The Achilles Heel of the Capital One Venture Rewards Program: Customer Service

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on April 22, 2011

capital one venture rewards credit cardIn my opinion, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards on the market. After all, it’s essentially a 2% cash back card when miles are redeemed for any travel-related purchases charged on your card. This means that for every $10,000 you charge on this card, you earn 20,000 miles, which can in turn be redeemed for a $200 travel-related purchase. All you have to do is call Capital One, identify the purchase you wish to redeem your miles for, and that’s that. Needless to say, the Venture Card is my primary spending vehicle. And while I would be hard-pressed to replace it, there is one thing that could bring the Venture Card down: Capital One’s customer service.

This became readily apparent when my fiancé recently tried to redeem her miles for a plane ticket to Greece. This experience revealed a number of disturbing facts about Capital One’s customer service as well as the inner-workings of the Venture Rewards program.

First, Capital One customer service representatives won’t always advise you of the most beneficial redemption practices. Shortly into the redemption process, my fiancé was offered a statement credit for her miles in place of cash back on the purchase of her ticket. While that might at first seem all well and good, a general statement credit actually provides half the value of redemption for specific, travel-related purchases. For example, 10,000 miles would net $100 cash back when applied to a travel-related purchase, but only $50 when redeemed for a general statement credit. Because Capital One’s customer service reps might not make this clear, cardholders must be extremely diligent when redeeming miles.

Second, Capital One does not allow customers to redeem miles in order to subsidize the cost of a flight or a hotel stay. If your miles won’t cover the total cost of a purchase, they are typically inapplicable. If you charge a $300 ticket on your card, you need 30,000 miles because Capital One won’t let you apply 15,000 miles in order to offset 50% of the ticket’s cost.

Third, Capital One’s redemption policies differ based on the type of product or service you redeem miles for. When you buy more than one plane ticket in a single transaction, miles can be redeemed for each ticket individually. However, the same cannot be said for hotel reservations. Even if you book multiple hotel nights or hotel rooms, when you book them at the same time, miles can only be applied to the purchase as a whole. Confused? I’d be surprised if you weren’t.

Ultimately, my advice is for Capital One to keep it simple. My fiancé began the redemption process believing Capital One’s no hassle guarantee and subsequently encountered road blocks every step of the way. There is no reason for the company to complicate and detract from one of the best rewards programs available. If it simply allows customers to always redeem their miles for fair value, whether this value exceeds, meets or falls short of the cost of a flight, hotel or other travel good or service, Capital One’s dominance over the travel rewards market will continue to grow. If it mimics the hoops, hassles and red tape associated with other rewards programs, we may have found the Venture Card’s Achilles heel.

[Disclosure: Some of the links within this article point to CardHub.com, which is owned by the same parent company as Wallet Blog.]

