Which hotel award search tool is best?

19

For those with hotel points and free night certificates across multiple hotel programs, finding the best places to use your points and free nights can be a pain. It can be especially hard when your heart is set on a booking a popular hotel or resort which is rarely available for award stays. Luckily there are plenty of tools that can help. In this post I compared 5 hotel award search tools to identify which is best. As you’ll see below, which is best depends upon what exactly you’re trying to achieve, and so I’ve identified the best tools for different scenarios. For general trip planning, which I expect is top scenario for most people, there’s really only one good option: Awayz. For most of the other scenarios I identified, MaxMyPoint performed very well.

Tool Overview

AwardTool Awayz MaxMyPoint Rooms.aero StayWithPoints
Pro Version Price* $10.99/month;
$84.99/year*
$11.99 per month; $99.99 per year $7.99/Month $9.99 per month; $99.99 per year $12.99 per month;
Discounts Save $20 off your first year with code FREQUENTMILER20 Save $20 off your first year with code FREQUENTMILER20 (Expires April 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET) Apply code FrequentMiler to get 20% off 3 months of paid Platinum Membership
Other Paid Options $4.99 Trip Pass: 50 searches in 72 hours $3.99 per month Gold: 5 standard alerts, 2 any day alerts, 20 full views per day $4.99 per month Basic: 5 standard alerts, unlimited full views
Supports Hilton Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supports Hyatt Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supports IHG Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Supports Marriott Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Supports other Hotel Programs No Accor, Choice, Wyndham No No No
Does it do flights too? Yes Yes, In Beta No Yes, Seats.Aero No

Disclosure: Frequent Miler has a business relationship with each of the tools listed above. If you sign up for a paid membership through the above links (or by using code FrequentMiler with MaxMyPoint) we will receive a commission.

Best tool for each scenario

AwardTool Awayz MaxMyPoint Rooms.aero StayWithPoints
Trip Planning Best Limited
Award Calendar Good Good Best Good Good
Fixed Date Award Alerts Good Limited Best Good Good
Price Drop Alerts Good Best Good
IHG Anytime <= 40K Alerts Best Limited
Hyatt Mattress Runs Best Good Good
Find Best Use of Certs Good Best
Find Multi-Day Awards Limited Good Best

 

