultimate Rewards
* Citi ThankYou
* SPG (now Marriott)
Barclays tried getting into the transferable currency arena with the Arrival Premier card and then gave up with little fanfare when people weren’t keen to apply for a card with no signup bonus and confusing transfer ratios.
So I was pretty floored to hear today that Capital One plans to take their “miles” which have always been cash back equivalents and make them a transferable currency.
The list of “launch” transfer partners (launch is expected early December) is:
- Aeroplan (Air Canada’s program)
- Cathay Pacific
- Etihad Airways
- EVA Air
- Flying Blue (Air France / KLM)
- Hainan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines (2:1 ratio)
- Emirates (2:1 ratio)
Given that you earn 2x miles on several Capital One cards for every day spend, and given that many of you have stashes of Capital One miles from back before you got into real transferable points and miles, this is pretty big news!
Of the above transfer partners, only a handful are exciting. But that’s a handful more than before.
Here are the most exciting transfer partners in my opinion – and why:
- Aeroplan: Provides a low cost Star Alliance award chart with very generous open jaw / stopover rules. They are a great way to book United Business class to Europe. They’ve hashed out their differences with Air Canada and will remain the Air Canada program and maintain their Star Alliance relationship. Only Amex and Marriott are currently partners with Aeroplan.
- Etihad Airways: I’ve written about my favorite use here. That involved using Etihad miles to book premium class AA flights. You can also use them for a bunch of solid deals, like 44,000 each way in Business class on Royal Jordanian. Only Citi and Marriott are current Etihad partners.
- Avianca: Read my Avianca Cheat Sheet here. Amex, Citi and Marriott are current Avianca partners.
- Cathay Pacific: Currently only a Citi ThankYou and Marriott partner, it’s another way to use points for Oneworld bookings. They did recently devalue their award chart but it’s always worth comparing to your other options, namely using American Airlines miles or Avios.
The transfer partners are being run via Ascenda Loyalty (formerly known as Kaligo) and list instant transfers as a capability, though we don’t know yet how and if that will apply to these transfer partners specifically.
If you have an existing Venture or Spark card, it seems those miles will become transferable when this all opens up.
If you don’t, there are a couple of great deals now.
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business card (learn more) is offering a bonus of up to 200,000 miles (which would become 150,000 airline miles). You will earn a bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account and then another 150,000 miles when you spend $50,000 within the first 6 months. (The cash version of this card has a similar offer).
The miles earned from the bonus offer + minimum spend would be 300,000 Capital One “miles” and would be equal to 225,000 airline miles. In fact, you could have some pretty fantastic redemptions. For instance, you could use the miles to fly round trip in Lufthansa’s famed First Class from the US to Europe and back with plenty to spare. Or head to Asia in First on a Star Alliance carrier. (learn more)
And the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (learn more) is offering 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 in 3 months. There is also a limited time offer on the Capital One site directly for 75,000 miles with $5,000 in spend in the same timeframe.
The other Capital One cards, like Savor, that earn “cash” and not “miles” will not currently be transferable.
Be aware: Capital One will pull all 3 credit bureaus when deciding to approve or deny your application. As well, a business card with Capital One will be reported to credit bureaus on your personal report, meaning that it will count against your Chase 5/24 status.
The competition in the US market for rewards credit cards has never been more intense! I’m absolutely delighted that we have another option now for transferable points since, as you know, I believe these often yield the best redemption values.
The ratios seem low, at .75 mile for 1 Capital One mile, until you think about the fact that you can earn 2 miles per dollar in non-bonuses categories, meaning you are earning 1.5 miles per dollar on non-bonused spend. Thats pretty cool.
I’ll be anxious to see what other airlines they add later and to see how fast they transfer (transfer time is very important in the award game!) but overall, I think this is a great move by Capital One.
New to all of this? My new “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available now.