Can I book budget carriers on the Chase portal? What you need to know
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Budget carriers — commonly referred to as “low-cost carriers” — can be a great way to save money on shorter domestic and intra-region flights. These carriers tend to offer lower fares with no-frills, and you may have to pay for things like seat assignments and checked bags.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is another great way to save on travel. You can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover paid flights through the portal and offset the costs of your trip. As a refresher, you can redeem your points through the portal at a set rate, depending on the card you have. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card redeems at 1.25 cents per point through the portal, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve card can redeem at 1.5 cents per point.
You can book most major carriers through the portal — but not all budget carriers. For a reason unknown, Chase’s booking partner, Expedia, doesn’t let you book most budget carriers through its travel portal. And if you can, you may have to call in to book (and you could or lose out on perks).
So in this article, I’ll discuss if you can book popular budget and low-cost carriers through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and if it even makes sense to do so. I’ll break down the post by airline. I’ll also give you a look at if the current state of booking budget carriers through the Chase portal could change in the future.
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Booking budget and ultra-low-cost carriers with the Chase portal
As discussed in the intro, most budget and ultra-low-cost carriers aren’t bookable online through the Chase travel portal.
You may have luck calling Chase to book carriers that don’t show on the travel portal, but your results may vary. I’ve had mixed results in the past, and it seems to vary by airline and by the agent you speak to. If one agent won’t book a ticket for you, politely end the call and call back to see if another agent can help. It’s safe to say that a carrier is not bookable if you call twice and get the same answer.
Let’s take a closer look at if you can book major budget and low-cost carriers through the Chase portal.
Allegiant Air is a fast-growing ultra-low-cost carrier in the U.S. It mostly operates point-to-point routes from smaller cities to popular leisure destinations but has expanded operations to major airports like Chicago-Midway (MDW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Newark (EWR).
The airline is exactly what you expect when you think of an ultra-low-cost carrier. It has low fares, but everything from carry-on bags to seat selection to onboard drinks costs extra.
Unfortunately, Allegiant flights do not show up on the Chase portal. We’ve heard mixed reports of being able to book Allegiant flights over the phone, so proceed with caution.
EasyJet is one of the largest ultra-low-cost carriers in Europe. It flies to most major European cities and operates point-to-point flights between major cities and tourist destinations.
EasyJet flights don’t show on the Chase travel portal. You may have luck calling in to have an agent book a ticket for you, but we’ve heard reports of agents not being able to book EasyJet flights over the phone either.
Frontier Airlines is a major ultra-low-cost carrier in the U.S. It has a hub in Denver (DEN) and focus cities in Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Philadelphia (PHL) and Las Vegas (LAS), among others. You’ll find the airline flying major leisure routes from most major metro areas.
Frontier flights previously showed on the Chase portal, but I cannot find them after Chase switched to Expedia for its booking partner in 2018. However, as you’ll see later in this article, this may change again when Chase switches away from Expedia later this year.
JetBlue may not be the first airline that comes to mind when you think of a budget carrier. After all, it operates many business-heavy routes and offers its award-winning Mint business class product on select domestic and international routes. Including upcoming flights from Boston (BOS) and New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) and London-Gatwick (LGW).
That said, many still categorize it as a budget carrier due to its largely all-economy fleet and relatively limited route network. It’s one of the few budget carriers you can currently book through the Chase portal and you can do so without paying any extra fees.
There is one downside to booking through the Chase portal: you won’t earn as many points as booking direct. JetBlue offers 1 bonus point per dollar spent on Blue Basic and 3 bonus points per dollar spent on Blue or higher fares booked directly with the airline. These are not awarded when you book with Chase.
Other than that, everything else is the same. You won’t pay more for a JetBlue flight through the portal and still receive the same baggage allowance, etc.
Ryanair is the largest low-cost carrier in Europe. It flies a slew of point-to-point routes from its various bases around the continent, and with new planes incoming, it shows no signs of slowing down in a post-pandemic world.
Like EasyJet, you have to pay extra for every bell-and-whistle from an onboard glass of water to a carry-on bag. This translates to extremely cheap fares — for example, it’s not uncommon to find one-way fares from the low $20’s on popular routes.
