How to Maximize Points for Airline Ticket Purchases

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Presumably, airline ticket purchases are a type of purchase that all traveling families have from time to time.  Heck, you can’t necessarily always use miles and points for tickets…and even if you could, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to do so.  Since this is an expense we all have, it makes sense to get as many points as possible for those purchases.  I’ll share the way I have found to maximize earning points for airline ticket purchases, but I would love to hear other strategies if anyone else has a way that works better for their family.

My favorite way to earn points for airline purchases for most airlines is to combine my two favorite points programs – Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.  Both of these programs are great in their own ways, but my method of buying airline tickets lets you earn points in both programs at the same time.  Here is a step-by-step guide that will tell you how to do it, too.

1.  To follow the plan exactly as my family does, you must have a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card that has the ability to transfer points to hotel and airline partners.  Both the Ink BoldSM with Ultimate Rewards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card fit this criteria.  You could also use other Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards, but I recommend the two listed so that you can then get the most out of the points by being able to transfer them to hotel and airline partners.  You must also have an American Express card that awards 3x points on airfare purchases.  Both the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card and The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN fit that bill (though be aware the business card currently awards no sign-up bonus points).

2.  Go through the Ultimate Rewards portal to access Travelocity.  To do this, log on to www.ultimaterewards.com, selecting “Earn Faster” from the top of the screen, and then use the search tool on the left side of the screen to search for Travelocity.  You need to click “Shop Now” and then make your purchase from the Travelocity site that you linked to from the Ultimate Rewards portal.  This will award 2x Ultimate Reward points for the purchase.  In my experience so far, points have just been awarded for the base fare and not for the taxes.  While I have used non-Chase cards though this portal, just be aware that there is always a small risk in using a different card via this portal.

3.  Pay for your airfare using your Amex card that awards 3x points for airfare.  When your bonus points post, they will post as 2x points for the bonus , and the other 1x base points will post via your regular spending on your statement.

4.  Enjoy the total 5x points earned for airline ticket purchases – 2x via Ultimate Rewards, and 3x via Membership Rewards!

I have used this method myself to earn points while paying for airfare and it worked out just fine.  I would love to hear if you have had success with this method, or if your family uses a different method of earning points for airline ticket purchases, I would love to hear it!

I do want to point out that there are sometimes exceptions that make other strategies better.  For example, if you are flying on American Airlines, it often makes sense to obtain AA gift cards at Costco for 1o% off, and then try to use coupon codes to get additional discounts on the flights (see the comments section of this post for more details).  Additionally, since Southwest gift cards are often available via office supply stores and grocery stores, you can often get 5x points (or possibly more through a portal) for purchasing the gift cards via those routes and then using them to book flights online.  Again, see the comments section for more info.  Very complex tickets or those with high fuel surcharges might also best be booked via a different route, but for many of our “everyday” flights purchases, this is still a very solid strategy.

 

 

I do receive a commission if you are approved for a card by using one of my affiliate links.  

 

Pingbacks

  1. […] For those familiar with fatwallet.com (a cash back shopping portal), think of the UR Mall as Chase’s own shopping portal that gives UR points instead of cash back.  And just like fatwallet, it does not matter which method of payment you use to complete your purchase.  This means that you can use another bank’s credit card to make your purchase through the UR mall, and still get the UR mall bonus points PLUS the category bonus of the payment card!  Boardingarea.com blogger Mommy Points does a great job analyzing and describing this “feature” in her post on airline ticket purchases (LINK). […]

Comments

  1. Great post! If you book the trip through Amex’s “Travel” site, it says you also get double points. I think that would net you 5x points on airfare provided you used an Amex Premier Rewards Gold card.

    Same net points as using the Ultimate Rewards portal, but you get them all as Membership Rewards rather than a split between the two programs.

  2. It’s a great idea for purchasing tickets, But I do want to point out that some of us do what you say we can’t: “Heck, you can’t always use miles and points for tickets…and even if you could, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to do so.” I travel a family of four around the world and haven’t bought an airline ticket in about 7 years! so it can be done!

  3. I know you know this already but you forgot to mention that when you fly southwest, you should buy southwest gift cards from staples using the new ink bold card and going through the ultimate rewards portal for a total of 9x.

  4. Thanks MommyPoints. Its a great tip. I was about to book a ticket to Asia and will use your idea.
    Should net a decent amount of points.

  5. @Billy – 4 points using the Amex portal. 1 base point, 1 bonus point for using the portal, and 2 points for using the Amex PRG.

  6. Really depends on the airline. For example, if flying AA probably makes more sense to buy AA GCs at Costco for 10% discount, 2% executive rebate, 1x credit card reward on purchase, and possibly stack with AA coupon code. Similarly, if flying Southwest, buy southwest GCs at Staples.com with Ink Bold for 9x UR.

