Why I initially signed up for a Capital One card:
In December, I signed up for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card. I had two main reasons for doing so:
1) Capital One had just introduced the ability to transfer their points* to a number of airline partners. These include popular ones such as Air Canada Aeroplan, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Avianca Lifemiles, and Singapore Krisflyer and rare ones such as Hainan Fortune Wings Club. The transfer rate for most partners is 1 Capital One point –> 0.75 airline miles. Since the card earns 2 points per dollar on all purchases, it would be like either earning 2% cash back toward travel or 1.5 miles per dollar. I thought it’d be nice to have the option.
2) The card had a huge bonus at the time, earning 200,000 Capital One points for $50,000 in spending over 6 months. Since the card earns 2x points on everything, that level of spend would earn 300,000 points. That number of points is redeemable for $3,000 toward travel (a 6% return) or up to 225,000 airline miles. It’s quite a feat to spend $50,000, but I had the ability to pay some bills that would add up to that amount in the upcoming few months, so I found it a great way to earn a good return on something that was otherwise non-bonus spend. I actually earned the initial 50,000 miles after my first $5,000 of spending within the first 3 months.
*I know that Capital One brands their rewards as “miles” but to help reduce confusion, I’ll refer to the credit card rewards as “points” and airline miles as “miles.”
My experience transferring from Capital One to Avianca Lifemiles
I had an upcoming trip to Colombia and found a flight I wanted was priced very favorably using Avianca Lifemiles (who’da thunk you could use miles from a Colombian airline for a flight in Colombia?!). I figured I’d try transferring Capital One points to Lifemiles.
When I called Capital One to activate my card, I specifically asked how airline mileage transfers would work. I was told they would be instant. This isn’t unreasonable since other card issuers tend to transfer instantly as well.
One thing that’s nice about Capital One is that their credit card points post instantly after a purchase. I earned the initial 50,000 bonus points rather early after spending the initial $3,000. I transferred some Capital One points to Lifemiles and waited … and waited … and waited.
The front-line reps have no idea what mileage transfers are:
Over an hour passed and I decided to call Capital One to inquire how long it would take. I ended up spending over an hour on the phone speaking with both a front-line rep and a supervisor, both of whom had no idea what transfers to airline partners were. They both thought I was transferring points to another Capital One member. This was almost 2 months after the implementation of this mileage transfer option.
I even had the supervisor tell me that “you don’t need to wait for the miles, you can book your ticket and then redeem the miles later.” He was obviously referring to the method of using Capital One points to “erase travel purchases” at a penny per point. I tried to explain to him how mileage transfers work, but he clearly did not understand.
After over an hour on the phone, I was told I would have to wait up to a week for the transfer and to expect a follow-up phone call within that week to help explain the issue. The miles ended up posting about 30 hours later, but I never got the follow-up phone call.
I only transferred a handful of miles, and didn’t even end up using them for the flight because I found another itinerary that better fit my needs. But I also realized that transferring to Lifemiles isn’t necessarily the best use of these miles. I only earn 2 points per dollar, which is like earning 2 cents per dollar spent anywhere. If I transfer those Capital One points to Lifemiles, I earn 1.5 Lifemiles. The math comes out to 1.33 cents per Lifemile. However, Avianca frequently sells Lifemiles at 1.35 cents per mile. The difference is negligible, though credit card point transfers to Lifemiles aren’t dependent on sales.
Overall, I’m happy I got the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card only for the signup bonus. I ended up getting 300,000 Capital One points for $50,000 spend. It’s still effectively a 2% cash back toward travel card for free until the annual fee comes up in December. I’d actually rather use my Chase Freedom Unlimited with 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points over the Capital One card.
Given the issues with transferring and the poor knowledge and support of the Capital One reps, I’ll likely keep using it as a travel cash fund and instead use other currencies like Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards for mileage transfers.
What have your experiences with Capital One and mileage transfers been?