Scenario Descriptions…

  • Trip Planning: For a specific trip with a fixed destination and dates, does the tool help to identify the best hotels to spend your points? Awayz is the only tool in this roundup built exactly for that purpose. Awayz shows point and cash prices and recommends whether points or cash is the best option.
  • Award Calendar: All of the hotels in this roundup offer some form of award availability calendar. In some cases, the available dates are shown only as a list, but several tools can also display the results in calendar form (and Awayz can only do the latter).
  • Fixed Date Award Alerts: Suppose the hotel you’re interested in isn’t currently available to book with points for the dates you’ll be in the area. In that case, a great option is to set an alert to email you when a room does become available to book with points. All of the tools here can do this, but most have a limited selection of hotels to choose from. Awayz is the most comprehensive, followed by MaxMyPoint. Unfortunately, Awayz doesn’t offer the option to alert you only when the point price is below a specified amount. That’s particularly a problem with Hilton which makes all rooms available for points, but often at outrageously high point prices. For this reason, I decided that MaxMyPoint was best for this scenario.
  • Price Drop Alerts: The idea here is that you’ve booked a hotel with points and want to get an alert if the point price drops so that you can rebook at the lower rate. This is especially common with IHG hotels where the point prices change regularly. I like MaxMyPoint best for this scenario since it supports the feature and has the best coverage of IHG hotels after Awayz.
  • IHG Anytime <= 40K Alerts: This is a very specific scenario. Those of us who still have the old $49/year IHG Select card get a free night certificate each year that can be used at hotels costing up to 40,000 points. But unlike the certs issued with the IHG Premier cards, you cannot add points to book a more expensive hotel. So, the scenario here is that you want to get alerted anytime the hotel you’re interested in drops in price to 40,000 points or lower. With MaxMyPoint you can do this by setting up a “Daily Change” alert with max 40,000 points per night. You can also do this with Rooms.aero, by setting an alert to “Any date” and max 40,000 points per night. Unfortunately, though, there are many IHG hotels that are not available through Rooms.aero.
  • Hyatt Mattress Runs: Off peak category 1 Hyatt hotels cost only 3,500 points per night. For those seeking Hyatt elite status, it can sometimes be worth booking those stays as “mattress runs” (where you check in solely to earn the elite credits and any bonus points that might be available through promotions). I checked each tool to see if it could be used first to find nearby category 1 hotels and then to identify which dates were available for 3,500 points per night. Awayz was the best here because you can search your local area with a 100 mile distance band (or, less if you don’t want to travel that far), filter results to Hyatt hotels, and sort lowest to highest points. This will quickly identify hotels in your area that cost 6,500 points or less (category 1 hotels cost 3,500 off-peak, 5,000 standard, and 6,500 peak). Then you can click into each one and view the award availability calendar to find dates where the hotel costs 3,500 points.
  • Find Best Use of Certs: Suppose you have high-end free night certificates like those from Hilton which are uncapped, or Hyatt category 1-7, or Marriott 85K. And further suppose that you’re willing to travel almost anywhere to use them as long as you can find a great use for them. Both AwardTool and MaxMyPoint are good starting points for this. Both let you start by filtering to the hotel program you want (e.g. Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, etc.) and then you can sort by rating high to low. You can then scan down the results to see which hotels look promising. I like how AwardTool shows the range of point prices and point values in the initial search results so that you can pick out high value options at a glance. MaxMyPoint, meanwhile, has better filtering options (for example, you can filter to Hyatt category 7 hotels) and/or to median nightly points range. Overall, MaxMyPoint wins this category, but just barely over AwardTool.
  • Find Multi-Day Awards: It’s not common, but some hotels won’t show any award availability if you search 1 day at a time. For example, The Inn at Bay Harbor usually doesn’t show any award availability in the peak summer months if you search for a single day at a time. However, if you search for 2 days at a time or more, you can sometimes find availability. So, the question here is which tools can be used to find award availability at hotels like these when you’re open to a wide range of dates? In other words, suppose I just want to be alerted any time a hotel like the Inn at Bay Harbor is available for points-bookings in the summer for 3 days or more. Rooms.aero can do this, but Marriott isn’t yet supported. Awayz can show multi-day awards on their calendar with some programs like Hyatt, but not yet with Marriott, and you cannot setup an alert to do this for you. The only tool that I’m aware of that can do this effectively right now is StayWithPoints. With StayWithPoints, you can set up a flexible alert that will let you know if a multi day award stay becomes available anytime during an entire month. Unfortunately, they only offer 2 flexible alerts to each premium member so at best you can set these up for June and July or July and August if you want summer coverage. Still, this has been very effective for alerting me when the Inn at Bay Harbor has become available during prime summer months.

Caching: All the tools are wrong

All of the tools in this roundup are able to quickly show a full year of hotel award availability for supported hotels, but they can do so because they pre-run the searches and cache the results. The problem with this is that the availability calendars are often wrong. Award availability changes by the minute at popular hotels, so these tools are at best a guide for where to look closer. In some cases you can force new results by setting up an alert. Unfortunately, only MaxMyPoint and Rooms.Aero prominently display when the results for a specific hotel or hotel/date combo were last refreshed. This is something that I think all of the tools should make very clear.

More about each tool…

AwardTool

Awayz

  • This is the only tool in the roundup that does what you’d expect from hotel search tools: it lets you enter a location and date range and it shows you all of the hotels available, point prices, and a recommendation of whether to book with points or cash.
  • I’ve been told that once the flight award search feature is out of beta, they’re going to raise the Awayz subscription fee, but that you can lock in current rates by subscribing before that happens. Unfortunately I don’t know that will happen.
  • A free version of Awayz is available through Bilt Rewards. This is limited to Bilt’s hotel transfer partners, and doesn’t seem to have all of the same filtering capabilities, but it’s otherwise pretty useful. Plus, you can join Bilt Rewards for free (you don’t need their credit card to get this functionality). You can access this feature from the web by logging into your Bilt account and browsing here: www.biltrewards.com/rewards/transfer
  • I like too that Awayz has a $4.99 Trip Pass option. You get to do up to 50 searches in 72 hours. This seems like a great choice for someone who only occasionally plans big trips and/or wants to try out the full version of Awayz without committing to a full month (and without having to remember to cancel).

