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If you’re an avid traveler and credit card travel rewards 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 often have the most value when you redeem them for travel-related expenses. With the best travel rewards cards, these boosted rewards often come from credit card issuer’s travel portals.
Although booking travel through your card issuer’s site may seem intimidating, it’s worth learning how to use it. If you do, you could reap a number of benefits offered in these portals.
Booking through your credit card travel portal
In your card issuer portal, there’s information and resources that help you use your card rewards, benefits and perks the best way possible. Here, you can explore all the ways you can redeem your rewards. These usually include shopping, gift cards, charitable donations 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. This is where the real redemption value lies. Often, you’ll see options for airline tickets, hotels, rental housing, cruise lines and rental cars. Typically, you are able to book your travel with rewards points, cash or a combination of both.
If you want to book travel accommodations through the issuers portal, you’ll have to be signed in to your account to do so. Once you are signed in, you can usually transfer your credit card rewards to travel partners or book travel accommodations directly in the portal.
Checking and booking travel through your card issuer portal might seem like an extra step, but, as we’ll discuss below, it could give you better pricing and availability.
Which credit card issuers have travel portals?
The follower issuers allow you to redeem points, cash back or miles for travel accommodations directly through their rewards website:
Why should I book travel through my issuer portal?
If you’ve got any travel planned, 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.
Perhaps most importantly, booking through your card issuer’s travel portal is one of the keys to travel hacking—earning and redeeming the most travel possible with your rewards points.
Here are a few reasons booking through your issuer might be a good idea.
You’ve got rewards and you want to get better value from them
Issuers like Chase and Amex actually offer boosted rewards for booking travel through their websites. For instance, using an eligible Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to book travel on the Ultimate Rewards site allows you to boost your points’ value to 1.25X, 1.50X and 1.25X (respectively) on travel instead of the normal 1X redemption rate.
Eligible American Express cards operate in a similar fashion when you book travel through American Express Travel. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, for instance, gives you a 35 percent points bonus when using Amex points to book qualifying airfare through AmexTravel.com (up to 500,000 bonus points per 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 rewards 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 spend on the card.
For a higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 5X points on air travel and 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals booked in the Ultimate Rewards portal, while you’d only earn 3X points on travel if you don’t book through the portal.
A number of American Express cards allow you to earn more points on travel. Eligible Amex cards might offer up to 2X points on prepaid rental car bookings through Amex Travel. Both The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Amex Business Platinum offer 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com. Here are some more tips on how to get the most travel from your Amex Platinum points.
You can pool points across different credit cards 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. This 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.
Issuers including Chase, Amex and Citi all allow you to pool the points 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 credit card rewards travel portal to redeem rewards for travel, but you can use it to compare prices across many options. The portals offer a search by location and date and return results across hotel, airline and rental car brands—similar to how 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 to Amex cardholders with enough Membership Rewards points to cover the entire cost of the flight and tend to be the lowest available price.
Which credit cards allow you to book through the card issuer’s portal?
Most major card issuers—like Chase, American Express or Bank of America—offer credit cards that allow you to earn rewards that can be redeemed in their rewards portal towards travel. As long as you use an eligible card that earns the issuers’ rewards currency, you’re good to go.
If using your card’s rewards in your issuer’s travel portal is important, make sure you understand which cards allow you to earn rewards that can be redeemed in the portal and the ones that don’t. You 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 offers cards with several types of rewards like points or cash back, but not all can be redeemed for travel. For instance, the Amex® EveryDay Preferred Credit Card is a no-annual-fee card that allows you to earn Membership Rewards points. The Amex Platinum card offers them, too, but also plenty of perks and benefits along with a hefty annual fee. Other Amex cards, like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, offer cash back instead of Membership Rewards.
Chase cards have a similar lineup. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ allows cardholders to earn unlimited 5 percent cash back on purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Chase Sapphire cards earn at the same rate (5X points for travel purchased through the travel portal) but allow you to redeem Ultimate Rewards points on the travel portal at a much higher value—25 percent with Chase Sapphire Preferred and 50 percent with Chase Sapphire Reserve.
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. And premium travel cards offer strong incentives to redeem points via the issuer’s travel portal.
However, you should know your issuer’s travel portal isn’t always a silver bullet in your quest for the best travel prices. Even if you’ve got enough points and cash to book travel with your card issuer portal, you may not get the best price 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 can be frustrating to have enough points to book travel through your card issuer portal, only to find that there’s little to no availability for your plans, but it can happen.
Another issue is if you’ve got elite status through a hotel rewards program that provides upgrades and perks. Many 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 portal travel booking closely, as well as comparing prices against other sites. If you are spending more than you would elsewhere or will have to sacrifice luxury perks, you might be better off bypassing your card’s platform.
The bottom line
There are plenty of pros and cons to booking your travel accommodations through your card issuers portal. So, you might choose to use it intermittently for your travel needs. The best way to use your credit card issuer portal is to make a habit of using it as one of many ways to book travel and compare pricing among many options. It can be one part of your overall strategy to get discounts, upgrades and exclusive travel deals.