It’s a bad feeling: You buy an airline ticket, only to see the price drop substantially one week later. We’ve all been there. But Capital One wants to make sure it doesn’t happen to you again.
The credit card issuer announced this week that it plans to relaunch its travel website to include new features that can save money for customers when they book flights, as well as offer other protections that aren’t available elsewhere. The beta version will begin to roll out in the next few weeks to groups of customers who hold Capital One miles-earning credit cards.
Capital One is relying on the price-prediction technology of travel booking website Hopper to let card holders know when’s the cheapest time to book a flight. Plus, the new portal will grant card holders access to a number of protections to ensure they can feel confident that they’re paying the best price.
The new features of the Capital One Travel website
The perks of the refurbished Capital One Travel have us excited about its potential. The announced features are wide-ranging and include protections at each point of the booking process: planning, buying and in the lead-up to departure. According to the issuer, the website will include:
- Price prediction and price watches. When you enter your desired itinerary, the predictor will display the anticipated cheapest and most expensive times to book. Based on that data, you can then choose to buy or set an alert to let you know when the fare drops on your route. If the fare drops, you’ll get a notification from Capital One to book your flight.
- Price drop protection. This free protection means that if Capital One recommends buying a flight at the current price and the price then drops after you buy, you’ll get a refund of the difference, up to $50.
- Price match and best price guarantee. If you find a flight, hotel or rental car at a cheaper price elsewhere within 24 hours of making a booking on Capital One Travel, the issuer will refund the difference. Note that in this case, you have to find the lower fare yourself — Capital One won’t alert you if there’s a cheaper option on another website.
- Cancellation for any reason. For an additional cost — payable in cash or Capital One miles — you can purchase an option to cancel your flight for any reason with no questions asked. The coverage lets you cancel up to 24 hours before your scheduled departure and receive 80% of the cost of your ticket back without needing to file a claim.
- Flight price freeze. If you find a flight but aren’t ready to book it, you can pay a fee to freeze the price and then buy it at that price at a later date. If the price of the flight increases between when you freeze and when you book, Capital One will cover the difference, but if the price goes down, you’ll pay the new lower price.
On top of all these protections, for new bookings made through the Capital One travel website, the issuer will plant four trees, so you can head off on your vacation with a clear conscience.
Why we’re hesitant until we can test it ourselves
While we’re enthusiastic about the potential of the new Capital One Travel, as they say, the proof will be in the pudding. Since the new features aren’t available yet, we haven’t been able to test them out to see how they perform in real life (though rest assured, we will as soon as we can).
Plus, in the near term, the service isn’t going to be available to everyone. Capital One is set to roll out the new features to existing customers who have the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One Spark Miles for Business and the Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card, but not to holders of some of its other credit cards.
Even eligible card holders won’t all get access at once. Capital One is bringing the service on line in beta form as it tests and works out any issues, so it will be open to card holders in batches starting in the next few weeks. But it’s not saying which eligible card holders will have access and when.
Also, it will be interesting to see how the price prediction tool works in the midst of the pandemic. Historically, Hopper’s data on airfares has been some of the best — in fact, the service claims 95% accuracy when predicting future flight and hotel prices. However, like many other things, the travel industry has been upended by the pandemic. The cost of air travel has greatly fluctuated over the past 18 months, and it’s likely that it will continue to do so as demand shifts.
If Hopper is right in predicting prices, it could save eligible Capital One card holders money — or get them some extra cash back from Capital One. However, if it’s wrong in its post-pandemic predictions, some card holders could end up paying more for their air travel. (Though of course, if you opt to purchase the price freeze protection, it wouldn’t matter if the price goes up after you buy.)
Keep in mind that Capital One Venture and VentureOne card holders earn 5 miles for every dollar spent on hotel and car rental bookings made through Capital One Travel. Unfortunately, that bonus mileage doesn’t currently apply to flights booked through the portal, but the issuer tells us there may be changes coming down the line on that front as well.
In the end, we’re excited about the possibilities of the new Capital One Travel website, and we’re hopeful that it will be as good as advertised. We’ll dive in as soon as the service is more widely available, and we’ll have a full review here on CNN Underscored to share our findings.
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