Best ways to redeem Capital One miles on Oneworld airlines
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information. It was originally published on Nov. 25, 2019.
There’s one key reason why transferable point currencies rank so highly in TPG’s monthly valuation series: the flexibility they offer. Given how heavily commercial aviation and frequent flyer programs rely on alliance networks, it’s important for a transferable points currency to partner with airlines in all three of the major alliances.
When Capital One launched transfer partners in late 2018, it accomplished that very goal. Hefty welcome bonuses from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Spark Miles for Business make transferring miles to airline partners even more compelling. But what exactly are your options with this issuer?
Today we’ll continue our series along these lines by taking a look at the best way to redeem Capital One miles on Oneworld airlines.
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Earning Capital One miles
The best way to quickly rack up a large amount of Capital One miles is by signing up for a new credit card. New applicants can earn the following welcome bonuses on two of the issuer’s most popular cards:
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
After earning these bonuses, you can continue to earn a solid number of miles through everyday spending, since both the Venture and Spark Miles cards offer 2x miles on every purchase.
As noted above, Capital One is the newest entrant to the world of transferable points, as it just launched transfer partners in late 2018. While the issuer retained the well-regarded “Purchase Eraser” option, allowing you to redeem miles at a fixed value of one cent each for travel purchases, the addition of airline transfer partners significantly boosted the program’s value. TPG wound up landing on a valuation of 1.4 cents for each mile, though this wasn’t shared by the entire TPG team.
Two final notes before getting into the best ways to book Oneworld carriers with Capital One miles: First, your miles will transfer to all of the below programs (but not all transfer partners) at a 2:1.5 ratio, so be sure to consider that rate when calculating your transfer needs. Second, be sure to review our guide to Capital One transfer times so you’ll be prepared if (or when) your miles don’t post right away.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific has some of the best premium-class cabins around, but its Asia Miles program has some appeal as well (once you can successfully decipher its various award charts). It uses a distance-based award chart that can represent a great value for flights on its own metal, though unfortunately it includes a separate (more expensive) pricing tier called “Long — Type 2” for flights to and from the U.S.
Flights from the West Coast gateways of Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) will fall under Long — Type 2 pricing, while those from the rest of the U.S. will be classified as Ultra-Long. In many cases, it might make sense to buy a positioning flight to LAX or SFO in order to save some miles. While the best way to book Cathay Pacific premium-cabin awards is by using the Alaska sweet spot, prices from the West Coast to Hong Kong (HKG) are not bad at all. At 70,000 miles each way in business class and 110,000 in first, these are identical to what American Airlines would charge you for the same award. If you’re flying in economy, you’d even save 7,500 miles, as American Airlines charges 37,500 miles each way for that flight.
I also wouldn’t rule out taking an “Ultra-Long” flight from Hong Kong to other U.S. destinations. If you’re able to snag a seat in Cathay Pacific’s incredible first class and don’t have other miles to book with, 125,000 miles might still be worth it, even if it isn’t the cheapest possible price you could pay. I also wouldn’t mind paying 85,000 miles for a business-class seat on Cathay’s newest U.S. route between Hong Kong and Washington-Dulles (IAD). There aren’t a ton of nonstop flights from D.C. to Asia, and Cathay has a terrific business-class product on its ultra-modern A350 aircraft.
Cathay also uses a distance-based chart for partner awards, but it doesn’t display that chart on its website. Clicking the “View award charts” button for a partner airline loops you back to the chart for flights on Cathay metal, so you’re better off playing around with the mileage calculator tool instead.
One great value is for short domestic flights on American Airlines, specifically those under 750 miles. While American discounts awards for flights under 500 miles, Cathay Pacific only charges 10,000 miles for flights up to 750 miles in distance. This is a nice savings for city pairs like Washington-Dulles (DCA) and Chicago (ORD) that would normally cost 12,500 miles if booked directly with American.
Another small but significant savings comes for flights from the U.S. to Europe that cover a distance of less than 5,000 miles. You can book these flights for 25,000 Asia Miles each way in economy or 50,000 in business, while most airlines will charge slightly higher rates.
You’ll want to read Richard Kerr’s piece with everything you need to know about Cathay Pacific Asia Miles before committing to a transfer, and remember that you’ll need to multiply each of the above mileage amounts by 1.333 to know how many Capital One miles you’d need to transfer.
Like most carriers, Qantas has separate award charts for flights on its own metal and those operated by partners. If you’re a U.S.-based traveler, you’ll likely want to steer clear of using Qantas points to fly on Qantas. Even the shortest flights from the West Coast to Australia are priced pretty aggressively. If you manage to find an elusive Qantas award seat, you’d be better off booking through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
You’ll eke out a small savings flying from New York-JFK to London (LHR), with one-way awards costing 28,000 miles in economy and 53,000 in business. However, one of the best values with Qantas points is a multi-partner itinerary (confusingly named “Oneworld flight reward”). The following chart applies when you fly on at least two Oneworld airlines other than Qantas, and no airlines that aren’t in Oneworld.
These tickets are more like a round-the-world itinerary, as you must return to your origin city and can only have five stopovers, but you can build some interesting itineraries this way. Flying from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) on JAL, then on to Hong Kong (HKG) with Cathay Pacific, then connecting Hong Kong (HKG) to Sydney (SYD) on Cathay Pacific and returning to SFO with Qantas would cover just under 19,000 flight miles. You could book this four-flight extravaganza, including stopovers in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney, for only 130,000 miles in economy or 260,000 in business class. If Qantas is flying its A380 between Hong Kong and Sydney during your trip, you could even do the whole thing in first class for 390,000 miles (though availability might be scarce).
In addition to members of the Oneworld alliance, Qantas also partners with El Al, providing a great option to get to Israel from the U.S. A business-class award from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV) on one of El Al’s new 787 Dreamliners would only set you back 78,000 Qantas miles each way (104,000 Capital One miles). Given how few nonstop options there are from the U.S. to Israel, that’s a great option to keep in mind for your next trip.
Of course, it’s easy to get excited about transfer partners, but don’t forget about the simple value proposition that propelled the initial success of the Venture and Spark Miles card. You earn 2 miles per dollar spent on everything you buy, and then you can use those miles to cover your travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent apiece. There’s no finding award availability, no search for an award chart sweet spot, no delay while you wait for your transferred miles to appear. By using your miles this way, you can get a solid redemption value without a huge investment of time and energy.
To make this even better, paying for travel directly with the Venture card and then “erasing” that purchase should still earn you miles and count towards elite status with the operating carrier, since the reservations are treated as revenue flights. Now, these fixed-value awards typically aren’t a great option for first- or business-class tickets due to their high cost, but if you’re looking to fly economy, check the paid rate on your desired itinerary before jumping right to the transfer option. We continue to see terrific deals for flights from the U.S. to various destinations around the world, so you might come out ahead by not transferring to a partner.
Flexibility in the award travel universe can take on many contexts. In the case of transferable credit card points, it means both the ability to pick the routing that works best for you and the ability to compare different loyalty programs to pick the best redemption option. Capital One does a great job giving Oneworld flyers a few choices between different loyalty programs geared towards different types of trips and the option to redeem miles towards the cost of a cash ticket as well.
Featured photo by Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia.
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