Q&A: How do redeemed travel points get refunded if I cancel?
Programs vary; on some you get money back, but some tickets are nonrefundable
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
If I cancel award travel booked with my Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card points, how will I get reimbursed?With Capital One rewards, you'll get back money, not points or miles in to your account. But, not all travel is refundable.
Dear Cashing In,
If I book flights on American Airlines in economy class with my Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card reward miles, will miles be credited back to my reward account if I have to cancel my flight? – Norma
Capital One’s Venture cards are straightforward to use. Many people like them because, as they say in their commercials, they impose no limits or blackout dates on award travel. You can use the rewards on any airline, or really on any travel expense, including hotels and rental cars.
There are two types of Venture cards: the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card that you have, which gives 1.25 points per $1 spent and has no annual fee; and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which gives 2 points per $1 spent and carries a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). The rewards with each card both operate the same way.
Options to redeem Venture rewards
You have several options on redeeming Venture rewards. You can charge a travel expense on the card, then later go online and apply points to that purchase and have the expense wiped away from your bill. Or you can use Capital One’s travel portal to book travel using points ahead of time. Each of those options uses the same number of points: one point is worth 1 cent. So whether you charged a $200 hotel room or used the travel portal to book a $200 flight, the cost would be 20,000 points.
You also can redeem your rewards for gift cards at the same rate of one point per cent, or you can redeem for cash at the rate of two points per cent (which is a worse deal).
The tricky part comes when you have to cancel travel plans for which you have used points. To understand what happens, you need to understand how the Venture reward program works. When you book travel or erase a travel purchase using points, Capital One pays the vendor actual money. But instead of having you pay that money to Capital One, the bank just deducts points from your account. All the vendor knows is that you have used your Capital One card to pay for travel.
In these transactions, Capital One is just the middleman – the go-between facilitating the payment between you and the vendor, which in your case is American Airlines. If you cancel your travel plans, the vendor will notify the card company to issue you a credit. The credit will be in dollars, not in points or miles.
Airlines may have different rules
In your case, though, be careful: You still have to abide by American’s terms of the sale, just as you would if you used a credit card to pay for a ticket the usual way. With airlines, most economy tickets are nonrefundable. You might be able to change the ticket for a fee. Since it’s a travel expense, you can use additional Venture miles to pay that fee.
With hotels and rental cars, depending on the type of rate you paid and the conditions attached to it, you are more likely to be able to cancel travel plans without penalty. Again, if you used Capital One points, your statement will be credited in dollars, not points.
Tip: With some award programs, there is a fee to redeposit your points for canceled flights.
With other award programs, canceling a reservation can result in having points redeposited into your account.
For instance, if you make a hotel reservation using points from a hotel card, canceling your stay will result in those points being redeposited. Airlines can redeposit miles back into your frequent flyer account if you cancel a flight booked with their miles, but they also usually charge you a redeposit fee, sometimes as much as $200.
In your case, reward points are just another currency, another way to pay for travel. They are not a protection against airline change fees.
See related: Beware change fees with award tickets
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