Capital One Miles: The basics
Capital One Miles is the rewards currency earned by certain business and consumer credit cards issued by Capital One. Depending on the card you have, you’ll score 1-2 miles with every dollar you spend.
Capital One Miles can be used in a variety of ways, and are generally worth between half a cent and one cent apiece. The value hinges on what you redeem them for. Read on to learn about your best options.
Cards that earn Capital One Miles
- Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend.
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend.
- Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel.
- Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on business purchases and 5 miles per dollar spent on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel (SM).
- Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend on business purchases and 5 miles per dollar spent on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel (SM).
- Earn a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles - equal to $200 in travel - once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Nerd note: All of the earn rates on the cards listed above are unlimited; there’s no cap on the miles you can rack up with these cards.
How to get more Capital One Miles
With the exception of the Capital One® Spark® Select for Business, all cards that earn Capital One Miles provide the opportunity to earn a signup bonus if you meet a minimum spending requirement, so this is an easy way to pad your rewards account. But beyond this, there aren’t any clever methods for getting more miles.
Capital One doesn’t operate a bonus mall that will allow you to earn more rewards on online purchases, and there is no option to buy miles. Consequently, the best way to earn maximum miles is to simply use your card for as many transactions as possible.
How to redeem Capital One Miles
Good redemption options
The best way to redeem Capital One Miles is for travel. You can do this in 2 ways: By using Purchase Eraser® to get a statement credit for all or part of a recent travel purchase, or by booking travel with your miles through Capital One’s travel portal. Either way, your miles are worth 1 cent each, which is the highest value achievable.
The travel redemptions are preferable for most consumers because you’ll have a lot of choices in how to use your miles. For example, you can use Purchase Eraser® to get a statement credit for airline tickets, hotel stays, limousine services, car rentals, discount travel sites and more. Just be sure to redeem within 90 days of a travel purchase posting to your account.
There’s no minimum number needed to redeem when you use Purchase Eraser® or Capital One’s travel portal to cash in.
Another good option is using miles to purchase gift cards. This redemption method will get you a value of one cent per mile, too, so if a getaway isn’t achievable, there’s still a way to decent value from your rewards. You’ll need a minimum of 2,500 miles to redeem for a gift card.
Bad redemption options
Besides travel and gift cards, you can also use your Capital One Miles for cash back (in the form of a check or statement credit for a non-travel purchase) or merchandise. But cash-back redemptions cut the value of mile in half, meaning that miles are worth half a cent each if this is how you choose to use them. You’ll need a minimum of 5,000 miles for a cash-back redemption.
For merchandise, the value of a mile varies depending on what you’re cashing them in for. Based on the Nerds’ calculations (see methodology section below), miles are worth slightly more than a half a cent apiece for most merchandise redemptions; although there’s the potential for a slightly higher value, it’s unlikely you’ll get a full cent per mile.
Other redemption options
There are two other ways to redeem Capital One Miles: experiences, and donations to charity. “Experiences” are entrance fees to local events or happenings (wine tastings, tandem skydiving and stock car racing are past examples) that you can book and pay for with miles using the Capital One Rewards site. The value you’ll get per mile with this redemption option varies wildly, and is dependent on the event you choose and the city you live in.
The same goes for charitable donations, so be sure to do a little math before forking over your miles for a good cause. There’s a good chance you’re better off donating cash.
The fine print
There’s not a lot in the fine print of the Capital One Rewards program that will cause confusion or trip you up. There’s no limit to the miles you can earn, and miles never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. If you close your account, you’ll lose any unused miles.
Also, if you pay your credit card bill late and are charged a late fee, you won’t earn miles during the billing cycle that the late fee was charged. Carrying a balance won’t affect your ability to earn rewards, as long as you make your minimum payment on time.
Of course, you should make it a priority to pay your bill in full each month. The interest you’ll accrue is likely to cancel out the value of the miles you’ve earned.
Top cards that earn Capital One Miles
For consumers: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a popular travel credit card because it’s easy to use, and earns big rewards with every swipe. You’ll score 2 miles for every dollar you spend, which equates to a rewards rate of 2% if you choose to redeem for travel. This is double the industry standard of 1%, which means you’re getting a generous influx of rewards every time you use the card.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also offers a generous signup bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. This could really help offset the cost of your next trip.
This card is also a good choice if you like traveling internationally, because charges no foreign transaction fee, comes chip-enabled.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card charges an annual fee of $95. All in all, you’ll do well to keep this card in your wallet as you make your way around the world.
For business owners: Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is similar to the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, but is meant for small business owners who travel frequently. With it, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend and pay no foreign transaction fees.
It also comes with a signup bonus: Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business charges an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. But the Nerds expect that most jet-setting business owners will earn enough in rewards to outweigh this expense.
The calculated value of these points is based on an estimated redemption rate, not a credit card rewards earn rate. Therefore, you may notice that these numbers don’t match the rewards rates on our credit card finder tool. Read on for how we estimated these points values.
Capital One states in the terms and conditions of cards that earn miles that one mile is worth one cent for travel purchases. This is done with hypothetical examples, where the points needed for a travel redemption is determined by multiplying the cost of a ticket by 100.
$500 plane ticket X 100 = 50,000 miles needed
$500/50,000 = $.01 (one cent per mile)
For gift cards, the Nerds logged into the Capital One Rewards portal and ran some tests, where we divided the value of a gift card by the miles needed to get it. For example, a $25 gift card requires 2,500 miles:
$25 / 2,500 = $.01 (one cent per mile)
We used a similar methodology for cash redemptions. For example, a $30.15 non-travel Purchase Eraser® credit requires 6,030 miles:
$30.15 / 6,030 = $.005 (half a cent per mile)
A $50.36 check in the mail or regular statement credit requires 10,072 miles:
$50.36 / 10,072 miles = $.005 (half a cent per mile)
For merchandise, the Nerds compared the miles needed to redeem for particular items to their prices on Amazon.com. For example, a Bulova Marine Star watch has a retail price was $245.12 (as of March 14, 2015) and requires 37,750 miles to purchase.
$245.12/37,750 = $.0065 (.65 cents per point)
Last updated on April 10, 2015
Image via iStock.