Can I Use Award Booking Services for Help Redeeming Miles?
TPG reader Karen sent me an email to ask about award booking services:
I read your post about not using brokers, but what do you think about paying someone to help me figure out how to use my own points? I've learned a lot about award travel, but I'm still a newbie, and I think it's worth the price to be confident I'm not making any mistakes."
Earlier this year I wrote about the risks involved with using mileage brokers to sell travel rewards or buy discounted flights. Loyalty programs frown on both activities, and taking part could put your points, miles and money in jeopardy. However, there's another industry built around award travel that can help you maximize your resources without breaking any rules.
Karen is asking about award booking services, which are basically people who help you redeem points and miles efficiently to get the travel experience you want. Award booking services may be totally separate from mileage brokers, though there are some companies that offer both. I don't recommend any service in particular, but this FlyerTalk thread has a pretty comprehensive list with reviews.
Prices vary depending on the destination, the number of travelers and the complexity of your itinerary, but you can expect to pay around $100-$200 per person on average. That may sound pricey, but if you end up saving 20,000 miles or dodging a $400 fuel surcharge, it can easily be worthwhile. Getting someone else to do the legwork can also be helpful if you're just short on time.
Either way, the important point is that you're probably not violating any program rules by enlisting the help of an award booking service. Some programs have rules against sharing account information, which might be required if you want someone to actually book the award for you (rather than just find availability), but I haven't heard of frequent flyers being penalized for that.
TPG actually started out as an award booking service, but before long I realized I could do more good by teaching people how to maximize their own travel. My goal now is to help readers learn the ins and outs of loyalty programs, and ideally I'd love for you to become fluent in finding availability and booking your own awards. However, if you're new to the game or you just don't enjoy the process of piecing together an itinerary, there's no shame in asking (or paying) for help.