How to Track Airfare Prices and Get a Good Deal on Tickets

Feb 6, 2017

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We all want to buy airfare when the prices are at their lowest, but timing that exactly right can fall somewhere between lucky guess to very challenging to impossible. There are lots of tips out there on when to buy airfare such as doing it on a Tuesday at 3PM Eastern about two months before your travel date, but only if it is also a full moon and you are paying with a credit card that ends in 777. In truth, there is no one reliably magic time to get the best deal on airfare.

There are historical trends and averages that those “when to buy airfare” tips are based upon, but you won’t know exactly when the best time is to purchase airfare for your given trip until that time has passed. However, all hope is not lost in trying to search for cheap airfare as you can use some tools to dramatically increase the likelihood that you will get at least a very good deal on your airfare without spending too much time on the searches yourself.

Since there are so many fixed value points programs that allow you to use your credit card points to purchase airfare such as The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, these airfare price tracking tools are useful even if you aren’t using your own cold hard cash to purchase the airfare. A good deal on airfare can mean spending fewer points from those programs!

While there are plenty of different options out there, my two most used tools to track airfare prices come from Google Flights and Airfare Watchdog. These two free different airfare tracking tools work in two different ways.

How to Track Flight Prices for a Specific Date

First, if you know where you want to go and have specific dates in mind, the Google Flight price tracker can’t really be beat. Simply go to Google Flights, put in when/where you want to fly (and you can pick several airports in the same region), and hit “track price”. Voila. Assuming you are logged into Google, you will now get email alerts when the price changes.

Google Price Tracker.jpg

Google Flight Price Alert.jpg

You can also come back to Google Flights and view all of your tracked flights together at once, as well as view a graph showing how the price for your tracked trip has changed over time.

How to Track Airfare Prices to a Destination

If you have a particular destination in mind, but are flexible on your dates then you might want to use the tool set out by AirfareWatchdog. With this options you can simply stay in the loop on pricing for that route via email as opposed to just getting information for a specific set of travel dates. You can also get a round-up of all airfare deals from your airport if you so desire.

Airfare Watchdog.jpg

This type of destination specific alert is handy for those cities where you have relatives or just really enjoy visiting whenever you get the chance.

Airfare Watchdog Price Tool.jpg

I will warn you that if you aren’t careful about your selections you can end up getting quite a bit of email from Airfarewatchdog, so just keep that in mind when making the selections for the type of notification you want to receive whether it is just for a certain route, or for your departure city in general.

When to Purchase Airfare You Are Tracking

In terms of when to actually buy the airfare you are tracking, I would say that you should buy as soon as you are happy with the price. Don’t get too obsessed with getting the absolute best price, and instead just aim to find a price you are happy with. This is especially true if your travel dates and destination are fixed.

If you have some flexibility or a long period of time before you trip, then once you have tracked the airfare for a while you will get a good sense as to what is a good deal is for your route. Also keep in mind that once you get within a couple weeks of travel the ticket price usually only increases, so try not to go within two weeks of your travel date before pressing purchase.

While this is not an airfare tracking tool per se, I have to mention that another way I love to stay in the loop on good airfare prices is by simply following @theflightdeal on Twitter. You never know what great deals they will come up with and share!

How do you track airfare prices on your preferred routes?

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Aside from the 120,000-point welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to a cap amount), earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive an up to $200 annual airline fee credit each calendar year (enrollment required).

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, 0% Intro APR for 12 months from the date of the account opening on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time. After that, your APR will be 14.24% to 22.24% based on your credit worthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Earn 1.5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else. Cap applies.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in value per year for statement credits on select purchases with your Card, including up to $400 with Dell Technologies, up to $360 with Indeed, up to $150 with Adobe and up to $120 on wireless telephone purchases. Enrollment required.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year toward baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • Access to more than 1,300 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting with The American Express Global Lounge Collection®. More lounge options than any other credit card on the market as of 8/2020.
  • $595 Annual Fee ($695 if application is received on or after 01/13/2022).
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
See Pay Over Time APR
Regular APR
14.24% - 22.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$595 (10/14-1/12/22)
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Good, Excellent
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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