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Using Pointimize to Find Hotel and Flight Redemption Rates

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There are plenty of tools available to help frequent flyers put their travel rewards to use, and we were eager to check out the latest version of one such site: Pointimize. Below, TPG Contributor JT Genter walks through the site’s helpful features, along with a few current limitations.

Update: An activation code finally arrived 28 hours after making the request.

We were excited to hear about an improvement to Pointimize — a website designed to help travelers find their “best use of miles & points.” So, we dug into the website to see if it’s a good tool for you.

Before we go any further, there’s a huge caveat that isn’t clear when you first visit the website. Per Pointimize’s FAQs:

Currently, award availability is not displayed. On the bright side, the team is working hard on creating the best way to present award availability in the near future!!

So, if you search award flights from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles (LAX), Pointimize is going to return theoretical award options — not actually bookable award options. Because of this, Pointimize is currently going to be of very limited use for award flights. However, the site can be very helpful for hotel award searching. Also, Pointimize can be particularly helpful with some airline programs.

Registering an account

You don’t have to set up an account with Pointimize to begin searching for hotel options. However, in order to get the most relevant results, it’s best to take a couple of minutes to do so.

1. Sign up by linking Pointimize to either your Facebook or Google account. These are the only two options for now, but the site is working on its own account management system — with a targeted launch date in September.

You can request a Pointimize invitation code, if you don't have one.
You need to request a Pointimize invitation code if you want to search flight options.

2. Flights only: In order to search for flights, you’ll need an invitation code. If you don’t have one, click “Apply Now” on this page to request one. When I requested a code, I received a confirmation email immediately, but I didn’t receive an invitation code within the first 15 hours (it still has yet to arrive). However, a Pointimize representative provided a code for me to access the site without registering.

3. To streamline the search process and results, take a few minutes to set up your profile by adding loyalty programs and adjusting your valuation of points.

Set Up Loyalty Programs

Either link your AwardWallet account or manually enter your loyalty account balances for ease in searching.
Either link your AwardWallet account or manually enter your loyalty account balances for ease in searching.

Generally, for keeping track of your points and miles balances, we suggest setting up an AwardWallet account. AwardWallet will periodically refresh all of your points/miles balances, elite status levels and expiration dates. For those who already have their AwardWallet profiles set up, simply link your AwardWallet account with Pointimize to automatically import your loyalty program balances and elite status levels.

If you’d rather manually track your points/miles in Pointimize, there’s also a way to manually add programs to your profile. But, really, why not just use AwardWallet?

Point Valuations

In the settings page, you can customize the valuations for various hotel points.
In the settings page, you can customize your hotel point valuations.

Pointimize also lets users set valuations for loyalty programs. With this information, Pointimize will calculate whether it will be better to pay with cash rather than using points. For now, only hotel valuations are included. We checked with Pointimize and found that airline mile valuations should be added to the site in October.

Either Pointimize is a fan of The Points Guy or has the same take on hotel points; the default hotel valuations are identical to TPG’s latest valuations.

HOTELS

Pointimize originally launched in March of this year with hotel award searching. This is where the website can provide a great service to award seekers. Once you have your hotel award accounts and valuations set up, select a city and dates and search. Pointimize will compile both the cash and point cost of all of the hotels in the area for the supported hotel brands. Currently, those brands are:

  • Club Carlson Hotel Rewards
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Group (SPG)

Sample Search: A Long Weekend in San Francisco

An expanded hotel search result for a sample night in San Francisco.
An expanded hotel search result for a sample night in San Francisco.

I tested Pointimize’s hotel search feature by checking hotel options in San Francisco for a long weekend later this month. The search process took just 23 seconds and returned a list of award rates and cash prices for 51 hotels in the area. Pointimize factored in my Platinum Elite status with IHG — a benefit of my IHG Rewards Select Credit Card — and listed IHG options as the top three options. When you expand the details, Pointimize includes a handy list of the elite benefits you’ll receive, if applicable.

