Which award search tool is best?

113

This post has been largely re-written since last publication. I’ve added new tools, separated free tools from paid tools, and changed how I summarize each tool’s loyalty program coverage. For the latter, rather than simply listing the total number of covered programs, I now spell out which US programs and which relevant international programs are covered.

a seat in a plane

a bed with a book and a magazine on it

Airline miles offer us flying experiences we would never dream of paying cash for.  Pictured above is Etihad’s First Class Apartment which I flew in 2019. While other passengers probably paid around $7,000 for the same flight from Abu Dhabi to London, I paid only 80,000 American Airlines miles (and that also included a business class flight from the Seychelles to Abu Dhabi).

At Frequent Miler, we often write about sweet spot awards like the one above. It’s easy to dream about enjoying flights like these, but it’s often very difficult to find saver award availability. Most airlines have multiple award pricing tiers and only the cheapest awards (often referred to as “saver awards”) are available to book with partner miles. And that’s key. The best deals with airline miles usually involve using one airline’s miles to book awards on a partner airline. To take advantage of those opportunities, you have to find saver award availability on the partner airline’s flight. Often, that’s very hard to do. Enter award search tools…

Award Search Tools: General Purpose vs. Specialty

Several online tools have been developed over the years to try to make award searches easier. Among these, there are at least two distinct types of tools: general purpose, and specialty award search tools. With the general purpose award search tools, just like paid flight searches via Kayak or Google Flights, you enter your desired origin airport, destination airport, dates of travel, number of travelers, and class of service; press “search,” and the tool will find available awards across multiple loyalty programs and airlines. The specialty award search tools, meanwhile, are designed to help find awards for specific carriers or routes. For example, if your heart is set on flying a specific United Airlines route, one of the specialty award search tools may be the best option for you.

General Purpose Tools

Roame.travel's search bar
This search bar is from the Roame.travel, but all of the general purpose search tools in this section offer similar search options.

General purpose award search tools are designed to work like regular flight searches found on sites like Google Flights, Kayak, Expedia, etc. The primary difference is that instead of showing you flight prices in dollars, these tools show the price in airline miles.

Free general purpose award search tools

AwardTool point.me
(via Bilt)
point.me (via Amex) Points Path PointsYeah roame
Date Range Search 4 Days
(24 via Mega)
1 Day 1 Day N/A 4 Days 1 Day
Multi-Airport Search Yes No No Yes No No
Alliance Support (Star Alliance, oneworld, SkyTeam) All 3 All 3 All 3 All 3 All 3 All 3
Key US Loyalty Programs Alaska, AA, Delta, United AA, United Delta AA, Delta, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United
Other US Programs JetBlue, Spirit Hawaiian Hawaiian, JetBlue None Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit JetBlue, Hawaiian
Other Key Programs (notable unique options in bold) Aeroplan, Avios, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, Avios, Cathay Pacific, Emirates,  Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, Avios, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Flying Blue, Etihad,  LifeMiles, Qantas, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic None Aeroplan, Avios, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, Avios, Emirates, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic
Air Canada Aeroplan currently working?* Yes Yes Yes N/A No No
Award Alerts Yes No No No Yes No
Search Speed Fast Slow Slow Fast Fast Fast
Display Award Prices? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Step by step instructions for beginners? No Detailed Detailed No No No

* Air Canada Aeroplan has issued cease and desist demands to some award search tool providers and so it’s useful to know which ones still offer support for searching for Aeroplan awards
Disclosure: Frequent Miler will earn a commission if you subscribe to the paid versions of AwardTool or PointsYeah through our links.

