How I’m Thinking About Using My Capital One Points

I’ve never been a fan of the Capital One program, but their 110,000 point signup bonus sure caught my attention  Sure, 110,000 Capital One points aren’t really worth as much as 110,000 miles in most frequent flyer programs. I thought that the best I could do was an $1100 credit towards paid travel. Which is pretty good as a credit card signup bonus, of course! So I applied, and my wife did as well. We got instant approvals, and then after a week and a half or so yesterday morning we got the emails with special codes to enter to upload competitor frequent flyer statements and qualify for the signup bonus.

See, the Capital One offer isn’t a standard signup bonus. Most credit cards give you a specified number of miles as a bonus, usually after spending a certain amount on the card.

Well, presumably Capital One wanted to limit their exposure and also target high spending folks, they set up a ‘mileage match’. You have to prove your balance in a competing frequent flyer (note: not frequent guest) program and they will ‘match’ the miles you have, up to 100,000.

And they really want to match ‘credit card miles’ but it’s complicated to untangle miles earned via credit card spend vs. miles from other sources in an account. So you just have to show your balance in the mileage account that qualifies for the match. I chose ones where I could also show credit card spend, just in case, but reports are that any balance will work even without showing credit card earning. That wasn’t my strategy, but others have said it processes just fine.

So yesterday I uploaded our frequent flyer statements, and by last night they had verified and ‘reserved’ the miles. We have to spend $1000 on each card in order to get our mileage bonus now.

The point in reserving the miles is that Capital One did something clever, they limited themselves to awarding one billion miles. That’s a big number, it sounds like a huge promotion, but it’s potentially as few as 10,000 signup bonuses at 100,000 points apiece.

So while the credit card offer runs through mid-May, the miles may run out long before then. And you’ll have applied for your card (which in many cases generates a pull of your credit score from all three credit bureaus, ouch) before you know whether there are miles left for your match. That’s why you should jump on this offer now and not wait.

Well, having reserved the miles I started paying attention to redemption options. And it turns out you can do better than 1 cent of value per point. There are gift certificates with Hyatt, Fairmont, and Ritz-Carlton that yield 1.7 cents of value per point. Sweet!

So I’ve been looking especially at the Hyatt certificates. They come as a $900 certificate, and they can thus only be used at one hotel apparently. (It’ll be interesting to see whether they come as a single $900 certificate or perhaps a bundle of nine $100 certificates, but for now I’m assuming just one $900 certificate). A given certificate isn’t divisable, has to be used for a single stay at a single hotel. That has me looking at some pretty high-end properties…

My wife has been bugging me to go to the Maldives. MilesQuest is apparently there now. The Conrad looked to be the best option because it’s a great value redemption with Hilton HHonors points. Used to be you could almost never get a reservation there, even with a ‘diamond force’ for top tier elites, before Hilton HHonors adopted a no capacity controls approach to their awards. Now it’s bookable and is a great use of points.

Still, the resort didn’t quite hit on all cylinders for me. But the recent news is that one of what looks to be nicer properties in the Maldives, the Alila Villas, is rebranding as a Park Hyatt come April 1. (HT: Lucky.)

So between my wife and I we should be able to redeem for $3600 in Hyatt gift certificates as the best-value use of our Capital One points. Add in Hyatt Diamond status.

Now, I’ve seen the rates. That doesn’t go very far! Three room-types, and I can’t use a prepaid rate with gift certificates, I’m looking at $950 – $1150 per night depending on which villa I’d choose. But that should get me three nights, then we’ll have to see what the possibility of using suite upgrades at the property (considering it’s a paid rate, but on the other hand every room is a villa so this may not be an option). And we’ll see waht the points cost will be for additional room nights. Or signing up for a Hyatt Visa finally, I’ve been a big fan of the card for no foreign currency transaction fees and also for the two free nights as a signup bonus (with the two nights being confirmed in a suite for diamond members). As details emerge, I could see a plan developing…

Now, the Maldives is not the easiest place to get to. I thought about Emirates, in particular Continental Onepass allows you to combine Emirates with other Star Alliance airlines at relatively low prices through their standard award chart. The last bookable day for that though is tomorrow. The United partnership lasts two mote months but it would take two separate awards to get to the Maldives, and those are expensive awards. The Emirates award chart itself is quite expensive, a bit less would be redeeming via Japan Airlines (I could trnasfer Starwood Starpoints to either) but it’s still crazy high.

So my current thinking is an award to Columbo, Sri Lanka — perhaps Cathay Pacific first class via Hong Kong. Then it’s less than a 500 mile flight to Male, which is cheap to purchase even in a premium cabin out of Sri Lanka. Or I could even redeem Emirates Skywards miles as Emirates does fly Columbo – Male. Though that would probably be overkill, it wouldgive me a shot of flying Emirates first class finally, if only for an hour. Hah!

