The Pros and Cons of Booking Flights on Kayak

Kayak is a powerful travel search tool with many beneficial features, but you might miss out on some points or elite perks.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 

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When looking for the lowest airfare and best routes, searching individually for each airline is time-consuming and tedious. Likewise, quickly comparing multiple results across several websites can be a significant challenge. That’s why online travel agencies, like Kayak, are so popular: OTAs provide booking options for numerous airlines in one spot, saving you time and minimizing tab fatigue.

In this review, we’ll look at booking on Kayak versus airline websites to help you decide if it’s the best place to search for flights.

The pros of booking flights with Kayak

Flights from multiple airlines can be viewed in one spot

Searching for flights on various airline websites is annoying. Kayak makes it easy to compare prices between numerous airlines with a straightforward search.

Provides price trends for cities

Once you enter which cities you want to travel between, Kayak shows the price trends between those cities. The trends are based on how many days you want to travel, and the easy-to-read graphs highlight which dates are cheapest — or cost the most. This is a significant advantage when booking on Kayak versus airline websites.

Suggests possible destination options to consider

Based on your travel dates and departure city, Kayak offers a map-based search that suggests different cities that you can travel to based on price. Travelers can find possible destinations within the U.S. and across the globe using this feature. This is an ideal solution when you know you want to travel (and which dates) but aren't sure where to go.

Hacker Fares can save you money

Some airlines offer excellent prices one-way, but the return flight can be expensive. By booking on Kayak, you can take advantage of "Hacker Fares," which use different airlines to service departure and return flights. These split-airline fares can often lead to the lowest price available, which is not readily apparent when booking directly with the airlines.

Price alerts when fares change

While searching for options between two cities, you can click to receive email alerts when prices change for that route. In addition, travelers who aren't yet ready to book can be notified as prices change so that they can secure the flight when the tickets meet their budget.

Offers 'fee assistant' for carry-on or checked bags

When you fly on some airlines, you may be surprised by checked bag fees at the airport. Kayak offers a "fee assistant" that incorporates checked bag fees into your search results so that you're not hit with an unexpected cost. The downside is that you cannot add your elite status or credit card benefits when comparing. Either of these might eliminate baggage fees, which would keep the price down.

Search by airline alliance

For travelers who prefer to stick with one airline alliance, you can filter results by your preferred alliance. This makes it easier to use alliance benefits when flying with a participating airline and enables you to pick a flight you can credit towards earning elite status.

Filter searches by aircraft type

For true aviation geeks searching for specific planes to fly on, Kayak search results allow you to filter by the type of aircraft. By choosing this filter, you can ensure a particular seat configuration, in-flight experience, and other features.

Southwest is included in search results

For many years, flights on Southwest Airlines were not available in OTA search results. Kayak is one of the few OTAs that includes Southwest flights for you to compare against other airlines. However, this feature is only available with a Kayak business account — which is free and easy to sign up for.

The cons of booking with Kayak

Limited flights are booked on

When you've chosen your ideal flight and are ready to book, there are limited options to book your flight directly on Most often, Kayak takes you to the airline's website (or another OTA) to book the flight. This can confuse travelers and make it hard to know who to contact when something goes wrong. Plus, if you're sent to a website you don't recognize, you may be fearful of having your credit card and personal information hacked.

No loyalty program

Other OTAs, including Expedia and Priceline, offer loyalty programs recognizing their most valuable members. Kayak does not. As a result, users can't earn points towards discounts, complimentary rooms, or other benefits. This reduces the incentive for booking on Kayak versus airlines or other OTAs offering loyalty programs.

Sponsored flights appear first in search results

As you review your flight options, keep in mind that the first flight in the search results is a sponsored ad. While this flight's route and pricing may be appealing, it isn't always the best deal.

Might not qualify for credit card bonus categories

Savvy travelers use credit cards that offer bonus categories for airline purchases when booking flights. However, some travel credit cards don't offer bonus points when booking through third parties, such as Kayak.

Some cards require you to book your travel directly with the airlines or through its own portal. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express requires you to book through the AmEx Travel portal in order to receive 5x points on your flight. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does include flights purchased through OTAs in its bonus category. If Kayak sends you to the airline's website to book your flight, you are in the clear. But, if it sends you to another OTA, like Priceline or JustFly, you may not be. Terms apply.

Kayak flights, recapped

Kayak provides numerous benefits and makes it easy to compare the cost of airfares across multiple airlines. However, you can't always book directly with Kayak. Instead, you may be sent to the airline's website or another online travel agency to complete your reservation.

In addition, depending on which credit card you use to pay for your flight, you may or may not receive bonus rewards or qualify for elite status credit.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


Intro offer


Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

See more travel cards
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