Chase’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Travel Portal

Chase pays some of the highest commissions in the blogosphere. It can be hundreds of dollars per card signup. The travel blogging community is overall pretty friendly, but nothing is played closer to the vest than highly coveted Chase affiliate links. Nothing can financially make or break a travel blogger faster than Chase either granting or revoking sponsorship. And that’s why you will hardly ever see anything negative written about Chase. All you ever hear is whispers, but word on the street is Chase doesn’t like criticism. They don’t ever want to see anything negative. So, if you know what’s good for you, and you don’t want to be blackballed by Chase, then you’d better stick to the talking points.

And that’s why Chase has probably been able to skate for so long on their absolute disaster of a travel portal. It’s a hot mess and after having spent over 3 hours of my Seychelles vacation banging my head against the wall in trying (and failing) to book a 40 minute roundtrip flight, I am mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore! And I am writing it with the full realization that it might not even get read, while potentially costing me thousands of dollars in commissions.

Higher Prices

The Chase travel portal is operated by Expedia. You would think that this means that they offer the same prices as on expedia.com, but they don’t. The prices are usually higher on the Chase portal.

I’m answering a lot of questions from friends lately about flights to Beijing for DEF CON China, so I picked this route at random (but for different dates). This problem is so widespread that literally the first flight I looked at cost more. This example is for Seattle to Beijing, departing June 12th, returning June 19th.

Let’s start with the price on Expedia:

$987 on Expedia. Note this is higher than the $946 price booking direct with Air Canada.

Now let’s check the Chase portal:

Same flights, $78 higher price.

The Chase portal price for the above example is $78 more. The flight I was looking at booking today (but failed to book) between Mahe Island and Praslin Island in the Seychelles was $168.60 booked through the Chase portal, but $151.07 booked directly though the airline. While domestic US flights are generally priced about the same as the Expedia price, international flights, in my experience, tend to run about 10% more. This sucks a significant part of the value out of the points you have earned.

It’s not just flights that are more expensive when booked through the Chase portal. Rental cars can be significantly more expensive. Hotels are also often more expensive.

To underscore this, I’ll use a trip I’m taking in a few weeks as another example. Here’s the current best rate available through the Chase portal for a car from Dollar Rent A Car:

I don’t get why a minivan is cheaper, but we’ll roll with it

Here’s the deal for a “specialty vehicle” (which will probably be a minivan) that I locked in on Priceline. At the time I booked this, cross-checking with Chase yielded an even higher price than is currently offered:

Chase jacks up the rate by almost 30%. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, spending your points this way versus just going for a statement credit at 1 cent per point actually costs you money.

Not All Flights Are Bookable, Even When They Appear On The Portal:

OK, so you’ve decided that you’ll let Chase overcharge you for a flight so you can at least spend the points, while getting 10% less value than you expected. NOPE! The site is rife with technical glitches. Here’s what happened when I tried to buy a flight from Mahe Island to Praslin Island in The Seychelles. The flight appears on the Chase portal. It shows up on Expedia, too. Air Seychelles isn’t some sort of budget carrier or third-tier airline; it’s part-owned by Etihad and uses Etihad Guest as its frequent flier program. It’s the primary airline in a popular (and high-end) holiday desination. While it was $17.53 more to book with the Chase portal, I decided that I’d overlook it.

Ha! Just kidding! I’d select my flights, put in all of my information, get all the way through to the end, and then the following error message would appear:

What payment information? I was paying entirely with points!

That leads to the next problem, which is…

Chase Travel Customer Service Is Terrible

The agents at Chase Travel (which is really Expedia) basically just use the Web site for you. If you have an error on the site, they’ll have the exact same error. They’re unable to deal with any situations that don’t fit the script. And they are on a very strict call timer with every incentive to get you out of their queue as quickly as possible. You are a hot potato, and all they want to do is get you out of their hands.

My first call had no resolution, so I became a hot potato. Chase Travel bounced me over to the bank. Call handling metrics good! The Chase agent was patient and helpful (they’re pretty good on the banking side), looked up my account, and verified that there were no issues that would prevent me from using my account. She transferred me back to Chase Travel. Call handling time minimized! The agent, after spending 3 minutes trying to convince me to “just wait a few hours and try again” had the same problem, and transferred me to something called the “legacy team.” Out of their queue! The “legacy team” agent took my information, we got all the way to the end, and….

