Got Miles? Credit Card Doubles Them

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 10:15 AM EST

The fight for high-end credit card customers just got more heated with an act-fast offer from Capital One.

The company's "Match My Miles Challenge," launched today, offers to match up to 100,000 frequent flier miles accumulated on another card when you obtain Capital One's Venture card before the promotion expires. Frequent flier miles are generally worth about a penny a point, so 100,000 miles is worth roughly $1,000.

To get the miles you need register, provide proof of how many miles you've got elsewhere and charge at least $1,000 on your new card within three months. And act fast. It's a first-come/first-served offer that ends when they've matched one billion miles -- or on May 13th -- whichever comes first.

The one catch? The card charges an annual fee of $59, which is waived for the first year. After that, the card is only a bargain if you make more on the miles than you spend on the fee. You get two mileage points per dollar spent.

The point of this costly promotion is to make consumers see just how worthless their single-airline frequent flier rewards cards can be, according to Mike Wassmer, executive vice president of US Card at Capital One.

"Airline credit card reward miles can be so difficult to redeem that they've become virtually useless," he said in a prepared statement. "Consumers should know that they have better alternatives."

What makes them think the Capital One's Venture card is the better option? Instead of calling your airline's frequent flier rewards line to redeem points for a flight -- and accepting transport when there are frequent flier seats available -- Capital One says the way you redeem Venture points is to charge it. You use the card to buy your flight and then simply inform them that you want to pay for it with points.

You pick the airline; the flight; the time; the travel companions and how you book. They urge you to get the best bargain you can. After you pay for the travel with the Venture card, give them a call and they'll deduct one point per penny from your miles balance to pay for the travel. You can also use miles to pay for hotel rooms, rental cars and cruises.

It is the most generous credit card offer in an era of generous credit card offers, says Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of LowCards.com.

"This is a great deal, especially if you have a large number of current miles," he said.

But it's only for people with great credit.

The interest rate on the card will vary between 10.9% and 20.9%, depending on how good your credit is. But if you've got bad credit, don't even bother to apply. Capital One will only approve people who fall into its "excellent" credit category -- defined on their web site as someone who has never declared bankruptcy or defaulted on a loan; have had another high-authorized balance credit card for at least three years; and who have not been 60 days late with a payment in the past year.

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