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With the recent launch of the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, there’s a lot of new interest in Capital One’s travel rewards cards. Capital One Travel is Capital One’s online travel portal, and understanding it is a key part of maximizing the Capital One Venture X. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at how the Capital One Travel portal works.
What is the Capital One Travel portal?
Capital One Travel is an online travel portal through which you can book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Most of the major credit card companies have portals like these — think of it like a credit card company’s version of an online travel agency, like Expedia, Orbitz, etc.
Generally speaking these travel portals can be a win-win:
- Credit card companies get a commission when you book your travel through one of these portals, and often you’ll pay the same you’d pay if booking direct
- Credit card companies often offer additional rewards to cardmembers when booking through their travel portal, and in some cases give significant incentives for using it
Which credit cards get you access to the Capital One Travel portal?
The Capital One Travel portal is available to customers who have any of the following credit cards issued in the United States:
You can access the Capital One Travel portal through this link, by logging in with your Capital One online account credentials. Note that after being approved for a card, it can take a few days before you’ll be able to access the portal, so don’t expect you’ll have access to it the second you’re approved for one of the above cards.
Why should you use the Capital One Travel portal?
There are a few reasons it can make sense to book your travel through Capital One Travel. Let’s use the Capital One Venture X as an example:
- The card offers a $300 annual travel credit valid for any purchase through Capital One Travel (the card also offers 10,000 bonus miles on the account anniversary every year, and those can be redeemed through Capital One Travel, but can also be redeemed in different ways)
- The card offers bonus miles on Capital One Travel purchases, as you earn 10x miles for hotel and rental car bookings, and 5x miles on flights; I value Capital One miles at 1.7 cents each, so to me that’s like an 8.5-17% return on Capital One Travel purchases, which is huge
Other Capital One cards also offer bonus rewards when booking through Capital One Travel:
- The Venture and VentureOne offer 5x miles for hotel and rental car bookings
- The Spark Miles and Spark Miles Select offer 5x miles for hotel and rental car bookings
You can also redeem your Capital One miles for travel booked through Capital One Travel. However, you can just as easily redeem miles through the Purchase Eraser feature, whereby you can make a travel purchase directly with your card, and reimburse yourself after the fact. So I don’t consider that to be a huge selling point of the portal.
Do you earn loyalty rewards when booking through the Capital One Travel portal?
What’s the catch with Capital One Travel? Well, I’d say the biggest catch is that you won’t always earn rewards with the loyalty program of the airline, hotel, or rental car, you’re booking with. As a general rule of thumb:
- You usually earn airline miles and elite perks when booking flights through Capital One Travel; there’s even an option to add your airline loyalty account number during the booking process
- You usually don’t earn hotel points or elite perks when booking hotels through Capital One Travel; there’s no option to add your hotel loyalty account number during the booking process, though you can always provide it when you check-in or in advance, and in some cases you may still receive some elite perks
- You usually don’t earn rental car points or elite perks when booking rental cars through Capital One Travel, though the policy does vary by rental agency
As a result, my strategy is typically to primarily book flights through Capital One Travel, since there’s the least opportunity cost to doing so. In some cases it could also be worth booking independent hotels through Capital One Travel, as that’s where the opportunity cost is the least.
How do you book travel through the Capital One Travel portal?
You can use Capital One Travel to book flights on over 200 airlines, stays at over two million hotels around the world, and rent cars with nearly 200 providers. In each case you’ll have the option of either paying cash or redeeming miles for your reservation, and that’s something that can be decided on when you’re finalizing your reservation.
Let’s go over the basics of some of the booking options, depending on whether you’re trying to book a flight, hotel, or rental car.
