The beauty of booking travel through Ultimate Rewards

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Not only are Ultimate Rewards points one of the most valuable points currencies, but lately they’ve also been the points currency I’ve accrued most easily.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers three Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare. For the longest time I assumed that meant all airfare, though later found out the hard way that’s not the case when I earned one point per dollar for airline tickets I purchased on Orbitz and Expedia. The bonus only applies when booking directly through an airline, which is rather frustrating since sometimes tickets involving multiple airlines have to be booked through an online travel agency. Still, all of my airfare with US airlines booked directly through their websites goes on the Premier Rewards Gold card.

But this is where the Ultimate Rewards website is awesome. To access the Ultimate Rewards website you must have a card that accrues Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card you already earn two points per dollar on travel, and pay no foreign transaction fees.

But the thing that makes it really rewarding is that if you book through the Ultimate Rewards website you can get the same prices you’d get directly through the airline or from an online travel agency, plus you earn an extra point per dollar, for a total of 3 points per dollar.

To make a booking through the Ultimate Rewards mall just log-in to your account, click on “Travel,” and select “Book a Trip.” From there just enter your travel details, and voila, you’ll automatically earn bonus points.

But it gets even better than that. If you do want to book through an online travel agency, you can also earn an extra point per dollar by visiting the sites through the Ultimate Rewards mall. Booking through Travelocity even earns an additional two points per dollar, for a total of 4 points per dollar spent.

There’s no reason not to book your flights through the Ultimate Rewards website or through their portal whenever possible and earn 3-4 points per dollar spent, something I was missing out on for far too long.

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Comments

  1. Booking through either Orbitz or Travelocity through Ultimate Rewards gives you 4x, or rather 4.28 points.

    The AmEx is useless when faced with UR.

  2. +1 for travelocity.com bookings for airfare. Extra 2.14 pts/$ through UR portal.

    No reason to use united.com for bookings, unless you have an ecert or coupon. The PNR and ticket is updated within minutes on the united website. The 24 hour cancellation policy is also honored by travelocity/united.

  3. Be careful on travelocity though especially with tickets with big taxes and fuel charges. They only calculate based on the base fare. Orbitz is based on whole amount in my experience.

  4. So you are saying the best reward card out there is this? Dump all my other cards and go with this type of card? The only reason I use a reward is for miles on an airline.. in my case… UAL.

  5. @ thedubc — Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred 1:1 to United, and this card is hands down the best card for accruing United miles given the category bonuses and amazing Ultimate Rewards mall, which makes it so easy to rack up points.

    Let me know if you have any questions!

  6. Thanks Lucky. Its not just United, but Delta and AA I assume this would work well with then. I have the triple miles card from UA right now, which does well. I rack up quite a few double miles with it on gas/grocery, etc.

  7. I get 3x MR points using Amex Business Gold Rewards card for airfare when going through UR portal to Travelocity. Also then get 2x UR points. Best of both worlds!

  8. @ thedubc — Keep in mind this card would get you 2.14 points per dollar on dining, ALL travel expenses, and access to the amazing Ultimate Rewards mall. Much better than any United, card in my opinion. 🙂

  9. Do any of those sites allow you to specify a specific ticket class? Suppose on an international UAL flight I want a W-fare ticket, can I do that?

  10. @ Antonio — Unfortunately not to the best of my knowledge. That’s one of those where you’re stuck going to United’s website and forgoing the points unless the lowest fare is a “W” fare to begin with.

  11. Excellent. I had not realized the limitation with the Gold card. And that I could get 4points using my sapphire card. I will now cancel my AmEx gold card and just hold on to my sapphire card. Especially since it has no foreign exchange transaction fee.

  12. @Lucky Looking at face value, you are right that 3.21UR always beats 3MR. However as you know very well MR often has transfer bonuses, so it may not be a straight apples to apples comparison. If you have the flexibility to book travel wherever you want then booking through UR travel is definitely something you should consider. However business travelers are often tied to either booking through AMEX travel agency or having to use a AMEX card in which case Amex BRG is still valuable.

  13. @ thedubc — You’re absolutely right, and like I said I still use the Premier Rewards Gold card for purchases from US airlines made directly on their websites. But as Mommy Points points out above, you can use your Premier Rewards Gold (or Business Gold) card though the Ultimate Rewards website and “double dip.”

  14. Lucky, isn’t there a caveat that says to earn the UR points on Travelocity you must be traveling within 21 days of purchase?

  15. @ Robert — Interesting, just notice that as well in T&Cs:
    “Please note these terms & conditions:

    Eligible within three weeks of booking. Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents. 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.”

    Anyone have any firsthand experience as to whether it’s enforced or not? Odd restriction…

  16. Huh, this was the only reason I was still on the fence as far as keeping my Amex PRG. Looks like it’s going bye-bye. Amex really need to step up their game.

