Get the most from your miles

I write a lot about how to get points and miles, but I don’t often write about how best to use them.  The main reason for this is simply that I’m not an expert award booker.  Sure, I’ve booked quite a few award flights with my Delta miles, but I have limited experience with other airlines.  However, I know enough to know that if I try to book a complicated itinerary on my own I will do a ton of work, I will experience lots of frustration, and I will most likely end up with a sub-optimal itinerary. Luckily for me, and for everyone else in the same situation, there’s a simple way to make sure you get great value from your miles: use a good award booking service.  Award booking services work with the points and miles you already have to find the best possible flights to suit your needs.

Are they worth it?

Typically you’ll pay an award booking service anywhere from $100 to $150 for one traveler, and usually less for each additional traveler.  If you’re booking a simple domestic round trip award and can find saver-level seats on your own (25K miles in coach, for example), then there’s very little reason to look to a  service.  If, however, you have a complicated itinerary or a big international trip in mind, an award booking service may be a good idea.  A good award booking service should be able to help you book an awesome trip for fewer miles and with much less aggravation than booking it yourself.

Here are some potential advantages to going with a good award booking service:

  • Better Award Availability.  Many people assume that if their airline tells them there are no award seats available, then it must be true.  A good award booking service can often find the seats that don’t appear to exist.
  • Save Miles & Money.  A good award booking service will know which of your points can get you to your destination and back for the lowest cost in terms of both miles and cash.  Ideally they know which options to avoid due to high fuel surcharges or unfavorable award charts. And, they know how to stretch your miles further by taking maximum advantage of flexible routing rules such as layovers and open-jaws.
  • Better flight experience.  A good award booking service will know which flights have the best seats and service and will try to get you on those flights.  And, they’ll proactively find itineraries with the fewest stops and shortest layovers (while avoiding layovers that risk missed connections).
  • Less Aggravation.  Booking award travel can be a huge headache.  Simply finding available award seats can be difficult.  With some airlines, booking award travel can be extremely difficult even when the award seats are available!  A good award booking service will do the hard work for you even if it means calling an airline a dozen times until they find someone who knows how to book your flight.

 

And the Best Award Booking Services Are…

I don’t know!  I know several bloggers who offer award booking services and who sound like they know what they’re doing, but I don’t yet have firsthand experience for comparing one to another.  I recently used MileValue’s service (and will review the experience soon), but I don’t have any other experiences to compare to.  My plan is to use award booking services when I can, and I’ll review them according to the categories listed above (better award availability, save miles & money, better flight experience, and less aggravation).

Reader Experiences

Have you used an award booking service?  If so, who did you use?  Did they save you miles & money?  Did you have a better flight experience?  Was it significantly easier than doing it yourself?  Please comment below.

Advertise Your Service

Usually when people try to advertise in the comment section, I send those comments to the spam folder.  Today I’ll make an exception.  If you have an award booking service, put the URL to the service in the text box named “Website” and use the big text box to write up why your service is worth checking out. 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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69 Comments on "Get the most from your miles"

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MileValue
Guest
Frequent Miler recently used my service, and I think the passengers on that award have an amazing trip booked. For more information on my service, you can follow his link to milevalue.com/award-booking-service (He also used my service to find flights from DTW-ANC for his Alaska cruise.) What sets my service apart is first the price. I charge $99 for one person + $50 for each additional passenger (e.g. three people on one award would be $199). That is WAY less than the other services I can recommend as being as good as mine. Next is my knowledge of the award… Read more »
jason
Guest

Hi MileValue

Just wondering if you are more knowledge with booking award seats within certain airline alliances vs others? Also have you had experience booking RTW tickets (we are looking to do US to europe to asia back to US)

thanks

FEV
Guest

I will be very interested to read your reviews on different award booking services.

My opinion is that using their service should save you at least the fee that they charge (had you tried to book the award yourself).

I further believe that an expert will do just that.