Notes about each of the above programs:

Award Tool (Free Version)

  • In addition to offering 4 day search windows, AwardTool also offers “Mega” searches which can include ranges of up to 24 days. The catch is that you are limited to running these no more than 3 times per day.
  • Standout features include free multi-day search, free multi-airport search, free alerts, and fast results.
  • See: AwardTool: a powerful new award search tool

point.me (via Bilt)

  • Bilt Rewards is a rewards program intended for people who pay rent, but anyone can join for free. Once you’ve joined and installed the Bilt app on your phone, you can use the free embedded version of point.me to search for flight awards. This version of point.me is limited to Bilt’s transfer partners (found here). See also: Bilt adds free Point.me integration for award searches with partners!
  • Standout feature: detailed instructions for beginners.
  • If you’d prefer to use this version of point.me on the web, you can log into your Bilt account here: www.biltrewards.com/rewards/travel.

point.me (via Amex)

Points Path

  • Points Path is different from the other tools in this round-up in that it’s a Chrome plug-in that works automatically with Google Flights. See details here: Points Path – An easy “set and forget” award search tool.
  • Standout feature: Set and forget. If you use Google Flights regularly, this tool will automatically show you point prices alongside cash prices.

PointsYeah

roam.Travel

  • Standout feature: fast results

Which free general purpose tool is best?

AwardTool and PointsYeah offer similar capabilities. Both offer free date range searches and free award alerts. Both are excellent options, but I like AwardTool a bit more thanks to the ability to do multi-airport searches. Regardless of which you prefer, you might want to also install Points Path for when you’re doing Google Flights searches.

Premium general purpose award search tools

AwardLogic AwardTool Pro point.me PointsYeah Premium
Cost $4.99 per day; $19.99 per month; $199.99 per year Pro: $10.99/month;
$84.99/year*
$5 per day; $12 per month; $129 per year $89.99 per year
Date Range Search 3 Days Up to 24 Days via Mega search Specific Date Only 8 Days
Multi-Airport Search No Yes No Yes
Alliance Support (Star Alliance, oneworld, SkyTeam) All 3 All 3 All 3 All 3
Key US Programs Alaska, AA, Delta, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United
Other US Programs JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest JetBlue, Spirit Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit
Other Key Programs
(notable unique options in bold)
Aeroplan, Avios, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, EVA, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Singapore, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, Avios, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, ANA, Avios, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, EVA,  Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Singapore, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic Aeroplan, Avios, Emirates, Etihad, Flying Blue, LifeMiles, Qantas, Turkish, Virgin Atlantic
Air Canada Aeroplan currently working?** Yes Yes Yes No
Award Alerts Yes Yes No Yes
Search Speed Medium Fast Slow Fast
Display Award Prices? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Step by step instructions for beginners? Some No Detailed No

* AwardTool: Save $20 off your first year with code “FREQUENTMILER20”
Disclosure: Frequent Miler will earn a small commission if you sign up for AwardLogic, PointsYeah, or point.me through our links.
** Air Canada Aeroplan has issued cease and desist demands to some award search tool providers and so it’s useful to know which ones still offer support for searching for Aeroplan awards
Disclosure: Frequent Miler will earn a commission if you subscribe to the paid versions of AwardTool or PointsYeah through our links.

Notes about each of the above programs:

AwardLogic

  • This tool is second only to Point.me in searching the most relevant airline programs
  • Supports 3-day date ranges and alerts
  • Crazy expensive compared to the competition

Award Tool Pro

  • In addition to offering standard 16 day search windows, AwardTool also offers “Mega” searches which can include ranges of up to 24 days.
  • Award Tool gives you the flexibility to choose how you want to use the 16 (or 24 with Mega Search) degrees of freedom: you can do a 16 or 24 day date range, or list up to 16 or 24 airports with a single date, or any combination thereof.
  • Standout features include multi-day search, multi-airport search, alerts, and fast results.
  • See: AwardTool: a powerful new award search tool

point.me

  • Searches more relevant airline programs than any other tool
  • Standout feature: detailed instructions for beginners.
  • Unfortunately searches are painfully slow, and neither date ranges nor alerts are supported.