As part of the results, Pointimize included the point valuations included in my profile (i.e., 0.7 cents per point for IHG) and the calculated redemption rate (0.73 cents per point in the above example) for each option. The top-listed result was one of seven options that provided a higher redemption value than the assigned points value. However, there’s no way of sorting the results to list these seven at the top. Instead, you have to scroll through the list manually checking for the orange text indicating that the redemption value is greater than the points value.

Current Issues

  • As noted above, Pointimize doesn’t query hotel award availability. This is less of an issue for hotels than flights, but you might run across some hotel results that don’t currently have award availability.
  • While the listed cash fares are nice as a quick comparison, I was easily able to find cheaper booking options for many of the same hotels and dates I checked. So, make sure to check prices elsewhere before booking through one of the linked sites.

Features We’d Like to See

  • Current results only list cash or points options, but not Points + Cash options. Ideally these options would also be listed along with a calculation of whether or not the option provides a good value.
  • It’d be great to be able to filter search results to only include options where the redemption value is greater than the assigned value of the points needed. This would help easily narrow the long list of options to a short list of hotels to consider.

FLIGHTS

Pointimize supports 9 most frequently used airline reward programs
You can choose which frequent flyer programs to include in your searches.

Pointimize just launched its flight search tool on July 29, and it’s still in beta. Pointimize includes many of the most popular frequent flyer programs — and is planning to add more soon. However, this tool is only good for researching possible award flight options, not options that are currently available to book with award miles.

For now, Pointimize simply compiles a list of flights from the origin to the destination and then calculates the award cost from the airline’s award chart. So, all domestic flights for American, Delta and United are going to be listed at 25,000 miles round-trip — even though the actual award price might range from 11,000 to not available.

Currently, Pointimize includes the following program’s award charts:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • ANA Mileage Club
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Iberia Plus
  • United Airlines MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub
  • Japan Airlines (expected later this week)
  • Korean Air (expected later this month)
  • Singapore Air (expected later this month)

For now, the best uses of Pointimize’s flight search feature are going to be distance-based award charts such as those from British Airways and Iberia. This is because Pointimize calculates the award cost based on the actual flight schedule. So, routes with nonstop Oneworld options will price lower than one-stop options for British Airways awards, as each segment is priced separately.

Sample Search: Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Search results for an example search from Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX).
Search results for an example search from Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX).

After linking my accounts and entering my invitation code, I started with a sample search of Charlotte (CLT) and Los Angeles (LAX) for a busy holiday period. I was originally stunned to see what looked to be excellent award availability — before learning that these results don’t necessarily correspond to what you can book.

First of all, the positive aspects of the results:

  • Pointimize gave preference to the options where you have elite status, listing three Oneworld options first before listing Delta and United options.
  • For each result, Pointimize referenced elite status on that program and included elite benefits when applicable.
  • I was pleased to see that American Airlines Off Peak rates and British Airways Off Peak rates have been incorporated into the results.
Although the search results reflected BA availability, this option is only available with AAdvantage miles.
Although the search results seem to reflect BA Avios booking option, the results page only lists the AAdvantage miles award rate.

There are quite a few kinks that still need to be worked out of Pointimize’s results. Most noticeable in my sample search: No American Airlines flight options were listed; all AA flights were listed as British Airways flights. At first, I took this to indicate that the best award option would be British Airways, but — when I reached the final results page — Pointimize only listed the American Airlines award chart rate. The British Airways Avios rate wasn’t listed, even for comparison.

Delta Limitations

Pointimize uses the general award chart price, when sometimes it's actually cheaper.
Pointimize shows that the award cost for these flights is 25,000 SkyMiles, but the actual cost on Delta’s website is just 11,000 SkyMiles round-trip.

Background: In February 2015, Delta removed all award charts from its website. This has allowed Delta to use “dynamic” pricing for award flights, rather than being tethered to an award chart. Generally, this has meant more expensive award flights. However, Delta has recently been more generous by pricing some short-haul flights as low as 5,000 SkyMiles each way.

