Earning points and miles is a great way to fly more for less. That’s how I’ve been on the road this long — and I’ve seen the difference it makes for my readers, too.

I write a lot about the best credit cards to get based on your travel goals, but I’ve talked less about them how To use those points.

Today, I want to change that because I keep getting emails from people about how it takes too many points to book a flight. When I follow up, it’s because they’re booking through a credit card travel portal and that’s something you should rarely, if ever, do!

Travel rewards cards offer two main ways to use the points you earn to book trips:

  • By transferring points to their travel partners
  • Using the card issuer’s booking portal

For those who are new to earning and using points and miles, there is a lot of confusion about which is the best option. Travel credit cards position their portal as the best option for using your points. But, in reality, they hardly ever are.

So let’s talk about why this is so.

The low-down on travel portals

Travel portals are online travel agencies (OTAs) offered by banks as part of the benefits of having one of their rewards cards. They work exactly like other OTAs like Expedia or Kayak, where you can book flights, hotels and rental cars by searching for availability through their search engine.

The main difference is that these travel portals are linked to your credit card. This allows you to use your points and miles when making a booking. You can also choose to pay partly with points and partly with cash.

Using a travel portal is basically like using your points as cash back. You get a fixed value per point and you will also earn points/miles on your bookings.

Credit card companies position their portals as the best way to use points. They should You use the portal and stay in their ecosystem so that they can earn money from you.

To keep you on their site, they offer incentives that you can get only while using their portal. These incentives include:

  • Travel credits – If you use a portal, many cards offer statement credits to offset your purchases. For example, the card_name Offers a $50 USD hotel credit when booking through Chase TravelSMAnd card_name Capital One offers a $300 USD annual credit for bookings through Travel.
  • Increase the power to receive rewards – You will earn extra points while using the portal. For example, Capital One Venture X and The card_name The card offers 10x on both hotels and rental cars and 5x on flights when booked through their portal.
  • Increase point value – You will get a slight increase in the number of points/miles you can cash in just by using the portal. For Chase Sapphire cardholders, for example, 1 point becomes 1.25 or 1.5 points (with Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, respectively) when booking through the portal. (While that sounds like a great deal, you can usually get better value per point when transferring to travel partners, as I’ll get to below.)

The travel portal is simple and convenient. However, using them is usually not the best value for your points. What you gain in ease and convenience you lose in fixed redemption value which is usually not the best.

The low-down on transfer partners

On the other hand, you can transfer points directly from your account to where you want to book (such as an airline or hotel). While transferring your points to travel partners is a little more work, you can get more value out of your hard-earned points this way.

Only certain cards earn you transferable points. For example, airline- and hotel-specific cards (eg card_name Or card_name) only gives you points that can be used on that airline or hotel. They are less valuable, because they are less flexible. Transferable points are valuable (and what you should aim to earn), because they are so flexible.

Here are some types of transferable currencies and some cards that earn them:

  • American Express Membership Rewards: Platinum Card by American Express, American Express Gold Card, American Express Green Card.
  • Pursue Ultimate Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Inc Business Preferred® Credit Card.
  • Built Rewards: Built Mastercard®.
  • Capital One Mile: All Capital One Venture cards.
  • City Thank You Awards: Citi Premier® Card.

Each transferable currency has different travel partners (many overlap). Here are some of Chase’s travel partners, listed in Chase TravelSM Site:

While the actual value you can get varies greatly depending on the flight or hotel, a good benchmark is Monthly Evaluation Chart of The Points Guy, which values ​​most transferable currencies at over 2 cents per point when used as transferable points. That’s double what you’ll get on a travel portal, and often you can get a lot more.

That’s because when transferring your points, you can also take advantage of transfer bonuses offered by credit cards and flash deals (such as Air France-KLM Flying Blue Promo Awards, which are monthly deals on award flights). . These can be amazing deals, up to 50% off!

While searching for award availability directly with airlines can seem overwhelming, the good news is that tools like Point.me (an award flight search tool) make it easier than ever.

Generally speaking, I always transfer my points. Doing so provides the best value and booking direct ensures that there is no third-party involved if there is a problem with my flight. Additionally, it takes much less points for redemption this way. Let me tell you why in the next section.

Partners vs Portals Comparison: Which is Best for You?

Unless it’s a super cheap flight or room (less than $150 USD), I always transfer points to travel partners, especially when booking business-class flights or better hotel rooms. You simply get more bang for your buck.

For example, a business class flight from New York to Paris in peak season is 88,000 points each way on United (both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Built Rewards transfer to United). Those flights usually cost around $2,400 (although they can get as high as $5,000). If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Built Rewards card and book through their respective portals, you’ll need 192,000 points (each point is worth 1.25 cents in either portal). Double what you need when transferring your points directly to United Bookings.

Since most flight redemptions for economy start at 20,000 points (when transferring directly to airlines), you need to find a flight that costs less than $250 to be eligible to use the portal. This is the case when using Chase Sapphire Cards or Built Cards, which offer you more than 1 percent points when booking through their portal. For Amex or Capital One cards, you get just 1 cent per point/mile. That means you’ll need to find a flight for $200 or less to make it make sense to use their portal.

For hotels and rental cars, it’s a little less black and white because you don’t always have transfer partners.

For example, I’m booking hotels through the Chase travel portal on an upcoming trip to Barcelona because there are no rooms bookable with points. (You can only transfer points from a credit card to chains like Hyatt or Marriott.) Since hotels are $300 and up per night, I only use my points to save money by booking non-chain hotels. I won’t be able to book with points otherwise. There is an exception to this rule.

Here are some other cases in which using a portal is your best option:

  • There are no award seats available on your desired flight (such as if you are flying during peak season or during the holidays) or hotel (such as if you want to book a boutique hotel that cannot be booked with points).
  • You’re booking a rental car and want to use points (you can’t book a rental car directly with points).
  • You’re chasing airline status and want to earn points on your booking.
  • You just don’t use your points otherwise.

About that last item: always consider your travel goals and decide whether the ease and convenience of using the portal is worth it to you. Using your points, no matter what, is better than having them sit around! Never collect your points. They are depreciated all the time. So use them instead of losing them!


Travel portals can be an exciting way to use your points. They are convenient, and banks encourage you to use them. If you’re new to points and miles and just want an easy way to cash in your earnings, it’s definitely an option.

However, you can usually get better value by transferring your points directly to airlines or hotels. The fewer points you use per trip, the more points you’ll have for more travel (or more points for flying/staying in luxury).

But the great thing is that you don’t have to choose transfer portals or partners. You can mix and match depending on the best option at that time. So do a quick comparison and use points to book your next trip!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book your flight
Find cheap flights using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it finds websites and airlines from all over the world so you always know that no stone is left unturned.

Book your accommodation
You can also book your hostel Hostelworld. Use if you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel Booking.com Because it consistently offers the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellation. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I have had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that provide great service and value are:

Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodations – all at no extra cost. Check out my guide to choosing the right card and my current favorites to get started, and check out the latest great deals.

Need help finding activities for your trip?
Get your guide There is a huge online marketplace where you can find great walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides and more.

Ready to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use while traveling. They are best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

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Editorial Disclosure: “Opinions, reviews, analysis and recommendations are solely those of the author, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. This page does not include all card companies or all available card offers.”

For Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card rates and fees, View rates and fees.

For Delta SkyMiles(R) Gold American Express Card rates and fees, View rates and fees.

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