Booking flights with Capital One Travel
As someone who has the Capital One Venture X, I think most of my portal use will be for booking flights, since there’s the least opportunity cost:
- I can use my $300 Capital One Travel credit towards a flight
- I earn 5x Venture miles for booking flights this way, and you even earn those 5x miles when you use your $300 statement credit (so that earns you another 1,500 miles)
- There’s very little opportunity cost to this, since I can still earn airline miles and receive elite perks
- You should find that pricing through Capital One Travel typically matches what you find through Google Flights and other online travel agencies; in some cases you might find lower prices through programs like the Amex International Airline Program, but that’s about it
As far as online credit card portals go, Capital One Travel is excellent, as it uses technology from Hopper:
- There are lots of options for sorting itineraries, whether you want to go by price, duration, number of stops, departure time, or arrival time
- The portal does a pretty good job distinguishing different fare options, from basic economy to first class
- The portal has a calendar feature where you can see how pricing varies over several weeks at a time, which can be useful if you’re flexible
- The portal has price predictions for flights, whereby the portal will recommend whether you should book now or wait, and it’s claimed that this saves consumers an average of 15% per flight; this is based on analyzing billions of data points and predicting how flight prices fluctuate
- The portal offers free price drop protection; if Capital One Travel recommends booking a flight and the price drops within 10 days, you can be refunded the difference, up to $50
- The portal allows you to “watch” a trip, and be notified by email when it’s the best time to book
Booking hotels with Capital One Travel
The Capital One Travel portal gives you access to millions of hotels around the world, ranging from large chain hotels to independent boutique hotels. One awesome feature is that Capital One Travel proactively adjusts prices to guarantee that they match or beat other travel sites, including Orbitz, Expedia, Booking.com, and Travelocity. Capital One’s interface for searching hotels is also great, as you can sort by destination, price, star rating, and more.
Still, I’d generally avoid booking hotels through Capital One Travel:
- It could make sense to book an independent hotel through Capital One Travel, where the opportunity cost of booking this way is limited, and you can earn 5-10x miles per dollar spent; always make sure to compare prices, though, because you may sometimes find lower rates through other channels (especially if you’re a AAA member, a senior, etc.)
- If you’re engaged in major hotel loyalty programs and are staying at a chain hotel, it’s probably better to book direct, and be able to earn hotel points and receive elite perks; that being said, for some it could be worth booking through Capital One Travel, so you can earn 5-10x miles for these purchases instead
- For luxury hotels, there are typically better ways to book, like through Virtuoso, so you can score free breakfast, a room upgrade, a hotel credit, and more
Booking rental cars with Capital One Travel
Capital One Travel lets you book rental cars around the globe. While earning bonus miles for rental cars can be lucrative, personally I’d avoid booking rental cars through here. Why?
- There are so many opportunities to get discounted rental cars using websites like Kayak and Autoslash, so you often won’t get the best price when booking through a credit card portal
- You’re generally forgoing elite perks when booking a rental car through Capital One Travel; for example, the Capital One Venture X offers Hertz President’s Circle status, plus other rental car status on account of being a Visa Infinite, and you can receive those perks when booking direct with the car rental companies, rather than when booking through Capital One Travel
Capital One Travel best price guarantee
Capital One Travel offers a best price guarantee. If you find a better price on a flight, hotel, or rental car, within 24 hours of booking with Capital One Travel, you can be refunded the difference. To use this feature, just call 844-422-6922, and the request can be taken care of on the spot.
While this is a great feature, I think it’s important to emphasize that this only matches the best standard and published prices, and won’t always be useful. For example, a hotel may have a cheaper members only rate or cheaper AAA or senior rate, and that wouldn’t be eligible for a best price guarantee. Similarly, rental car companies also often have promotions for loyalty program members.
Capital One Travel is Capital One’s online travel portal, through which you can book flights, hotels, and rental cars. Generally speaking I avoid using these kinds of credit card travel portals, but there’s a reason many of us will likely use Capital One Travel.
The new Capital One Venture X offers a $300 credit valid through Capital One Travel, so at a minimum you should book a $300 flight every year through the portal, so you can maximize that benefit with the lowest opportunity cost. On top of that, earning 5-10x miles for portal purchases can be a great incentive to go through there.
I also have to give Capital One credit, because the portal is as good as credit card portals get. It has some unique features, and I find it pretty easy to use. For the casual traveler who isn’t good at planning travel, this could even be useful.
If you’ve used Capital One Travel, what has your experience been with the portal? Under what circumstances do you use credit card travel portals?