I’ve always purchased flights through airline websites because I like the idea that if there’s a problem with my trip, I know I can call the airline to handle it (that doesn’t mean they’ll handle the problem, it just means I know whom to call). I’ve never found the online travel agencies to be particularly helpful when I’ve had an issue with a flight – they generally have to contact the airline anyway if there’s a problem.
But I’ve been thinking about how to maximize points generated when purchasing airfare, and it turns out I’m doing myself a bit of a disservice by booking this way.
To maximize points earned, you have three options, depending on the value of the ticket and where you like to earn:
— American Express Premier Rewards Gold card earns you 3x points when you pay for airfare. If you book through the Amex travel portal, you’ll get another bonus point per dollar spent, giving you 400 Membership Rewards points for every hundred dollars you spend on flights.
— If you use the Amex PRG to book a flight on Priceline (not the name your own price part, just the regular online travel agency part) using a Bigcrumbs link, you’ll earn 3x Membership Rewards points plus $4 for each ticket (my referral link for Bigcrumbs). Assuming an average $300 ticket and that MR points are worth a penny (yes, I know, they can be worth more than that), then you’re essentially getting $4.33 back for every $100 spent on airfare.
— You can use the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get you 2x points on airfare. If you book using Travelocity through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll earn another 2x points for the purchase, giving you 400 Ultimate Rewards points per 100 dollar spent on flights. At the end of the year, you also get the 7% dividend on all points earned, giving you 428 points. Those are transferable, of course, to other programs. However, if you use them to pay for travel through the UR portal (which may make sense in some cases if you’re using it for domestic coach travel and cannot find award space available), you get a 25% bonus, giving you roughly $5.35 cash to use towards a travel purchase for each $100 you spend on airfare.
It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth it for you to book through a 3rd party (rather than the airline directly) to get those extra points, but, as in the last example, a more than 5% kickback for airfrare spend is not a bad deal at all.
(Disclosure Note: Sapphire and PRG links are affiliate links)