Battle of the credit card travel portals: Which is the best for booking flights?

27 March 2023

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

American Express, Capital One, Chase and Citi are four of the major players in the travel credit card space. As such, these issuers offer their own travel portals, where users can earn and redeem their points and miles for flights, hotels, car rentals and more.

These issuers also incentivize their cardholders to use the bank’s own portal, done by offering bonus points on bookings.

For instance, with the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn 10 miles per dollar on hotel and car rentals and 5 miles per dollar on flights — but only when booked through the Capital One Travel portal. Purchases made outside the portal earn 2 miles per dollar.

Likewise, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on all travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Otherwise, you earn 2 points per dollar on those travel purchases.

Given the lucrative earning potential that booking through these portals presents, it begs the question: Is it worth your time to use them rather than booking directly?

In this guide, we put these four travel portals to the test when booking flights. We compared price, ease of use, redemption value and other metrics.

Methodology

For this analysis, we limited our research to flights and didn’t include hotels, rental cars or other travel. That’s because we generally recommend that you avoid booking hotels through a third party since you likely won’t receive elite-status benefits (if you have any) or earn elite-qualifying stay credits.

If you’re not concerned with earning hotel elite status or are booking an independent hotel, then booking your stay through a travel portal could be advantageous for you.

It’s also worth noting that you can get elite-like perks at hotels, even without elite status, by booking with these programs: Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts, Amex’s The Hotel Collection, Capital One’s Premier Collection, Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, Citi’s Hotel Collection and Citi’s Luxury Hotel Collection.

With flights, you may be able to “double-dip” your earnings: You can usually earn bonus points on bookings through your card issuer’s portal and earn airline and elite-qualifying miles just as you would by booking directly through the airline. That said, here are the features we examined in each portal:

Results: Do you get comprehensive results when searching through the portal?
Price: How do the prices compare to booking directly with an airline versus through a portal?
Ease of use: Is navigating the portal easy for a user? What unique features or benefits do users get from using this portal?
Redemption value: Is it worth redeeming your points and miles for travel through a portal?

With these four factors in mind, here’s how the individual issuers’ travel portals stack up.

American Express Travel portal

AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

Any American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points grants access to the Amex Travel portal. Depending on your specific card, you may earn bonus points for booking through the portal.

The Platinum Card® from American Express, for instance, earns 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases annually, then 1 point per dollar) and 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings made through Amex Travel. The American Express® Gold Card, meanwhile, earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel.

You can search for flights, hotels, flight and hotel packages, rental cars and cruises on the Amex portal.

Related: Everything you need to know about Amex Travel

Capital One travel portal

CAPITALONE.COM

The Capital One travel portal offers a fresh interface powered by the travel tech app Hopper and is accessible with most credit cards earning Capital One miles or cash back.

Bonus earnings are available, depending on which card you have. Using the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card to book flights in the portal provides 5 miles per dollar; flights booked elsewhere earn 2 miles per dollar.

Currently, you can only book flights, hotels and rental cars through the portal. The portal also houses the Premier Collection for luxury hotels. However, this is only accessible if you have the Venture X or its counterpart, the Capital One Venture X Business card.

The information for the Venture X Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: How to use the Capital One travel portal — now with more cards and new rewards

Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal

CHASE.COM

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal was powered by Expedia for many years, but the issuer migrated to cxLoyalty in 2021.

You can access the portal with your Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, including popular options like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Cardholders can book flights, hotels, cars, activities and cruises on the Chase travel portal.

Related: Why are some flights more expensive through the Chase travel portal?

Citi travel portal

CITI.COM

The overhauled Citi travel portal launched in March 2023 after months of delays. It’s powered by Rocket Travel by Agoda, part of the Booking.com family.

You can access the portal with any credit card earning ThankYou points, and several cards earn bonus points on bookings in the portal. Unfortunately, flights aren’t included in these bonus offerings.

With Citi’s new portal, you can book flights, hotels, rental cars and attractions of numerous types. The portal also offers two hotel programs: Hotel Collection and Luxury Collection.

Related: Ultimate guide to the Citi travel portal

Booking flights

I looked at a variety of round-trip routes with the same dates (roughly six months from now) and gathered the following prices:

Itinerary
Booked directly
Amex Travel
Capital One Travel
Chase travel
Citi Travel

New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) in economy with Delta Air Lines.
$533.
$541.
$540.
$523.
$540.

Tampa (TPA) to Bozeman (BZN) in economy with American Airlines.
$786.
$786.
$786.
$786.
$786.

Baltimore (BWI) to Las Vegas (LAS) in economy with Delta Air Lines.
$720.
$720.
$720.
$720.
$720.

Miami (MIA) to Boston (BOS) in economy with JetBlue.
$418.
$418.
$338.
$418.
$412.

Chicago (ORD) to Milan (MXP) in economy with United Airlines.
$902.
$902.
$902.
$772.
$732.

Nashville (BNA) to Bogotá, Colombia (BOG) in economy with American Airlines.
$535.
$535.
$535.
$535.
$415.