…the call dropped. At this point I was into this for close to 2 hours, and I didn’t want to spend any more time on the problem, especially since the Internet connection (which slows down later in the morning–limited bandwidth on the island) was getting really choppy.

I tried again the next day. Another agent had the same problem, and tried to transfer me to the “legacy department.” After a few minutes, she came back on the line and asked me for permission to blind transfer me. I called her on it, but she blind transferred me anyway–into a queue of agents in The Philippines, which wasn’t the correct department. This was now my third agent in the same department (“New Platform”) who ran into the exact same problem. Mind you, I’m giving my name, flight numbers, and listening to disclaimers about non-refundable tickets each of these times. Finally, the Filipino agent got someone in the “legacy department” to have a try, and that agent couldn’t fix the problem either. So, in the end, hours into the problem, the agent offered a creative solution: I could book directly with the airline, and get reimbursed at 1 cent per point.

Yes, because Chase is incapable of selling me a flight, I should apparently lose the 50% bonus–which, I’ll note, I pay a $450 annual fee to receive. Ultimately, the agent gave me a 5,000 point “courtesy credit” but this is now on my record. Chase has a history of “firing” customers it thinks are costing them too much and I have now poked the dragon.

Wrap-Up

It’s not a secret that the new Chase travel portal is terrible. It’s terrible, horrible, no good and very bad. But you’re only going to read about the problems with it here.

I ultimately don’t think that Chase being so thin-skinned helps them. They’re positioning the Chase Sapphire Reserve up against the American Express Platinum card, a truly premium card from a company with a lot of experience offering one and the global infrastructure (including a worldwide network of local offices) to match. Chase has third-party agents in Manila working “on behalf of” Expedia, a partner who may have been selected because they pay the highest rebates. And those third-party agents have only one mandate: get you off the phone, as quickly as possible. This isn’t the service I expect from a credit card with a $450 annual fee. If I want to spend the points I go out of my way to earn by putting a Chase card at the top of my wallet, I want it to “just work” as advertised. And I also don’t want to play shell games with disappearing partners, devaluing points and deceptive pricing. Chase, if you’re reading this–listen, I have a lot of respect for you guys. You’re brilliant at marketing. But the product ultimately has to measure up, and right now, it isn’t measuring up. Given the increased churn I expect this issue to cause, you’re about to get kicked in the NPV of your LTV.

15 thoughts on “Chase’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Travel Portal

  1. Gary Leff says:

    For what it’s worth I wrote that their move to Expedia for their back end would be terrible while everyone else was focusing on the press release benefits of more hotels on offer.

    Meanwhile I suspect it gets less criticism because many of us find the best use of Chase points is transfers to airline partners (and Hyatt) rather than using points to pay directly for travel. Most bloggers do not have Chase affiliate links, after all!

    Chase has never, ever expressed concern to me over criticisms I’ve made, in fact it would surprise me to learn if card issuers were doing this because if they were seen as directly influencing content they’d become responsible for that -content in the eyes of regulators, which I think they’d want to avoid. Perhaps I’m simply unaware of what you suggest is happening.

    1. TProphet says:

      I used to agree that transferring points to airlines was a better option. However:

      – United: Delta’ed their award chart. Unless you’re burning points on partners now (which was never a really great deal), it’s not looking like good news.
      – Flying Blue: 110k points in economy one way SEA-CDG this summer. Thanks but no thanks.
      – BA: Bad deal on long haul, and now a bad deal on short haul too. Booked in advance, Delta and Southwest are better.
      – Iberia: Can be a good deal if you can live with the restrictions of no changes anywhere anytime ever.
      – Southwest: 1.5 cents per point. Same as spending through the portal.
      – jetBlue: Less than 1.5 cents per point so, uh, why?
      – Virgin: A couple of sweet spots left, for 5 minutes or so until they devalue. Still, the best are tough to use because roundtrip booking is required.
      – Hyatt: This is Seat 31B. I’m staying in a guest house in the Seychelles with a fan and a mosquito net. The Kempinski is down the street and yes, I do very much enjoy the public beach in front of it. 🙂

      Am I missing anything? Oh yes, Korean, which was the best transfer option for outsize value, and which Chase lost as a partner.

