Update On My Award Booking Service

I started helping readers book their award travel with an award booking service, Book Your Award, in 2009. Ten years ago Steve Belkin came on as my partner. Steve literally wrote the book on large scale mileage exploits. He’s been famous in mileage circles for 30 years, we’ve known each other for 20 years, and for a decade now he’s helped redeem billions of miles.

I can’t do it all myself. There’s too much at stake. And there are very few people that I trust to deliver at the level I’m committed to. Steve, my partner and friend, has decided to step back from award booking after 10 years.

Fortunately I’ve found the only folks to work with that I both trust and that have the capacity to deliver at scale: point.me. One Mile at a Time‘s PointsPros service merged with JuicyMiles to create both a tool to efficiently search award space yourself and a full service booking agency, and I’m thrilled now to join as a senior advisor.

Point.me has well-known investors including founders of ITA Software (now Google Flights); the founder of Dropbox; Jeffrey Katzenberg; and Bethenny Frankel (Shark Tank).


Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

If you just want to try their self-serve tools, here’s a special code that discounts it to $1. In additional to powerful searches, the graphics walk-throughs of exactly how to do everything at each step from joining a program, to transferring points, to booking the ticket are invaluable tools.

There’s no one else like Steve Belkin and no way I could have maintained the award booking service for this long – 13 years! – without him. His knowledge and dogged determination have been incredible for clients, and truly meaningful for me. As he retires from booking award travel after a decade, I’ll have the support needed from point.me to continue to help deliver the award travel clients need for their hard-earned points.


Emirates A380 First Class Shower Spa

I’m looking forward to working with the team at Point.me – and continuing to help readers and program members get the most from their miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Congrats! That’s an exciting change. And thanks to Steve for all the great bookings over the years.

  2. Having made numerous bookings for friends and family, with either their miles or my own, I know that knowing the “client’s” interests and the market’s award availability really takes time and effort. I’d never do it for money on the small scale I do it on.

    Of course, when its your job you DO take money for it. And someone who will listen to clients’ desires and apply it to a broad knowledge of options brings value for which compensation is due. May Mr. Belkin find his future plans fulfilling.

  3. I have been a point.me paid user for a while and I want to see them succeed. I think the service is great, and hopefully will get better over time. Two things specifically (imho) that would make the service much better are:

    1. The ability to use city codes like NYC as a proxy for JFK, LGA, EWR. This would cut down the number of separate searches significantly for a given trip when you have the ability to fly into/out of multiple airports.

    2. In the same vein, the ability to search for award tickets using flexible dates—even +/- 1 or 2 days would be a significant timesaver.

    I get that this is more resource-intensive on their back-end (something I’m intimately familiar with as the founder of AutoSlash), but both are very necessary to make the service more usable. Hopefully, this is something on their roadmap. I might even be willing to pay a bit more for something like this.

  4. @Jonathan:

    As an NYC flier, I never use points.me without at least six tabs open — each of the New York airports to the destination, and the destination to each of the NYC airports for the return. Point.me has no problem executing multiple queries simultaneously. I’ve also noticed that, for some searches, you already get co-terminal functionality already (aa.com searches seem to return all three airports in one search for instance).

    And thanks for Autoslash!

  5. @Gary: unclear to me from the article which is the case: (a) you’re continuing you award booking service and the requests will be serviced by point.me or (b) you’re winding down the service and will recommend point.me’s concierge service in the future.

  6. Oh no! Based on your recommendation, I bought a point.me subscription at $108.

    A month in and:
    1) The software doesn’t work. It is the buggiest junk I have some across in years;
    2) Their support maxim is “we couldn’t care less”;

    Try to search based on the program miles that you have available. It ignores that essential flag.
    Leave a support request through the software and they insist on only replying via email (the worst choice for interrogative ussues). They don’t respond to requests until the end of the day (just before they go home). And they don’t work weekends (despite their high prices and when the airlines work).

    The software has not supported a single search I have tried. It has been no use whatsoever. I plan on insisting on a full refund on Monday.

    You have made a very bad choice and your users are not going to thank you for it.

  7. @Andrew:

    I use point.me frequently with excellent results. It’s turned up one or two awards that even the most expert booker would have been unlikely to find.

    Sorry your experience has been different.

  8. Congrats to you Gary and Steve. Points bookings are quite laborious but rewarding.

    I was unaware PointsPros merged with Juicy Miles which then became point.me.

    Point.me works reasonably well. Yes it has a lot of limitations and some quirks. It gives a newer points and miles collector understand how to book some of these awards with simple step by step instructions.

  9. @Gary – I’m with @LarryInNYC about the lack of clarity.

