According to findings released by the Online Travel Benchmarking Group, a division of travel advisory firm Harrell Associates, American Express Business Travel offers the lowest business travel rates available online when compared to the public fares of three online agencies - Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.

"Our research flatly debunks the myth that the online agencies are lower-cost alternatives for business travel booked online," said Bob Harrell, CEO of Harrell Associates, principal for the Online Travel Benchmarking Group and author of the study. "Unequivocally, American Express Business Travel holds the pole position in the competition for savings."

The study reveals that for total trip rates - a combination of airfare, hotel stay and car rental - Orbitz is 5 percent higher, Expedia 6 percent higher, and Travelocity 9 percent higher than American Express Online total trip rates.

"We know that reducing controllable expenses is crucial for decision-makers whether in travel management or procurement departments," said Andy McGraw, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Business Travel. "That`s why American Express delivers superior savings for each component of a trip - airfares, hotel stays, and car rentals - as well as the complete trip itself. Today`s news couldn`t be better for those focused on the bottom line."

The study also shows that Expedia airfares are, on average, 9 percent higher, Orbitz airfares 8 percent higher, and Travelocity airfares 12 percent higher than American Express Online airfares, regardless of advance purchase. With less than 3 days advance notice, the average online agency fare is 7 percent higher than American Express Online; with 4-7 days notice, 8 percent higher; 8-10 days notice, 13 percent higher; and with greater than 10 days notice, 11 percent higher.

On the hotel side, the research indicates that Expedia rates are 4 percent higher, Orbitz rates 6 percent higher, and Travelocity rates 8 percent higher than American Express Online hotel rates. American Express Business Travel has a particular advantage on international hotel stays, as the online agencies offer rates that are up to 18 percent higher than those of American Express Online.

For weekday car rentals, the study notes that Expedia rates are 3 percent higher, Orbitz rates 4 percent higher, and Travelocity rates even (0 percent) with those of American Express Online.