What Are The Best Sites To Purchase Airline Tickets?

Oct 19, 2014

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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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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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