How Much Are Transferable Capital One Miles Worth? The TPG Experts Weigh In
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Loyalty programs change their terms and conditions all the time, affecting the value of their points. But today we get a pretty unique opportunity to analyze a brand new transferable points currency from scratch. Capital One has announced that beginning in December, you’ll be able to transfer miles earned on cards such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to the following 12 airline programs at a 2-to-1.5 ratio:
Aeromexico Club Premier
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
EVA Infinity MileageLands
Hainan Fortune Wings Club
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qatar Airways Privilege Club
Transferable points get their flexibility from the multitude of different ways you can redeem them, but because there are so many options, it can be tricky to pin a precise value on them. So we brought together some of the brightest minds on the TPG team to help figure out how much these new transferable Capital One miles are worth. (The following transcript of our Slack conversation has been lightly edited.)
Ethan Steinberg: Hi everyone thanks for joining us today! Before we start boring you to sleep with the numbers, I think it would help if we all went around the horn and introduced ourselves. My name is Ethan Steinberg and I’m a Senior Points and Miles Contributor for TPG. I’m based in Shanghai and am always on the lookout for new premium cabin sweet spot redemptions, especially between the US and Asia.
Peter Rothbart: I'm Peter Rothbart; I've been with TPG in various capacities since 2014, and am currently a Senior Points and Miles Contributor based in Seattle. One of my roles is tending to our list of program valuations with Brian, so I am prepared to nerd out in this chat.
Richard Kerr: I’m Richard Kerr; Peter Rothbart sent me a random email in 2014 to write a guest post for TPG and I’ve been bumming around ever since. Now a Senior Points and Miles Contributor typically dorking out over obscure programs and routing rules.
Zach Honig: I'm Zach Honig; I joined TPG in early 2015 and I've been on vacation ever since. Also I'm a Level 3.75 Points and Miles Nerd.
Richard: Out of how many levels?
JT Genter: I'm JT Genter, TPG Senior Points & Miles Writer based out of whatever hotel/airplane seat I'm staying at that particular night. As a nomad, I get huge value from sometimes very random routes — but I'm usually really cheap with my miles, usually redeeming for economy tickets.
Summer Hull: If we're getting formal, I'm Summer Hull and ran the site Mommy Points for 7 years before moving it over here to join Team TPG earlier this year and head up the new TPG Family division.
Zach: Oh, also, Mommy Points was my go-to points and miles blog, even though I didn't (and still don't) have any kids. So this is a bit of a thrill! Hi Summer!
Ethan: So what did you guys make of this list of transfer partners? What jumped out to you, and how do you think this collection stacks up against the other transferable points currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, etc?
Summer: OMG! I ❤️ Zach. So, transferrable points are great and this is very exciting. There are some program names on the list that folks may be pretty familiar with, but the lack of US-based programs does present an extra hurdle for folks to get over.
JT: No marquis US-based airline partners. That's going to make it tougher for the beginner reader to understand the value of Capital One miles — but the value is definitely there.
Peter: Of the 12 partners, I think five of them are likely to be useful to most award travelers: Aeroplan, Flying Blue, Asia Miles, Etihad and Avianca.
Richard: Qantas finally has a great use of points I didn’t know about; booking El Al with no fuel surcharges and decent cost to the east coast from Tel Aviv (TLV).
Ethan: I was personally super excited to see Avianca on the list, I thought it gave Capital One a really unique edge. Until Amex went and stole its thunder…
Richard: Not the most awe-inspiring list but appealing nonetheless; really something that would appeal to people willing to put in a little bit of work.
Summer: Yeah there are some real gems here, so don't turn away until you learn at least one or two of those and give them a try.
Ethan: Are there any specific redemptions you all are eyeing with your Capital One Venture miles now?
Summer: I'm an Avianca LifeMiles fan. Yes, they are a way to book fancy pants flights in first class, but they can also get you around the US on United from 7,500 miles each way. And then there are the Kerr-style redemptions...
Peter: I don't think highly of Hainan, [but] I'm interested in testing their upgrade awards for flights to China. The upgrade chart is reasonable, and their flights tend to be inexpensive to begin with, so that could be a good option for booking premium seats to Asia.
Zach: Certainly Avianca popped first — we value Avianca miles at 1.7 cents each, which is almost as high as Alaska miles. So there's gotta be some serious value there. Also, while Avianca sells miles for next to nothing, transfer opportunities are few and far between, so this is a major development. Avianca is known for its great premium-cabin redemption rates, and some great US economy awards on United, but — and this is a big BUT — the call centers can be a NIGHTMARE to deal with. And considering I tend to change my awards more often than not, that's made LifeMiles a no-go for me.
Summer: They are indeed, but email is better than calling for non-urgent needs. Avianca is not perfect, but they are pretty cool when they work out.
Ethan: Alright, I think it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty… Peter, as our resident valuation expert, do you want to share your “magic number” for Capital One miles and how you got there?
Peter: Sure do! We have a clear baseline of at least 1 cent per mile, since the Purchase Eraser redemption option isn't going anywhere. Since Avianca is valued at 1.7 cpm, and you get 3/4 of a LifeMile for each Venture mile you transfer, that baseline is actually closer to 1.27 cents.
Richard: I'm actually not sold on Avianca as the most valuable. I think Aeroplan can be argued as more valuable.
Zach: Yes, definitely Aeroplan — I've certainly booked awards there and, if I'm using Capital One miles for Star Alliance award flights, that's where I'm headed.
Summer: I'm a fan for business class redemptions to Europe on carriers without fuel surcharges.
