Why you should use your issuer’s travel portal
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If you’re an avid traveler and travel rewards card enthusiast, there’s no doubt you’ve spent time crafting the best strategy to maximize your points and miles.
You’ve probably already figured out that credit card rewards are often more valuable when you redeem them for travel-related expenses. Plus, many of the best travel rewards cards offer boosted rewards for redemptions through issuers’ travel portals. Although booking travel through these portals may seem intimidating, doing so can offer a host of added benefits.
Within your card issuer portal, you’ll see information and resources to help you use your card rewards, benefits and perks in the best way possible. Here, you can explore all the ways you can redeem your rewards. These options usually include shopping, gift cards, statement credits and more. You may also gain access to exclusive experiences, event tickets or other premium services and products offered through your card issuer.
You should also see a place to book travel, which is where the real redemption value lies. Often, you’ll see options for airline tickets, hotels, cruise lines and rental cars, and you’ll be able to book your travel with rewards, cash or a combination of both. If you want to book travel accommodations through the issuer’s portal, you’ll have to be signed in to your account. Then, you can transfer your credit card rewards to travel partners or book travel accommodations directly in the portal.
Here’s what else to know about scoring flexible pricing and availability by booking travel through your card issuer portal.
Why you should book travel through your issuer portal
Before booking a trip, it’s always a good idea to cross-check pricing and availability with your card issuer’s portal. You might find better accommodations along with discounted prices. Booking through your card issuer’s travel portal is also one of the keys to travel hacking, which involves earning and redeeming credit card rewards for travel.
Here are a few reasons booking through your issuer might be a good idea.
You want to get more value from your rewards
Issuers like Chase and American Express offer boosted rewards for booking travel through their travel portals. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offer 25 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent (respectively) more points on travel redemptions through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
Eligible American Express cards operate in a similar fashion when you book travel through American Express Travel. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express provides 35 percent of your points back when using Amex points to book qualifying airfare through American Express Travel (maximum of up to 1,000,000 points back per calendar year).
You want to earn more rewards on travel bookings
At times, you can also earn boosted rewards when you book travel accommodations directly through issuer travel portals. For instance, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can earn 5X points when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards versus 2X points for all other travel spending. And for a higher $550 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 5X points on air travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal and 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. If you don’t book through the portal, you’ll only earn 3X points on travel purchases.
A number of American Express cards also allow you to earn more points on travel booked through the Amex Travel portal. For instance, the Amex Business Platinum offers 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a similar rewards structure with 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year) and 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel.
You want to pool credit cards rewards for better redemption value
If you are familiar with card-combining strategies, then you might know how the Amex trifecta, Chase trifecta or even the Citi trifecta work. A card combination strategy typically involves pairing a more premium travel credit card with one or more everyday spending credit cards to optimize both earning and redeeming rewards.
With a higher-end travel credit card, you may not earn as many rewards in categories where you spend the most money — say, groceries or gas. But these cards typically offer great redemption options for travel-related purchases. If you have an everyday spending card from the same issuer, you can use it to earn more rewards on more common purchases (like groceries or gas) and pool your rewards earnings together into one account.
Issuers like Chase, Capital One and Citi all allow you to pool the rewards you earn across your various cards to redeem them all on one trip. That way, you can get more from your rewards than you would with individual bookings.
You want to compare pricing for your travel accommodations
Not only can you use your issuer’s travel portal to redeem rewards for travel, but you can use it to compare prices across many options. The portals offer customizable search across hotel, airline and rental car brands — similar to how booking sites like Expedia or Travelocity work. Issuer portals can sometimes help you compare prices among several different options. Even better, you might find a special price on the issuer portal that isn’t available on other sites.
For example, Amex Travel offers special Insider Fares. These fares are available at a reduced price to Amex cardholders who pay with points for an entire fare through American Express Travel.
Which credit cards allow you to book through the card issuer’s portal?
Most major card issuers — like Chase, American Express, Citi, Capital One and Bank of America — offer select credit cards that allow you to redeem rewards for travel through their rewards portals. As long as you use an eligible card that earns the issuer’s rewards currency, you’re good to go.
Also, make sure you understand which cards allow you to earn rewards that can be redeemed in the portal. You’ll need to read the fine print for your particular credit card, as rewards structures can vary — even across cards from the same issuer.
For example, Amex rewards cards can earn points or cash back, but not all rewards can be redeemed for travel. For instance, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card* comes with a $95 annual fee and rewards in the form of Amex Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed for travel through AmexTravel.com. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, however, also comes with a $95 annual fee, but it offers rewards in the form of cash back instead of points, which can’t be redeemed for travel.
Chase, however, offers cash back cards that allow you to earn rewards on travel and redeem rewards through the issuer’s travel portal. For example, the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ allows cardholders to earn 5 percent cash back on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can then redeem cash back for travel through Ultimate Rewards, among other options. This is because Chase’s cash back rewards are technically in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which provide more redemption options and access to the portal.
Why you might not want to book through your card issuer’s portal
Using your card issuer’s portal to book travel can come with many benefits, especially if you’re trying to save money. Premium travel cards, for example, often offer strong incentives to redeem rewards through travel portals.
However, you should know your issuer’s travel portal doesn’t always provide the best travel prices. Even if you’ve got enough rewards and cash to book travel with your card issuer portal, you still may not get the best deal for your travel plans. In the portal, there could be both inflated pricing and limited availability for the travel accommodations you’re looking to book.
It’s also worth noting that, if you have elite status through a hotel rewards program, you may not want to book through your issuer portal. For example, hotel programs like Marriott Bonvoy or World of Hyatt might not offer the room upgrades, late checkout or complimentary meals you’re accustomed to if you book through a third-party site.
We recommend always reading the terms and conditions of any issuer travel portal booking closely, as well as comparing prices against other sites. If you end up spending more than you would elsewhere or sacrificing luxury perks, you might be better off bypassing your card’s platform.
The bottom line
There are plenty of benefits to booking your travel accommodations through your card issuer’s portal. It can be a great tool to have when you’re ready to book your next big trip. But the best way to use your issuer’s portal is to make it a part of your overall strategy to get discounts, upgrades and exclusive travel deals.
*All information about The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.