  17. Isnt there a greater risk that things will go awry during IRROPS if you don’t book directly with the airline?

  18. @ Eggss4 — During irrops I don’t see it being a huge issue since the airline can rebook you directly. But if there’s a schedule change in advance it can be a bit time consuming to get rebooked. It’s worth the risk in my opinion, though.

  19. You get 2 extra points on Travelocity and other portals even you don’t use Sapphire card. So, you can use your Amex and get 2 points extra by going through UR mall. Are you sure that if you book airline tickets on Travelocity and its charged by Airline (like Delta appears on Amex statement) you don’t get 3x? Then you can earn 3x plus 2x.

  20. I am confused, I only get 1 point/dollar when using my AmEx Gold card at Orbitz and Expedia, but three at Travelocity (see mommypoints comment)? This is in contrast to your statement “The bonus only applies when booking directly through an airline” unless Travelocity is seen as an airline.

  21. @ Zz — There are two things at play here — the points you get for using the credit card itself, and the points you get for going through a shopping portal.

    You only get one “base point per dollar” if booking through an online travel agency, but can earn bonus points by going through the Ultimate Rewards mall.

  22. Hi Lucky, I’m totally off subject here but am quite curious to know when the next One Mile At A Time SPG giveaway is going to happen. There was the giveaway back in May which I didn’t participate in because I don’t Tweet. But you did say, “This is the first of several giveaways, and there’s another 185,000 SPG points on the way over the coming months.” Only five-and-a-half months left this year; might be a good time to give readers a teaser so we’ve got something to look forward to. 🙂

  23. @ AW — Funny you should ask as the next giveaway will be next week. And I promise the others will be coming after that as well. They correspond with the timing of my SPG “events,” and the next one is this weekend.

  24. Hmm… Spend $2,700 last month on my AMEX Premier Rewards card and have about 5,200 points pending. Bought 2 airline tickets on Expedia at $372 and bought 2 AA tickets at $130 each and doing the math i know both these ses of tickets counted as triple points.

  25. If you book a Hertz car rental through UR -> Travelocity, would you earn 4.28 UR points AND Hertz Gold Points?

  26. I think I stil need my PQMs on the United card…. once I hit the 5000 then maybe switch over. I only have a Chase Freedom, so I suppose I need to move up to Preferred? Can I work the 5% bonus categories to the max on each card?

  27. @lucky I have booked Travelocity tickets through the UR mall outside of 21 days (for a ticket in October to be exact) and I got the rewards no problem. I made the reservation on 6/13 for a flight in October and the points posted as awarded online on 6/16 and then posted on my 6/28 statement.

    Odd disclaimer about having to be within 21 days of flying, but in my experience this has not been the case.

  28. Where does it say you get 1 more point for booking travel through the UR Travel website? I can’t find anything to that effect anywhere.

  29. Are there any extra change/cancellation fees by booking through a third party such as Travelocity? I book a lot of travel for other people and would love to earn the bonus points. I have been hesitant to use third-party vendors for airfare for fear of extra fees and/or restrictions on changing airfare. What happens if airfare is cancelled on a non-refundable rate? Same as if I had booked it on UA.com?

  30. @lucky, in short, for airfare with AmEx Gold you get 3x MR points/$ using Travelocity but 1x using any other online travel agency.
    Is this because Travelocity has a special relationship with AmEx?

  31. @ Lucky: I can confirm the Travelocity 21 day window rule. However, as always, Chase made things right with a phone call when I went looking for the points…

  32. Has anyone found where it says UR will give one more point if you book through the UR Travel site?

  33. Are you sure that you get the annual dividend on the points from the shopping mall? I was under the impression that it was only from CC spend

  34. @ Antonio — Oddly I can’t find it written anywhere right now. Just called multiple times to confirm, and it is in fact the case (and I have points that posted to prove it). 😀

  35. Lucky,
    Another fantastic tip! Just booked through UR to hotels.com for 4x points. Had no idea.
    Already used your link for my last CC application. I try to spread the wealth and help out other bloggers too but you keep saving me/earning me more points!
    J

  36. @ Jeff W,

    Just keep in mind that rooms booked through hotels.com or other third party sites usually don’t count toward elite status qualification. Right, Lucky?

  37. I prefer using BigCrumbs + Expedia to book my flights. Of course in addition to the regular credit card points / miles accrued during flight, I get a couple bucks cash back via BigCrumbs plus I get Expedia Rewards points (which are not very valuable, but I’m getting close to 50K points, which is a $1000 voucher for use at any Expedia hotel!). Also, if you refer people to BigCrumbs, you get a little bit of money every time they use BigCrumbs! http://home.bigcrumbs.com/hungarianhc

  38. @lucky- Zz has a good question in #24 and #35 that has still not been answered.
    In your post you say paying with Amex PRG on an OTA gets just 1 MR (not 3). I assume OTA here includes Travelocity.
    But MommyPoints says in comment 10 that she goes thru UR mall, pays with her Amex PRG and gets all 3 MR.
    Is it true you only get 1 MR for paying directly with travelocity, but if go through UR mall to do that you get the full 3?