Ben
Guest

I think booking services should save you more than they charge in cash..if they can’t maximize your award or offer any good ideas they should discount their price. Also it would be nice if they disclose a little about how many awards they have booked for clients..ie ball park numbers as I would rather work with someone who has already done..I dunno, 30 awards than someone who has done 5 awards before….just my 2cents

Rick Ingersoll
Guest

As a fellow blogger I went to the milevalue website to review the services and learn more about the people in charge. I’m always willing to spread the word on new competitors in this much needed space.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found the Donate Button on a site with a paid service to be a turn off. I’ll wait for another time to review the site.

Chris
Guest

I’ve been really happy with an award I recently booked with Lucky. he found great availability, gave me a layover in Panama City, Panama, and was very gracious and patient in all our communications back and forth.

Steve
Guest
I’ve never used one of these services, but I have a feeling I’ll probably use one for maldives and french polynesia (maybe HI, but I think I’ve managed my HI trip on my own). The biggest reason I’d choose to use a service is that I have no idea about the best logistics for a place like Maldives. It would be good if reviews also took into account the amount of interaction with the service. will they ask about desired stopovers? I might not even think to ask, do they present it as an option absent a request? Or will… Read more »
jp
Guest

One could view the “cost” of a booking service as the “cost” of spending miles and points. So if a good booking service saves you 20 or 25K points… that’s the equivalent of xxx in spend or 1/2 of a big sign up bonus or 1 more domestic round trip.

ralph
Guest
I was unsure of using one of these services as well, but learned of a colleague who has been to go to person for redeeming miles for everyone in the office (we all travel 70% of time internationally) as well as people outside on a word of mouth basis who was doing these bookings on the side as a leisurely activity. It has gotten to a point where he has had so many requests, people have started to pay him to prioritize bookings. He has since gone into the business and is in the process of setting up a website.… Read more »
frank
Guest

Rick, you have got to be kidding me? With all the money you make and constant barrage of credit card affiliate links on your website? You really are a piece of garbage to call out MileValue like that.

Amit
Guest

I’ve used Andrew over at points pros twice for complex itineraries in east asia and africa. He was fast, attentive to detail, and provided some options i would not have found myself. I’d reccommend using him.

Will
Guest

I just used Gary Leff’s/Steve Belkin’s booking service for business class flights to Japan. It wasn’t a complicated itinerary but my miles and points were scattered and Steve proved invaluable in congregating them in an efficient manner. Last summer I spent hours booking tickets to London and Paris and did not want the hassle again. Their service saved me time and money while minimizing the number of miles necessary for the trip.

UMP
Guest
I just started an award booking service after being nagged by my boss and co-workers. I booked tickets and informed them about the promos very frequently. Though I did give starting a blog some thought but then with so many out there, I was not able to come with some original content. So instead of being “another” blogger, I concluded I enjoy booking awards. I do have more experience booking Delta awards since all my co-workers (we are a consulting company) fly Delta and none of them have any clue how to book them. You can check out my website:… Read more »
David M
Guest

I used Point Pros last year and it was well worth the $250 I paid for 2 tickets.

We flew first Class on Luftansa from Boston to Seoul with a stop in Munich.

We then flew first class from Seoul to Toyama Japan on Asiana.

Then we flew ANA from tokyo to Washington Dulles in Business Class.

All aspects of my reservation including getting us seats and rebooking when a flight cancelled were handled by the company.

Money was not requested untile everything was 100% set to my liking.

