How to use the Capital One travel portal — now with more cards and new rewards

May 18, 2022

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Capital One surprised us when it launched its travel portal in 2021. Originally launched in beta mode, the portal has seen several meaningful changes and offers a direct path for Capital One credit card holders to use their rewards to purchase travel without needing to transfer to travel partners. That now includes cash-back credit cards, plus updates on flight search features.

Given these changes, it’s worth updating our coverage of the 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 Capital One portal.

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In This Post

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 rewards 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 ineffective 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.

In fact, if the portal’s predictive technology advises you to book a flight, you’ll enjoy automatic price drop protection, which will provide a partial refund of the amount you paid if the flight drops in price after ticketing (within a set time frame).

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

There are two other features that users may enjoy, available as paid add-ons.

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 operational meltdowns and ongoing outbreaks that have been fueled by new variants. This protection allows you to cancel your flight up to three hours before travel and receive 70-90% of your ticket price back. The exact amount can vary, depending on your booking, and the amount will be displayed at the time of purchasing the service.

Another paid feature is price freeze protection, which allows cardholders to pay a fee to freeze a price they see on the portal for up to a maximum 14 days. Knowing you won’t miss out on a great deal while simultaneously preventing any sudden price jumps might just be enough for hesitant travelers to hit that purchase button.

Image shows flight search recommendations for when to buy and options to hold the price for later
(Screenshot courtesy of capitalonetravel.com)

Note that the price for both of these services can vary, depending on what flights you’re considering. Factors that can alter the price include how far in advance you’re booking, the route and your travel dates. Additionally, price freeze is not available for flights departing within 36 hours.

Moreover, the price freeze protection feature has a limit. What that limit is will be clearly stated when the option to freeze the price is shown on the screen. If the cost of your flights increases beyond that limit, you would have to pay the difference.

How to access the Capital One travel portal

At first launch, only cards earning miles had access to the travel portal. That included these products:

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.

However, as of May 17, 2022, access was expanded to cash back cards, including:

The information for the Capital One Spark Cash Select and Savor Cash Rewards cards 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 in to 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 capitalone.com)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of capitalone.com)

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 capitalone.com)

Upon selecting your dates, press search to bring up a catalog of options. As a sample itinerary, I searched a round-trip flight from Santa Ana, California (SNA) to Chicago-area airports.

(Screenshot courtesy of capitalone.com)

From the results page, you can narrow the parameters by:

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

Then, you can 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 capitalone.com)

If the site advises you to book, that’ll trigger free price drop protection, where Capital One promises that you’ll get back up to $50 of the difference if you choose to book now and the price drops 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. Unfortunately, this feature applies to the route and date, not the specific flight(s) you want to watch.

Next, you’ll want to pay attention to the fare class you’re booking. In case you’re not 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.

Thankfully, Capital One has done an excellent job in its attempt to standardize classes across all airlines. When searching through Capital One Travel, you’ll see the following labels:

  • 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 and free beverages and snacks.
  • Premium: These fares include cradled or reclined seats, priority boarding, and premium snacks and beverages.
  • Luxury: These fares feature 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 compared to 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 capitalone.com)

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. However, 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 capitalone.com)

Other options available in the booking process include purchasing the add-ons we mentioned above: cancel for any reason and price freeze. The price for these features will vary, depending on factors like your trip cost, how far in advance you’re booking, whether the price is rated as “low” or “high” and other elements.

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 capitalone.com)

From there, you’re presented with various options in a list and map format, and you can filter your search by rating and price per night.

You also have the option to sort the listings by recommended, price (low to high) and star rating (high to low).

(Screenshot courtesy of capitalone.com)

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 capitalone.com)

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 and cancellation policy.

(Screenshot courtesy of capitalone.com)

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.

Click on “Car Rentals” at the top, and then input your search criteria.

(Screenshot courtesy of capitalone.com)

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 capitalone.com)

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 capitalone.com)

With some rental car agencies — namely, Hertz, Thrifty and Dollar — you’ll be able to add your rewards number to the booking and enjoy the associated benefits. The option to add your loyalty number won’t appear for other companies.

This is particularly appealing for Venture X cardholders, as you can book a rental car through Capital One Travel to earn 10 miles per dollar spent and still enjoy the complimentary Hertz President’s Circle status that’s included on the card.

Related: Stacking rental car perks with Hertz and the Venture X

Things to know about the Capital One Travel portal

Now that the Capital One travel portal is available to even more 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 — you should compare prices through the portal with 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 minimal 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. (The exceptions are with Hertz, Thrifty and Dollar car rentals in Capital One’s portal.) Therefore, it’s best to book hotels that are part of major chains and most car rentals directly if your elite perks are an important element.

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.

Related: How to stack rewards when you book flights with OTAs

Utilize your Venture X credit

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Venture X cardholders enjoy $300 of annual statement credits for bookings made via Capital One Travel. Unlike the $300 credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this only applies to purchases made through the portal. As a result, even if you’d rather book flights, hotels or car rentals directly with travel providers, you should still spend at least $300 on your Venture X through Capital One travel each year.

Bottom line

Capital One has taken travel to the next level over the last year, with enhanced transfer partners, a new travel portal, its first-ever premium card and its flagship lounge in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).

Overall, the Capital One travel portal offers a clean and well-designed interface. 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 out there. Add-ons like “cancel for any reason” coverage, price drop protection and the ability to freeze a price can add even more value for cardholders.

And with the portal now available to the issuer’s cash-back cardholders — including elevated earning rates — Capital One Travel may become more popular than ever.

Featured photo by Daniel Milchev for Getty Images.

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