Today’s question is one that is frequently asked with transferable points – Should I book in the portal or with a transfer partner? First up, I will tell you that we usually book with a transfer partner. We usually get better value for our points that way but we also do more bookings internationally or to Hawaii with our points. Often, you can find better pricing in the portal if you are just looking for a short domestic flight though. Because I save my points for more expensive flights, I usually pay with a card for those flights.
We recently posted about how to book award travel and go into more detail about how you should approach booking travel by comparing costs.
Let’s look at going on a couple of trips today and see what we find. In the first example, I am going from Denver to Miami and have Ultimate Rewards.
I am ignoring the redeye flights because I hate to travel like that. I also pass on the Frontier and Spirit flights because, by the time I pay for extras, the cost is higher, and I hate traveling on them. (Sorry to all you Frontier or Spirit lovers out there!) Here is the flight I would consider. For comparison purposes, I chose one from United to compare it with transfer partners. There were also Delta and American flights at comparable prices.
In this instance, I will look on United and look for a roundtrip flight. Will it be less or more expensive with points?
In this case, it was cheaper through the portal. You get 1.25 cents when you book through the portal and that definitely helps. So the answer to our question of “Should I book in the portal or with a transfer partner?” in this case, is the portal.
Now let’s check a more expensive flight. I want to book a flight to Vienna, Austria. We’ll look at the same dates and leaving from Denver and see what we get.
I am putting down the results of the top two even though I can’t really compare the top one with my travel partner search as Austrian Airlines is not a travel partner of Chase. It does give you an idea of cheaper flights though. On the first flight you would have to pay for a seat though and look at the flight time – 30+ hours! You need to consider these things when comparing and deciding which flight is best for you.
I would pick the United flight because it includes my seat and bags and is shorter and just one stop. It will cost me 85K Ultimate Rewards.
In this instance, I picked the times I preferred. Note: I am a United cardholder so do get access to more award availability. If you are going to fly United often, it is a good idea to get a credit card from them at some point so you can get that extra award availability.
Should I book in the portal or with a transfer partner? In this instance, it was cheaper to book with a transfer partner but I have to pay $102.17 in taxes and fees.
Now let’s go on to a business flight. This is where I would expect to see a huge difference in using the portal vs. the transfer partners.
Wow! I am NOT paying 301,949 points for a business class seat.
Let’s check out the United site, using Ultimate Rewards. Flexibility is key in award travel, especially business travel. I like to look at the 30-day calendars and let the award prices dictate when I travel.
Portal or transfer partner bookings – which is best? It depends. Usually, you will do better in the portal (especially Chase since you get that 1.25 cents per point) with domestic, short travels. Business class is usually better through transfer partners and, finally, international economy can go either way. The best idea is to check it out both ways and then decide.
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