Thomas
Guest
Really unfair Rick. I am turned off a lot more by a sidebar full of credit card affiliate links than an obscure donate button that I had honestly never noticed until you mentioned it. Frequent Miler and Milevalue are the 1st blogs that I visit each day. Both blogs offer unique, valuable content instead of the rehashed info that you find on the majority of the other travel blogs. Do yourself a favor and spend some time on the Milevalue’s blog before you make assumptions. I think that you will be impressed with the content and even you will likely… Read more »
Patrick
Guest

I’ve used Lucky (Ben) to set up trip for my son and his new wife. (no he didn’t have an old wife)
Flight was in and out of Croatia. Different arrival and departure cities in Croatia. Got them fixed up in Business Class took care of all the connections using different carriers.
He did a great job.
http://www.pointspros.com

gpapadop
Guest

We need more competition in this space. How about a comprehensive post of all the providers with services offered, specialization areas, website links AND,of course, FEES! I will dedicate my next cc app to the first blogger who does that:-)

Rick Ingersoll
Guest
Frank amd Thomas. We certainly disagree on this one. Of all the blogs in the space it appears to me that mile value is the only, one asking for donations. if he is good enough. and service worthwhile there is no need to ask for donations. I personally hope he is a big success as I’d like to see the cost of award redemption services come down with his competition. And I agree, Frequent miler is the best original content out there today. I have said it many times. Frank as for being a piece of garbage, I’ve never asked… Read more »
Linda
Guest

Rick, I like your site and whoever called you a piece of garbage just lacks class, but, I also don’t think it’s out of line to ask for donations for good content when you’re avoiding all of the credit card links. As far as I can tell from the mile value site, the only payment are for actual award booking services, not for the how to’s.

Rick Ingersoll
Guest

Linda, reading the blog suggests he will be adding affiliate links in the future. I personally just found it strange, really strange. But I hope he makes it

rick

MileValue
Guest
@Jason A plurality of the awards I’ve booked have been with United miles, but I have experience with all types of miles. I am well versed in the round-the-world options also. I’m confident that you’ll get the best award for you if you come to me. @FEV and Ben, I don’t think saving you the award booking fee in cash is the measuring stick of the service. Very often I do save people way more than my fee in cash. For instance, I just saved a guy over $1500 in surcharges (and got him on a better schedule and product)… Read more »
Tahsir
Guest

Hey guys,
I have an award booking service as well and I differentiate from the other guys because I charge a flat fee of $50. That’s $50 for everyone on the itinerary. I’ve had a ton of happy customers and love making the most of people’s miles.

http://www.bengalimilesguru.com

Ryan from MA
Guest

Hey FM, I just got the Chase Ink Plus. I also have the Chase Ink Bold. I know in the past you said not to go over $4000/month in Vanilla reload and Visa Gift cards but did you mean that just on one card or both? I don’t want to be blacklisted so in general i’ve been spending $2500/month. Let me know what you think, my friend
-Ryan

Flyerdad
Guest
Great topic. Ironically, I just stumbled on to the Milevalue site two days ago and have been staying up late reviewing older posts. Really good blog. Last summer, I used Lucky (Ben) at Point Pros to book two first class tickets from SFO to Istanbul with a stayover in Munich. He was very responsive–always e-mailed me back within 24 hours (no phone contact). I was very new to this, and could not figure out how to book first class saver tickets to Europe during the summer. Lucky was able to score first class saver awards on Lufthansa. I also pestered… Read more »
Frank
Guest

I had used Brian’s service (thepointsguy.com) which is now discontinued. I was very unsatisfied with the response times and even had to a book an itinerary which wasn’t ideal because of the time he took to respond and book the previously picked trip. I was also told that I would notified should space on better flights open up but had to manually look for and modify the flights myself. All in all not the best experience.

MidTierStatus
Guest

This is a great post. Totally agree with gpapadop with the need for a consolidated post.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Great info everyone. Thanks for sharing! I’ll put together a consolidated list at some point, but only because it would be helpful — gpapadop: please continue to use whoever’s links you want

Jade
Guest

@ Rick Ingersoll, as opposed to the thousands of ads littering every corner of your site? That is a real turnoff and something your readers have been complaining about.

jack
Guest

seriously Rick, your blog is filled with ads everywhere.. Don’t hate on MileValue.. His write ups are detailed and well written, I would be happy to donate to him

