How to use the new Capital One travel portal

Oct 29, 2021

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Soaring fuel costs. Rental car shortages. Confusing vaccine and testing guidelines.

These are just a few of the uncertainties travelers will face heading into the busy holiday season and the new year.

Booking travel can be stressful, but Capital One wants to change that with its all-new travel portal, which includes some innovative money- and time-saving features to help users snag the best prices and insure their trips affordably.

In this guide, we’ll go step-by-step through how to book travel through the new Capital One portal.

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Why use the Capital One travel portal?

(Photo courtesy of Capital One)

In general, credit card issuers will incentivize cardholders to use their respective travel portals by offering bonus points when paying with an eligible card — sometimes providing upwards of 5-10 points or miles per dollar spent. This bonus multiplier can be pretty intriguing, but many travelers know that booking through a portal can often be a frustrating experience, whether it’s dealing with weak customer service or a poor user interface.

For example, the more familiar booking platforms, such as the Amex travel portal or the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, have their respective quirks and challenges. Sometimes, prices can be higher on these travel portals than elsewhere, and reservations can sometimes incur stringent cancellation policies, leading many cardholders to avoid booking through third parties altogether.

Screenshots of Hopper's flight booking service
(Photo courtesy of Hopper)

Capital One takes a different approach by integrating technology from Hopper, a popular app for predicting the lowest prices for flights and hotels. Hopper is unique because it has access to billions of data points, which Capital One claims provides a 95% price prediction accuracy rate, and that can help users decide the best time to book. Other customer-friendly features include:

  • Price drop prediction
  • Best price guarantee
  • Price match with competitors

The issuer has also committed to reducing long phone hold times by adding customer support staff.

While not available just yet, Capital One will add two optional travel coverage packages that are novel to most portals we’ve seen in the past.

First, cardholders can opt to purchase cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) coverage for their flight, which might be more attractive than ever given recent airline operations meltdowns and COVID surges in pockets throughout the country and beyond that might have some travelers thinking twice about sticking to their plans. This protection allows you to cancel your flight up to 24 hours before travel and receive most of your ticket price back.

Another feature we’ll see in the future is price freeze protection, which allows cardholders to freeze the price they see on the portal for a fee until they’re ready to book. Knowing you won’t miss out on a great deal and insulating you against any sudden price jumps might be just the selling point some hesitant bookers need to hit that purchase button.

How to access the Capital One travel portal

The Capital One travel portal is in its beta launch, and you’ll currently need one of the following cards to access it:

The information for the Capital One Spark Miles Select and Capital One Walmart card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

You can access the portal through this link or log into your Capital One account, then click on your rewards balance. You’ll be presented with multiple options, but for now, you can press “Discover Travel” or “Book A Trip” to launch the Capital One travel portal.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

How to book flights

To book airfare using the Capital One travel portal, log into your account and then hover over the “Flights” tab to search one-way or round-trip flights. Enter your desired departure and arrival cities.

When it comes to selecting departure and return dates, it’s not just a matter of merely selecting the dates that are convenient for you. Capital One brings in Hopper’s familiar, color-coded interface, allowing you to see which dates offer the lowest prices.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

Upon selecting your dates, press search to bring up a catalog of options. As a sample itinerary, I searched a round-trip flight from New York City to Honolulu.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

From here, you can narrow the parameters by:

  • Number of stops
  • Maximum price
  • Airline
  • Time of day
  • Airports
  • Flight numbers

Then, sort your results by:

  • Recommended
  • Price (low to high)
  • Departure time (earliest to latest)
  • Arrival time (earliest to latest)
  • Stops (least to most)
  • Duration (shortest to longest)

There are a few other interesting features worth mentioning. Above all of the options, you can see the price prediction tool come into effect with clear messaging on whether or not it’s a good time to book.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

With “free price drop protection,” Capital One promises that you’ll get back up to $50 of the difference if you choose to book now and the price happens to decrease in the next 10 days. If you’re not ready, you can press “Watch This Trip” to receive emails notifying you of the best time to book whenever better prices become available, 24/7.