Toronto (YYZ) to Seoul (ICN) in economy with Air Canada.
$1,079.
$1,952.
$1,880.
$ 2,581.
$1,952.

New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) in Delta One.
$2,798.
$2,600.
$2,798.
$2,798.
Not available.

Newark (EWR) to London (LHR) in business with British Airways.
$3,272.
$3,272.
$3,300.
$3,300.
$3,300.

San Francisco (SFO) to Singapore (SIN) in business with Singapore Airlines.
$8,351.
$7,285.
$8,521.
$9,386.
$8,521.

Price

All three travel portals generally fared well when it came to searching economy flights versus booking directly. However, there were a few major caveats worth noting.

Southwest Airlines is not bookable on any of the portals, and tickets for low-cost airlines like Spirit Airlines and Frontier are typically more expensive on the Chase and Capital One travel portals than booking directly. Amex Travel didn’t display any Spirit Airways or Frontier Airlines flights.

When it came to international flights, all of the bank portals struggled at times to match prices or give comparable results versus booking directly. For a deeper dive on some of these routes and flight prices, we did a broader comparison across 20 flights in this guide.

As a general word of advice, domestic flights should yield the same results and price, but it gets tricky when searching for international fares. Your best bet would be to compare the prices and only use a portal when the prices are identical.

Ease of use

The Amex portal is my favorite for a comprehensible search experience, fast load times for results and the simplicity of parsing through the various options.

AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

On the other hand, the Capital One portal offers one of the most visually appealing interfaces, with color-coded dates to indicate the lowest prices in a calendar view — plus price drop protection. However, the Capital One portal did not provide as many options as its competitors on some searches. It also yielded higher prices for international routes, but I’m hopeful that the issuer will continue to make improvements in the future.

CAPITALONE.COM

Based on millions of data points from Hopper, Capital One is supposed to let you know if this is the best time to book via its price watch prediction feature.

CAPITALONE.COM

To standardize the offerings across various airlines, Capital One also provides detailed insights into what flyers can expect from their chosen fare class. With the rise of “basic economy” fares, it’s not always clear what amenities are included in your ticket and what you’ll have to pay for as extras.

Capital One does an excellent job of explaining in-depth features such as seat pitch, aircraft type, and food and beverage options on board.

CAPITALONE.COM

Speaking of basic economy, it’s worth noting Amex Travel rarely (if ever) displays these fares. If you’re looking for basic economy, you should use another portal.

Citi’s new portal does a good job of offering a broad range of results in economy and offering upgrades on the payment page. And being able to book flights plus other travel elements in one transaction is great. However, searching directly for business-class fares is tricky on this portal.

Finally, the Chase portal has seen vast improvements since fully migrating toward its cxLoyalty interface. Previously, when Chase was powered by Expedia, users complained about slow load times and much higher prices than those offered directly by the airlines. Some of those issues seem to have been resolved.

CHASE.COM

While the Ultimate Rewards portal could use some work in cleaning up the interface, the overall user experience is much better than before. That said, it’s also the portal with the highest frequency of price divergence from booking directly — sometimes higher and sometimes lower.

Redemption value

This is not a criterion we used for evaluating these bank travel portals for this particular article. The value of your points or miles can depend on which particular rewards card you carry. Still, it is worth remembering if you intend to use your credit card’s travel portal to earn or redeem points and miles.

Your credit card points or miles are typically worth 1 cent each for flights in your respective travel portal. That’s the case with Amex cards that earn Membership Rewards points and Capital One credit cards. Even with the Capital One’s premium card (the Venture X), your points are only worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel through the Capital One portal. The same applies to credit cards earning Citi ThankYou points.

On the other hand, Chase’s credit cardholders are incentivized to use the Ultimate Rewards portal via a higher redemption value. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each toward travel bookings, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card fetch 1.25 cents per point in value.

CHASE.COM

While not as consistent of a program, American Express offers “Insider Fares,” allowing cardholders to redeem their points for a better value than 1 cent apiece on select domestic and international itineraries. However, these can be quite specific.

AMERICANEXPRESS.COM

Select Amex business credit cardholders can also leverage the Pay with Points benefit to get a 25% to 50% points rebate when booking select airfare through Amex Travel — yet another incentive to book through the portal.

Due to all these card-specific circumstances, we didn’t make redemption values a main criterion for judging these portals for booking flights. Rather, we focused on each portal’s user interface and the availability of competitive fares — as those two factors will probably be the determinants as to whether travelers end up using them.

Related: Why I love the Amex Business Platinum’s Pay With Points perk

Bottom line

Credit card issuers have improved their travel portals over the years, but they’re still far from perfect. While there isn’t a clear winner for the best travel portal, each has unique features and incentives for its cardholders.

If you decide to book a flight through your issuer’s travel portal, be sure to compare that price against booking directly with the airline to get the best deal possible. And don’t forget that you may want to book directly anyway to avoid any headaches down the road. If you need to change or cancel your airfare, booking with a third party can complicate matters when plans change.

Need Help?

Please use the contact form to get support or send an email to [email protected].