Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard Review

This is a guest post by Elbyron – A credit card rewards fanatic.  I was in the process of writing about this new offering by Capital One when Elbyron contacted me with a detailed post on his thoughts.  Although this card has an annual fee, it’s perhaps the only card in the market that I’m considering paying for and this is why…

Earlier this month, Capital One launched a new MasterCard that has generated a lot of media buzz as it’s a real contender for being the #1 travel reward credit card –The Aspire Travel World MasterCard .

The Aspire Travel World card is very similar to phased out Capital One’s Miles Plus card, as they both earn 2 reward miles for every $1, which works out to a 2% return in most cases. These miles can be redeemed for any flights, hotels, vacations, car rentals, or travel of any kind that you charge to your card (much like the TD Infinite card). You can also redeem for cash, in the form of a cheque or statement credit, which will get you a 1.5% return.

The Rewards

  • Earn more reward miles – on everything you buy!
  • Earn 2 reward miles for every $1 – on all purchases
  • Get 35,000 bonus reward miles with your first purchase
  • Get 10,000 anniversary bonus reward miles every year
  • Redeem for travel, cash, merchandise and gift cards
  • World MasterCard benefits, including Travel Emergency Medical Insurance and Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Add an authorized user for $0

Please Note: A requirement of this card is a minimum personal income of $60,000 or household income of $100,000.

  • $120 $150 annual fee.

Best in Class Insurance Coverage

The Aspire Travel World MasterCard offers the most comprehensive insurance coverage in the premium credit card market.  In addition to the usual Travel Accident Insurance ($500K) and car rental insurance, this card also offers insurance for:

  • Travel Emergency Medical: For trips up to 22 days if younger than 65, or 8 days if over 65.
  • Flight Delay: Flight delay is $250 per day up to $1000 per trip (includes you, your spouse and your dependent children).
  • Trip Interruption: Trip interruption is max $25,000 per trip (includes you, your spouse and your dependent children).
  • Trip Cancellation: Trip cancellation is max of $5,000 per trip (includes you, your spouse and your dependent children).
  • Baggage Loss: $1000/trip.
  • Baggage Delay: Baggage delay only up to 3 days (includes you, your spouse and your dependent children).
  • Price Protection:  Refunds up to $100/item if a lower price is found in 60 days. Max $500/year.
  • Extended Warranty:  Doubles manufacturer’s warranty for up to TWO additional years (typically 1 year with other cards).
  • Purchase Assurance:  Insures most purchases against theft, loss or damage for 120 days (typically 90 days with other cards).

Redemption System

Any flights, hotels, car rentals, train, bus, cruises, or vacation packages that you charge to the card can qualify for redemption. All taxes and fees on the travel charge are also eligible. Miles must be redeemed within 90 days of the charge, and you can do so online or over the phone.

You can book your travel with any website or travel agency, and with no seat restrictions or blackouts. The “No Hassle Rewards” do have one hassle though, and that is the redemption tiers:

  • Travel charges up to $150 require 15,000 miles
  • Between $151 and $350 require 35,000 miles
  • Between $350 and $600 require 60,000 miles
  • Over $600 is simply 100 points per dollar

These tiers may seem like a real drawback, but there is a simple workaround to ensure you always get 2% return: when charging the travel to your card, split the total cost into two charges, making one of them exactly $150 or $350.

Or if you have over 60,000 points but not enough for the full travel cost, then split it so that one of them equals 1/100 of the number of points you have. Most airlines and hotels will let you use multiple credit cards to pay with, so simply request this and give them the same card number for both parts.

The policies for the various trip insurances state that in order for the trip to qualify, the “full cost of the common carrier travel must be charged to your Capital One card”. But as long as both charges are put on your card, you should technically meet this requirement. However, I am currently trying to get confirmation from MasterCard about this.

There is also an option in the redemption process that lets you specify the “number of tickets in the transaction” and “number of tickets you want reimbursed”. What this does is divides the transaction price by the first number and multiplies by the second one, giving you the choice of any ratios with the denominator between 1 and 10.

For example, if my flight costs $450, I could say there are 9 tickets in my transaction and I want to redeem for 7 of them. So 450 * 7/9 = 350, which is what I want to be able to get the full 2% reward. It may not always work out perfectly, and calculating the optimal ratio requires some math skills, but it certainly helps.

Cash and Other Rewards

As an alternative to redeeming for travel, you can redeem for cash at a 1.5% return, with a minimum of 10,000 miles ($75) and in increments of 3,333 miles ($25). You can also redeem for gift cards, but the best one only gives you 1.4% return so the cash is still better. They also offer a tiny merchandise catalog, but the return is terrible, at approximately 0.5%.

Eligibility

The Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard requires a household income of $60k, and with a interest rate of 19.8% (as of June 15), this card is definitely not for those who carry a balance!  As well, if you have two Capital One cards, or have applied for a Capital One account within the last 45 days, you will not be approved.

For those who don’t meet the income requirement, and don’t want to pay the annual fee, there is also the Aspire Travel Platinum MasterCard. The Platinum version only earns 1 mile per $1, 5,000 point start-up bonus, and 1,000 point anniversary bonus. It has no annual fee, but lacks most of the higher end travel insurance benefits.  However, it does still offer travel accident, car rental, baggage delay, price protection, purchase assurance, and extended warranty.

How Does Aspire Compare to Other Travel Cards?

