Earning points and miles is definitely an easier task than burning them if you want to get the best value for your hard-earned award points and miles. Here’s a look at two websites you may want to check out before your next trip which are AwardHacker for flights and AwardMapper for hotels.
The beauty of AwardHacker is that it combines the immense amount of knowledge of; airline alliances, credit card transfer partners, and individual airline award charts (including distance based programs) in one easy to use tool. The free online tool resembles a typical airline booking form with the main fields of; departure airport, arrival airport, roundtrip/one-way, class of service, and number of stops.
There are also two fields that make this very helpful for using points and miles as a currency; the first is selecting which award programs (credit card, airline and even SPG) the user has points and miles with and the ability to show off-peak awards. After putting in this information, the software will provide a list of the lowest redemption rates and other relevant details.
After you have identified the option that works best for you, click the result to expand with more details and step by step instructions. The software will tell you how to look for availability, information about contacting the airline, information about transferring miles (rates, programs), and possible routes offered. I usually will next visit the respective airline’s website to conduct an award search to find dates that have available space.
One thing to note with this tool is that is doesn’t include taxes and fees (such as which airlines charge a fuel surcharge when using points). Additionally, the distance based award rates assume the most direct routes, where by having a connection with more distance could change the amount of points or miles required.
My other favorite tool is AwardMapper and I use it a variety of ways. The primary being for redeeming award points at hotels and where they are located in proximity to the places I am trying to see. I also find it useful to see what types of hotels are in a city that are affiliated with Marriott, Starwood, or Hilton (the programs I have elite status with) for paid trips.
To use the tool, head to their site and you will see on the top left the ability to select the hotel chains you have points with and the amount of points you’re looking to spend per night. Then using the search bar on the top right, type the city or street address of the location you’re considering. The map will update according to your search parameters and clicking one of the colored dots on the map will provide more detail about the hotel (clicking the name within the details will bring you to the individual property website). Additionally, on the right side of the page will be a list all relevant hotels in the map view area.
Award mapper is also helpful if redeeming Marriott vacation package hotel nights because the results include the category number that the hotel falls under. I find the information across my results to be accurate, however Hilton does have variable pricing, so the points listed is the lowest rate if available. Overall, I really love the visual way that the tool displays information so that I can see which brand hotel and specific property will work best for my trip.
These tools are just the starting process of redeeming award points for travel, but they save an enormous amount of time for people who are looking to compile the best value for award points and miles quickly. I’m glad the days are gone where everyone has to learn all the flight award charts and visit each individual hotel chain to see how best to use their valuable points and miles and continue to look for the next tools to be released that continue to make this fun game more rewarding.