Eddy
Guest

I really don’t see a difference in asking up front for a donation or having affiliate links that pay a donation. Personally I appreciate asking up front because when I was extremely green I had no idea me getting a cc could pay a third party. Just my 2 cents

Scott
Guest
When I couldn’t find award space for a trip I had been planning, I contacted Ben(lucky) from pointspros to book an award for me. He initially got back to my request very quickly and told me i’d hear back from him with several options within 24 hours. that was the last i heard from him as I never did receive a reply after that. I then contacted gary leff of view from the wing blog. within 2 days of initial contact, I had an itinerary on hold, in my preferred dates, ready to book. I was extremely happy with the… Read more »
deltafannow
Guest
Unless it is a complicated first class booking including a couple of continents, i would prefer to book it myself. I tried a booking service but was not happy with the result- too many mileage, easy open jaw, need to pay extra for one way economy to get to origination . As a result of this, I learn to navigate Delta.com myself. I managed to book myself a trip to Europe with a stopover , all on Biz class except for one segment on lst class and one on economy class for 100k Delta Miles. This is for the Summer… Read more »
happy
Guest
A friend recently engaged Gleff’s service to find business class award from LAX to CPH for his Baltic cruise next Summer using DL miles. Gleff’s partner Steve Belkin handled his request. Surprisingly the service could not find him anything on return – on the outbound he had an overnight at CDG which he did not want. Worse, Belkin could not find him anything on the return, only got him from CPH to CDG and then ??? Frustrated, my friend decided to book it himself – after reading and learning the essentials in booking DL award from the FT DL forum’s… Read more »
happy
Guest

@deltafan, your experience is very similar to my friend’s.

My friend was not happy with me last year when I told him to take advantage of the 50% transfer bonus to transfer Membership Reward points to DL, especially after he used Gleff/Belkin’s service to book DL award without success. Then he put in his own effort and found himself the 100K DL award in June 2013 from California to Copenhagen using DL and AF/KLM. Now he is also a DL fan. 😉

Rip
Guest

Wow Rick. That was pretty low.

Pot. Kettle. Etc…

Anita
Guest

I recently used MileValue’s booking service. I was prepared to spend 350,000 Delta miles for five round trip tickets from North America to Peru.

My experience may not have been typical because I was highly (maybe overly?) involved in the process. It was more a tutoring session than outsourcing the job. He was infinitely patient with my many variations of routings and questions.

i paid him happily and would use him again if I have a complex booking.

Anita

bluto
Guest

rick, if your plan is to get in a feud with every travel blogger, it’s working.

chuck
Guest
@Rick. I like to believe that I look for the good if it is to be found. I have your website on my daily blog read list but lately it I have not bothered. I am specifically looking for unique content regarding miles bonuses and promotions and how to instructions. As I see it, your blog has become a rehash of other blogs work. If your site was stellar then you would have room to comment as you did. Unfortunately, your comment was sorely inappropriate. Frequent Miler is the FIRST blog I read and the LAST blog I read each… Read more »
Mariana
Guest

Wow Rick, that was low. Because of your negative comment I will actually be hiring milevalue services for my next european trip. The main reason: I went to your site to look around (I don’t frequent it) and found it crowded and outdated. Then I checked out milevalue’s and found it so much better that it convinced me to go with their service.

Ryan from MA
Guest

hey not sure if this posted or not:
Hey FM, I just got the Chase Ink Plus. I also have the Chase Ink Bold. I know in the past you said not to go over $4000/month in Vanilla reload and Visa Gift cards but did you mean that just on one card or both? I don’t want to be blacklisted so in general i’ve been spending $2500/month. Let me know what you think, my friend
-Ryan

Tahsir
Guest

Ryan,
I think he means both because it’s linked at the end to your overall credit line

FrequentMiler
Guest

Ryan: unfortunately there’s simply no way to know how much is safe. The $4k per month number was just for one card, but it wasn’t meant to indicate that it was a safe amount. Rather, I meant that there is no reason to tempt fate by doing more than that since you would hit up against the annual $50k limit for 5x. With both the ink plus and ink bold you now have double the limit, but that doesn’t mean that twice as much is safe either. Sorry, but I just don’t know

Alexis
Guest

I used Leff/Belkin’s service for our October 2012 trip LAX-HNL-SYD-LAX in business class. Great service and many fewer miles made me a happy customer.