The closest competitor is the TD Infinite, which offers a similar hassle-free rewards program but without the redemption tiers, and has very similar benefits, except medical is only for up to 8 days. It only has a 1.5% return, but travel booked with their travel agency earns 4.5%. This means that if more than 16.7% of your credit card purchases are for travel through TD, you can get better than a 2% return. There is no option to redeem for cash though. The TD Infinite costs $120/year but if you have Select Service (keep $5000 in your account) you can have this waived.

It is difficult to compare with any other travel cards, because they have redemption systems based on the distance you fly. With these cards, the value of your miles varies widely due to the huge differences in ticket prices between different times of year or the size of the city you fly to/from.

Collecting Aeroplan or Air Miles may also result in redemption hassles, such as limited seat availability or blackout dates. RBC’s Avion card avoids those problems, but restricts you to using their travel agency. For those who are willing to put up with the hassles, and who frequently fly on dates or between locations that are more expensive, these cards can really pay off, with returns of 4% or more.

Most of the insurance coverage on Capital One cards are underwritten by American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, and this same company is used by TD and RBC too.

Editors note: Here is an updated post on the top cash back credit cards and the top rewards credit cards, all cards listed have no annual fees.

Conclusions

The combination of 2% return, hassle-free rewards (well almost), option of 1.5% cash back return, and extensive insurance benefits makes the Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard one of the best travel reward cards ever. And with the 35,000 miles sign-up bonus, they are effectively giving you a $200 bribe (after annual fee) to take this card.

For those of you who are also travel rewards enthusiasts, how does this new card stack up against your favorite program?

Update Feb 2015

Unfortunately, this card has been grandfathered, and replaced with their new World Elite card.  Basically the same card with higher annual fee ($150) and without the 10,000 ($100) annual bonus.

The bright side is that there is still a $75 cash back rebate offered here.

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HyeProfile
3 years ago

Can anybody confirm if this article is still up to date? I’ve noticed from the comments that:
-signup bouns has been reduced from 35,000pts to 10,000pts (article should be updated),
– they’ve eliminated the reward tiers when redeeming your rewards, so basically you now always get 2% reward on any travel (no need to split into multiple transactions with $150 or $350 chunks)
-they added partial reward redemption, so you can apply whatever points you have to partially pay off your more expensive travel purchases.

I’m particularly interested in knowing if the comprehensive travel insurance is still comprehensive.

Elbyron
5 years ago

Holy crap, you’re right! They actually did it! The “no hassle” rewards are truly no-hassle now! Must have been changed today because I was just logged in there yesterday and was pissed off that they eliminated the ticket-splitting feature (even if you use the old redemption site, it just throws an error when you try to split). But now, with no more tiers, it’s not going to matter so much. I still can’t redeem my really big travel purchases unless I save up a crapload of points, but now that I can redeem the small ones I’ll have plenty of stuff to redeem my points on.

Elbyron
5 years ago
Reply to  Elbyron

Hold on, it gets better: they also now let you do partial redemptions! So it doesn’t matter how big the purchase is, you can just redeem part of it to use up all your points!

joe
5 years ago

I heard a rumour that Capital One removed their Tier system. I thought that was too good to be true, then I went to my rewards balance and found out the rumour was true!! You just multiply the cost by 100 and that’s the points you need. If you have them, you can use them.

Does anyone know of any catch? Am I missing something here??? If not, this card shoots back to the top of the list for best travel rewards.

Deanna
5 years ago

I also noticed that they removed the ability to split transactions. The tiered transactions already made it difficult and reduced its attractiveness but the transaction splitting sort of made up for it. Now with no transaction splitting permitted I personally don’t find the card that attractive anymore. I wonder if it will lose the top spot it normally occupies in rankings.

Elbyron
6 years ago

@Lencyloo If you log in to your online banking for the card and go into Rewards Summary they now let you redeem points directly from this page, but doing it that way does not have the virtual ticket option. Instead you choose the “View Rewards Activity” link from the Rewards Summary page. This takes you to a different rewards website where you can split into tickets and redeem as before.

@smayer97 your negative response was not helpful at all. If you don’t care about the travel insurance benefits, then maybe a cash back card is better for you (if you can find one with at least a 2.04% return rate). Smirking about it when a card that you don’t have changes their website and loses a feature is just being disrespectful to this great community.

smayer97
6 years ago

This is EXACTLY why I have learned to stay away from reward cards that do not have cash back or equivalent. Live and learn.

Lencyloo
6 years ago

I have had this card for 2 years now and have been happy with it until recently. I was also lead to believe that rewards would stay the same for current users however was really disappointed to see they have changed the way you can redeem travel rewards. They have taken out the ability to split the tickets. You now have to have the set number of rewards to redeem your travel rewards. While you can still make multiple charges on your card to receive the full 2% it makes it more of a hassle since some online companies don’t give you the option to charge your card multiple times to pay for a vacation.

smayer97
6 years ago

Main differences are that the first time use bonus is down to 10,000 pts (from 35,000) and the 10,000 pts annual bonus has been eliminated.

Doug
6 years ago

I just did a cursory look but what is the difference between the two? From a quick glance, the new card seems pretty similar in benefits to the old card…

Andrew
6 years ago

I spoke with a Capital One representative on the phone today. She told me that the company does not plan to change any terms or conditions for existing holders, which I was surprised to hear–and happy, since the terms of the new card are far less attractive. Thought for sure they would convert existing holders to the new card. But who knows, maybe eventually they will…