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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
|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
|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.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees