This credit card can save you money on your next road trip
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
With international travel still largely closed off, road trips have had new-found glory during the coronavirus pandemic.
More Americans are jumping in the car to head to national parks, new cities and other destinations around the country. That said, road trips still aren’t cheap: You’ll pay for gas (or electric car charging), hotels or Airbnbs, tolls and other on-the-road expenses that can add up quickly on long road trips. So if you’re looking to save on these expenses, consider using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
You can use this card to offset most travel expenses with Capital One miles, which is a great way to lower the cost of your road trips. Plus, you can transfer your miles to three hotel partners: Accor, Choice (coming later this year) and Wyndham.
Here, we’ll show you how to use the Capital One Venture card to fund your next road trip. We’ll start with a quick overview of the card, and then give you a look at expenses you can offset using your miles. By the end of the article, you’ll have a complete look at how to use your Capital One miles on road trips.
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The Capital One Venture card
The Capital One Venture card is one of TPG’s top travel credit cards — and a favorite of The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly. It earns 2x miles per dollar spent on purchases, making this a great card for everyday spending. You can redeem miles toward paid travel and transfer them to three hotel and 16 airline partners. Depending on the travel company, these transfers process at a 1:1, 2:1.5 or 2:1 transfer ratio. Capital One recently added a handful of new transfer partners, too.
On the other hand, you can redeem for paid travel expenses and gift cards at 1 cent per mile.
The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, includes an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (up to $100) and has a low $95 annual fee, among other benefits and perks. Plus the card is offering a new limited-time bonus of 100,000 miles after spending $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months of account opening, or 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of the account opening. This bonus is worth between $1,000 and $1,700 when redeemed toward paid travel according to TPG valuations (not provided by the issuer), but you can get more value when transferring Capital One miles to its transfer partners.
All in all, this makes the Capital One Venture card a solid low-frills travel card. There are no bonus categories to worry about and you have the utmost flexibility in redeeming your rewards.
Using the Capital One Venture card to fund a road trip
With so much flexibility, you have many interesting ways to use your Capital One miles for covering common road trip charges. Here’s a quick look at all your options.
Offset hotels with Capital One miles
You can use Capital One miles to cover any hotel, Airbnb or other accommodation. Just book your accommodation and use your miles to offset the charge at 1 cent per mile. For example, this one-night stay at the JW Marriott Chicago costs $248 per night after taxes. You’d pay 24,800 miles to cover the charge with Capital One miles and be responsible for $0 out of pocket.
We recommend booking directly so you can earn hotel points or use hotel elite status benefits during your stay. Alternatively, book independent hotels through Hotels.com or Rocketmiles to earn rewards for your booking. Just make sure to compare the price listed on these sites to booking direct. Regardless, you can use Capital One miles to cover your stay so long as the purchase codes as travel.
Transfer to Wyndham Rewards or Choice Privileges for expensive stays
Booking a Wyndham hotel? You can transfer your Capital One miles to Wyndham Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. This can be a good option for booking more expensive Wyndham hotels, as you may get a better redemption rate with Wyndham’s award chart. The hotel group has three tiers for redemptions that cost 7,500, 15,000 and 30,000 points per night. As a general rule, only transfer miles to Wyndham to book hotels that cost more points if you booked a cash stay and paid with Capital One miles directly.
For example, a night at the Wyndham Santa Monica — At The Pier hovers around $460 on some holiday weekends. This means you’d have to use 46,000 Capital One miles to cover the charge if you paid with your Capital One Venture card and used miles to cover the charge. Alternatively, you can transfer 30,000 miles to 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points to book the same hotel. This saves 16,000 Capital One miles and you’ll still pay $0 out of pocket for the stay.
Capital One will add Choice Privileges as a transfer partner later this year too. In some cases, it may be best to transfer points to cover expensive hotel stays by transferring points instead of offsetting a charge. But again, compare the price of paying cash (and covering your purchase with miles) before transferring miles.
Pay for rental cars with miles
You can use Capital One miles to book your next rental car. Book it through the Capital One travel portal or directly with the rental car company.
If you value rental car loyalty points, you’ll want to book direct. Like hotels, you can only earn loyalty points and use elite status benefits when booking directly with the rental car company. Thankfully, covering these charges with miles is simple — just book as usual and use miles to cover the charge within 90 days of making the purchase.
Furthermore, the Capital One Venture card includes a rental car collision damage waiver* on all rentals you charge to your card. It isn’t primary coverage like what’s offered with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but it acts as primary coverage if you don’t have car insurance of your own.
Simply pay for your rental with your Capital One Venture card and decline the damage waiver offered by the rental company. If you incur damage to a rental car, you’ll be reimbursed for any charges you’re liable for. Just make sure that the car you rent isn’t on the list of prohibited vehicles — these include luxury cars, camper vans and others.
Use miles to cover parking and tolls
This one is hit or miss, but many major toll road and parking fees are processed as travel expenses. For example, my monthly parking spot in New York codes this way. If you’re willing to take the risk, charge these road trip expenses to your Capital One Venture card and see how they code. You can use your Capital One miles to cover these charges if they do code as travel, which can be a great way to reduce small charges as you travel in your car.
If you’re parking at a hotel, charge your parking fees to your room. This way, you’ll earn hotel points on your parking fee and guarantee that you can use Capital One miles to cover the charge. This is because the parking fee will be rolled into your hotel stay and billed as a single charge. You can then use Capital One miles to “erase” the room rate, parking and anything else you’ve charged to your room.
Likewise, SpotHero — a parking reservation app — generally processes parking fees as travel purchases. The app offers great deals on parking in cities around the U.S. and ensures that you can use Capital One miles to cover your road trip parking.
Use roadside assistance if something goes wrong
The Capital One Venture card offers roadside assistance* to its cardholders. Whether you’re driving your own car or a rental, if something goes wrong with your car, you can call the number on the back of your card and be connected with Capital One’s roadside assistance service.
You’ll pay a set fee for most services, but at $69.95 per incident, it can be significantly cheaper than calling a random towing company. Services include towing, gas delivery, tire changes and standard winching. You do not need to enroll in this benefit.
*Benefits only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply.
The Capital One Venture card is one of the most flexible travel cards on the market. For road trippers, this means you can use your miles to cover everything from a rental car to an Airbnb. This will make your next toad trip significantly more affordable, so consider applying for the card before you hit the road. Drive safe!
Featured photo by Peter Griffith/Getty Images.
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TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,700
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Miles are now transferrable to several airline partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
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- No foreign transaction fees