31 Oct Do Travel Portals Offer the Best Prices on Flights?
When it comes to credit card rewards points, I prefer to transfer to travel partners in order to maximize value. If you have ever experienced Suites Class on Singapore Airlines, then you know why I am all about the transfer partners!
This has been my strategy, but I understand that many rewards points collectors would prefer the relative ease of booking through the travel portal provided by their credit card. Credit card travel portals like the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or the American Express Travel Portal provide cardholders with some great flexibility to use rewards points.
Travel portals do NOT always provide the best available price! While the portals provide cardholders with greater opportunities to redeem points for the travel they want, they may also be providing you a higher and inferior price compared to the airlines published fare! So while you have the ability to redeem your points and reduce your out of pocket costs, you may find yourself redeeming more rewards points than you originally expected.
Unfortunately, this is not an infrequent occurrence. I do a fair amount of airfare searching that involves comparing portal redemption options and I see it more often than not! In fact, just this past weekend I was in the process of searching a specific itinerary and noticed it on one of my favorite routes…
British Airways Round-trip Flights 2167/2166 Non-stop London (LGW) – Tampa (TPA)
Google Flight Search Results
I started the search just like I start every other airfare search – via Google Flights! For those of you that do not utilize Google Flights – wake up! It is by far my favorite airfare search tool and I assure you it will save you both time and money.
Book Direct with British Airways
You cannot book directly through Google Flights, but you will be notified where to book the lowest available fare in your search. In my search above, the fare could be booked directly on the British Airways website.
This is the lowest published fare for this flight and a pretty sweet price! While this isn’t a points redemption, you can purchase with a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which allows you to redeem points for travel expenses!
But we hate paying cash! This deal could be even sweeter if we could redeem points for this flight through travel portal, right!?
Book via Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
With the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal became an attractive redemption option. This is due to the 150% point redemption value (1.5 cent per point value), versus the previous 125% redemption value offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The improved value is nice and all, but would the CUR portal offer the lowest published fares?
NEGATIVE Ghostrider… but we may be able to work with it!
The fare through the CUR Travel Portal is $638… $35 higher than the lowest published fare. Paying $35 extra isn’t so bad though, especially considering the extra 50% value provided by the portal for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders! The $638 fare will cost Reserve cardholders just 45,500 CUR points – a nice redemption for a round-trip across the pond!
But might there be an even better option?
Book via American Express Travel Portal
The American Express Portal allows you to book travel at a value of 1 cent per point. Unfortunately, unlike the CUR Portal, American Express does not offer any additional redemption value (i.e. the 1.5 cent per point vale for Reserve cardholders). While the redemption value is wimpy, perhaps the Amex Portal would compensate for this and offer the lowest published fare!?
Not only is the fare $190 higher, but the non-stop flight is not even available! The $772 pricetag would cost a whoping 77,000 Membership Rewards points! Combine that with the lackluster redemption value of 1 cent per point – that’s enough to make the American Express Travel Portal the worst option of the bunch!
Travel Portals do not always provide the best available airfare. This unfortunate occurrence is something that you should always be on the lookout for when searching/redeeming points! Sometimes the price difference is inconsequential, and other times it can be a deal breaker, you never know until you search!
Do your research, weigh the various options, and make an informed decision!
What has been your experience when booking flights through travel portals?