I seldom book in the travel portals, preferring to transfer points and miles and book directly with an airline or hotel. You may wonder why and so here are my 3 reasons why I seldom book in the travel portals.
Because you are working with a third party, it is much harder to change dates or cancel and get your points back when things don’t work out. For instance, if you book a Hyatt hotel on their site and decide the trip won’t work, you just hop on to Hyatt’s site, cancel, and your points are back in your account almost immediately. If you booked the same hotel through one of the portals, you have to call, wait forever for a human, and hope they know how to help you.
We booked a stay at Beaches in Turks and Caicos through the American Express travel portal and then COVID hit. Despite it not being our problem, we were unable to cancel the trip. It took numerous calls to rebook it post- pandemic and cancellation was not an option we had. I swore that I was done with American Express Travel after that experience.
I have heard numerous stories of people having problems if they change or cancel a trip via a portal. You can sometimes save money using the travel portals but my advice is, to know that you are for sure using that flight or hotel. If you aren’t sure, book directly with the site.
I recently got burned booking through the Capital One Portal. Now, it wasn’t exactly their fault I must say. I just (wrongly) assumed that most bookings were changeable or refundable. I used my $300 travel credit from my Capital One Venture X card to book a hotel and then decided the trip wasn’t going to work out for me. When I went in to cancel, noticed this:
To be honest, I haven’t booked a hotel in a portal before as I have a lot of points. I needed to use my $300 travel credit before it expired though and decided to do it for this trip. When I went back, I tried many “dummy bookings” and was shocked that most were non-refundable. My hint: buyer beware! Had I used points and booked directly on a site, I wouldn’t have had a problem. Now, I still love this card and will keep it, I will just be much more careful when I book through their portal for my annual $300 travel credit!
In most cases, when booking through a third-party site, you will not get your elite status benefits nor your elite night credits. This is another reason that I seldom book through travel portals. I have Marriott Platinum Elite status. If I booked through a travel portal for a Marriott hotel, I’d lose out on free breakfast, a possible room upgrade, late checkout, etc. Nope! Travel portals don’t work for me because I like those extras!
I am definitely NOT saying to NEVER book through the portal. If you are booking a domestic flight then it could be cheaper through a portal, especially if you are getting 1.25 cents per point with the Sapphire Preferred card (or 1.5 cents with the Reserve). My purpose here is to educate our readers about potential problems so you don’t get burned if you need to cancel or change a reservation.
It is still the easiest way for beginners to book travel and if you know that you are taking the trip, go for it! We just want you to have all the facts.
I prefer to use my points and miles and transfer them to partners. I can then book directly with a site and retain my elite perks and have less trouble if I change plans. Please let us know how the travel portals have worked for you below!
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