Choosing Between a Travel Portal or Booking Direct

Choosing Between  a  Travel Portal or Booking Direct

A Guide to Making the Right Decision

When it comes to planning your next trip, there are several options for booking travel. You can choose to book directly through the website of an airline, hotel, rental car company, or other travel provider. Alternatively, you can use online travel agencies like Expedia or Skyscanner. Many banks also offer their own portals, such as Capital One Travel and Chase Travel. While there have been some horror stories associated with cancellations through portals, booking through a credit card-linked portal can be an attractive option. To determine the best approach for your next vacation, consider asking yourself the following nine questions.

1. Will you forfeit status perks and earnings?
When booking a hotel room through online travel agencies, you may not receive stay credits from the hotel brand, and any nights that would typically contribute towards your status won’t be counted. Additionally, as a member with elite status, you may not receive the usual perks during your stay. However, many hotels offer a best-price guarantee, allowing you to request a match to a better price found elsewhere. This way, you can enjoy loyalty benefits without spending more than necessary.

2. Do you have travel credits on your credit card?
Several credit cards offer travel credits on your statements when you book through their travel portals. For example, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers $300 in annual credits when you reserve flights, hotels, and rental cars through the Capital One Travel portal. Similarly, The Platinum Card from American Express offers an annual hotel credit worth up to $200 for prepaid reservations at Fine Hotels + Resorts properties or The Hotel Collection. If you have a travel credit you have yet to use, take advantage of it before it expires, but make sure your booking qualifies for reimbursement.

3. What will cost you the fewest points?
If you have accumulated enough points in credit card portals like American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, consider which redemption option will require the fewest points for your trip. Sometimes, transferring your points to a partner program and booking through their website may be the most cost-effective option. On the other hand, it may be cheaper to keep your points in your credit card account and use them through the card’s travel portal. Always compare both redemption options before transferring your points to ensure you get the best value.

4. What will get you the most points on your credit card?
Consider which credit card offers the best rewards for each travel purchase. For example, the Capital One Venture X card provides 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10 points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars and 5 points on flights when booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal. The Amex Platinum card offers 5 points per dollar for prepaid hotels booked through the Amex Travel portal. Always compare the rates to determine the most advantageous option.

5. Do you have to choose between rental car loyalty perks and a better price?
When booking through online travel agencies or credit card portals, you may not receive any elite benefits associated with a rental car loyalty program. Most online travel agencies and credit card portals do not provide an option to add your rental car loyalty number to the reservation. Even if they do, the rental agency often doesn’t honor the associated benefits. In these situations, you must decide whether booking the lower price or receiving perks is more important.

6. Will the hotel give preference to guests who booked directly?
When booking a hotel through a third-party website instead of directly with the hotel, you may not receive the same perks. For example, you may not be able to use the mobile check-in feature or be assigned a less desirable room. Consider these factors when deciding how to make your hotel booking.

7. Can you get free perks from hotels booked via a portal?
Some hotels offer free perks when booking through a portal. Take advantage of these extras if you’re paying cash for a hotel. American Express, for example, offers additional benefits for bookings made through their travel portal.

By considering these questions, you can determine the best approach for planning your next trip. Whether you choose to book directly, use an online travel agency, or utilize a credit card portal, make sure to prioritize your preferences and needs to get the most out of your vacation.

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