Is It Cheaper To Book Flights Through Credit Card Travel Portals?

Jul 1, 2017

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Credit card travel portals such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal, Citi ThankYou Travel Center and American Express Membership Rewards Travel provide great alternatives to Google Flights for booking airfare. However, as TPG reader Doug points out, it may not always be a better option:

“Be sure to know the going rate for a ticket before purchasing it with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards web site. Don’t assume you’re getting the best price. I have found the price for Delta tickets originating from Tokyo to the United States are 20-25% higher than buying the ticket directly from Delta or through Orbitz and Travelocity.”

To examine this claim, we compared prices of domestic and international routes on all three credit card travel portals, Expedia and booking directly with the airline. Here are our results:

1. Domestic Travel — Round-Trip Between Oct 12 – 19

Route Airline Cabin Chase Citi Amex Expedia Airline Website
JFK – LAX American Coach $335 $335 $335 $335 $335
JFK – LAX Delta Coach $413 $413 $413 $413 $413
BOS – SEA Alaska Coach $395 $395 $395 $395 $395
JFK – SFO Delta First $2,117 $2,117 $2,117 $2,117 $2,117

Domestic travel fares are consistent across all booking sites, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise since the sites are US-based and should have similar access to these fares.

2. International Travel — Round-Trip Between Oct 12 – 19

Route Airline Cabin Chase Citi Amex Expedia Airline Website
HND – SFO Delta Coach $1,062 $1,062 $1,062 $1,062 $1,053
IAD – FRA Delta Coach $804 $804 $804 $804 $804
IAD – FRA Lufthansa Coach $1,305 $1,305 $1,305 $1,297 $1,288
LHR – AMS British Airways Coach $120 $120 $120 $120 $95
SYD – LAX Delta Coach $754 $754 $754 $754 $754
FRA – JFK Singapore Airlines Business $4,565 $4,565 $4,565 $4,565 $3,797

As Doug has rightly pointed out, we see similar fare trends for flights originating from Tokyo to the US — booking directly through Delta is slightly cheaper ($9) than booking using the different travel portals. While this isn’t the 20-25% savings that Doug has experienced, a similar fare two weeks ago booked on the Delta website did have a whopping 41% savings over using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This phenomenon extends to premium travel as well, with fares from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK) 17% cheaper when booked directly with Singapore Airlines. It’s important to note that some discrepancies can be explained by the fact that searches for tickets originating in a foreign country will sometimes yield a different price than those that originate in the US.

While we can’t definitively say that booking international travel directly with the airline will always give the cheapest option, it never hurts to compare across the different booking options to land the best deal available.

Featured image courtesy of David Cleveland Photography via Getty Images.

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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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