Discussion

Ryan Callahan
same here, I just tried to cash in the 198,000 rewards points I had for this year, for the almost 2k in cash I was supposed to get however to my suprise, its was only $989. I realized that if I spent it on travel, id get 2k so I held off for a nasty vegas trip in a few months. Had I not done the homework, I would have bent over. Oh well, a free penthouse suite in the palms is quite alright I guess. I will pack cash for a wild time and the rest is on Cap ONE THANK YOU.
January 30 at 04:13 am
Roger Klein
Talk about their not being forthcoming - I applied for this card actually thinking that when they advertise on their website a "one-time bonus of 10,000 miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months" they were actually offering 10,000 miles of air miles. It wasn't until I received the card and called Capital One and they verified that the "miles" they refer to in the ad aren't actually air miles, but are more like points that have a "relationship" to a dollar value - that is just add two zeros to the purchase price e.g. 15,000 miles is equivalent to a $150 ticket. Maybe forthcoming is to mild a term.
November 2 at 14:35 pm
Adrian Utsch
I think that Capital One is also not being forthcoming on their foreign transaction fees! They say they have no transaction fee. Their customer service has also told me to refer to the Visa website for their foreign exchange rates as they don't post the exchange rate for transactions on their credit card statements. Any visit to the visa website shows me that the exchange rate I am paying for foreign transactions with Capital Oone is up to 4.6% higher (in their favor of course) than what Visa is showing. so in the end it seems that capital one is committing fraud by telling me they use Visa's exchange rate when in fact they appear to profit up to 4.6% on the exchange rate transaction. I would rather pay a 2-3% transaction fee on top of the published bank rates than have Capital One try to make me feel richer with a slick ad campaign while picking my pocket with the other hand. I have numerous examples. I have called Capital One and speak with friendly peons who have no capacity to answer my questions and just tell me to look at the Visa website. I lliterally cannot find anyone at Capital One who will cogently answer my question of where that other 4.6% charge came from. I thought I was being really smart to get this card for a round the world trip but maybe once again the banks have proved their ability to make rubes of us all.
May 8 at 04:01 am
Charlie
American Express Blue Sky is the real "no hassle" card. 1 mile per dollar spent, every 7500 miles is $100 towards a travel redemption, essetially 1.33 miles per dollar. It can be for either the whole amount or a portion of it. Easy, simple, no catches.
October 9 at 23:13 pm
Dave
@Odysseas: I can understand how a bad CR experience can taint your view on a card, though I am surprised to the degree of which you don't like this card and how you have have inadvertently missed its key feature. Just buy the ticket on the card, go online a month later, push a few buttons, and presto, it's gone. Why are you wasting your time on the phone with them?
August 31 at 13:21 pm
Rob
Credit cards charge a higher fee on travel related services and are able to "kick back" a bit more to the consumer.
July 24 at 18:44 pm
Henry
I'll explain it to myself - With Venture Rewards No Hassle Rewards you get 2% (or 2 points) if you're redeeming for travel. It's only 1% if you redeem for statement credits.
July 18 at 15:39 pm
Henry
I don't understand why it matters if I redeedm my miles for travel or for something else, like a gift card. A $100 Best Buy gift card costs 10,000 points. To get those 10,000 points I only had to spend $5,000. So how am I not getting 2% back towards gift cards? Can someone explain that better to me since I seem to be missing something? Thanks!
July 5 at 08:55 am
lynx
This is my first "miles" card so I have nothing to compare it to. I was wondering if a newbie went through a travel agent rather than figure out the ins and outs of the card if it would be beneficial?
June 28 at 12:51 pm
Anonymous
I just figured out the no partial redemption thing and I was pissed. Also sometimes they don't categorize expenses as travel related when they clearly are. Their website is terrible compared to Discover, but I thought their rewards were better so I switched. My experience has been horrible and I'll be going back to Discover as soon as I rack up enough miles to actually redeem them...Ironically, this card has been nothing but HASSLE.
May 16 at 01:22 am
Ray
If the charge is coded correctly you can redeem online under your nohasselrewards section under Redeem and then select Redeem for Previously Purchased Travel. I will say I was not happy when I could not redeem partial miles for a travel related purchase. To me, Cap1, has hidden this from customers and they will be getting some angry calls in the future. For now, my $2,000 purchase will sit, as I can no use partial miles. Shame on you Cap1... Oh well, too good to be true, yes it was.
April 24 at 18:45 pm
Lori
The customer service problem extends beyond miles redemption. And there has always been limitations and caveats on any miles redemption program, that I have used or attempted to use!
April 24 at 07:32 am
Jake
Sounds like the problem here is that she tried to do all of this over the phone, and expected the underpaid call center employee to be an expert on the rewards program redemption rates.

I've used No Hassle rewards for a number of different redemptions, and their website is without a doubt the easiest-to-understand credit card website I've ever used. And I'm pretty sure the Amex platinum is the only card that lets you pay for partial travel purchases.
April 22 at 18:58 pm
Anonymous
That's not correct. Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Network both allow redemption for partial travel purchases. American Express Membership Rewards allows redemption for partial travel purchases on all of their cards, including Green and Gold, not just Platinum.
September 10 at 18:16 pm
w. buckingham
Redeeming miles for trips has always been a pain since most cards force you to use their service. Not getting the best deal on the web sucks. I just noticed Cap1 now allows you to apply points to any travel purchase (car/plane/hotel) withinin the last 90 days. This allows you to surf the web, find the cheapest deal, pay for it and get reimbursed in your line of credit. Great idea!
April 22 at 12:38 pm
rida
I'm a frequent traveler but just got a venture card (late in the game, I know). can you elaborate on this? How does one get reimbursed for travel paid for outside of cap1's site?
August 11 at 14:20 pm

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