    So, does the Senior Advisor position mean that you will have a direct financial interest in point.me? With all the big money and investors, it sounds like the corporate conglomerate has a lot of fingers in the pie. That can water down a vision in a hurry.

    Assuming that you do have a financial interest in the new conglomerate, what conflicts of interest do you see arising? I left comments about problems with point.me on another BA website where the blogger had an interest in point.me and those comments got scrubbed quickly, including my questions about deleting negative comments. That bodes ill in my book.

  10. @LarryInNYC: I left a detailed description of the problem (with the crucial filter to only show flights within point budgets) on Thursday night.

    They did not respond until COB on Friday. Their response was “try rebooting or a different browser”.

    I program computers for a living. I know the game they are playing. Responding last thing Friday means they will put you off until Monday (a full 96 hours after the initial bug report). Fatuous suggestions, of the type they provided, tell you exactly the contempt with which they hold their customers.

    The one good idea behind this software is taking a user’s points budget and tailoring its use to an itinerary. It is what Gary’s old service did manually. If that doesn’t work, the software is not a viable product. The one good thing to come out of this is that since Point.Me is incapable of making it work, someone else will.

  11. @Christian: ” I left comments about problems with point.me on another BA website where the blogger had an interest in point.me and those comments got scrubbed quickly, including my questions about deleting negative comments. That bodes ill in my book.”

    The site likely had a financial relationship with point.me that your ‘sunlight’ on this buggy software threatened to impact. What was the site?

    Thks.

  12. @Andrew – I was trying to illustrate an issue rather than dragging specific blogs into this but since asked, it’s GSTP. Never had problems previously and in fact had defended Gilbert in comments on the blog before so the comment deleting really stunned me. Lesson learned though.

  13. @Christian – I didn’t realize I was unclear, I will continue to have a financial interest in bookings through point.me as I have with bookyouraward. I also want to make the point.me service, including self-serve portions better. So I want to hear folks’ experiences with it, I would love to help them work through some of the challenges or share back with y’all where improvements are in the development queue (it’s some really smart folks, they know some of the challenges and things they’d like to make better and I am confident that they will).

    put another way, after 20 years i’m not going to start censoring critical comments about award booking of all things.

  14. @Gary: so BookYouAward is no more, replaced by point.me? I’m asking because I have had people ask me for recommendations for award bookers.

  15. @christian – you’ve come to learn about a certain blog what many of us have over the years. censors or lashes out when inconvenient truths are presented

  16. @Andrew:

    I also write software for a living and have for 35 years. If I were on the team that wrote point.me I’d be damn proud.

    While I’m sure you have a reason for wanting to use the “match to my miles” feature that feature is completely uninteresting to me since they will never know all the miles I have (since some airlines block third parties from seeing this information). Therefore using this feature will invariably leave out some awards I would have access to. Also, I find the information about what good-value awards I CAN’T book valuable when planning my points acquisition strategy..

    The value of point.me is that it replaces dozens of searches on different websites (with separate logins) with a single search (or, in my case, three searches) on one website. The bonus-aware knowledge of points transfers is a big plus as well, recently saving me 25% on a last minute Europe trip.

    As for the tech support, I don’t know what level of service they promise on their subscription (I only use day passes when I need them) but a 24-hour response SLA is more common on products costing a good deal more

  17. Then you would be very happy with its major innovation being non-functional.

    Hoever, I am puzzled. You can manually enter miles in blocked programs and could then use this feature. Don’t you habitually do that?

    Also, what you apparently use point.me for, AwardHacker does for free.

    I buy SLAs and this is going to be a minimum of 72 hours on top of a hefty price for the disfunctional product.

    However, it sounds like you have found it perfect for you. No improvements are possible.

  18. +1 to everthing LarryInNYC said in this thread. point.me is fantastic. If you’re trying to replace your entire award booking strategy with it, then sure, there are niche circumstances where you’ll miss out (as is true of quite literally every tool that exists in this space, without exception). But that’s a demented, asinine metric when discussing a very powerful tool to supplement and in very many cases replace manual processes.

  19. Gary, henceforth do we go to the Book Your Award website or to the point.me website if we want to have a trip arranged?
    Best wishes to Steve and thanks for some great trips.
    Scott B

  20. When point.me works, it really works well. But I’m one of the users who has come across pretty much every bug possible. Changing sort type causes a glitch and have to start search again; same result appears dozens of times in result list and is unselectable; running multiple queries at the same time in different browsers only one completes and the rest hang, etc etc etc.

    The help desk is very friendly but that’s pretty much it.