Who would have ever thought that Capital One would have me dreaming of an over-the-top luxury trip? I rather thought it would pay for some flights down to Florida.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I just had my miles reserved last night also, so I’ll touch base here again to let folks know how that went after the $1K spend. Additionally, I love reading about your thought process for these “over-the-top” trips… I wonder where my miles will take me? 🙂

  2. Thanks for the advice on this. I signed up the other day but have yet to receive the follow-up email regarding registering for my 100K (+10K) miles. Good to know that the miles are worth more than $0.1 each. I thought I read in the fine print that, once earned, you could also transfer your Capitol One reward points to any preferred miles program, but maybe I read that wrong.

  3. $900 sells for 51250 capitol one points!
    The certificate is good for 15 months from date of issuance with a total award value of $900. The Hyatt Check Certificate will only be accepted for eligible goods and services at participating Hyatt Hotel and Resorts®. Locations are subject to change without notice and acceptance varies by property. The certificate may be used in the following manner: As a registered guest to cover publicly listed and available room rates and packages; and to cover food and beverage charges at participating Hyatt outlets. Not valid for Casino charges, deposit or payment for group/meeting/catering functions, or for advance purchased packages or Hyatt Vacations® packages. Goods and services must be charged to the room and the Hyatt Check Certificate should be redeemed at the front desk at check-out. In the United States and Puerto Rico the total charged will be reduced by the face value of the Hyatt Check Certificate. Outside of the United States, the total charges will be reduced by converting the USD value of the Hyatt Check Certificate into local currency according to the daily foreign exchange board rate. Hyatt Check Certificate may be used by a non-registered guest at participating hotels in the U. S., Canada and the Caribbean only. The Hyatt Check Certificate should be redeemed at the time of purchase. Hyatt Check Certificates may be supplemented by payment of cash, acceptable check or valid credit card. No credit or change will be given on unused portion of certificate unless required by law. Not redeemable for cash or other substitutions, not replaceable if lost, destroyed, stolen, or expired. Void if altered, photocopied, or reproduced. Terms are void where prohibited by law. The use of certificates at certain destinations shall be subject to respective government approvals, regulations, restrictions and applicable taxes. Terms and Conditions of the certificate are governed by the laws of the state of Maryland, USA without regard to its choice of law provisions. Certificate is void if sold for cash or other consideration. Certificate will not be extended beyond the expiration date. Tax liability, if any, including disclosure, is the user’s responsibility. Certificates may not be accepted at concessions within the participating hotel not owned or operated by Hyatt. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts® encompasses hotels and resorts managed, franchised, or operated by two separate groups of companies – Hyatt Corporation and its affiliates and affiliates of Hyatt International Corp. ©2008 Hyatt Fulfillment of Maryland, Inc. Disclaimer: The listed merchants are in no way affiliated with Capital One, nor are the listed merchants considered sponsors or co-sponsors of this program. Please see the merchant’s gift card/certificate/website for additional terms and conditions, which are subject to change at merchant’s sole discretion, if permitted by law.

  4. @ Gary

    Gary any chance you could touch base with your contacts at Capital One and get confirmation one way or another regarding whether or not the Business Card is running the same promotion (with it’s own distinct pool of 1B miles)

  5. @Gary, do you think it’s advisable to apply for Cap One’s biz card in addition to the personal card (approved) in order to double the bonus? I’d imagine that a “biz” in my name would qualify as a new customer even tho I’ve been approved under my name for a personal card. And, I’d submit a separate airline’s flyer miles than the one I used for personal. Your thoughts would be appreciated before I waste a hit on my credit if this doesn’t pan out.

  6. Gary – Thanks for pointing this out. Based on this, using the capital one card is not a terrible option as it originally seemed since each dollar spent converts to 2 capital one points. Since each captial one point is worth a potential 1.7 cents, then each dollar spent converts to 3.4 cents which while one can do better on airline mileage cards AND have significantly more options, this is turning out to not be a terrible option for a non-amex no international conversion fees.

  7. @Rick lots of reports that the business card is eligible for the bonus but I admit I haven’t kept up. If you could get both cards then double the bonus is of course worthwhile, I just haven’t paid enough attention yet (maybe catch up this weekend) other than to hear from folks that it is.

  8. Gary – I was just approved for this card as well (though haven’t received the email to submit proof of my mileage account yet). I remember reading on this blog that OnePass and Mileage Plus accounts can get a free transfer from one to the other, and I need to do this to get to my 100k max. Can you point me in the right direction? I’ve been looking on both websites and can’t find out how to do it.

  9. Sorry to be dense but how do I go about getting that Hyatt Gift certificate? I have a suite at the PH Paris Vendome reserved on points but this sounds too good to pass up!

  10. I haven’t applied for the card yet. Does the Ritz Carlton give you as good an exchange rate as the Hyatt? I might have to apply after all.

  11. What do I need to submit if I want to get my AAdvatage Miles matched. I have 120K miles in the account, but can’t find a way to create a statement. Should I just print out the entire page?

  12. sapan,

    you can hit teh print statement button and fax it in. That’s what i did. Or, do a screenshot and upload it. Whatever is easier for you.