      Now maybe it’s true that you haven’t heard any of the same rumors I have. And maybe they’re just rumors. I’m sure Chase sends only the warmest fuzziest messages to bloggers with affiliate links who write anything negative. But if this is the case, why am I the only one calling Chase out?

      I had high hopes for the Expedia transition. After all, they offer pretty good pricing through their subsidiary cheaptickets.com. And it was hard to do much worse than Connexions Loyalty, which was really only ever good for rental cars (they often had amazing deals). Those hopes have been crushed, and the transition has been a disaster.

      1. Gary Leff says:

        1) premium cabin Air France, much better availability through their own program than partners
        2) premium cabin Singapore, much better availability through their own program than partners
        3) united premium cabin partner awards haven’t yet been hidden-award-charted
        4) hyatt, not for you, but very much up my alley — I simply laid out why *I* value transfers more than giving up and just taking 1.5cents/point in value.
        5) BA for intra-Asia and Qantas short haul business class

        Yes I miss Korean (but i transferred a bunch before the end).

  2. SgFm says:

    And what about all the properties that the Chase Rewards website shows when you looking for lodging, that can’t be booked? What’s that about?
    And I agree, the travel customer service is subpar.

    1. Eileen Kerrigan says:

      I’m guessing that happens for the same reason it happens on Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com, etc. — because the OTAs get only so many rooms, and when those (one or two) are gone, it’s “Sorry, we’re all sold out!” (NOTE: Not “the hotel is sold out,” but rather “WE are sold out.”)

      I’ve been looking at hotels in Tokyo through the portal, where “We’re all sold out!” … but the actual hotels have plenty of space left.

  3. John says:

    Try booking a rental car in Morocco. Nothing, zero, shows up. Go to the “regular” Expedia site and a dozen options show up.
    BTW, a few years ago a blogger told me that chase did indeed indicate displeasure at criticism and warn that affiliate links can end if the criticism didn’t.

    1. TProphet says:

      I had the same experience with rental cars in Colombo. It seems that Expedia is filtering/limiting the selection to commissionable rates, with the commission (presumably) rebated to Chase.

    2. Paul W says:

      Same problem in Ireland. It is ridiculous. They just don’t want to pay the fee.

  4. Paul says:

    Chase Travel’s switch to Expedia has been terrible. They need to reverse that decision.

  5. Pam says:

    I have booked 25 hotels thru their travel
    portal. 3/4 were priced the same as the Expedia website, the rest the same as the hotel websites or cheaper than all the above. I like their occasional 10% UR premium bonuses on bookings. I think your issues are mainly with flight bookings. I’ll take 4S, 21c, & boutique props at a 33% discount any day.

  6. playalaguna says:

    Expedia is using a secondary platform and drop out agents to man their customer service. Availability is poor, pricing uneven and customer service non existent. It is not what you expect from a “premium card” contractor.

  7. MICHAEL H says:

    Personally I never use Chase’s travel portal because the prices always seem to be higher then Expedia/ Orbitz just like the author mentioned and thanks to United Airlines devolution Ultimate Rewards points are going to have far less value for me at least
    Expedia and Orbitz have cheaper rental car deals then booking direct and I just received a 15% cash back using Ebates for a car rental on Orbitz.
    Also I fly Copa now and found the exact same prices those 2 sites then booking directly from that airline.
    Orbitz Visa: 2% back on purchases ( 7% in Orbitz dinning program, USA only:-(. )
    6% back on flights, 10% back on hotels, Remember to combine these with travel portals.
    As an budget traveler that spends most of my time in Brazil I get little value from most hotel loyalty programs mainly do to their limitated footprint.
    Domesticilly Best Western offers great rates to military veterans combined with Ebates or Top Cash back travel portals.
    Expedia/ Orbitz negatives: As mentioned if you do better if you can stay loyal to one hotel brand in the USA, especially Hilton or Marriott and use their co-branded credit cards.

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