As Pointimize isn’t querying Delta’s actual award pricing and availability, it relies on the old unpublished Delta award charts for award search results. So, award prices may be significantly different between Pointimize’s results and actual Delta award prices.

Oneworld Limitations

Pointimize lists the incorrect mileage rates for both AA and BA.
Pointimize currently lists the incorrect mileage rates for both American Airlines and British Airways award options.

One of the highlights of American Airlines’ program change in March was the addition of 7,500-mile award rate for direct flights under 500 miles. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be coded into Pointimize yet. I checked a few sub-500-mile options and found them to be pricing at the standard 25,000-mile domestic US rate. In the example above, Pointimize also misses the mark on the British Airways rate. Last October, BA eliminated the 4,500-mile rate for domestic US one-way flights under 600 miles. So, the British Airways result should be listed as 15,000 Avios.

Although reduced mileage awards are only available to Citi credit cardholders, it’d be nice if Pointimize would note if an airport was included on the list. For example, if you’re an eligible Citi cardholder booking a flight to/from Birmingham (BHM) in August, you’d be eligible for a 7,500-mile reduction in your award redemption. While the reduced mileage award airport options change every other month, this would be a nice feature to add to the results page.

General Issues

  • Pointimize still seems to be working through some bugs. While testing, I entered an invitation code, completed some award flight searches, updated my profile and went back to search more award flights. When I tried to search flights again, Pointimize asked for another invitation code. While Pointimize works out this bug, it seems safest to not update your user profile after entering an invitation code.
My elite status levels (or lack thereof) were randomly assigned to Spirit and Frontier.
My elite status levels (or lack thereof) were randomly assigned to Spirit and Frontier.
  • For non-alliance airlines, elite status seemed to be randomly assigned. For example, my Oneworld status would show up in some Spirit results, and United non-status would be listed for some Frontier flights.
  • No JetBlue or Southwest point options are included. Instead of acknowledging this limitation, the website returns “This flight cannot be redeemed with any miles plan of yours.”
  • While the cash fares are nice for comparison, beware of the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) that Pointimize links to for booking flights. Many of them don’t pass along airlines’ 24-hour cancellation policies. Even worse, some will charge you large fees for modifications (i.e., misspelled traveler name) or cancellations before the airline even issues the tickets.

Features We’d Like to See

In March, Pointimize teased a complete trip-planning tool that they plan to add to the site.
In March, Pointimize included a sample trip-planning tool that it plans to add to the site. Image courtesy of Pointmize’s blog.

1. In its initial announcement in March, Pointimize teased a “Trip Plan UI” that would help you plan out an entire award trip in one spot. Once actual award availability is added to Pointimize, this feature would be an awesome tool for award travelers to quickly plan complete award trip options.

2. After searching and finding a good flight option, Pointimize directs you to the airline’s website to search for award availability. However, you have to start your search over from scratch. Ideally, Pointimize can figure out a way to automatically start an award search with the origin, destination, dates and number of travelers — or at least fill in these details on the airline’s website.

3. Currently, Pointimize only considers the award charts for nine supported airlines. Along with adding other airline programs, it’d be nice to incorporate transferable point options (Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points and Starwood Preferred Guest), as some of the transfer partner charts provide excellent value.

Overall Impression

For now, Pointimize has a nice tool for searching and quickly comparing hotel options. While it doesn’t include all hotel programs and independent options, Pointimize is better than sites like AwardMapper for the hotel programs it does cover — as it includes cash prices as a reference on whether or not you’re getting a good deal.

However, Pointimize’s flight search tool isn’t ready for prime time. At this point, it’s only going to be useful in narrow situations like checking prices on distance-based award charts, comparing award charts for international flights (especially around “off peak” dates) and providing you a list of flights for setting up ExpertFlyer award availability alerts. However, Pointimize does look promising. We look forward to further improvements to the site, including — most importantly — live award availability.

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