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Are Double Miles Always Better? Let’s Take a Look

Few credit card companies have spent more money on advertising than Capital One has over the last 5 years.

And from where I am sitting, the results have been incredible. I get dozens of emails a week asking about their Venture Card.

Most of them sound something like this.

Hi Bryce,

I just saw an ad the other day for the Capital One Venture Card and it said you earn double miles on everything you buy. They also said that there are no blackout dates for using the miles and that they work on any airline.

Given that most other cards only earn one mile per dollar spent and have tons of restrictions on using them, is this the best travel card I can get?

Gary

So I wanted to take a minute to set the record straight.

Capital One

Today we are going to take an honest look at the Capital One Venture Card. I’ll walk you through its strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully help you make a decision on whether this is the right card for you.

Before we do that however, let’s cover the basics.

Capital One Venture Card:

  • Earn 40,000 miles (worth $400 toward travel) after spending $3,000 within three months
  • Earn double miles on every purchase, every day
  • Rewards don’t expire. Use your miles for any flight or hotel stay, as well as car rentals, cruises, etc.
  • $59 annual fee, waived first year

To the amateur points/miles enthusiast I can see why this is so appealing.

Who doesn’t want to earn double points on everything they buy? Two is always better than one right?

Let’s take a look at that.

1. With Venture you’ll earn unlimited double miles on every purchase, every day.

Yes, the Capital One Venture card does indeed earn double miles on every purchase, every day. But this claim is completely useless without some type of context.

What exactly is a “mile” worth? And how does that value compare to other types of miles?

Luckily, with Capital One this question is incredibly easy to answer.

Capital One Venture miles are worth exactly 1 cent each when redeemed toward travel. The value per mile can never go any higher, and that’s the catch.

Other “traditional” airline miles are typically valued at 0.5 – 2 cents each, with the potential to fetch more than 5x that value in some cases.

Let’s take a look at American Airlines miles for example.

I just booked a first class flight from Columbus to Prague for 50,000 American Airlines miles and $107 in fees.

Bryce Capital One

The cash price of my flight would have been about $7,000.

Even when taking the fee in to account, it would take ~689,300 Capital One Venture miles to book that exact same itinerary. Which is more miles than most people earn in a lifetime.

The same is true of almost any other international itinerary. When it comes to high-end flights, Capital One miles just don’t stack up.

Key Takeaway: 2 miles are not always better than 1.

2. Using miles is easy. Just book any flight you want then use your miles to cover the cost

This is where the Capital One Venture Card really shines.

Capital One Venture miles are used for one thing and one thing only. To erase travel purchases made with the card.

So a $300 airline fare can be erased with 30,000 Venture miles, a $100 hotel bill can be erased with 10,000 miles, a $50 rental car charge erased with 5,000 miles, etc.

No blackout dates, no restrictions on which airline/hotel you book with, no games.

Key Takeaway: The real strength of the Capital One Venture card comes from its flexibility. The points work on any airline, hotel, rental car, cruise, etc.

3. Earn 40,000 miles (worth $400 toward travel) after spending $3,000 within three months

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite part of any credit card, the signup bonus.

The Capital One Venture card offers 40,000 miles (worth $400) after you spend $3,000 in three months.

Venture miles can be used to erase any travel purchase made within 90 days.

Which means you essentially have the benefit of the 40,000 ($400) signup bonus on day one. Simply open the Venture card, use it to pay for your travel, then go back and cash in your points after you have earned the bonus.

Key Takeaway: The 40,000 mile signup bonus is great for last minute travel.

Bottom Line:

Capital One Venture is great for:

  • Last minute trips (thanks to the “retroactive” signup bonus)
  • Boutique hotels
  • Travel incidentals
  • Cruises/Other forms of travel not covered with conventional points

 

Where Venture falls short:

  • Spending rewards. “Double Miles” is a marketing ploy.
  • Most flight redemptions (excluding short-haul flights)
  • Aspirational flight/hotel bookings

 

Happy Travels,

Bryce

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