By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Got a stockpile of airline miles or credit card points but don’t know how to make the most of them?
With blackout dates and tricky reservations systems – booking award travel can seem downright daunting.
But as 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan finds, new companies help customers get the most mileage from their miles.
Gracey Hitchcock wanted to cash in credit card points for a trip to the far east. But she wasn’t sure where to start.
“You hear about all these blackout dates. I didn’t want to be frustrated trying to do tickets,” said Hitchcock.
So she turned to a professional instead, an award travel booker who took her points and did some mileage magic, finding her business class tickets to her dream destination.
“They know all the ins and outs and they can basically book you a ticket and make it effortless,” said Hitchcock.
Airline mergers and complicated frequent flyer and credit card reward programs have spawned a brand new type of business. Travel agents who specialize solely in maximizing your miles and points.
“You think that it’s difficult to earn your miles? The more difficult thing is to figure out how to redeem your miles. So award planners have really become one of the hot buttons out there,” said Randy Petersen with Inside Flyer Magazine.
These companies claim they can scour the system to find flight partners, routes and deals you might not be able to find on your own, saving you thousands of miles or points on your destination.
“They know what’s going on, it’s all that they do and they really can help you find value. Most people don’t really understand all the various partners. And even today some programs have peak and off-season awards,” said Petersen.
Ben Schlappig founded PointsPros.com, one of about a dozen award booking companies in the U.S.
“We have more business than we can handle. We’re doing over a dozen requests a day easily,” said Schlappig
These services range in price from about $100 to $200 dollars per ticket. And most will offer a guarantee.
“If we find an award that doesn’t work for you, we don’t charge anything,” said Schlappig.
Not all travel bookers are created equal, so be sure to do your research before using a particular company.
List of award travel bookers (Courtesy of InsideFlyer.com magazine)
Award Booking Service
$100 per passenger
$99 one way, $149 round-trip, $199 multi-city
Award Travel Consulting
$100 per passenger
Book Your Award
$150 per passenger
First Class and Beyond
Varies according to itinerary
$111 and up
Zero Hassle Awards
$100 for two passengers
$200 per passenger
We Fly Free
Between $69-$149 per passenger depending on flight class
Work Class Perks