Next, you’ll want to pay attention to the fare class you’re booking. As you’re probably aware, basic economy on Delta Air Lines is different from basic economy on United Airlines, with the latter not allowing travelers to bring a carry-on bag onboard (only a personal item). Plus, cancellation policies differ heavily across fare classes. Capital One has done an excellent job with is its attempt to standardize classes across all airlines and offers the following labels instead:

  • Basic: Typically the best-priced options. These are basic fares with restrictive policies and few amenities.
  • Standard: Typically main and economy fares. These include amenities like carry-on bags and seat selection.
  • Enhanced: These fares include more legroom, priority boarding, free beverages and snacks.
  • Premium: These fares include cradled or reclined seats, priority boarding, premium snacks and beverages.
  • Luxury: Luxury reclined seats with personalized services and premium meals. Priority boarding is also included.

Once you peruse the options and select the desired flight, you’re given the low-down on what’s expected on your flight. This may be one of the most comprehensive set of details on any travel portal — even when booking directly with the airline — with exact seat measurements, aircraft layout, power outlets, fresh food options onboard and even if lounge access is included.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

The payment side is quick and easy, too. Enter the traveler information, with fields for frequent-flyer numbers and Known Traveler Numbers (for instance, if you have TSA Precheck or Global Entry).

As a Venture cardholder, I can apply my miles at a rate of 1 cent each to the purchase. If you want to save your miles for later, press “Do not apply my rewards” to use your Venture credit card to pay for your reservation instead.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

How to book hotels

There are fewer distinctive features when booking your hotels through the Capital One travel portal, but the process is similar as above. On the landing page, be sure to hover over the “Hotels” tab and input your destination, desired dates and number of travelers. Unlike with booking flights, you won’t find a color-coded calendar of prices.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

From there, you’re presented with various options in a list and map format and can filter your search by rating and price per night. You can sort the listings by recommended, price (low to high), and star rating (high to low).

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

If you click on “More filters,” you’ll be able to sort by the amenities that matter to you or even look up specific properties.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

While the search features are more limited than booking flights, you’ll get a detailed description of each hotel and can find out information about amenities, rates, location, cancellation policy.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

The payment process is identical to booking flights, and you can choose whether you want to redeem your Capital One miles for the trip, or pay with your Capital One card instead.

How to book rental cars

Last but not least, the process is straightforward for rental cars, too.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

You’ll then get a list of options with the ability to filter by car type, price per day, rental car company, specifications, and cancellation policy.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

You can then reserve the car in a matter of a couple of clicks, with clear information about pick-up and drop-off.

(Screenshot courtesy of Capital One)

Things to know about the Capital One Travel portal

Now that the Capital One travel portal is available to select cardholders, here are some other things to keep in mind when booking through the portal.

Do the math

Since Capital One offers 14 airline and three hotel transfer partners — with most transferring at a simple 1:1 ratio now — you’ll want to compare prices through the portal or by transferring your Capital One miles to one of these programs first. For example, a $150 United flight may cost you 15,000 Capital One miles through the portal or just 7,500 Avianca LifeMiles (and $5.60 in taxes and fees) if you leverage transfer partners.

Avoid booking hotels or car rentals if you have (or are chasing) elite status

When booking hotels or car rentals through any travel portal, you’ll usually forfeit your elite status benefits along with the ability to earn elite night credits and points within these loyalty programs. Therefore, it’s best to book hotels that are part of major chains as well as car rentals directly. However, for independently owned hotels, or if you aren’t concerned with hotel elite status, booking through the Capital One travel portal may still make sense for you. Even when redeeming your Capital One miles for flights through the portal, airlines will treat that as a cash booking which should allow you to earn both award and elite-qualifying miles with the frequent-flyer program.

More features incoming

As mentioned above, the Capital One travel portal is still new and in development. In the coming months, we’ll see additional features such as CFAR coverage and prize freeze protection. We’ll update this guide once those options are live for eligible cardholders.

Bottom line

Capital One is taking travel to the next level, whether it’s the new travel portal or flagship lounge opening in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) later this year.

Overall, the Capital One travel portal offers a clean and well-designed interface. I didn’t encounter any bugs or slowdowns among the test searches I conducted, unlike travel portals I’ve experienced in the past. While I likely won’t book hotels or rental cars through the Capital One portal, I will definitely be booking flights as it provides some of the most informative price and fare class details.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we compare pricing from the Capital One travel portal head-to-head with competitors like Amex and Chase, or if you should book direct instead.

Featured photo by Daniel Milchev for Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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