  39. Great news in Post #10 from Mommy Points. If that works, seems like that would be the best overall option. Thanks Lucky & Mommy Points! 🙂

  40. If you will be checking baggage you need to take into account that certain UA an AA credit cards provide one or more free bags per person. That cost would probably outway the value of the extra miles.

  41. @ alex — You can use your AmEx Business Platinum through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, though you don’t earn any sort of bonus points for using the card in that regard. The only bonus you’d earn is what you get from using the Ultimate Rewards Mall. You’d be much better off using the Chase Sapphire Preferred in this instance.

  42. @ Jeff W — Thanks Jeff, I appreciate it! And thanks for the tip. Makes a lot of sense to use it for hotels if you’re not chasing points/status, as I believe they’re typically non-qualifying rates.

    @ Erik — That’s correct.

  43. @ greek2me — Ah, now I see it. I guess what it comes down to is whether a given Travelocity purchase qualifies as airfare. In my experience most tickets booked through Travelocity aren’t coded as airfare, though if it’s somehow processed by the airline instead of Travelocity it very well could.

  44. one note of warning – I’ve booked through travelocity before for the points, and when there were serious issues with a connecting flight due to weather the airline (AirTran) refused to help me, and told me I had to speak directly to travelocity about it. Long story short, but I ended up with a much worse flight swap than those who had booked directly with the airline. Now I am very wary to use 3rd party websites if there are connections or any other weather-related issues that may arise.

  45. Yes…thanks Erik (and Lucky). For this trip I’m staying at a smaller more boutique hotel so no worries about elite status. Excellent point and reminder though.

  46. I have received points booking both in and out of the stated 21 day window with Travelocity. I suppose YMMV, but hasn’t been a problem for me so far.

  47. Another excellent post Lucky! However, please clarify one thing with me.. when I go thru the method booking tix via UR as you mentioned, in the end, do I pay with $$$ or do I pay with UR points?
    THanks

  48. @ flyer708 — While the Ultimate Rewards lets you redeem points as cash towards travel, it’s not a very good value. So you’re just the Ultimate Rewards website to book revenue travel and earn extra points.

  49. @Lucky
    That was what I was trying to figure out when firefox was not loading. Glad to have double confirmation though. Thanks

  50. @Antonio and Lucky

    As for the extra pt for using the UR travel portal, this is stated in your CC statement:

    “As a Chase Sapphire Preferred customer you earn 1 point per dollar on all purchases, and an additional point for each dollar you
    spend on travel and when dining at restaurants. Plus, you earn an additional point per dollar spent when you book airfare and hotel accommodations online through Ultimate Rewards. Learn more about your card benefits at http://www.chase.com/ultimaterewards

  51. Does the airline recognize your status, for example if I booked a flight on United through UR – can I add my FF # on the UA website after the purchase and earn miles + receive the membership level benefits?

  52. @ Simon — Yep, they sure do. At the time of booking you can enter your FFP number, or if you prefer you can add it directly with the airline after ticketing.

  53. Hi, I was booking united award tickets for US-Europe-US and the taxes amounted to approx $130 per person.
    Can one go through the ultimate rewards malls to book united award tickets in which only taxes portion is paid with a credit card and still earn the UR points?

  54. Do you have to pay for the travel booked using the UR site to reach expedia with the Chase credit card in order to get the points for booking using the site?

  55. If I use my Ink Bold biz card to buy Visa or Amex gift cards at an office supply store, I get 5 points per $. I believe I can then use these to pay for air travel and get the 5 points that way. I can either go directly through the airline or if I use the portal I can earn even more. Is this correct?

  56. @ TS — I believe you actually have to use one of your linked cards to make the purchase, so I don’t believe you could use a gift card. That being said you’d be better off outright using the gift card to make the purchase. Just keep in mind you don’t have any consumer protection that way.

  57. Thanks, I did mean using the gift card directly with the airline so I would get the 5 points through the purchase of the gift card but no more than that. I’m not clear on the consumer protection risk. Can you please elaborate. Thanks

  58. @ TS — In that case that would be possible. You don’t have consumer protection if you use a gift card, but the 5x points are probably worth it assuming you’ll probably keep the trip.

  59. There was a comment about not getting free checked bags when booking this way. So if one doesn’t have status, like myself, but has a airline cc that allows free bags, would I still have to pay baggage fees, or would putting my ff # be sufficient to get the free baggage waiver? Thanks.

  60. You now get 3x MR points with the Amex Premier Rewards Gold on travel plus 1x point if you use the amex travel site. So now 4x point per dollar. It looks like Amex is out to stay competitive.

  61. I think the rewards points for the INk Bold card have been changed, have they not?

    The advert that the original post links to now says “20% off when booking through Ultimate Rewards”.

    I assume this replaced the bonus points?

  62. @ ER — That’s simply the “pay with points” option, whereby you get 1.25 cents towards the cost of travel. There’s still the option to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partner programs.

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