  13. Gary — Thanks for your work on this promo. Your updates are more useful than 100 flyertalk posts!

    There are a few remaining issues that would be very useful to have “official” guidance on from your contact. First, after you apply for the mileage match, you get an email saying your miles are “reserved” — but that email doesn’t say how many miles they’ve reserved for you. I read somewhere that a second-email gets sent out, but that doesn’t seem to be happening now.
    Second, does “reserved” mean what it says? Like is there no rush to spend the $1000 to get the bonus: that even if you take the full 3 months, they won’t run out of miles for you?
    Third, is there realy also a march bonus for the biz Venture card, and is there any prohibition in claiming this bonus in addition to the personal one? And is it a separate billion mile pool, such that you don’t have to worry about all the personal card applicants taking away the biz mileage bonus points? And do you really need to provide a different frequent flyer statement to claim the biz bonus, or will the same one used for the personal card work?


  14. you could always just convert to MONEY like bestbuy or amazon certificates for .01. That would give you 1100$ in cash money baby.

  15. @iahphx,
    Why risk it? We have no way to know when they’ll run out of matching points and what “reserve” really means. Just spend your $1k as soon as you get the CC and hope for the best. We can only assume that there’s 1B total points to be given. There are easily 10000+ lurkers and active posters on flyertalk, milepoint, slickdeals and fatwallet with more than 100k points on a FF acount that have signed up for this offer. I expect the 1B points to be allocated by the end of the month.

  16. If you end up doing this, I would really appreciate it if you could confirm whether it’s 1 certificate for $900 or 9 certs for $100 or some other such combo.

    Also, I wonder if there’s a jurisdiction (per the T&C) where they would be required to give you cash for the unused value of the certificate….

  17. is it a sure thing that you can use more than one of these on the same stay? or would you need to book each night as a separate stay?

  18. @iahphx it would seem clear if they say your miles are reserved then it’s the # of miles you requested.

    And yes, reserved means what it says — no rush to spend the $1k, just within the allotted 3 months.

    Finally, see my other post on the business card offer.

  19. @Chris I haven’t looked but believe the exchange to Ritz-Carlton is the same, I favor Hyatt because I can leverage iwth Diamond benefits.

  20. @Dilvala actually look up the PH Paris Vendome and you’ll see it IS eligible, you’re not looking for a STAY CERTIFICATE but rather a “Check” and you’ll see “HG” under that box… 🙂

  21. Gary, another big value is the the Raffles “Ovation” class C certificates. In the T&C’s, it is for a suite with breakfast for 2. The 51,250 points gets you 2 of these. A quick look at the suite rate in the Fairmont Bermuda is $650+, so a $1,300 value vs. the $900 Hyatt.

  22. So is the transfer to Fairmont the same as the Hyatt checks? I’ve only seen the Hyatts mentioned on FT and can’t look up online because the card is at home and I’m on vacation.

  23. Once again – how do you go about getting those Hyatt checks? Am I the only one who doesn’t get this? 🙂

  24. Gary! Thanks for the updates. I’m pretty sure that I will be going with the Hyatt checks and using at Grand Hyatt Kauai for a suite! Thanks!

  25. My wife and I went here last year, it is an amazing location. We are going back to Maldives again this year, may go back here, but looking at some other options too. In terms of getting there:

    * We did CX F JFK-HKG-SIN using AA miles then SIN-MLE using US Air miles. US Air has very cheap redemption as it puts SIN and MLE in the same region. Unfortunately availability on this leg seems to have dried up this year, last year was easy to find two seats. You can waitlist with SQ as an alternative, but more expensive redemption (51k each booking online vs 30k US). They have improved it though so there are two flights a day on 3-4 days of the week (Though this is one location you can arrive late and still transfer – we arrived at 10pm into MLE and go to Alila around 3am after internal flight and boat ride) Also this uses new regional J which is very similar to AA’s long-haul NGBC

    * This year we are doing JFK-LCY/LGW-MLE with BA. Means a day in London and again this was wide open for a couple of months but has now gone back to being very hard to find. We like this though – two flights on a great product and we are there

    * You can do Malaysian LAX-KUL-MLE using Delta miles. A great way to use DL miles! Do not know about LAX-KUL but KUL-MLE seems to have open availability in J for 2 pax. Also the KUL-MLE is on 738, fine going but not so much fun coming back red-eye

    * Going CX via HKG to CMB does not seem great to me. You have an 8 hour fight on regional 777 or A330 and using AA miles at least it would take two rewards.

    * Bangkok Airways flies from, er, Bangkok. Not sure how helpful this is but we looked into using CX to get to BKK then paying out of pocket to go on to MLE.

    * Am sure there are other ways to get to DXB like using ANA to redeem on Virgin via LHR ? Then pay out of pocket or use Emirates redemption from there

    Let us know…

  26. Gary, since I’ll probably be cashing my miles for the Hyatt or Fairmont Check’s, are there any sign up bonus’s or do you get referral points for new members joining, I’d be happy to be refereed by you is so.

  27. The Hyatt gift carts are gone at the 51,500 points level. It’s now 180K. That’s kind of silly considering they sell $100 gift certs for 10K points. Who would now buy their ridiculous “events and experiences package?

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