PointsYeah Premium

  • The ability to include a 8 day date range and up to two origin and two destination airports gives a maximum of 32 degrees of freedom (more than Award Tool’s 24). Unfortunately it’s not as flexible as AwardTool in that you can’t do more than 2 airports or extend the date range beyond 8 days.
  • Standout features include multi-day search, multi-airport search, alerts, and fast results.
  • See: Pointsyeah: Free flight award searches and alerts

Which premium general purpose tool is best?

AwardTool and PointsYeah offer very similar capabilities. Both offer date range searches, award alerts, and fast results. Both are excellent options, but I love the flexibility offered by AwardTool, especially with their “Mega” search. If you’re new to award booking, it can make sense to turn to Point.me for its step by step award booking instructions.

Specialty Award Search Tools

Unlike general purpose award search tools, the specialty award search tools listed below are designed to help find awards for specific carriers or routes. For example, if your heart is set on flying a specific United Airlines route, one of the specialty award search tools may be the best option for you.

Expert Flyer SeatSpy Seats.aero
Cost $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year Premium: $3.99 per month; $39.90 per year | First Class: $9.99 per month; $99.90 per year Standard: Free | Pro: $9.99 per month; $99.99 per year
Search Date Range 7 Days 365 Days 360 Days
Key US Airlines Alaska, AA AA, United Alaska, AA, Delta, United
Other US Airlines Hawaiian, JetBlue N/A JetBlue
Other Key Airlines Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air France, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Korean, Qantas, Turkish Air France, British Airways, Etihad, KLM, Virgin Atlantic Air Canada, Flying Blue, Emirates, Etihad, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic
Award Alerts Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Leg Awards? Yes No Yes
Display Award Prices? No Yes Yes
Search Across Carriers at Once? No No Yes
Step by step instructions for beginners? No No No

Disclosure: Frequent Miler will earn a small commission if you sign up for ExpertFlyer, Seatspy, or Seats.Aero through our links

Notes about each of the above programs:

Expert Flyer

a screenshot of a computer screen
Expert Flyer searches require entering origin, destination, departure date, and airline.  You can choose up to 3 days on either side of your dates in order to get 7 total days worth of results. You can also choose to search for one or more classes of service at once.
a screenshot of a flight schedule
Expert Flyer’s search results show both nonstop and connecting routes, along with detailed information about each segment.

Expert Flyer is a nerdy tool for finding award space, upgrade space, open seats and more.  Expert Flyer doesn’t do general award searches across airlines.  Instead, you tell it which specific airline you want to fly, which route and dates, and it will tell you if it can find saver level award availability.  It won’t tell you the award price or which program to use to book the awards.

Pros

  • Identifies multi-leg awards, not just non-stop
  • Provides many other flight features besides award searches

Cons

  • Requires you to know which airline you want to fly
  • Doesn’t display award prices
  • Doesn’t help identify best points or miles to use to book a given award
  • Setting alerts can be a painstaking process: You need to set up a separate alert for each and every flight + date of interest.  For example, if there are three flights per day that would work for you and you’re open to flying on any of 4 different days, then you would need to setup 12 different alerts.

SeatSpy

a screenshot of a chat

a screenshot of a calendar
SeatSpy offers a unique display that cleanly shows a year’s worth of results at once.  Different colors indicate different classes of service that are available on each day.  When hovering over a single day, you can see the number of seats available for each class of service, along with the number of points required by that airline’s loyalty program to book the award (note: you may be able to get better award prices by booking through a partner program, but SeatSpy isn’t designed to give you that kind of information).

SeatSpy is unique in that it displays a full year of award availability all at once… and relatively quickly.  If you know which airline you want to fly on a nonstop route, and if that airline is supported by SeatSpy, there’s no other tool that compares. See: SeatSpy — A tool for finding non-stop awards. Why is that useful?

Pros

  • Displays an entire year of results at a time
  • Fast results (especially considering that it shows an entire year at once)
  • Displays award prices when you click on a date
  • Alerts are easy to set up and can be set for an almost unlimited date range
  • Inexpensive compared to the other tools

Cons

  • Relatively few relevant airlines supported
  • Searches only for non-stop flights
  • Alerts aren’t useful with programs that dynamically price awards (such as AA and Air France)

Seats.Aero

a person typing on a laptop

Seats.Aero is a awesome nerdy tool that is mostly designed for finding last-minute hard-to-get awards. See my full review here: Seats.aero — a wonderfully nerdy tool for finding Unicorn flight awards.

