Unless you lost your television you’ve seen the ads for the new Capitol One Venture Card. They feature Alex Baldwin talking about the benefits of using the Venture miles anytime and on any airline. If you were among the lucky folks who participated in their initial “billion mile” promotion, you had up to 100,000 existing miles matched by Capitol One, a value of about $1000 for reasons you’ll see if you read on.
Whereas most frequent flyer programs such as United’s Mileage Plus or Delta’s Skymiles have a separate reservation system for you to use to book your frequent flyer tickets, Venture offers that option OR the option of simply purchasing a ticket with real dollars and any system using your Venture Card. Afterwards you can apply for a rebate of the cost of the ticket using your Venture miles which are valued at a penny each. For example if my ticket cost $400 I would buy it with dollars and then ask them to credit back my $400 and deduct 40,000 miles from my account. Neat, right? Yes, but note how expensive the ticket can be compared to the “old” standards of needing only about 25,000 frequent flyer miles for a round trip. Complicating matters is the fact that mileage programs – especially Delta Skymiles and American Airlines in my experience – seem to be getting stingier in terms of offering good options for frequent flyers. Unless you have a lot of flexibility you’ll probably find it hard to get cheap seats using regular miles. To this extent they are lining up with the Venture style miles – options are good as long as you are willing to use a LOT of miles.
Important DELTA Skymiles Tip: Sometimes the ONE WAY will cost as many miles as a ROUND TRIP, so in some cases you should simply add a “return” leg to your trip to get a second one way ticket. Even if you wind up paying a change fee of up to $150 later to change the dates, this is probably worth it. Delta now seems to offer both the least and most expensive frequent flyers deals with one ways as low as 8500 miles but short term round trips often at 60,000.
The golden rule as always with frequent flyer programs as well as life in general, if you are not rich, then: