What is an award booking service? – Forbes Advisor

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You’ve used your credit cards wisely and accumulated a lot of points and miles. You know there is a way to maximize the value of your hard-earned rewards balance, but you don’t know where to start. That’s where Award Booking Services Come in.

An award booking service is a business that helps people redeem frequent flyer miles or travel award points to book travel.

These companies don’t do anything that any individual can’t do themselves, but since the professionals who work for these 21st-century travel agencies spend all day booking trips with points and miles, they probably know a few tricks of their own customers can save time, money, points and miles.

An award booking service might be right for those whose frequent flyer miles or bank rewards points (virtual) are collecting dust on online accounts and who feel overwhelmed by all the ways to redeem miles or are frustrated when they can’t find what they are finding. re looking for a reasonable price.

What can award booking services help with?

Award booking services can help determine the best way to use miles for travel. For example:

  • If I want the most comfortable or luxurious experience for my trip, an award booker should be able to advise me on which airlines offer the best service and how to use my miles to fly with them.
  • If I’m traveling with my family, they can help me find flights with multiple seats available (or flights that depart and arrive at similar times if I don’t mind splitting the group up for a few hours).
  • If I’m looking to book a complex itinerary that stops in multiple cities or countries — or even around the world — a booker can help me figure out which combination of destinations (and in what order) will give me the best experience for the least offers number of miles.

While different services may specialize in different mileage programs, there are services that are compatible with almost any airline loyalty program or with flexible rewards programs such as airline tickets Rewards for American Express membersCapital One Miles, Pursue ultimate rewards and Citi Thank You Points.

How do award booking services work?

While different companies use slightly different business models, the process usually starts with giving a booker information about a trip – a desired destination and some data that works – and telling them what types of miles and/or points can be used. Some services can help narrow down the options for those who just want to get away and may not know where to go yet; others only help in finding offers that lead customers to specific destinations.

In general, customers of award bookers should expect to pay a fixed fee based on the complexity of an itinerary: a multi-stop or around-the-world first or business class itinerary is likely to cost more than a round-trip ticket in the economy class. Many services charge a non-refundable fee for the initial search, as this is often the most time-consuming part of the process: some deduct this fee from the total cost when you ultimately book an itinerary found, while others simply have separate pricing structures for search and booking .

After receiving a request, a service generally responds relatively quickly with some initial options based on the request and offers options on how to proceed. Once a customer has selected an itinerary, they either guide them through the booking process or directly log into the customer account and book the ticket.

Who should use an award booking service?

Like a travel agency or a financial advisor, an award booking service, allows customers to pay for someone else’s expertise rather than spending a great deal of time researching the intricacies of airline partnerships and trying to understand the increasingly complicated redemption pricing structures. This can help avoid costly mistakes on the part of the consumer. It also saves travelers from having to do multiple searches to find out which airlines are available for the dates they want to travel.

Often the best deals are found by booking tickets through foreign airlines’ relatively opaque mileage programs, which can be difficult to navigate and often require multiple phone calls to agents in another country.

It definitely doesn’t make sense to use one Award Booking Service every time someone books a ticket. In most cases, booking a relatively uncomplicated trip through an award booking service – such as a domestic flight or international bus trip – does not yield enough savings to offset the fees involved.

This also applies to anything booked with points that have a fixed value, such as B. JetBlue TrueBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards or Amtrak Guest Rewards points – no service finds a better deal than anyone on the airline’s website.

What should I look for in an award booking service?

The features consumers should look for in an award booking service will vary a little depending on individual circumstances. For example, if I have miles and points in different loyalty programs, I might be looking for someone who specializes in travel to the region I want to travel to.

On the other hand, if my miles or points are primarily in a single program, I may want to work with someone who has significant experience using that particular program to book award tickets, as they may know how to snag hard-to-find points Awards that others might miss.

Many award booking companies are experienced in handling all types of points and miles, so it may be better to compare services based on other factors.

Look for services that offer a satisfaction guarantee: While customers should always expect to pay something for the time a booker spends researching an itinerary, the most consumer-friendly services don’t charge a booking fee if they can’t find an itinerary that suits their needs corresponds to a customer. Also compare the pricing structures of different companies – some may offer discounts beyond the second passenger or for multiple flight bookings in the same itinerary.

What warning signs should I look out for?

Be wary of giving out frequent flyer account usernames and passwords – while it makes sense for those wanting to book the service directly, it’s also all the information a shady operator would need in order to steal miles. For those paying a service to find and book tickets, make sure it’s from a trusted person and only give out credentials after agreeing on the itinerary you want. Change passwords after booking is complete.

bottom line

For those who typically use miles for one-way travel (particularly on buses) or hassle-free programs like Southwest and JetBlue, an award booking service probably doesn’t warrant it. But if you are looking for complex journeys and detailed itineraries, it can (and often is) worth paying an expert to maximize the value of miles and points.

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