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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.
This cash back card has a focus on dining and entertainment where you can earn unlimited 4% cash back in those spending categories. You can also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- Access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that