There’s a new award search tool that automates a lot of the hard work in putting together an award redemption, offers fairly comprehensive results, and comes at a reasonable price. You can even try it free with no commitment using promo code VFTW. There’s no benefit to me if you do, but I like the product.
Juicy Miles became point.me and merged with One Mile at a Time‘s booking service PointsPros. They offer full service award booking, the way that I do, but what I really like is their self-service tools and instructions.
For several months this has been available to (some) American Express Platinum and Centurion cardmembers through a white label Amex site. Now it’s out of its earlier beta, having raised a $2 million seed round from several top name investors (including founders of ITA Software, which is now Google Flights; the founder of Dropbox; Jeffrey Katzenberg; and Bethenny Frankel of Skinnygirl and Shark Tank). And it’s available for use.
Test Driving A Sample Award Search
I plugged in New York JFK to Tel Aviv in business class on a random day next month, they found 54 options including some you’d never want like 415,000 Delta SkyMiles or 1.4 million Aeromexico kilometers, but also some great options like Lufthansa and the various ways to book it, El Al, and Turkish. I searched by number of points required to book here are a couple of the early results.
Picking the Turkish option, they show you that you can transfer Citibank or Capital One points 1:1. They give you instructions on opening a Turkish account if you need to, making the points transfer, and then how to book (including whether it’s possible to put the award on hold before transferring points to ensure you can get the seats and don’t strand your points). They have animated gifs that literally show you how to do these steps.
They found what I’d have found myself, and did it in a couple of minutes. Nice.
What The Service Covers
They advertise award availability on 108 airlines, but they aren’t always showing you all of the availability for that program. For instance, if you have United Airlines elite status or their co-brand credit card you have access to more United award space at lower prices and Point.me won’t show you that. While they do let you pull over account balances from Award Wallet, they aren’t logging in as you.
Point.me worked with American Express, so I imagine they were able to leverage that into strong direct relationships with several American Express partners to get access to data. And bringing high-end customers, and introducing them to new airlines where they aren’t already members, has value to several programs. So they should be able to maintain access to a broad array of airlines. They don’t appear to be doing what got The Points Guy in trouble with American Airlines though of course time will tell (they do show the American Airlines logo in flight results..).
There are several things about their display that I like alot, in addition to searching numerous different loyalty programs at once and giving step-by-step instructions on booking.
They display clearly when an itinerary isn’t entirely in your preferred class of service, and tell you before you even click for details what percentage of a match you’re getting. Here’s a search for New York – Rome, where Avianca LifeMiles will give you Lufthansa flights – but where the intra-European segment is clearly in coach.
They’ll show you Lufthansa on that trip through Air Canada Aeroplan as well – including the programs that transfer to Aeroplan – and all the other ways to book the same flights.
The system does not yet support complex itineraries with stopovers. You’re going to search pieces one-by-one. And they don’t (yet) have a ‘power search’ mode that lets you search numerous itineraries and dates at once. Instead for now you search one day at a time. That suits the needs of most people, but not if you have broad flexibility and are looking for specific flights or will travel whenever there’s the simplest itinerary.
I spoke with Tiffany Funk, who has managed One Mile at a Time with Ben Schlappig for years and has co-founded the site, and she offered that they’re doing a “good job stripping out phantom space and married-segment issues.” She’s confident that the awards you find are going to be bookable, and they’re careful to be double and triple-checking availability and pricing – sometimes to a fault, where if they can’t validate availability they won’t show the option.
There’s also a limitation in that sometimes airline data sources will be slow, and they’re opting to time out searches after just a couple of minutes rather than leave you hanging. For now they’re erring on the side of certainty over completeness.
When you find space they show you not just which miles to use, but which credit card programs you can transfer from, and autoplay gif’s walk you through the steps. For old-timers it’s the Million Mile Secrets approach (just not circles and arrows), in a handy package.
At the risk of my stealing their intellectual property, I just have to show you an example because it’s so cool. They have an infinite number of walk-throughs. After watching an animation that shows me
how to wake up in the morning and notice it’s a new day how to log into the Air France KLM Flying Blue website, they have an animation showing how to search for an award. Everything is made simple.
In addition to multi-day search, Tiffany tells me to expect account alerts in the future. The site will get even “better over time.”
One day’s use (24 hours) costs $5 with unlimited searches. A month is $12, or discounted to $129 per year.
They also have a premium plan at $260 per year that isn’t likely to be attractive to most readers of frequent flyer blogs. They provide 5 day passes to give to friends and family (find them new customers), a 10% discount on having them book awards for you (normally $200 per person), and an annual credit card checkup (use their referral links).
On the other hand the annual credit card checkup, something many readers touch in with me on free and award booking clients ask about, is actually quite popular – often giving confidence that they’re along the right track, or nudging them in a more constructive direction. Personalized advice from experts – even if it’s simple advice given away on a blog free – can be valuable.
Use It Free
Don’t pay $5 to try it out. They gave me coupon code VFTW which lets you “purchase” a 24-hour pass for free. I do not receive anything if you do this.
Use of the code is currently capped at 5000 uses during the first week of launch, and they’re limiting it to being used 150 times per hour as they watch how popular the service is on the first day.
Who Is This Right For?
In some sense making self-service tools this easy is going to be a bummer for the hardcore among us that do the hard work, because it means more members competing for limited seats. But I’m a fan of democratizing a process that airlines have made too opaque, and that credit card issuers haven’t done a good enough job demystifying for their customers.
I also like services that place airline results side-by-side. Airlines that don’t make much saver award space available, and charge exorbitant prices for the best awards, aren’t going to come out looking good. As well they shouldn’t. The ability to compare programs is great for consumers, and for holding the devaluating impulses of programs in check!
Point.me is a competitor of my Book Your Award booking service, but I want to pass along the automated tool and I think that they’re doing something neat in offering walk-throughs of what programs offer you the best prices for an award, step-by-step how to transfer points from credit card programs, and how to go about making your booking.
You can find all of this yourself free, of course, but even if you’re an expert automating a lot of the time spent on various websites is helpful. I like the simple Point.me tool, prefer the way-too-expensive AwardNexus for searching a month at a time, and of course still recommend BookYouAward.com for having someone not just find the itinerary but make the booking for you.