Richard: No close-in booking fees and 55,000 miles to Europe in business class instead of 70k on United.
JT: But part of the value of transferable currencies are the variety of options that you have when something comes up. I never thought I'd need EVA Air miles — until it was the best option from Hohhot, China to Hanoi, Vietnam in fall 2017 for a last-minute booking.
Peter: The five I mentioned before are solid, however, and the average redemption should yield around 1.3 cpm, with opportunities to get much more than that.
Ethan: So you’re going with 1.3 cpm, which is essentially saying the value of Capital One miles is entirely wrapped up in Aeroplan and Avianca at the top?
Peter: We give a bump to transferable rewards because of the variety they provide... I don't think the bump here should be as large as it is for other programs because the quality (and upside) of the transfer partners isn't as high, and the number of useful transfer partners isn't as high. I'd say somewhere between 1.3-1.4, leaning toward 1.3.
Summer: Agree, I'm at around 1.3 with that number anchored to LifeMiles and Aeroplan pretty strongly.
JT: I haven't been able to justify more than 1.3 to myself. (which isn't bad when you consider the fact that you're earning 2x miles with the Venture card!)
Richard: I’ll counter the 1.3-1.4 by saying its not high enough due to what's really possible with 5-6 of these programs. Take all the possibilities available with Etihad, specifically booking AA awards for less miles than AAdvantage charges is pretty big and can really yield significant value. That's one partner of one of the top 5 programs. Why I wouldn’t go any higher than 1.5 cents per mile is because of the skill and time required to figure these out.
Zach: I landed on 1.3 as well — as a ceiling. Though to be honest, getting 2% cash back when "erasing" travel purchases may remain my preferred redemption option even after the partners launch. Just for me personally — since I have a boatload of miles in other programs. I'll still get 1 cent per value, which is a-okay with me, but it wouldn't be hard to get 1.3 cents, or much much more when redeeming for some premium partner flights.
Ethan: For my own personal use, like what I’d pay to buy these miles, I’m coming out closer to 1.4-1.5 because I mainly redeem for premium cabins. But in terms of what I expect most people to get, 1.3 sounds right.
So do you think most people will bother with these transfer partners at all or just stick to travel eraser redemptions?
Summer: Well, TPG readers aren't the average...
Ethan: I think it’s interesting for Capital One to pivot like this, a lot of the appeal of the Venture card was the simplicity yet the transfer partners they’re adding are anything but simple.
JT: Most people will surely use the travel eraser... But, most Chase cardholders probably use their points for sub-optimal uses too. ?
Summer: I hope people will branch out. The trick is to learn 1-2 new uses and start small. Don't feel like you need to become an expert in 10 new programs.
Richard: It's interesting to think about the new clientele that will be brought into the fold of transferable points for the first time. There are a lot of Cap One faithfuls who will do whatever Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner tell them, so it will be interesting to see how they educate (or if they do) on transferable points and these programs.
Peter: Can't wait for the Samuel L. Jackson ad about transfers to Qatar.
Richard: “What's in your fuel surcharge minimizing spreadsheet?”
Ethan: So if the two main programs driving the value here are Aeroplan and Avianca (and yes, Etihad as well), what other transfer partners could Capital One add to make these miles more valuable? I.e., what gaps in the coverage do you see?
Summer: Well, a US-based program would be great.
JT: American Airlines AAdvantage! AA really does need to get a transferable currency partner.
Peter: The big three seem unlikely. My number one add would be Korean, better SkyTeam access. But Alaska or JetBlue would make solid additions. If I were Capital One, I would be targeting the unclaimed territory: Amtrak, Wyndham, Radisson Rewards, Spirit Airlines, etc. Those programs could all help Venture Rewards set itself apart, especially if the transfer ratio could be improved.
Summer: Other than a US-based program, I like ANA and Singapore. Korean would be clutch. LifeMiles was pretty unique too, until it wasn't....
Richard: JAL would be great; underrated program with online booking capabilities that are often ignored.
Ethan: I could see a revenue based program like Southwest or JetBlue vibing with this card — keeps things simple and the fixed ~1.4 cpp value of those currencies would work well with the Venture transfer ratio.
So with the current list of transfer partners, at a valuation of about 1.3-1.4 cents per point, is the Venture card in your wallet? Will you be actively looking to earn Venture miles?
JT: 1.3 cents per point doesn't sound impressive vs. 1.7 Citi ThankYou, 1.9 Amex Membership Rewards and 2.0 Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, at 2x miles per $1 spent, you suddenly have a card that earns 2.6 cents per $1 spend. Personally, I'm going to continue using my Chase Freedom Unlimited (with Chase Sapphire Reserve amplifier) for general spending transactions — unless I was working toward a particular Capital One partner redemption. But, Capital One Venture immediately sets itself apart as both a 2% card *and* a transferable partner card.
Ethan: Awesome — does anyone else have anything to add? Numbers, transfer partners, overall strategy, funny jokes?
Summer: Jokes? You're talking to a bunch of nerds.
Peter: How many transferable points does it take to screw in a light bulb?
JT: Wasn't someone going to yell "show me the money"?
Peter: YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Summer: ...As I was saying, nerds.
As the range of opinions in this discussion fell between 1.3 and 1.5 cents apiece, TPG is valuing the newly transferable Capital One miles at 1.4 cents. That means the current limited-time 75,000-mile sign-up bonus (after spending $5,000 in the first three months) on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is worth $1,050 in value. For more info about the sign-up bonus and new transfer partners, read our announcement and listen to the first-ever episode of "Talking Points," The Points Guy's new podcast, which features an interview with Capital One.