Unfortunately, you cannot book Ryanair flights with Chase at this time. Again, we hope this changes when Chase switches booking partners this year.
Like JetBlue, Southwest Airlines isn’t a traditional low-cost carrier. The airline operates all-economy flights on leisure and business routes but doesn’t have many of the fees you’ll find on Frontier or Spirit. For example, each ticket includes two checked bags and a full-size carry-on.
At the same time, however, you cannot pick a seat ahead of time. Instead, you’re assigned a boarding number and choose your own seat once on the plane. You can purchase priority boarding if you want a better shot at a specific seat.
One oddity of Southwest is that you cannot book its flights through online travel agencies like the Chase portal. If you want to book with your Chase points, you have to call in and ask an agent to book it for you.
Other than that, there are no major restrictions or differences when booking Southwest flights with Chase points versus booking online. I’ve found that Southwest flights booked over the phone cost the same as if booked directly on the Southwest website, and you still get the same baggage allowance.
Of course, you can also transfer your Chase points to Southwest Rapid Rewards and book award flights on Southwest’s website. However, there are a few things to be aware of if you do this — check out TPG’s full guide to booking Southwest flights with Chase points for more info.
Spirit is the largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the U.S. and has grown a lot over the past decade. You’ll need to pay for all extras when flying on Spirit, but that’s reflected in its super-low fares. Like Ryanair, you’ll often find extremely cheap fares on Spirit flights when booking in advance.
Unfortunately, you cannot book Spirit flights through the Chase portal at this time. We’re hopeful that this will change when Chase switches booking partners.
Volaris is a major ultra-low-cost carrier in Mexico. Unfortunately, you cannot book flights on the airline through the Chase portal at this time.
WestJet is a Canadian budget carrier that operates domestic Canadian flights and flights from Canada to Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the U.S. It’s started to act more like a traditional airline over the years by adding business class to transatlantic routes and partnering with Delta but keeps its budget carrier roots with low fares.
You can book WestJet flights through the Chase portal without any difference in price or features. Just beware that the U.S.-Canadian border is still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, so it may be some time before you’ll want to book a WestJet flight.
This may change in the coming months
While you can’t book most budget carriers through the Chase portal now, this could change in the coming months. Chase recently acquired cxLoyalty, which operated the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal until Expedia took over in 2018. This company currently manages Citi and Capital One’s travel portal.
The acquisition likely means that Chase will switch away from Expedia in the coming months. In turn, we should see budget carriers return to the Chase portal. I ran a test search on Capital One’s cxLoyalty-powered travel portal and found that many budget carriers appear in search results.
For example, I’m able to book a Spirit Airlines flight with my Capital One miles:
Likewise, Frontier flights showed in search results:
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find flights on EasyJet, Ryanair or Volaris. I’d like to see cxLoyalty include these airlines before taking over the Chase portal. This would make Chase points more valuable for budget-minded international travelers who want to use their points to cover international tickets.
What’s the best way to book low-cost carriers with points?
Budget travelers are best using Chase points for redemptions with transfer partners. If domestic travel is your goal, read TPG’s guide to using Chase points for domestic travel. We go in-depth on booking flights with each major alliance, so you’ll be able to book flights on major carriers like American, Delta and United.
Using your points for travel abroad can be easy too. You can transfer points to Avios and book intra-Europe flights with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and other partners. Likewise, you can transfer to United MileagePlus to book intra-Europe on Lufthansa Group airlines like Austrian, Brussels Airways, Lufthansa and Swiss.
With the limitations of the Chase portal, Ultimate Rewards points aren’t the best for those that want to offset the cost of airfare on budget airlines. Instead, you’ll want to use something like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to pay for your budget tickets. Then, you can offset the charges with your miles at a rate of 1.0 cents per mile.
The Venture card currently offers 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The full bonus is worth $1,388 per TPG’s most recent valuation of Capital One miles (not provided by the issuer).
Here, I showed you everything you need to know about booking budget carriers through the Chase travel portal. While most budget carriers aren’t bookable through the portal, we may see that change when Chase switches from Expedia to cxLoyalty as its travel booking partner. Only time will tell when this will happen, but we’ll keep you updated.
Feature photo by Jetlinerimages/Getty Images
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