    The software is just really buggy, totally not ready for prime time, but if you catch it on a good day it will get you results.

  21. Warning: If you use Gary’s code, you will be subscribing to a yearly plan which is nonrefundable. The software doesn’t work as well as advertised. Showing searching for 33 programs but the results mainly came up from flying blue, club premier and united. EVA, ANA, SQ had availability but it didn’t show. Trying to cancel after couple hours but now being told it is nonrefundable.

  22. @Pdxluver: Since the product you paid for does not work you are entitled to a refund under consumer law. That overrides their terms of sale, which are only relevant in the case of a working product. If you paid with your credit card you can initiate a chargeback via the card company.

    I will be doing that if the bugs I reported are not fixed by COB tomorrow. They will have had 96 hours to fix the problems. Plenty of time. Given their low priority on customer support I don’t have any confidence that they will have done so.

  23. The code works for the checkout page for one month at $12 – $11 = $1. But it also says it will charge $12 per month after the first month. How do I cancel and just have one month of service. It appears I am signing up forever.

  24. Point.me is slow and clunky at best. Customer support is lackluster at best. A work in progress for sure. Not ready for prime time but will give them another try in a year or so to see if they’ve gotten their act together.

  25. Anytime a tech support person tells me to ‘clear my cache’, I ask if it would be better to just my a new computer.

  26. The problem with points.me is that they will make it harder for those of us in the know that book our own rewards. They will be automating and scraping reward inventory from the booking sites and making it available to its customers.

    The airlines need to do something to keep this from happening – so their normal customers get a chance at rewards.

  27. @Randy: No sweat. They are too bug-ridden to be a threat for the next decade Randy.

  28. @ Jonathan — Thanks for the kind words, and both are on the list! You’re spot-on that they’re fairly resource-intensive to implement consistently and correctly.

    And @ LarryInNYC highlighted one of the key challenges – some airlines/programs support co-terminals, some don’t, and others aren’t consistent in what airports they include/exclude in the co-terminal label. So there’s quite a bit of data structures work involved too.

  29. @ Priscilla – I’m glad to hear you’re generally having a good experience! The sort glitch is something the team is working on, as it is intermittent but definitely annoying!

    However, if you need to consistently be running multiple queries at the same time in different browsers please contact our team about getting you set up with an enterprise account – our standard plans aren’t really designed to accommodate that use case right now, so it’s unsurprising (though I’m sure frustrating!) that you’re running into hung results.

  30. @ Pdxluver @ mmt – There’s a toggle to change between yearly plans (with a 20% discount) or monthly (with the first month for $1). If you choose not to renew, you can manage that directly in your account settings.

  31. @ Andrew Chalk – I apologize for the frustration you encountered in trying to apply a filter to your search results last week, and assure you the issue was properly escalated to our technical team.

    Unfortunately, with the current size of our team we cannot initiate individual tech support calls on a Friday afternoon (or honestly at all), nor can we reasonably adjust our triage and development pipelines to accommodate ultimatums that issues still under investigation be resolved by an arbitrary deadline.

    As such, I’ve asked the team to cancel your subscription. We appreciate the feedback, and will keep working towards a resolution, but absolutely don’t want you to suffer through an experience you feel is worthless. You should see this reflected on your statement in ~3 business days depending on your financial institution.

    Thanks for giving us a try, and we wish you luck with your future travels!

  32. @Tiffany
    I can’t see a renew toggle; I haven’t subscribed yet. Can the subscription be totally cancelled; so the credit card is erased from the system? Is the subscription immediately cancelled or does the current subscription continue for the $1 month?

  33. @ mmt — We actually never get your credit card information directly, it’s all processed securely by Stripe these days, so that part is easy.

    And yes, you can immediately set your subscription to not renew, but would continue to have access through the next renewal date.

    Of course, we hope you’ll find it valuable enough in your award planning to continue subscribing. 🙂

  34. @Gary. Long-term reader here. Love your content!

    I bought a subscription to point.me but cancelled it after a month as there were too many glitches (e.g. filters didn’t work properly) and my use case of best points price for flexible dates was not being served. I don’t mind waiting for results to come back after a few hours but searching day by day and then not having the filters work makes the tool unusable for me.

    I switched to seatspy. While it is very limited in the airlines and award programs it supports and shows phantom award space from time to time, it does a better job of meeting my use case.

  35. @Tiffany – sorry just read your responses. Thanks for being proactive in responding! Your posts are sorely missed by OMAAT readers.

    Good luck to you, Gary and the team! I truly hope the service becomes closer to my use case over time – I would be a lifetime subscriber if it did. Also, reach out anytime if you ever need free testing help from a fan.

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