What I've learned from multiple car rentals with the Capital One Travel portal
When the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card burst onto the scene there was quite a bit of buzz about earning 10 Capital One miles per dollar on hotel and rental car bookings. Earning 5 miles per dollar with the standard Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was already amazing, so I was intrigued by the ability to double my earnings.
The catch? To earn those eye-popping returns I'd need to book travel through the Capital One Travel portal.
For as long as I've been a road warrior, my preference has always been to book directly. While booking through a travel agent can have advantages, booking through an online travel agent never offered much upside for me. Horror stories from other travelers about long hold times and poor customer service when plans changed kept me away. But, the chance to get 10 Capital One miles per dollar spent was enough to make me take the plunge.
With over a dozen hotel bookings under my belt, I can confidently report that the Capital One Travel portal is easy to use and sometimes offers compelling savings versus booking with other online travel agencies (OTAs) or booking direct. I've changed and canceled numerous hotel reservations through the portal with no problems at all. And better yet, the 10 points per dollar post quickly, in some cases before I even finish my stay.
Similarly, I've seamlessly booked flights on multiple airlines with the Capital One Travel portal. My secure flight information was transmitted accurately and PreCheck was on all my boarding passes. As you'd expect, the 5 miles per dollar earned on airfare posts without issue.
Rental cars are the only area where I have encountered challenges, and I'm not the only one.
There are positives and negatives from my first half dozen car rentals through the portal. Let's go over what I've learned.
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Capital One may have more generous grace periods
If you've ever been a road warrior you know that there are literally hundreds of different rates for rental cars, all with the same rental car company.
There are all sorts of discount codes, some of which actually increase your base rental rate in the name of earning miles or points in some other program. Hertz has a couple of different discount categories (CDP and PC) that can collectively move rates all over the place depending on type of vehicle, length of rental and rental location.
In short, it can be tough to get truly apples-to-apples comparisons on rental car rates across different platforms. With that caveat, I found an interesting pattern on shorter rentals of one to three days in length. In most cases, rentals through the Capital One Travel portal seemed to have higher daily rates but a more generous grace period for return times (at least that's the best explanation I could come up with).
Consistently, I would see a higher daily rate on Capital One's site versus what the Hertz website showed me. However, Capital One would consistently charge me for one less day of rental time, thus making the rental cheaper overall. Here's an example:
Here you can see the total rate of $188.51 for a two-day rental with a base rate of $127.50 per day. But, on the Hertz site, we see something different:
As you can see, I used the Capital One Venture X CDP code for the rental and the daily rate comes out to $72.44 per day, much cheaper than the Cap One Travel portal rate of $127.50 per day. However, Hertz is charging me for two days, whereas Capital One only charges for one. The rental ends up being about $20 cheaper.
I saw gaps of almost $100 on shorter rentals where the car type, dates and times were the same. There could be a lot of reasons for these variations (I'm convinced car rental pricing is at least in part voodoo witchcraft). At the end of the day, Capital One Travel seems to charge for fewer days in certain circumstances, making those rentals a better deal overall.
Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car
Venture X cardholders get complimentary President's Circle status, but...
One of the benefits of the Venture X card is complimentary President's Circle status in the Hertz Gold Club Rewards program.
President's Circle has two key benefits that I use frequently. First, upgrades are a standard benefit for President's Circle members. This can save a ton of money if you rent a smaller vehicle with the confidence you'll get upgraded to something bigger and/or more luxurious. In locations with President's Circle aisles, you can have your pick of SUVs, sports cars and luxury sedans, all for the price of a full-size rental.
The bigger benefit for me as a road warrior is the better availability of vehicles. In some smaller airports, cars can sell out quickly. In those high-demand situations, I'm virtually always able to get a car as a President's Circle member, whereas my employees who don't have that status are shut out. Side note: authorized users on your Venture X account can get complimentary President's Circle status as well.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to use that status when booking through the Capital One Travel portal. At smaller locations that don't have dedicated aisles for Gold, Five Star and President's Circle, the agents were able to find my reservation but my folder wasn't pre-printed, nor was my Hertz Gold Plus Rewards number even attached to my reservation.
This wasn't a big deal at smaller airports since I would have had to stop at the counter regardless. At a bigger airport, such as Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport, it's a big problem. The line for folks with a standard rental can easily be dozens of people deep at all hours of the day.
And, while I persuaded the folks at the Gold counter to help me out a couple of times, I wasn't always successful getting them to do so. The walk back to the regular Hertz counter was a pitiful one as I realized how long I would have to wait. In some instances, my 10 miles per dollar posted correctly. In others, where I got a Gold representative involved to help me, no bonus miles were posted to my account.
While this is consistent with third party bookings and most car rental agencies, I was hopeful that Capital One had figured out a way around this since they are bestowing Hertz status as part of the benefits of the card. This doesn't appear to be the case.
Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.
Related: Who should (and shouldn’t) get the Capital One Venture X card?
The Capital One Travel portal doesn't have the best selection
While there are some money-saving rates on the portal, Capital One clearly doesn't have all the inventory loaded into its portal.
I haven't discovered a consistent theme for what's missing just yet. The most common occurrence is no inventory for one car rental company at a specific location. This does seem to happen more frequently when I'm trying to book a last-minute reservation (within a couple of days of pickup).
For example, I've had a few instances where no Hertz rates showed up on the Capital One portal even though I could still book cars on the Hertz website. Since these were close-in bookings, it's possible the only inventory left was being held for elite members of the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program. In other instances, only discount car rental agencies such as Payless would have cars available at popular airports.
Additionally, it seems pretty clear there are no international locations or rates loaded into the Capital One portal (at least not yet). We asked our TPG Lounge members to weigh in and a number of them noted being unable to find any international rates, so I'm not the only one with this issue.
Related: 11 common rental car mistakes — and how to avoid them
The rental car portion of the Capital One Travel portal seems to have some quirks that make it less of a star than the flight and hotel portions.
Earning 10 Capital One miles per dollar is appealing, but it's important to know what you're leaving on the table. In my examples, the cancellation policy through Capital One was slightly more restrictive than booking direct with Hertz (generally 48 hours prior as opposed to same-day cancellation). And, Capital One collected a deposit, which was promptly returned when I did cancel more than 48 hours ahead of time. Depending on the savings on a specific rental, you may be comfortable with these inconveniences.
At the end of the day, you should absolutely factor the generous 10 miles per dollar earning rate into your decision-making. At the same time, just like any other car rental, make sure you compare your price, car options and benefits with the rental car's own website. In some cases, using the Capital One portal might not be worth the hassle.