Should You Use Credit Card Portals to Book Travel?

Your credit card company wants to play travel agent, too. But there are some caveats to consider when booking through a credit card's travel portal.

A person books travel with a credit card on the internet.
A person books travel with a credit card on the internet.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Earning points and miles using a travel rewards credit card is as simple as a swipe. But your credit card company wants to play travel agent, too. American Express, Bank of America, Capital One and Chase, for example, all have travel portals where cardholders can book flights, hotels, rental cars and more using either their credit card or the points and miles they have earned. And the issuers are providing incentives for cardmembers to do so.

Holders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for instance, can earn up to 5x points per $1 spent on travel purchases made using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Meanwhile, if you booked directly with the airline or hotel, you’d earn only two points on travel. But there are some caveats to consider.

Using these travel portals is similar to booking hotel rooms and flights on Expedia, Kayak or any other third-party booking site. If anything goes wrong during your trip — let’s say your airline cancels your flight or the hotel loses your confirmation — you would have to call your credit card company for help instead of dealing directly with the airline, hotel or rental car company.

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If you need to change your flight plans and you redeemed points or miles for a flight, there’s no guarantee you’ll have those points or miles reissued; you’ll more than likely receive a voucher for future travel. However, if the airline cancels on you, you’re entitled to a refund to whatever account you used for payment, whether you booked with a credit card or with rewards.

And booking via the card portal means you may lose some privileges associated with your hotel or rental car loyalty programs. You may also lose your upgrade privileges. (With airline loyalty programs, you can input your loyalty number when you book via a third party.)

Though there’s no pattern, the price of tickets on travel portals may be higher than what’s offered on the website of the airline or hotel, Nick Ewen, travel rewards expert at The Points Guy, a consumer travel website, told Kiplinger. He mentioned as an example a flight he booked for $300 directly through a major airline's site, after seeing the same flight listed for $329 on a credit card travel portal.

To avoid this — along with any other hiccups associated with third-party bookings — look into transferring your points to your credit card’s loyalty partner program or booking directly with the travel provider, Ewen said.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.