Pros

  • Lightning fast
  • Free standard version
  • Supports broad searches such as “North America” to “Asia”

Cons

  • Not all airline routes are included
  • Free version only searches 2 months into the future
  • Cached results mean that some results are out of date
  • Not designed for novices

Explaining Alliance Support, Key Programs

For this post, I used to list the number of award programs that each tool supported, but that gave tools extra credit for adding programs of little interest to most readers. Instead of listing the number of supported programs, I now just list the key airline programs…

The best award search tools can find awards available through each major airline alliance (Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam), from each major US airline (for US customers), and from other key programs that sometimes offer good award value and are supported by major transferable points programs. For the latter, the important thing is whether the US audience can get the airline miles by transferring from points programs such as Amex, Chase, Capital One, etc. See Transfer Partner Master List for details.

Alliance Support

The best tools support searching for awards within at least one of these programs for each alliance:

  • Star Alliance: Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, United MileagePlus
  • oneworld: American AAdvantage, Alaska Mileage Plan, Avios (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, etc.), Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • SkyTeam: Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Delta SkyMiles

US Airlines

The best tools support searching for awards within these programs:

  • American AAdvantage
  • Alaska Mileage Plan
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • United MileagePlus

Other Key Programs

The following programs are important to support because their miles are widely available (usually by transferring from transferable points programs) and they offer either cheaper awards or awards that aren’t available through other programs. There is overlap between this list and the ones above:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: Offers many partner awards outside of Star Alliance itself. Offers better award space on Singapore Airlines than is available with other programs.
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue: Offers occasionally excellent award pricing on Air France and KLM for awards that are not available through partners. Best option for booking Virgin Atlantic business class to/from London.
  • Avianca LifeMiles: LifeMiles has some random great sweetspot awards. Additionally, they’re often the best program for booking star alliance business class to/from Europe.
  • Avios: There are some awards for flying British Airways, Qatar, and others, that are only available when booking with Avios-based programs.
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: Sometimes offers far lower surcharges for British Airways flights than when booking the same flights through other programs.
  • Emirates Skywards: Best option for booking Emirates business or first class between US and Europe (JFK to Milan, Italy; and Newark to Athens, Greece).
  • Etihad: Etihad seems to be reserving first class awards to members of their own program when booking more than 30 days in advance.
  • EVA Infinity MileageLands: Offers great award availability and decent award pricing for their own flights.
  • Qantas: Sometimes offers the best pricing for oneworld and other partners (such as Emirates).
  • Singapore KrisFlyer: The only way to book Singapore first class or Suites is with Singapore’s own miles.
  • Turkish Miles & Smiles: Offers great pricing for United award flights within the United States (especially to or from Hawaii).
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Sometimes best option for booking Delta, Air France, or KLM flights. Great availability for booking ITA flights.

Which is Best?

If you’re looking for a free general purpose tool, AwardTool and PointsYeah offer very similar capabilities. Both offer free date range searches and free award alerts. Both are excellent options, but I like AwardTool a bit more thanks to the ability to do multi-airport searches. If you want to create more alerts than are offered in either tool individually, you could always sign up for both free tools and set up alerts within each. Additionally, anyone who regularly uses Google Flights should consider installing Points Path so that you’ll automatically get award prices within your Google Flights search results.

Among the paid general purpose award search tools, AwardTool is currently my favorite. It offers an incredible combination of award program coverage, flexibility, and speed. That said, PointsYeah is very close behind and I’d happily subscribe to either one.

Among the specialty search tools, Seats.Aero is my go-to. I love that I can do things like find available Emirates first class awards, anywhere in the world, in seconds.

