9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly
9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly

"9 things to consider when choosing to book via a portal vs. booking directly" is an informative article that explores the factors travelers should consider when deciding whether to book their travel accommodations through a portal or to book directly with the airline, hotel, or car rental company. The article covers topics such as the potential loss of status perks and earnings, the utilization of travel credits on credit cards, the comparison of point redemption options, the accumulation of rewards on credit cards, the trade-off between rental car loyalty perks and price, the preference given to guests who book directly with hotels, the availability of free perks from portals, and the possibility of receiving free nights through booking portals. Whether readers are looking to maximize their rewards, earn elite status, or get the best price, this article provides valuable insights to help inform their decision-making process.

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Will you forfeit status perks and status earnings?

When booking a hotel through online travel agencies like Hotels.com or Expedia, you may not receive your stay credit from the hotel brand, such as Marriott Bonvoy. This means that any nights that would typically contribute toward your status won't be counted. Additionally, as a member with elite status, you often won't receive the usual perks during your stay, like free breakfast or room upgrades. This applies to all major hotel loyalty programs. However, many hotels offer a best-price guarantee, allowing you to request a match to a better price you find elsewhere, even if it's on an online travel agency. With this guarantee, you can enjoy loyalty benefits without spending more than necessary. It's important to prioritize what matters most to you: receiving elite perks and night credits or earning more credit card points and benefiting from automatic discounts for your stay. Keep in mind that flights booked through third-party sites generally qualify as ordinary revenue tickets and are thus eligible to earn points or miles in the given airline's loyalty program. However, be sure to read the terms carefully to avoid booking restrictive basic economy fares.

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Do you have travel credits you can use from your credit card?

Several credit cards offer travel credits on their 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. The perk is issued as a statement credit to your account. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also offers a comparable credit for hotel reservations, though it's significantly lower at $50 per year. If you have a travel credit that you have yet to use, take advantage of it before it expires. However, carefully consider its rules to ensure your booking qualifies for reimbursement.

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, you should carefully consider which redemption option will require the fewest points for your upcoming 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 in some situations to keep your points in your credit card account and use them through the card's travel portal. This is especially true for hotels, as transferring points to a partner hotel loyalty program may provide less value than redeeming them directly through your credit card issuer. It's important to compare both redemption options before transferring your points to ensure that you get the best value.

What will get you the most points on your credit card?

When it comes to travel expenses, you should consider which credit card offers the best rewards for each purchase. For instance, the Capital One Venture X card provides 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Additionally, you earn 5 miles per dollar spent on flights booked this way. Comparing these rates to the 2 miles per dollar earned on purchases made outside the Capital One Travel portal, it's clear which option is more advantageous. Chase follows a similar pattern with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you will earn 10 points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars and 5 points on flights. These rates are significantly better than the 3 points per dollar earned on travel booked through other methods. The Amex Platinum card presents a more drastic example. It offers 5 points per dollar for prepaid hotels booked through the Amex Travel portal. You also receive 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with an airline or through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 in flights per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar spent). However, for hotel reservations booked directly with a hotel, you only earn 1 point per dollar spent. While you can choose either option for airfare, booking hotel stays through Amex Travel is best to maximize your earnings, though you'll likely give up the opportunity to earn hotel points by doing so.

Do you have to choose between rental car loyalty perks and a better price?

When booking through online travel agencies and portals, you may not receive rental car elite benefits associated with a rental car loyalty program like skipping the line during car pickup. This is because 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 such situations, you must decide whether booking the lower price or receiving perks is more important. Ultimately, the decision may come down to the price difference.

Will the hotel give preference to guests who booked directly?

Booking a hotel through a third-party website instead of directly with the hotel may result in missing out on perks. For example, you may not have access to mobile check-in or be able to choose your preferred room. TPG reported a case where a staff member booked through the Capital One Travel portal and couldn't use the mobile check-in feature, resulting in a long line at check-in and a less desirable room assignment. If these drawbacks are not significant concerns for you, then booking through a third-party website may still be a convenient and cost-effective option.

Can you get free perks from hotels booked via a portal?

Booking through programs like Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or Capital One Premier Collection can provide extra perks that may not be available when booking directly with the hotel. These perks may include free breakfast, welcome gifts, or room upgrades. If these perks are important to you and you're willing to book through a portal, you can enjoy a more luxurious and enjoyable stay.

Will you get free nights added to a hotel booking?

Adding free nights to your reservation can be a differentiating factor and a great way to maximize the value of your booking. Some hotel loyalty programs or credit card programs offer free night offers when you meet certain spending requirements or book a certain number of consecutive nights. Taking advantage of these offers can lead to significant savings and a more rewarding hotel stay.

Are there any additional fees or restrictions when booking through a portal?

Some portals may have additional booking fees or restrictions that you should be aware of before making a reservation. It's important to check for any hidden fees or restrictions, such as cancellation policies, before finalizing your booking. Additionally, consider the overall value and convenience of the portal compared to booking directly with the hotel or through other channels.

Do you prefer a personalized booking experience?

Booking directly with travel providers may offer a more personalized experience, as you can communicate directly with the hotel, airline, or rental car company. This can be especially beneficial if you have specific requests or preferences. On the other hand, travel portals may provide a more streamlined and convenient booking process, allowing you to compare prices and options easily. Consider your preference for a personalized or efficient booking experience and choose the option that aligns with your priorities.

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