This week, Capital One took its turn to bat and it stepped to the plate with the swagger of someone ready to swing for the fences. They easily hit for extra bases with the additions of Turkish and British Airways and the new 1:1 transfer ratio with some of their best partners. Now, they are a threat to steal home if Amex and Chase don’t keep their eyes on the runner. See us talk about what we think Capital One needs to do to score big in this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air below. We also talk Southwest’s latest shenanigans, what we’re doing about Radisson, and more on this week’s episode. Watch, listen, or read on for more of this week at Frequent Miler.
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This week at Frequent Miler
Rocking the rewards card world
Watch out Amex, Chase, and Citi: Capital One arrived and is ready to compete. This week, Capital One announced a new 1:1 transfer tier featuring some of their best partners (Avianca, Asia Miles, Etihad, Qantas, Wyndham, and more), meaning that the Venture and Spark Miles cards now really do earn 2 miles per dollar spent everywhere. They also added key transfer partners in Turkish Miles & Smiles and British Airways Avios (which can be transferred to Aer Lingus and Iberia as well), which tells me they are paying attention and looking to complete with a full-fledged transfer partner program. Capital One is no longer some distant fourth rewards currency. They are still a few pieces short of having the full puzzle, but if they’d implement Greg’s suggestion from Frequent Miler on the Air about how to handle hotel redemptions, they might just become the only rewards program someone needs. None of us saw that coming three or four years ago – what exciting changes are happening here!
Capital One’s campaign to Make Greg’s TV Safe Again has succeeded as he has agreed to no longer threaten it with bricks when he sees Jennifer Garner getting smug about Capital One. That’s thanks to the changes above. For more on Greg’s reaction to Capital One’s big news, see this post.
While Capital One rocked the points game with the changes announced on Monday, they were still hampered by a key weakness: no bonus categories and very limited opportunities to amass miles through welcome bonuses. As it turns out, they do feature both, just in a round-about way: it turns out that not only can you move miles freely between your accounts (and anyone else who has a Capital One miles-earning card), but you can also move your Capital One cash rewards to miles 1:1 (meaning 1 cent of cash back = 1 mile). That’s huge because it means that the Savor card earns an effective 4x miles on dining and entertainment and the Spark Cash provides both an opportunity to convert a big cash welcome bonus to miles and the chance to have true 2% cash back or miles as long as you have a miles-earning card with which to pair it. See the comments section for reader success reports with various cards.
If you’ve gotten this far in this week’s post and you’re still sleeping on Capital One, Wake. Up. Chase doesn’t have Turkish, Asia Miles or Etihad, but Capital One does. Citi doesn’t have Aeroplan or British Airways Avios, but Capital One does. Amex doesn’t have Turkish, EVA, or Wyndham (which is hot right now), but Capital One does. These are just a few of the areas where Capital One is taking the best partners from each of the big three and putting them together into a single package that moves them up to no worse than third place in the transferable currency hierarchy and within striking distance for a spot at the top. What a transformation!
Greg has updated his transferable points report card, grading each program based on a variety of criteria like the ease of redeeming rewards for cash back or quality of transfer partners and more. See where they all stack up after the Capital One changes.
In award booking & reviews
I’ve gotten some awesome suite upgrades at Hyatt and Marriott over the years, but where else in the world am I going to get an entire cabin in the mountains with a pool table, hot tub, and views for miles for just 15,000 hotel points per night? When Greg first wrote about Vacasa, he said that frustration as guaranteed — but now that we’ve learned some key tips from the experience of readers and Travel With Grant, my first booking this week was smooth sailing. The process is a little slow for my taste, but if that’s what it takes to book something like this for 15K per night, I’ve got all the time in the world.
I have a really hard time getting excited about Ritz. Given Marriott’s resort fees and the fact that even high-level Titanium elite members have to pay for breakfast each day, free nights just don’t feel free. So when Greg said he was using a 7-night certificate at a Ritz, my first thought was “better you than me”. After seeing his pictures and videos and reading his description, I’d like to take that sentiment back! This place looks gorgeous and like a great use of 50K free night certs. I’m definitely keeping this one in mind for what might be the best domestic option for the free night certificates from my Ritz card.
I’m glad that Greg stayed at the Alila Marea Beach so that I don’t have to use my points there and be disappointed. Greg’s review highlights some big positives, and that view from his room looked terrific, but I can’t get past the negative points on this one. Between the chance of getting a room that everyone can see into or a lovely view of the parking lot and the sub-par location, this just isn’t calling my name. I’ll take my cabin in the Smokey Mountains for 15K points per night and be happy with it!
Radisson announced its new award chart coming in June 2021 and my initial reaction was strong disappointment (See: Bad news: Radisson devaluation announced and it stinks). Some readers felt it wasn’t so bad, so I write this follow-up post looking at the positive points behind the changes. Still, I see this as a net loss. As someone pointed out in the comments, a lot of the places dropping in price are places where I didn’t want to stay anyway, so I still see the changes as very disappointing overall. On the flip side, if you are playing the game to stretch your points as far as possible, Radisson is opening up more opportunities to sleep cheap at the lower levels, which could be a win for you.
That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Don’t forget to check out this week’s last chance deals.