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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.
|Name||Price - 1st person||Price - 2nd||Deposit||Changes|
|PointsCentric||$25 US 48, $50 Hawaii / Caribbean, $100 Intl||$25 US 48, $50 Hawaii / Caribbean, $100 Intl||None||N/A|
|A One Way Ticket||$50 Domestic, $85 Intl||$50 Domestic, $85 Intl||None||$25 - $50|
|Karp Enterprises||$50 North America, $75 Hawaii, $125 Intl||$50 North America, $75 Hawaii, $125 Intl||None||N/A|
|We fly free||$60 Economy, $129 Business, $149 First||$60 Economy, $129 Business, $149 First||None||N/A|
|Miles and Luxury||$75||$0||None||$75|
|Miles, Points, and the Pursuit of Travel||$75||$75||None||N/A|
|Book It With Miles||$99||$49||None||N/A|
|FlightFox||$49 / hour, usually 2-3 hours||$49 / hour, usually 2-3 hours||Paid upfront||N/A|
|Awards & Travel||$100||$50||None||$75|
|Award Booking Service||$100||$100||None||$100|
|Award Travel Consulting||$100||$100||None||N/A|
|Award Travel Wisdom||$100||$100||None||N/A|
|Premier Award Bookings||$119||$50||None||N/A|
|PMM Travel Consulting||$125||$125||None||N/A|
|Extra Pack of Peanuts||$150||$100||None||N/A|
|Book Your Award||$150||$150||None||$150|
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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