Most Rewarding Way to Purchase Airline Tickets in Q4

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It seems like just about every rewards credit card out there these days has bonus points for some type of purchase (which is a good thing!).  One of the common bonus categories is for airline ticket purchases, so it can sometimes be challenging to determine what card is the best to use when purchasing tickets.  I have received many questions on this topic recently, especially since there are some limited time offers for airline ticket purchases currently available with some credit cards.

Chase Freedom Visa:

From 10/1 – 12/31, the Chase Freedom will offer 5x Ultimate Reward points for airline purchases.  This makes the card a very good contender for airline purchases, but there are a few details to be aware of with this offer.  The first detail is that it is limited to $1,500 for the quarter for all of the 4th quarter 5x categories, so it you have large expenses in those categories then keep that in mind.  It may make sense to save the 5x for some of the other categories that are unique to the Freedom and use a different card for airfare purchases.  The next detail is that according to the terms, the tickets must be purchased directly from the airlines to be eligible.  Assuming that the terms are enforced as they are written, then that means that you will be forgoing two points per dollar by booking tickets through Travelocity on the Ultimate Rewards portal.

US Airways MasterCard:

This card is worthy of it’s own topic since there is a promotion going on through 10/31 that offers 2x redeemable and elite qualifying miles on US Airways flights if you book a flight on the US Airways website and pay with the US Airways MasterCard.  The same promotion offers 2x redeemable miles if you pay with any other MasterCard.  This is 2x on the miles earned for the distance of the flight, plus the card always earns 2x on the purchase price of US Airways flights.  So, if you purchase a $300 ticket that is for a total of 4,000 flown miles then the ticket would earn 600 miles for the purchase plus 8,000 miles for the distance flown.  This would be in addition to any elite bonuses you may receive.  If you don’t care about elite qualifying miles, you could pay with a Chase Freedom MasterCard and double-dip two awesome promos.  Just make sure to register for the promo so you don’t miss out.

Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card or The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN:

These cards are always in contention when discussing airline ticket purchases.  Both of these cards provide 3x Membership Reward points for airline purchases.  What is great about this option is that it can be paired with purchasing a ticket via Travelocity on the Ultimate Rewards portal for an additional 2 Ultimate Reward points.  That means you are looking at a total of 5 points (3MR and 2UR) for the money spent on airline tickets.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives 2x on all travel purchases – this includes airfare.

Airline Specific Credit Cards:

Airline specific cards like the United Explorer Card, Citi AAdvantage Card, etc. typically offer 2x miles for airline tickets for their own specific airline.  In some cases it is advertized that you must use the airline-specific cards in order to get the associated benefits like early boarding, free checked bags, etc. so it is also important to weigh those factors when deciding what card to use.

Meeting Minimum Spending Requirements:

Many of us also have other credit cards that we are working on hitting minimum spending limits on in order to trigger sign-up bonuses.  For example, I am still working on the spending requirement for my Business SPG Amex, so it is tempting to put airline purchases on that to inch closer to the $5,000 threshold.  However, that card does not provide any bonus for airfare, so it isn’t the ideal card to use in most situations.  If I thought I needed to divert every single penny of purchases to that card in order to hit the minimum spending limit in time, then I would use that card for airline purchases (after going through the UR portal).  Since my calculations show I will be able to hit the requirement without using it for airline tickets, I will instead put my airline tickets on other cards that will bring in more points for the purchase.

Those are some of the things to take into consideration when deciding which card to use, but I am sure there are other factors or offers in play for some.  I’d love to hear what strategy you have for making your airline purchases for the next few months.


Disclosure:  I do receive a commission for approved applications for some credit cards linked in this post.  As always, your support is greatly appreciated. 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. If someone is purchasing tickets on an international airline (Singapore Air), the Am Ex Gold charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

    • Lively, good point. If you have any international transaction it usually makes sense to use a card w no foreign transaction fees.

  2. Sorry if this is too off subject–I tried to go through Chase to book some travel and their website has been down about 90% off the time for the last 5 days. Is anyone else having this problem? I have called about it and they say they are working on it. Ended up booking through another site. Kinda concerned that it is taking Chase so long to get it up. If anyone else has any input on this, I would love to know.

  3. Quick question regarding the USair promotion: if I use my usair mastercard to purchase a ticket for my boyfriend who is trying to achieve status, and will make it with the double preferred miles, am I correct in thinking he will receive the double preferred miles and I will receive the 2x credit card spend (as with any usair purchase)?

  4. If your using the Chase SP card, probably the best way to maximize points to to go through the ultimate rewards mall and buy your tickets through Travelocity. You can get 4.28 points/dollar this way.

  5. @ Kathy: Chase had a banner up on their site last week announcing the site would be down several times over the last several days, and that they are rolling out a new site formatting – this is likely what you have been seeing.

  6. I have a loosely related question also. If you book through Travelocity (or any third party for that matter), and the fare goes down, can you request a fare adjustment like you could if you booked directly through the airline? I know about Travelocity and other sites’ policies regarding fare drops within 24 hours of booking, but I’m talking about a week or even several weeks later. Thanks!

  7. hi
    does amex business gold earn 3x points on air tickets from online travel sites such as travelocity, expedia etc? i thought it earns 3x only when the ticket is purchased through airline website…

  8. Something interesting about Freedom 5% and travelocity.
    So I booked 2 flights through travelocity since this quarter started and canceled one of them. I went through the Sapphire Preferred portal using Freedom.
    Both charges posted as United Air on the card. No 5% reward is given on the statement that closed on Oct 4th. So I wrote to Chase asking about the points.

    Dear Y. Jiang,

    I have received your e-mail regarding the 5% cash back

    After activating, rewards are calculated from the start of
    the offer time period. It may take our rewards processing
    a few days after purchases are posted to include them on
    your monthly statement. When you make a purchase during
    the last few days of this credit cards monthly statement,
    it may not be credited into your 5% bonus until the next
    statement closes. Therefore, we advise all of our
    cardmembers to wait 6-8 weeks for all of your rewards
    points to appear on your account; because we want to make
    sure you receive all points that you’ve earned for your

    The bonus rebates on the United Air charge for $345.60
    dated 10/04/2012 will post on the 11/04/2012 statement.

    If you have any further questions, please reply using the
    Secure Message Center.

    Thank you,

    Rendell Fernandes
    Customer Service Specialist


    Account is owned by Chase Bank USA, N.A. and may be
    serviced by its affiliates.


    Original Message Follows:

    I checked my Oct 4th statement and noticed that I received
    no Oct Dec 5percent bonus. But there is a United Air
    charge of 346 dollars there is another of 326 dollars but
    that one is refunded , so I wonder why.

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