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Capital One Rewards Miles Comparison: How to use your points to get the most money back

Updated on October 20, 2012
Searching for the best reward is a reward in itself.
Searching for the best reward is a reward in itself.

Picking the Right Capital One Reward Saves You Money

You've been adding up those miles on you credit card, waiting for the right moment to cash them in. Should you spend them on a reward ticket? Should you blow them all on an Amazon Kindle Fire? Doing some simple math can save you some money because believe it or not, Capital One does not use a consistent formula for deciding how many miles will cost however many miles.

For example, among the gift cards, spending more gets you a better rate of dollars-to-miles. To calculate this rate take the amount of the gift card and divide by the amount of miles. You'll quickly learn that the $25 gift cards only give you about $.005 back or one half of one percent of your money back. $50 gift card gives you over $.0067 per mile. Why quibble over half pennies? well these are multiplied by 15,000 or 30,000 at that rate it's a difference of $50. That's right, picking the wrong reward could cost you $50.

So what is the best rate? The best rate is actually found in the travel section. There it is possible to get nearly 1% of your money back. Capital One will pay $150 toward travel for only 15,000 miles. The catch is that it has to cost exactly $150 and no more. Or you can get up to $300 for only 30,000 miles. Either way it may be worth waiting to find that perfect moment to cash in your rewards.

Another way to take advantage of the travel rewards is to divide a larger travel purchase into tickets. For example, I had a $225 charge on my account. If I called that charge one ticket it asked for 35,000 miles if I called it two tickets it asked for only 30,000. By slicing those larger travel purchases into smaller chunks I saved myself 5,000 miles. Better yet, if I wait for a $300 charge I can slice it into two tickets and still only get charged 30,000 miles. A savings of over $75.

If you just can't wait any longer. Go ahead and take the credit back onto your account. It's only a $.005 rate, but it will keep you from spending more money. Gift cards notoriously get people to spend more than they would if they were spending cash.

Capital One Rewards seem straightforward, but a lot of us get impatient waiting to cash them in. If you wait and use them only when you have travel costs near increments of $150, you can save yourself a bundle. After all, they are your miles. Use them well.

Miles Card versus Cash Back Card

Some credit cards offer miles. Some offer 2% cash back. Which is better? Well, a Capital One No Hassle Miles Card at best will give you 1% of your value back. So it seems automatic that a 2% card is better. Right? Not exactly. Many 2% cash back cards carry a fee. So the math you have to calculate is whether the difference in cash back is greater than the fee.

Take the average amount you spend in a year and multiply it by .02. Is it greater than the annual fee for the 2% card? If so, it may be worth it.

Also take into account the rate of the card. If you are carrying a balance from month to month, go with the lowest rate you can find.

How to caluculate Venture vs. No-Fee Capital One Card

If you are a Capital One customer, you may be wondering if it is worth it to change to a Capital One Venture card. The advantage is you get double miles, but the downside is that they charge and annual fee. There is some simple math you can do to determine what is best for you. The annual fee of $79 may seem steep, but consider how much you typically put on your card. If you get, an average of .5-1% of your money back in the form of points or miles, then calculate .01 x the amount you spend annually. For example if I put $10,000 on my card annually, the normal Capital One rewards would give me about $100 back. If I had the venture card, I would get about $200. The difference is $100 or a little over the $79 fee. If I spent $20,000 it would definitely be worth it. Do the math. See if it pays.

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