  7. I’m just jumping on this bandwagon and have yet to receive my Sapphire Preferred card. I hold the Chase Freedom card, but have no other credit cards or mileage/reward cards. We just found a Palm Springs deal thru Travelocity for Spring Break (Apr 16-20) – yes, I need to pay for this one until I get my mileage built up. Do you have any recommendations for me while I anxiously await the arrival of the Sapphire card? I’m assuming the Travelocity packages have a limited shelf life.

  8. @HikerT agree.. with AA, I always use a coupon code and you can stack with 10% discount on Costco gift card, apply Business ExtrAA account on their website instead of having to get the # added later.

    Otherwise if you are able to book through Travelocity (which often I can’t get the system to put together the flights I need, or price them) then the Travelocity Amex is up to 10% cash back. Starting at the Ultimate Rewards Mall of course.

    But if I can’t use Travelocity, and it’s not AA, then I probably go to Expedia and earn gutted Expedia Rewards points, paying with Amex PRG.

  9. Excellent post…just getting ready to buy tickets for last minute summer trip! Mommy-you do a great job with timing of your posts (at least for me ;0)

  10. @ worldtraveler2…

    I also book rewards travel for my family of four. Would u mind emailing me (bayloop at comcast dot net). I would love to ask you some questions and share tips!

    Thanks MP for a great post!

  11. I have an Amex Open cash back with no annual fee that give me 5% cash back when purchasing at office supply stores. Any info if this works on GC for airlines purchased at staples?

  12. MP, how long has it been since you used AMEX at the UR Mall and gotten points? I made four large purchases this past month via the UR Mall on my Amex Biz card (with the big spend requirement!). I did not get points for any of them, despite repeated calls and SMs to Chase.

    I don’t know if I just got extremely unlucky or they’re tightening up, but I’m out 8,333 points.

    Anita

  13. Mommy points:

    I love your blog, this is the most simple to understand blog that I have found, in plain english, you always breakdown subjects.

    I just love it! Keep up the good work!

    Mil gracias!

  14. Great post, MP! I have been able to book rewards flights for my family of 5 but I will be printing out this post in the event I have to pay $$ in the future. The comments are great too!

  15. One big word of caution, I would not use travelocity for intl tickets that have big YQ’s because they consider them taxes and you do not get credit. So your 2x could be dramatically less than using 1x for say Expedia.

    Cheers.

  16. Disagree. Using Sapphire with ultimate rewards with travelocity gets you 4.28 UR points which is more valuable then 3x MR points and 2x UR points.

  17. @Billy, good idea if you want to focus solely or primarily on MR, but I think that Carl is right that it comes to 4x total.

    @worldtraveller2, you are right that it can be done….I guess that is why I added that “even if you can, it doesn’t always make sense.” Some of the tickets I book are too cheap to use miles on or they are work trips that I certainly wouldn’t use miles on, but you are so right that it can be done. Good job!

    @Goosh, you are correct about Southwest. I will do a separate post on that, but good idea to add a little something about that to this post. Thanks!

    @Rajesh, happy to help.

    @Carl, thanks for helping out!

    @Frequent Flyer Collector, glad it might help you out.

    @HikerT, great point. There are some individual airlines that have better systems elsewhere. Those will get their own separate post, but I’ll add a little something to this post as well. Thanks!

    @Merrily, I would lock it in now if you found something that would work for you. Since you will be getting the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer your Freedom points to the Sapphire Preferred and then would have all the airline and hotel transfer options available. So, you can use this method if you want now (if you have an Amex)via the Ultimate Rewards portal, or just use the Freedom via the Ultimate Rewards portal. I would not risk missing out on a deal you want.

    @Gary, there are so many options out there. Totally agree about AA. I don’t have the Travelocity Amex, but that is great for those who do. I can imagine that many of your flights are not “Travelocity friendlly”. 😉 Thanks for weighing in!

    @robandzoe, glad the timing worked for you!

    @Maya, you are most welcome!

    @BunMama, I don’t see anything in the terms and conditions that would disallow gift cards from Office Max. http://www.officemax.com/home/custom.jsp?id=m6510445, but I haven’t seen Staples listed as an OPEN discounter. Let me know if you have!

    @Anita, that stinks! Are your purchases with a UR card still going through okay? I have used my Amex and other cards in the last couple weeks successfully.

    @Jay, glad you like it. Thanks for reading!

    @CU, glad you like it. The comments section is almost always my favorite part as well. Such great info is shared.

    @Derek, good point. I concur that the points are only given on the base fare in my experience.

    @Joe, that is another straight forward and solid way to earn points as well. It all depends on how you value points. I would value MR less than UR myself if they stopped doing transfer bonuses, but with the transfer bonuses, I value them about equally. All depends on individual travel needs though. Thanks for sharing!

  18. This is a great tip–I’m going to have to remember to do some comparison shopping on Travelocity vs. booking directly on the airline’s site to see if it’s possible to squeeze out extra points using the portal. All the points maximization through portal usage are really helpful!

  19. MP – in your comments to @BunMama you say that terms and conditions for Office Max, but when I go through UR mall it does say “Not eligible on gift cards, clearance items, promotional items, Impress items or service” – Staples however, does not have this in the terms and conditions…can you verify?

    • @Dave, she asked about the 5% OPEN discount using her relevant Amex card, so those are the terms I gave her. I wasn’t referring to the UR portal terms and conditions. Sorry for any confusion.

  20. Quick question – it was my understanding that airline tickets booked through sites such as Travelocity were not eligible for earning miles (or points), could you please elaborate or make a future post clarifying how this works? (I also have the same question about booking hotels through third party sites)…

    • @Edo, you are okay for airline purchases as long as it isn’t a site where you are not shown what flights you are purchasing until after the fact (like bidding on Priceline). With hotels, you are correct that third party sites are usually not technically eligible for earning hotel points.

  21. Hi Mommy Points, thanks for the great info. Could you please do a similar post on how to maximize hotel points when making hotel bookings? Do we use the Chase portal to go through Travelocity as well? Do these bookings on Travelocity count for hotel points? Or should we book on the Chase website itself? Thank you!!

    • @Jenny, I do not book my hotels via a third party due to many restrictions about those bookings earning points with the hotels.

  22. I would just point out that it really depends on what your home airline is and how you use points. I love my Chase Preferred card and use it all the time, but for airline purchases, I use my good old United Mileage Plus card, mainly because it pays me 3 miles per dollar for United purchases over the 2x I get from Ultimate Rewards. Since my home market is United, and I mainly redeem UR points for United miles, I’d rather maximize those miles over any other earning opportunity.

  23. Hi Mommy Points,
    I know we spoke about this deal last month, but I recently had a sobering experience with it. I charged client trips through Travelocity on LACSA airlines and had no issue, but just charged an AA ticket for another client and the charge showed up on my Amex bill as Travelocity.com. No 3x, because unless it shows up as an airline, there are no bonus points awarded. I have been in touch with Travelocity and since it was a straight ticket purchase with no agent assistance, Travelocity can’t figure out why it posted that way at all. So just a word of warning, it COULD go through as a Travelocity purchase, thus no bonus points. So if you really want to be safe, use your Chase Sapphire which will net you 2x on Travelocity purchases (Sapphire posts 2x on travel agencies) plus 2x going through the rewards mall for a total of 4x. Rather than ending up with only 3x if the charge doesn’t post correctly. The Points Guy has mentioned this same concern about Travelocity on his site in the comments on this post http://thepointsguy.com/2011/10/chase-sapphire-preferred-details-on-2x-points-per-dollar-on-travel-benefit/
    Good luck!
    J

    • @jerlovestravel, how strange. Mine posted as a straight travelocity.com purchase and it awarded the 3x points. You are right that there are never any guarantees with this stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Really?? Okay well that’s encouraging!! I called Amex and they insisted it wouldn’t count as 3x when I spoke with them. But only time will tell when those points go to post next month! I’m very encouraged that it posted as 3x for you. You are certain that exact transaction posted for 3x? 🙂

  25. I just booked tickets for my parents from TPA-ORD in mid june on AA. Using the UR travelocity site would have been nearly $100 more than the final booking I made on aa.com……just giving everyone a data point.

    • @noorts, always important to compare prices and not end up paying more just to chase points. Thanks for sharing!

  26. I was reading the terms and conditions for travelocity through UR:

    Please note these terms & conditions: Not eligible on gift cards. Eligible within three weeks of booking. Not eligible on activities, taxes, fees, Top Secret Hotels, insurance, order changes with the call center, travel for good products, Amtrak tickets, Last Minute Deals, or travel booked through other advertisers such as Globus Vacations. Not eligible on rental cars as of 7/12/11.

    What does the “Eligible within three weeks of booking.” mean? Does that mean we only get bonus points if our departure date is within the next 3 weeks?

  27. How long does it generally take for Travelocity UR Mall points to post? I’ve been waiting about 1.5 weeks (used CSP card) and havent seen the UR mall points post to my account. At what point should i start to worry?

  28. I booked 2 itineraries through the UR Mall and didn’t use my Sapphire Preferred (I find the Citi Premier to be more valuable with the flight points). Only 1 transaction is showing as pending, the other one is missing. And the one that is pending is showing 1/3 the total amount spent. Taxes were not 2/3 of the ticket, so I am definitely missing points. I sent a secure message and they said my transactions are eligible once they have posted to my Sapphire Preferred card, which they never will.

    I noticed the Thank You Mall also has Travelocity at 2 points per dollar, so I will likely use that next time around.

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