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What Are The Best Sites To Purchase Airline Tickets?

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TPG reader Victoria tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy–“Are there pros/cons to purchasing tickets directly from an airline versus an online travel agency like Expedia or Travelocity?”

I spend a lot of money on airfare, whether it’s for me or for my employees, so it’s extremely important that I maximize every dollar.

Booking through an online travel agency can often be a better decision than booking through an airline website. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Booking through an online travel agency can often earn you more points than booking through an airline website. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

When deciding where to book your ticket, in most cases it’s better to book through an online travel agency for a couple different reasons:

  • You get more points! For example, the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal will give you extra points for booking through websites like Hotwire. You can go to EV Reward and type in your preferred travel agency to see which sites offer the most cash back or extra points. Generally, you won’t earn any cash back or extra miles when you book through an airline website.
  • Online travel agencies generally have more flexible cancellation policies than the airline website do. Most airlines have to give you a refund within 24 hours of purchase, but if the flight is within seven days of departure, some airlines (like American) won’t refund you, whereas many online travel agencies will.
  • If the airline were to go out of business, or something similarly unexpected were to happen, an online travel agency would give you an extra layer of protection (in addition to your credit card company) to recoup losses or damages.
  • You’ll often see more options or fare combinations through online travel agencies than on the airline’s website.
  • You can double or triple dip on points, as many online travel agencies have their own loyalty programs.

In general, I don’t see much of a point in booking directly with the airline. The exception is Southwest, which only allows you to book their fares on their own website.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit