Can I book flights with any airline through the Chase and Amex travel portals?
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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
While transferring points from Chase and Amex to their airline partners can often unlock aspirational premium cabin redemptions, sometimes your travel plans require you to be on a specific flight whether or not there's award space available. In this case, you may come out ahead using your points to book a ticket directly through your card issuer's travel portal. TPG reader Jessica wants to know if these portals show all available flight options....
[pullquote source="TPG READER JESSICA"]Why doesn't the Amex Travel portal show all available flight options? I'm trying to book a flight from Charlotte to D.C. and the AA website shows nonstop flights, but they aren't coming up on Amex Travel[/pullquote]
While it's normally best to book directly with the airline, there are a few cases where you might want to use a travel portal instead. With American Express specifically, some cards like The Business Platinum Card® from American Express only earn bonus points for flights booked through Amex Travel (and you wouldn't want to leave those 5x points per dollar on the table if you can help it). Additionally, some cards offer bonuses or rebates for paying with points through the travel portal:
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||25% bonus||1.25 cents per point|
|Ink Business Preferred Credit Card||25% bonus||1.25 cents per point|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||50% bonus||1.5 cents per point|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||25% rebate (up to 250,000 points per calendar year)||1.33 cents per point|
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||35% rebate (up to 1 million points per calendar year)||1.54 cents per point|
Regardless of why Jessica decided to book through the Amex Travel portal, she should be aware that it won't always offer every available flight, for a couple of different reasons. Since Amex Travel essentially functions as an Online Travel Agency (like Expedia, which powers the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal), it might occasionally make deals with airlines to make certain blocks of seats available to its customers at a better cost. This means that some flights that are bookable through Google Flights or the airline's website won't be available through Amex Travel. While more often than not you'll find the same flights and prices available through each search engine, I've even had cases where the Chase or Amex travel portal offered me cheaper flights than I was able to find through Google Flights.
Another possible problem has to do with which airline you choose to fly. While this shouldn't affect Jessica who's looking to travel on American Airlines, certain airlines like Southwest and many low-cost carriers (especially internationally) don't show up on the Chase and Amex travel portals. You can get around this by calling Amex travel at 800-297-3276 or Chase Travel at 866-951-6592 to book flights on Southwest. This may be harder or even impossible to do for certain low-cost carriers based outside the U.S., but it's worth giving Chase or Amex a quick call with the flight numbers and dates you want to travel and seeing if they can help you complete the transaction.
Unfortunately there isn't much Jessica can do in this situation, as it's not uncommon for the Chase and Amex travel portals to not show all tickets that are available on a certain route. Think about this like trying to book through Expedia or Orbitz, where one may have slightly better deals available than the other depending on the date and route you want to fly. The Chase and Amex travel portals both function as online travel agencies, with great but not perfect coverage.