Ryan from MA
Guest

thanks so much man!….i appreciate your help!

Guest
Guest
I would highly recommend Tahsir @ Bengalimilesguru.com. Not only are his prices extremely reasonable ($50 TOTAL for everyone on the same reservation!!), but he diligently worked with me to find the exact itinerary we wanted. He was quick in responding to all of my many emails & questions, & his knowledge about award bookings, program rules & airline routings is unbelievable. He is very professional, hard working & extremely responsive in getting you the best itinerary for the least amount of miles. I will definitely recommend him to my family & friend’s & will not hesitate to use his services… Read more »
FEV
Guest

@milevalue – you’re absolutely right! Thanks for pointing that out. I’m a firm believe in hiring a professional that ultimately saves you time, money, points, frustration, etc. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the complicated systems and rules. many options and hidden “gems” … all combine for an invaluable service.

Rick Ingersoll
Guest

Like I said earlier, readership keeps on growing…

If YOU don’t click through, they next guy will.

Enjoy the free content.

Rick

David
Guest
I’ve used both PointsPros (Ben’s service) and MileValue’s service. Both got the job done very well, but MileValue was less expensive. To be fair, I felt more at ease throughout the process with Ben. That might’ve been due to me not really knowing much about MileValue at the time (he had just started his blog when I used his services), and also Ben seemed more experienced working with clients in booking awards (particularly in handling sensitive information like credit cards). That being said, seeing how MileValue’s blog has evolved, plus the fact that he gave me a solid booking, has… Read more »
ron
Guest

sooooo, my understanding is that the award booking services will only book legit stuff. like if the rules say you get one stopover they will only book one stopover. if the rules say you stay under MPM theyll only book you an award under MPM.

hypothetically speaking, what would you people pay for ‘rule breaker’ awards? like maybe you want two stopovers? don’t argue about whether it can be done…. just decide what youd pay. and maybe there will be another award booking service on this list.

🙂

Rob
Guest

Not to rehash what people have been stating, but I’m pretty shocked by Rick’s attitude. People might be clicking through now, but it doesn’t take much to be a has-been.

Be careful Rick… I’ve enjoyed your content, but admit I’m quite turned off now. You might not care about losing a few readers, but that is a small wound that can easily become infected with something much more painful.

Rob
Guest

For what it’s worth…

I counted 30 sponsored ads on Rick’s home page and 1 ad for his book. That doesn’t include the countless imbedded links in each article.

Those who throw stones…

guest
Guest

Rick’s site is a viewing factory site. part of it is from corporate sponsorship of different contests including trip alert, aa, awardwallet, etc. to attract viewers.

and btw, i also read he’s also the blogger who couldn’t make it to fly on united points fiasco several weeks ago because he was a senior citizen and facing age discrimination from united.

Two thumbs up for milevalue and FM!

