This is our ongoing series of online shopping portal review and today we will be looking at Capital One’s online shopping portal which is called Perk Central. Unlike Discover’s shopdiscover, Citi’s Bonus Cash Center of BOA’s Add It Up program, Perk Central is very much part of Capital One’s reward program. In this aspect, it is very similar to Chases’ Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall.
First, let’s look at how you can access the portal. The first step is to log into your capital one account by going to www.capitalone.com. After you log in, it will display your credit card information and you have to click on the “explore rewards” link (shown at the arrow).
Clicking on the “explore rewards” link will take you to Capital One’s reward program page. To go to Perks Central page, you have to get to the “earn rewards” button on the top navigation and click online stores. That will take you to the page below.
There are a variety of ways in which you can search for your merchants. For example, you can “browse all merchants” (which is how it will look like below). You can also browse via categories, special offers. If you browse via all merchants, you will get a page (like below) listing every merchant partner that Perk Central has via alphabetical order. Beside the merchant will be the number of “miles” you will earn per dollar. Hence, the Perk Central program is not a strictly cash rebate program like the shopdiscover or Citi Bonus Cash Center program. Instead, you earn extra Capital One points for every dollar that you spend with their merchant partners and you can redeem these points for products on their program like merchandise and travel.
Once you have decided which online merchant you would like to shop with, you just have to click on their icons. In this example, we will pretend that we want to buy stuff at Ace Hardware online. So we click on the Ace Hardware link and it takes us to the following page where the terms and conditions are listed. In this example, they state that you will earn the extra miles from net purchases of products from Ace and this will not include things like taxes and shipping (which is very standard). Gift cards also do not count towards earning the extra miles. It also states that you will only earn the extra miles if you shop at Ace Hardware online via logging into your Capital One account. After clicking the “shop now” button, you will be taken to Ace online store where you purchases with your Capital One Card will be tracked.
Another feature of Perk Central is that they also have partners with off line stores or what they call in store partners. If you look at the screen shots, on the left navigation, there is a link to instore deals. When you click on it, it will take you to the following page (see below). This is where they will show their in store partners, the number of miles you can earn etc. One of the things you have to do before you go to the store to buy stuff is that you have to “activate your account” for that store from the “activate button” (see below’s screen shot).
Key Features of Perk Central Compared With It’s Peers – First, let’s get a couple of key statistics out of the way. As of January 2012, Perk Central has 351 partners (Chase has 360, Add It Up has 528 and Citi Bonus Cash Center has 594 partners) and they have 238 partners which matches or has the highest payouts.
So in terms of number of merchants, they are really in the middle of the pack. The one feature they have is that they also have off line or in store partners where you can earn extra miles when you shop at a physical store partner. However, I feel that the Citi Bonus Cash Center has a slightly better deal here. That is because some of Citi’s off line partners allow you to buy their products over the phone or through their catalogs. I also prefer the Citi’s web interface because I can search for stores by inputing my zip code and the miles radius. Perks Central’s off line stores requires “activation” of your card which is a little inconvenient.
Opinion – The Perk Central portal stands in the middle of pack compared to other credit card portals in terms of number of merchants. It does have off line portals as well but the Citi Bonus Cash Center has better features on that front. For us, shopdiscover is still our Editor’s Choice as their minimum rebate is 5% (Perk Central starts at 1 mile/$1) and Citi is a close runner up because of the sheer number of merchants they have. This does not mean that Capital One’s Perk Central is bad. It simply means you should not get a Capital One card solely because of Perk Central. Capital One cards are known for their absence of foreign transaction fees (so is Discover) and their willingness to give folks with less than stellar credit a regular unsecured card. If your Capital One card comes with rewards, then consider the Perk Central as a “perk” and use it to earn “more miles” or “points”.