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Award booking service price list + how to choose

by on Sat September 6, 2014 • 6 Comments
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As frequent flier program rules get ever more complicated and airline websites remain challenging to use for finding awards, a mini-industry has sprung of companies that will search for and book award tickets on your behalf called award booking services.

What does an award booking service do?

An award booking service will comb through options, attempting to find flights that have award seats available on or near the days you want to travel, for the mileage price you are willing to pay.

The services are run by frequent flier program enthusiasts, and most do this as a hobby rather than full time venture. It’s a tedious process, and a good search can often take 1 – 2 hours for a single trip.

Because of this, award booking isn’t usually cheap, and often costs $100 or more. So these services are best saved for trips that would normally cost you $1,000 or more if you had to use cash, rather than miles to book them. Most people use them to find Business or First Class seats to international destinations, as those are the trickiest to find.

What does it cost?

We’ve compiled a list of dozens of services with their basic pricing so you can compare and get started finding one that has the time to search for your trip.

NamePrice - 1st personPrice - 2ndDepositChanges
PointsCentric$25 US 48, $50 Hawaii / Caribbean, $100 Intl$25 US 48, $50 Hawaii / Caribbean, $100 IntlNoneN/A
A One Way Ticket$50 Domestic, $85 Intl$50 Domestic, $85 IntlNone$25 - $50
Karp Enterprises$50 North America, $75 Hawaii, $125 Intl$50 North America, $75 Hawaii, $125 IntlNoneN/A
We fly free$60 Economy, $129 Business, $149 First$60 Economy, $129 Business, $149 FirstNoneN/A
Points Jock$60$60NoneN/A
Miles and Luxury$75$0None$75
Award Advocate$75$75None$50
Miles, Points, and the Pursuit of Travel$75$75NoneN/A
Roms Deals$85$85NoneN/A
Asthejoeflies$95$25NoneN/A
Book It With Miles$99$49NoneN/A
EasyAwardBooking$99$99NoneN/A
FlightFox$49 / hour, usually 2-3 hours$49 / hour, usually 2-3 hoursPaid upfrontN/A
Awards & Travel$100$50None$75
Award Booking Service$100$100None$100
Award Travel Consulting$100$100NoneN/A
Globetrotter HQ$100$100None$100
Award Travel Wisdom$100$100NoneN/A
Premier Award Bookings$119$50NoneN/A
ChoosyNomad$125$75NoneN/A
Juicy Miles$125$125None$125
MileValue$125$125NoneN/A
PMM Travel Consulting$125$125NoneN/A
Award Magic$139$110None$65
Award Planners$149$99NoneN/A
Miles Momma$150$0$20$30
Upgrade Guru$150$75None$150
Upgrd$150$100None$75
Extra Pack of Peanuts$150$100NoneN/A
Traveling Hotelier$150$100NoneN/A
Award Assist$150$100None$75
Book Your Award$150$150None$150
Flight Hacks$200$100None$50
PointsPros$200$100NoneNominal fee
SFO777$200$100NoneNominal fee
Shrewd Travel$250$250$75N/A
FirstClassAndBeyond$250+$250+NoneN/A

How should you choose a service?

There are dozens of providers, and responsiveness varies even within providers because most will farm out work to freelancers. Since you rarely pay upfront for these services, it’s hard to get fleeced altogether. So the biggest problem is finding a service that has the free time to serve you quickly.

The best way to pick one is to choose a few at a price you’re comfortable with, and ask each of them how quickly they can assist. The one or two that can get to you right away are worth giving the green light to do searches.

The good news is, with nearly every service you don’t pay until you are satisfied with a set of flights that work for you.

Some people like to have several service perform full searches for them, but that’s not a good use of anyone’s time, and takes advantage of goodwill.

MileCards.com offers basic award search help for free, though we will not go through the process of actually booking an award. That’s best left to the paid services.

What should you watch out for?

Since most require no payment upfront, you’ll know if you’re satisfied before you pay.

But should you have the service actually book the award ticket for you, you’ll be handing over some sensitive information about your account like your frequent flyer number and PIN, so make sure you trust what you see on the service’s website, and ask about security.

A way to get around this is to have the award service simply put the award on hold in your name, then call yourself to actually deduct the miles. That way no one else gains access to your account.

But the biggest problem is simply non-responsiveness. While you might be tempted to use the service of a blog you know, be aware that they may be backlogged and a lesser known service might get you a faster response and the same or better flight options.

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6 thoughts on Award booking service price list + how to choose

  1. David

    MileValue Award Booking Service

    I asked MileValue Award Booking Service for help on a several stop itinerary in Micronesia. My request was assigned to Ian who exhibited, for someone in a service business, a rare combination of attributes: non-responsive, patronizing, and haughty.

    Here is one of several examples of his response to my suggestion for a possible better connection:

    Me: “Would UA Flt 192 via GUM and NRT be better? It is one hour shorter with no long layover.”

    Ian: “If you would prefer to fly on outdated United planes for more miles, than nice business class with Asiana then I’m sure we can make that work. Long layovers when flying business class are fun, they have nice lounges with great food and drinks.”

    For this kind of condescending non-help, I had paid them $375 and did so on the condition that they would continue to work on fine-tuning the itinerary:

    Ian: “I have put together a rough schedule for your trip. I have not included exact dates, but availability is pretty good that far out, although some flights only operate certain days of the week. Here is what I have.”

    Me: “I will review this schedule this week and respond by this coming weekend. I will also remit your entire fee this week, and I presume that fee will include allowing us to fine-tune some of your suggestions if necessary and as I have time to explore possible alternatives, so long as my itinerary remains within the parameters of the original request. Is this an accurate understanding of how your service works?”

    When it became apparent Ian had no intention of spending any more time on this award, I said goodbye and requested a credit to my account. They kept my money, notwithstanding their payment policy below and the above understanding I made with Ian.

    The following is from the MileValue Award Booking Service FAQs:

    Am I required to pay you if I contact you?

    No. You are required to pay if the mutually agreeable parameters for payment in the first email are met. That means if we find an award that meets your requirements, you must pay even if you change your mind and decide not to book.

    Not only did I not get my money’s worth; this was a huge waste of my time dealing with a business that promises to save you time.

    Reply
  2. JeffK916

    I’ve used a couple, I think ended up with Point Pro and Magic. More helpful to me for an Asia itinerary in 3 cabin first than they were for trying to get to Europe. Most of them pretty home grown so the time to get an answer swung a lot. But for me it was less about time savings than figuring out Singapore Airlines options back when UA miles were good for that sort of thing. Now I stick to Europe and that’s easy enough for me to DIY.

    Reply
    1. ORD-DFW

      I haven’t heard of most of these. Queried a few once. Took a while to get a response from the ‘big’ bloggers, but was able to use my Sky Miles well thanks to one of them. Have heard decent things about Flight Fox though; they let you track the progress of the booking helper. But no flat fee makes it harder to assess.

      Reply

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