See these posts for more:

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Antonio

Is awardfares.com any good? They seem to have a nice interface.

pointsyeahsucks

What PointsYeah does to the competitors seem at least unrespectful. They even threatened and DDOS attack college student project to protect themself. Just Google “PointsYeah CEO”, and it’s unacceptable.

Last edited 16 days ago by pointsyeahsucks
cameron

Roame does not include hawaiian. point.me does though.

cameron

so does google flights with points path

cameron

seat spy dropped united recently. i have a query in to find out why.

cameron

they said “We have been working with the United data recently and we can see that there are some issues with it. We strongly suspect that we will have to remove the United airline availability from the site indefinitely. While we continue to look into this data I would recommend that you check on the United site directly for availability.

Richard

New paid points.me customer. Far from impressed. First search I tried to find award space for Air France and/or via Virgin Atlantic. Very clearly noted as available on both sites but it does not show up on points.me Submitted a request to points.me to ask them to look into it and it’s been a week with no reply. To me, that is not customer service worthy of a paid subscription.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard
Burns

Awardtool is a game changer, very helpful. The provided discount code makes it incredibly cost-effective.

Anne

I used Seat Spy recently to set a reward search on Flying Blue from Paris – Houston on a specific date and at a no more than 50,000 rate for business class for 2 seats. That rate wasn’t currently available on the day I was searching but I got an alert about a week later that the seats were available at that price. I verified availability on the Flying Blue site, transferred my points and then booked the flights. So I do think Seat Spy searches dynamically priced rewards if you set a search with the reward parameters you’re willing to pay.

Greek A

AwardTool is awesome, love it! Thanks Greg!

[…] Getting crowded in this space so here is a post about all of them: Which award search tool is best? […]

Amy

What about Award Nexus? I find they are a great tool for award space. Especially for multiple flight itineraries.
Has a some gotchas but no more than expertflyer

Amy

I think it is somewhat like Award Tool but I find the inclusions and exclusions a bit better. The calendar grouping of the offerings seem a bit easier to scan and the alerts work well.
Not sure it is neccessarily “better” but I find it works well and if you are a contributor on Flyertalk, you get most of the Award Tool Pro level options for free.

Amy

that is free with the credits you earn

Mathew

AwardTool feels like the best yet the most affordable option, even before applying your $20 coupon code. Bravo!

DouglasS

After playing around with it for a while, I’ve found that AwardTool Panorama and Routes are much more useful to me than their real-time search. It offers max flexibility and super fast. They also track thousands of routes, similar to seats.aero, but with more programs. It would be interesting to see the comparison between the two.

Last edited 4 months ago by DouglasS
DouglasS

Perfect! Looking forward to it!

DaveS

I’ve been seeing a lot of SAS results on PointsYeah. That’s a program that I haven’t seen discussed by bloggers. Any thoughts on SAS as a program to be learning about? One thing I’ve noticed is that I haven’t found any of these that seems to see the extra United availability for cardholders, and I realize it would be hard to handle that in the formats they use. I often see better United results at that website than on a search tool.

ssss

What I like about Points Yeah is that it tells me about transfer bonuses. The Bilt app doesn’t distinguish between using points to pay cash vs transfers. Although, when the price yesterday was cheaper on Bilt, I realized it was cheaper to pay cash and transfer points than to use points. I just wish it alerted me to the difference.

DouglasS

AwardTool also tells you the transfer bonus.

Z Man

Would it be possible to update this post for any hotel award search tools? Or is there another article? Thanks!

Andrew R.

I used https://rooms.aero/ to set up an alert for the Conrad in downtown Indianapolis to attend the Swifty concert. As soon as award space opened at 70k, I received an alert and booked immediately. A few days later, Hilton’s revenue people adjusted the prices to over 1.5 million points for a standard room. Insane! Rooms.aero doesn’t have every hotel in a particular city, however, so keep that in mind.

DouglasS

Is it reasonable to add AwardTool to the list of tools for hotel awards since it also has a hotel section & hotel alert?