Little-Known Fact: You Can Get 3X AMEX Points Booking Flights With Orbitz & Other Online Travel Agencies

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Did you know that you can get 3X American Express Membership Rewards points for booking flights with online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia, and Priceline?

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers 3 points per $1 you spend on tickets booked directly with an airline.  But when you book through an online travel agency, the charge usually comes from the airline, not the online travel agency.

So you can earn 3 points per $1 AND rewards points from the online travel agency, plus airline miles!

And, you could benefit from the sometimes better cancellation window offered by some online travel agencies.  Not all airlines let you easily cancel within 24 hours of booking (especially foreign airlines, or for tickets booked close to the date of travel).

Little Known Fact You Can Get 3X AMEX Points Booking Flights With Orbitz Other Online Travel Agencies
Earn 3X Points Buying Tickets From Online Travel Agencies, and Possible Better Cancellation Policy

I’ll explain why booking through an online travel agency is sometimes better than buying a ticket directly from the airline.

Why Consider Booking Airfare Through an Online Travel Agency?

Link:   Orbitz

Link:   Expedia

Link:   Priceline

1.   Earn More Miles and Points

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express earns 3 points per $1 you spend on airfare, as long as the charge comes directly from the airline.

Most (not all) tickets purchased through an online travel agency like Orbitz, Expedia, or Priceline will be billed directly from the airline.  So you’ll earn 3X American Express Membership Rewards points, airline miles, and rewards points from the online travel agency (like Orbitz Rewards).
Little Known Fact You Can Get 3X AMEX Points Booking Flights With Orbitz Other Online Travel Agencies
Earn Even More Points With Rewards Programs From Online Travel Agencies Like Orbitz

Plus, if you go through a shopping portal or cashback site 1st, you could earn even more!

Exceptions to this include some tickets booked on multiple airlines, or package deals (airfare and hotel for example).

2.   Possible Better Cancellation Policy

Apart from getting extra points, the main benefit of booking through some online travel agencies is their better cancellation policy.

The US Department of Transportation requires that airlines refund a paid ticket (even a non-refundable fare) if it’s cancelled within 24 hours of purchase.  This only applies if you’ve bought the ticket more than 7 days before your flight, and if your flight is booked in the US.

Little Known Fact You Can Get 3X AMEX Points Booking Flights With Orbitz Other Online Travel Agencies
US Law Requires Airlines Refund Your Ticket If You Cancel Within 24 Hours, Unless You Book Less Than 7 Days Prior to Departure

Airlines meet this requirement in different ways.  For some, you’ll get a refund if you cancel within 24 hours of booking the ticket.  Others give you until midnight the day after you bought your ticket.

Online travel agencies have different policies, which may be more flexible than certain airlines.

Of these online travel agencies, Orbitz seems to have the most flexible cancellation policy.  And they don’t add service charges to most tickets.

For example, if you booked a United Airlines ticket at 7:00 am on Monday, you’d have until 10:00 pm Central Time on Tuesday to cancel the ticket and get a refund.  If you booked directly with United Airlines, you’d only have until 7:00 am on Tuesday.

And usually, online travel agencies have the same ticket price as on the airline website.  But it’s worth double-checking to be sure.

Are There Drawbacks?

If the online travel agency bills you for the ticket (instead of the airline), you will NOT earn 3X points with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.   That said, in my experience the charge has always been directly from the airline.

Some online travel agencies, like Priceline, may add a non-refundable service charge to airline bookings.  You won’t get refunded the service charge if you cancel.

And if you have to change or cancel your ticket at a later date, you’ll pay fees to the airline and the online travel agency.  You generally can NOT make the changes directly through the airline if you’ve booked through an online travel agency.

Little Known Fact You Can Get 3X AMEX Points Booking Flights With Orbitz Other Online Travel Agencies
Tickets Bought From Online Travel Agencies Can’t Usually Be Changed or Canceled Directly With the Airline

So if there’s a possibility you might have to change or cancel your flight (after the 24-hour cancellation window closes), booking directly with the airline is probably a better idea.

Bottom Line

You can earn 3 points per $1 you spend using the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card when you book airline tickets on sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Priceline.

Even though the 3X points applies to airfare purchased directly from airlines, the charge for most tickets booked through online travel agencies comes from the airline.

And you can earn extra points through the online travel agency rewards program, like Orbitz Rewards.

You might benefit from a more generous 24-hour cancellation policy, depending on where you book.

Do you prefer buying tickets directly from the airline?  Or from online travel agencies?

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