In some ways, money expert Clark Howard is the perfect travel rewards credit card customer.
He never carries a credit card balance, travels almost constantly and loves leveraging credit cards for rewards. The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card may be Clark’s favorite travel rewards card.
However, price governs Clark’s travel bookings more than any other factor. He’ll even find a deal and then decide what to do on a vacation rather than determining a destination first.
The challenge with travel rewards cards like Venture X is that there’s an annual fee (in this case $395). And to reap the full benefits and cancel out this fee, you need to book your travel through the card’s travel platform, Capitol One Travel — which often, but not always, offers inferior price points.
How does Clark reconcile that sticky point with his “always get the best price” mindset?
When Does Clark Howard Book Travel Through Capital One Travel?
When do you use a credit card travel rewards portal for bookings vs. choosing a cheaper option elsewhere?
That’s what a listener recently asked Clark.
Asked Thomas in California: “My wife and I picked up the Venture X card for the travel benefits on Clark’s advice. Question: Does Clark use the Capital One [Travel] portal for all bookings? Even if a third-party booker is cheaper?
“Additionally, the portal doesn’t have all the hotel choices. No low-rent hotels that I can find. Our trip from San Francisco to Cancun was $100 cheaper through a third-party booker.”
Clark loves the Venture X card because it offers a big discount relative to the other two competitors. Capital One rebates $300 of your $395 annual fee when you book travel through its portal.
This can be a great deal — assuming that the cost of your hotel or flight is the same via Capital One’s travel portal as it is on any other website.
As Thomas pointed out, that’s not always the case.
“If the rate is the same as it would be at the cheapest place I could find somewhere else, I book through the Capital One travel portal and use my points for hotel or air travel,” Clark says.
“I find repeatedly with air travel the price is the same. For hotels, I find over and over again that Capital One’s hotel prices are not price competitive in the marketplace.”
Be careful about applying for a travel rewards credit card with an annual fee. Most people won’t travel enough in a year to make the math work.
Even if you do travel enough, the Venture X card — or the other best options — may not represent the cheapest option for flights and hotels. That’s the case even when factoring in your rewards.
That’s why these cards best serve those who are frequent travelers who are also not afraid to comparison shop.
Clark has found that the Venture X travel rewards card often makes sense for booking flights but not as much for hotels.