In 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.]