Can I Earn Points For Booking Travel On Sites Like Orbitz While Also Earning Airline Miles?

by on November 17, 2013 · 16 comments

in Expedia, Orbitz, Sunday Reader Questions, Travelocity, Video Blog Post

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Update:  As of July 20, 2014, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card no longer offers the 7% annual points dividend. View the current sign up offer here.

TPG follower Asia Boca Raton asks:

@thepointsguy can I earn points for booking on Orbitz, Travelocity, etc through their programs while also earning airline mileage?”

The quick answer is yes, absolutely. I think what confuses a lot of folks is that many hotel loyalty programs only let you earn points and elite stay credit when you book your stays directly through them or one of their hotels but not through online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Orbitz or Travelocity. That’s not the case with airlines, though. For example, if you were to book an American Airlines flight through either of them, or Expedia, etc., you’d still earn frequent flyer miles – award miles and elite-qualifying miles – on paid flights just as you would if you had booked directly through American.

That fact presents a tremendous opportunity to triple dip and earn a lot more miles than you would just flying. If you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus cards from Chase you can earn multiple Ultimate Rewards points per $1 when you first log into the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and click through to the OTA of your choice. Currently, the portal is offering the following bonuses on these five OTA’s when purchasing flights specifically:

The Ultimate Rewards shopping portal regularly offers bonuses at online travel agencies.

The Ultimate Rewards shopping portal regularly offers bonuses at online travel agencies.

However, bonuses have gone up to 3 extra points per $1 recently so you can sometimes earn even more points. But then remember that both Expedia and Orbitz have their own loyalty programs and Travelocity’s Rewards program is actually linked to the co-branded Travelocity American Express from US Bank so in order to participate in it, you’ve got to have the credit card.

But to keep things simple – let’s say you are a member of Orbitz’s new rewards program, and that you have the Sapphire Preferred card from Chase, so you can use the Ultimate Rewards portal. What you could do to maximize your earnings would be to log into Ultimate Rewards, click through to Orbitz from there and then purchase airfare on your carrier of choice.

You’d be earning 3.21X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar thanks to the Sapphire Preferred’s normal 2X points per $1 on travel plus an extra 1X point per dollar through Ultimate Rewards, and the card’s annual 7% points dividend.

Then by booking through Orbitz (remember to log into your Orbitz Rewards account) you earn up to 1% back on the cost of your flight, excluding taxes and fees up to $5,000 ($50 in Orbucks) annually per member and then you can redeem those Orbucks for hotel stays.

But we’re not done yet. You’ll still be earning miles on the flights you fly – and voila, you’re triple dipping: Ultimate Rewards points, Orbucks and airline miles, all with a single purchase.

For more information on OTA loyalty programs, triple dipping and maximizing your airfare purchases, check out these posts:

Getting The Most Points out of Double and Triple Dipping When Booking Travel

Maximizing Online Travel Agency Loyalty Programs

Maximizing Airfare Purchases: Choosing the Right Credit Card and Site

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Chris

    One thing to keep in mind: If you book a flight directly through Ultimate Rewards then you are getting a ticket that cannot be upgraded…

  • thepointsguy

    Not true – chase buys the ticket so you get miles/can upgrade if the fare class is eligible

  • Andreas

    Sorry, but I remember I read on the Delta website some time ago that you couln’t earn miles for flights booked through Orbitz/Travelocity. Is it still valid?
    Just asking because I get to fly with SkyTeam.

  • Chris

    Unfortunately, you are wrong. UR’s T&C clearly state that tickets bought through them cannot be upgraded. I had to find this out the hard way. Bought an international flight with United through UR in an economy fare class that could in principle be upgraded to business using miles and copay. However, because it is bought through UR the ticket shows up as a “bulk ticket” in United’s system, and thus cannot be upgraded (it earns miles though). Called both United and Chase about this; both pointed to UR’s T&C…

  • KR

    How does buying through an online travel agency (Orbitz, Expedia, etc) impact your ability to 1.) cancel a ticket for free within 24 hours and 2.) rebook your flights when there is inclement weather, maintenance issues, etc? Is the airline less likely to accommodate you because you have to work through the travel agency?

  • Daniel Obenoskey

    From my experience you can’t get points for many hotel stays when booking through deeply discounted programs such as Hotwire’s Hotrate program. I guess due to the fact you are not exactly picking your hotel. These rates are also often deeply discounted. Sometimes these programs can provide much greater value in terms of the cash savings than booking at regular rates AND receiving points.

  • Tom

    Nope. Flights booked through Orbitz earn miles on Delta.

  • dadamn

    Delta will not award miles for fare classes R, O and N, but I don’t think Orbitz or Travelocity sells those, as they’re usually reserved for other discount resellers.

  • mdtravel

    I think one of the other comments already answers my question, but I’ll ask anyway.
    Say I go through UR to get to Orbitz and buy a ticket on US Air. I know I will get my miles, but will I get all of my elite benefits like preferred seating, early boarding and, if available, a first class complimentary upgrade?

  • Dieuwer

    Do the OTAs charge a fee when booking airfare?

  • cohenm123

    I’m wondering the same thing, including if elite benefits on airline partners still hold if tickets are purchased on Orbitz or another OTA. For instance, as an AAdvantage Platinum member, would I still get to use the business class check-in line on Japan Airlines if I purchased Japan Airlines tickets on Orbitz? And are the rules different if I purchase tickets directly through Orbitz rather than using Orbitz through UR?

  • joe

    Additionally, you don’t get the Amex Gold 3x miles when booked through Orbitz. What about UR site….does this portal count as ‘being booked directly with the airline?’

  • Andreas

    Some of them do

  • Andreas

    Thank you for the replies.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, as long as your frequent flyer number is attached to the reservation. You can always make the reservation then call up your airline with your confirmation number to make sure your FF account is on it.

  • vega25

    Let me add to the discussion and say that often times international flights booked through portals like Orbitz are ineligible for frequent flier miles. I have had this happen to me for the last 3 bookings I made. The discounted economy did not qualify on United, Lufthansa, and American Airlines.

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