Editorial Policy

Capital One Venture Pioneers 100,000 Bonus Rewards Offer

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By Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.
March 22, 2011

In a bold competitive move clearly aimed at getting a larger piece of the lucrative airline rewards credit cards market, Capital One has launched a new 100,000 points bonus offer for new cardholders: the Match My Miles challenge from the Capital One Venture rewards card.

It’s an offer likely to make rewards credit card buffs feel like they’ve died and gone to rewards card heaven. People applying for airline credit cards have long been showered with sign-up bonuses in the 25,000 to 30,000 miles range, but the Capital One Venture credit card offer raises that bar to a whole new level.

Of course, there are strings attached. For example, not everyone may be able to take advantage of this offer. If you read the fine print, you will see that the card is cleverly crafted to attract the largest spenders from other airline rewards card programs. To see if you qualify, here are the details:

From now until May, Capital One will match the number of travel miles that people applying for the Venture rewards card already have on another airline credit card — up to 100,000 miles. Furthermore, they’ll throw in another 10,000 miles for new cardholders who spend $1,000 in the first three months. Capital One’s miles have a redemption value of 1:1, meaning that each mile is worth one cent. So, for new cardholders who are able to qualify for the full 110,000 bonus miles, this deal is worth up to $1,100.

Apart from the large bonus, the Venture card offer also has several other benefits. For example, the rewards card is a strong performer even without the Match My Miles challenge. It has previously been named the “Best Rewards Card if you aim to rack up airline miles” by “Money” magazine. For a modest $59 annual fee (waived the first year), the Venture card gives cardholders two miles in rewards for every dollar spent. There is no limit on earnings, and the miles don’t expire.

Another advantage is that Capital One’s miles can be used toward flight reservations on any airline and towards any travel expense. Rewards earnings can be used to pay for hotel stays and car rentals and earnings can even be cashed out via gift cards. Frequent travelers will also appreciate that, like for all Capital One cards, the Venture card charges no foreign transaction fees. Furthermore, the Venture card is a Visa Signature card, which comes with additional benefits, such as special travel offers and “preferred access” to entertainment, dining and sporting events.

Of course, to get the 110,000 miles bonus, there are a few hurdles to overcome. New cardholders can only get their miles matched through May 13, or until Capital One has matched 1 billion miles, whichever comes first. So, people interested in the card offer should apply quickly. The Venture card also comes with a relatively high APR (11.9%-19.9%, depending on your credit score), and you must have excellent credit to qualify.

Which airline miles qualify for the Capital One Match My Miles challenge? According to the card terms, Capital One will match miles from all major airlines, including Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, United, US Airways, Virgin, Airtran and Southwest.

Do the airline miles have to be earned via rewards credit cards, or can mileage earnings from flights be included? In an interview with Reuters, Gary Leff from Boardingarea.com said that Capital One clarifies the rules as follows:

“[T]he customer needs to be a co-brand airline credit cardholder and needs to send us their airline card rewards statement. So it’s the total miles balance on the statement and we understand that in some cases it’s hard to separate the miles earned via a co-brand airline credit card or the miles earned from flying. In this scenario, we will accept general airline rewards statements for those programs that accrue the card miles into the airline’s general rewards account.”

In short, the main catch on the Capital One Venture offer may well be one of timing. With a cap of 1 billion matching airline miles, only 10,000 people would get the bonus if everyone qualifies for the full 100,000 miles. Of course, many people will have fewer miles in their account; but still, the example illustrates that the pool of bonus miles will likely be exhausted pretty quickly. So, the earlier you apply and submit your airline miles statement to the Match My Miles challenge, the greater your chance of qualifying.