guest
Guest
“I appreciate your coming forward with your decision in a somewhat timely manner. Unfortunately others have already travelled for the receipted amount of 8 miles and it would be discriminatory to allow them to travel at that rate and not me. I am a senior citizen and couldn’t make arrangements that quickly to travel yesterday. I am in hopes you will change your mind and make an offer to those that are being shortchanged and could not travel yesterday. Compromise usually provides a much better outcome than having this dragged through the DOT and the press, particularly based on other… Read more »
Tom
Guest
I’m fairly lazy when it comes to bookmarking sites. For travel blogs, I basically just go to thepointsguy’s website and then click down his short list of links. That’s pretty much the extent of the travel blogs that I read. After reading the comments in this thread, I’m going to stop clicking on the Frugal Travel Guy link. I had found Rick’s content the least engaging of the links thepointsguy has up there, but I figured I would keep giving his site a shot. After his obnoxious and hypocritical comments here, I don’t see the need to keep giving him… Read more »
AZ
Guest
OH LORDY! As new to the art of travel hacking, we ended up contacting three different award booking services for an upcoming flight. Sadly, all three services did not measure up in one way or another. I started to write out a reply detailing each experience with each service so that readers could take the information and decide for themselves, but the reply would take over this whole page. So here’s a very brief summary of our experiences. POINTS PROS Did not respond to us in the 24 hour period that they stated on their website. After 3 emails from… Read more »
Mark
Guest
I read frequent miler daily and get the daily updates via email from MileValues. I have got to say that these two are the best blog read out there. I am really happy that the author of these two bloggers are extremely friendly, and really nice. I get a response from them very quick whenever I email them a question. As for Rick, I read your blog too. Just dont like your response today. Sounds like you don’t care if you lose readers. Good for you to be proud that you have a following, but readers like me are turned… Read more »
MileValue
Guest

@David I see my inexperience did shine through on your award. You were literally the first award I booked! And even on that award, I’m glad you were happy with the outcome. I think my customers are just as happy (or happier) with the outcome nowadays and the process is smoother since I’ve booked dozens of awards since then.
Lately I’ve been trying to do as many same-day awards as possible. By that I mean having my clients’ award booked the day they send me the request. Nothing pleases me more than solving their problem well and quickly.

Tahsir
Guest

I agree with Milevalue here. The best part I look at when booking clients itineraries is how happy they are. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most! If the client is just content, I feel as though I haven’t done my job properly. If that means that I devote hours to book one itinerary, so be it. Happiness is better when you spend less to gain it.

Brian
Guest

Thanks for the booking service suggestions. Does anyone know of any booking services that ALSO book your hotel for you? The ones I’ve looked at so far don’t do hotel bookings…

Ari
Guest

Feel free to check out my service. It’s been up and running for about three years now and have had many happy clients. Feel free to check out http://www.FirstClassandBeyond.com! 🙂

Tahsir
Guest

@ Brian
I book hotels on award travel as well!

David
Guest
Great post and loved reading most of the responses. Some of the arrogance, the “garbage” and “pimps” were uncalled for; one can be critical without nastiness and we will all enjoy the give and take. Really have enjoyed reading FrequentMiler and I like Rick and Lucky, Ben and Gary but also read Million Mile Secrets and MommyPoints. I didn’t know a thing about this area of travel before I started reading the Blogs last May, 2011; I’ve learned a lot, collected 1.5 million points and miles and am having MileValue book a honeymoon trip for my daughter and her future… Read more »
Rich
Guest
I have done my own and also used/contacted others. I actually had cranky flier find me flights and I did the calling. Turned out to be a fantastic Lufthansa experience. Other ties I contacted Gary who said he was too busy. I contact pointpros but it wasn’t Ben and the other guy was pretty useless and could only find business class. I contact travelawards consulting and he was prompt and found first class awards for us. Personally I think some of the bigger names tend to look harder on rewards for friends than new customers. I think they do similar… Read more »
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guest
Guest

@Rich. can you or someone else provide the web page for travelawards consulting. There are to many with close similarity when I search. Thanks

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[…] the post “Get the most from your miles,” I suggested that using a good award booking service is a great way to get the most value from […]

Bobby
Guest

I run an award booking service. I would love to help anyone here!

Click on my name above to check out the website and submit a booking request.

I offer a 100% guarantee! Not happy? You don’t have to pay. No money up front. We operate on the honor system.

I also help for free if you have a schedule change. No gets left hanging!

Faith Case
Guest

I offer a booking services for airfare and hotel bookings. You can find all the details under “Booking Services” on the Miles Momma site. Love to help plan your next adventure!

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[…] Whats the points guy? Is that within the USDM handbook A bit of a mention of it and others here: Get the most from your miles – The Frequent Miler Reply With […]