Is Capital One the new king of car rentals? (part 1)

Costco Travel has long been The Rapid Traveler’s go-to car rental booking tool, booking there as a baseline, then getting a reference at Hotwire and working Priceline to see if Costco can be beat. Trying all the other usual suspects, including AutoSlash, seldom comes close.

Reader Jb, soon off to China via the Points, Miles & Martinis award booking service, with a big stop on the Silk Road in Xinjiang, writes:

If you have access to Capital One’s rewards site ( we got 100K points for the Venture card promotion) I have found their car rental rates to be amazingly low. I went to New Orleans for Jazz Fest – flying into Gulfport/Biloxi Mississippi and renting a car to drive in. (cheaper)

I looked for a 7 day car rental rate for a week or so – best reservation I could find was $303.00 total.

I tried priceline at $16/day ($168 total) – denied.

I went to the CapitalOne NoHassle rewards site to poke around and tried the car rental option.

Found the same car for $176.40 – it even asked me if I wanted to pay with a credit card OR use miles.

I immediately went to the Hertz site to see if the price was there – nope. priceline –  nope. travelocity (it powers the CapOne site) – nope.

Capital One is the de classe credit card issuer among the credit card cognoscenti for violating the first credit card commandment  of ‘thou shalt pull no other bureau but one’ and for the banality of cash back. So it will be no small delight to test their willingness to hold their collective noses and use Capital One in search of a good deal.

This requires a card with access to Capital One No Hassle Rewards. Fee-free cards work the same as annual fee-charging cards like Venture. Click ‘Redeem,’ then ‘Book Rewards Travel (Powered by Travelocity)’.

Search results will quote the price in miles at varying rates depending on type of card. The Venture card prices at 1 mile = 1 cent, but other cards have price bands for awards. In a test search for Orlando (MCO), 10 pm June 7 – 6 pm June 10, the Venture card priced at 6,339 miles while a no-fee Platinum card priced at 15,000 miles. Rewards are not the point, though.

Capital One Car Rental 2

6,339 miles or $63.39 with Venture

Capital One Car Rental 1

15,000 miles or $63.39 with no fee Platinum

Searches also price in dollars (payable by any major credit card), and clicking to book gives the option to use miles or “Purchase with Credit Card.” Do the rates stack up?

Capital One Car Rental 3

Pay with credit card

But first, there are big stipulations:

  • If using a credit card to book your credit card will be charged in full at the time of booking.
  • Due to program restrictions, reservations booked using rewards can be changed only ONCE. After a reservation booked using rewards is modified once, it CANNOT be changed or cancelled again.
  • Changes in itinerary can result in a change in price. If a price increase occurs, then the difference in price CANNOT be paid with rewards. Price increases must be paid with a credit card.
  • No monetary refund will be given for cancellation of a reservation booked using rewards. An equivalent amount of Rewards, minus any cancellation or change fees, will be credited back to your Rewards account if changes to your rewards reservation result in a refund.

The test search yields a price of $63.39 with Budget. And this is powered by Travelocity. So what does Travelocity price? Same search, of the national agencies, Dollar/Thrifty is cheapest at $159.73, while Budget is $282.66!!!

Travelocity Car Rental 1

Regular Travelocity gouges on the same rental...

Travelocity Car Rental 2

...and does not even present all options on one screen

Tomorrow, a comparison with Costco Travel, Hotwire and AutoSlash.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing.

    I was excited to try this out, but it appears my no-fee Cap1 card doesn’t have access to these rewards (only cash back or gift cards). Better luck next time.

  2. Very interesting. I tried a weekend in LAS, and while the Compact/Intermediate prices weren’t that much better like your example, the Luxury car (and higher classes of rentals) was comparable to the lowest price car. This could be useful when a bigger car or minivan is required.

    I also checked HNL, which appeared to be a bargain (~$80 for a weekend in Oct).

    I will have to add this to my rental car searches…

  3. @New Girl in the Air – is it really not coming up as an option? My no-fee shows the booking option when I click “explore rewards” from my account. I also have a Venture but that brings up a totally different pricing structure.

  4. What are the cancelation rules if you don’t pay with points (Purchase with Credit Card)? Thanks!

  5. @Jean-Marc – the cancelation rules included in the post seem to apply equally to points and cash reservations: refunds for both are the the form of points, but those are easy to redeem for statement credits for travel.

    @mwwalk – I have never been totally clear what kinds of reservations can still earn miles in gray area cases, but since it is a prepaid reservation you may have an issue. Best to assume you will not get it and do your value calculation of the savings versus miles (and mileage surcharge). Let us know if you try it.

  6. interesting the price differential. I don’t have a Capital One Card but I’d love to know if the bargain rates extend to the NY Metro area as those are often excluded from the standard offers..

  7. Nice to have one more search options for rental cars. Sadly, we cancelled our CapOne cards in March. Would love to test it out. Thank you for sharing, and I am looking forward to part 2.

  8. Great find! I was hoping to try this too, but my old cash rewards card doesn’t give the option of booking travel. I can only redeem for cash, statement credit, or gift cards.

  9. Can’t believe it. I have a week rental in Lihue Kauai that I’ve been watching and had booked at $346. Cap 1 is showing $182. Also, I cancelled my Venture, but converted my venture business into the Fee Free Spark and still had access.

  10. @Rapid Travel Chai, no luck. Exploring rewards brings very limited choices – just cash & gift cards, with no options to book travel. I have an old card that has always been straight cash back (not under the disguise of “miles” or “points”)…not sure if that makes a difference.

  11. @Jamison – good tip, I will explore.

    @Jason – split the difference on the savings? Just kidding. 😉

    @New Girl in the Air – hmm, seems to require some form of Capital One that has a miles reward system, good thing some free ones have those type of rewards.

  12. I use a similar technique occasionally on delta.com when nothing else is working. You can go to the Skymiles Marketplace and use miles for a car rental. Sometimes it has a significantly lower rate than what I see elsewhere but the real trick is that they let you pay with a combination of miles and cash. If you drop the miles slider down to 1000 miles, you’ll notice that the cash goes up at a rate of $.008/skymile.

    Some of those down on skymiles might consider that ok but not me so I typically will just use 1000 miles as a means to get access to the lower rate.

    It is prepaid, cannot be changed/cancelled, and does not earn miles/points/etc.

    That makes it a bit of a last resort for me but about 5-10% of our rentals are done this way and I’m happy to have the option.

    Last comment – make sure you understand insurance implications. I think, but am not sure, that there may be issues with coverage when the entire car rental is not placed on the card providing the coverage.

    Anyway, nice technique here with the venture miles. I’ll be checking that in the future!

  13. @msp2msy – thanks for the great tip and analysis.

    The Capital One method does allow you to pay with any credit card so can use a card that has the insurance you want.

  14. Thanks for the tip. Found this site while googling, now it’s bookmarked!

    I had just booked a convertible in Maui (8 days) thru Costco for $520. My Cap1 Venture gave me the same car, through the same car company (budget) for $460. Not huge, but enough to make the reservation change!

    Thanks!!

  15. Same here – No Hassle (cash) Rewards card shows nothing like this.

    Why isn’t there a link to the car booking page here? It is HTTPS or Java and only accessible after logging into Cap1?

  16. @Valleygirl – sorry, I have not found a direct link that works, it requires going into an eligible account and clicking “explore rewards,” which loads the rewards page.

  17. @Kelli – I believe that is a Canada card with which I am not familiar, presumably they do not have the same portal or benefits.

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