MaxMyPoint

  • After Awayz, MaxMyPoint seems to have the widest hotel coverage of the tools in this roundup.
  • I love that MaxMyPoint shows the number of rooms available when viewing the availability calendar in list view. This can tell you, for example, whether you need to grab that last room right away or if you have time to keep searching.
  • The free version of this tool is pretty capable by itself, but of course the paid versions offer more capabilities
  • Read more here: Tools for finding impossible hotel awards (MaxMyPoint vs StayWithPoints)

rooms.aero

StayWithPoints

  • Like MaxMyPoint, the free version of StayWithPoints is pretty capable on its own, but you need the most expensive version of this tool to do multi-day award alerts.
  • StayWithPoints has a much cleaner, customer friendly interface than MaxMyPoint
  • Unfortunately, StayWithPoints doesn’t yet cover IHG and seems to have far fewer hotels available than MaxMyPoint.
  • Read more here: Tools for finding impossible hotel awards (MaxMyPoint vs StayWithPoints)

Bottom Line

For most people who could use some help with hotel award searches, I believe that Awayz is the answer. It’s not perfect (I ran into a few bugs and limitations when testing it), but it’s very powerful and it’s the only tool around that does what you probably would expect a hotel search tool to do: it helps you find the best available hotels for a given location and date range. The other tools are more focused on showing a year’s worth of award availability at specific hotels. In other words, the other tools are primarily for when you know which hotel you want but you need help finding award availability. Awayz can do that too, but other tools can do it better. The best of these, in my opinion, is MaxMyPoint.

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19 Comments
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ckitsap

No love for roame.travel? They were awesome for me last year and it seems they are still around.

ckitsap

Yikes. Mea culpa….I must have had multiple windows open and screwed up

Martin

Hi Greg,

Thanks for such an in-depth comparison. It is beneficial to me to shop for a 2nd tool

Hi MaxMyPoint,

Thanks for explaining the Multi-Day Awards.

I happened to see MaxFHR on the top of the page. I found it quite useful to narrow down what I needed by search function and filters (price bar, the selections of credits). The performance is way much better than the AMEX FHR webpage.

Thanks for the bonus from MaxMyPoint!!

MaxMyPoint

Hi Martin,

Thank you for sharing your feedback on https://maxfhr.com. It’s heartening to hear that this side project, developed independently by my teenage daughter, is useful to others.

Thanks.

Rob

Hi, will this useful information be put on your Resources page? Sorry if it’s there now and I’m not seeing it.

geofeat

MaxMyPoints wants access to my Google or Facebook account. Why TF would I do that?

MaxMyPoint

Hi there,

MaxMyPoint just leverages Google or FB account for login. It will make the authentication more secure and simple so that the user does not need to setup a new account/password. There’s no intention and it’s not possible to access your Google or FB account data at all.

Hope this helps.

Thanks.

Spiel

No, it doesn’t help. Because Google said giving access allows your site to view a litany of user info related to my Google account. We don’t have to trust your word on what you do with our data.

Be a regular website and allow registration with email address instead of forcing people to allow access to their Google and FB accounts. Your site is a search tool, not a fintech firm which will need deep authentication.

MaxMyPoint

Thanks for the feedback. Just be clear, the data MaxMyPoint can access is controlled by Google/FB and authorized by the user. The only data MaxMypoint have access is the email which would be used for sending alert later on.

MaxMypoint

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the comparison and feedback. For Multi-Day Awards, MaxMyPoint supports it with the point calendar today. One example, is Grand Hyatt Baha Mar(https://maxmypoint.com/hotel/7622) which is showing the availability based on minimal nights of 2. And just a heads-up on the new features we are launching soon: 1) real time hotel rewards and price search engine over 4 brands with a given city and checkin/out date 2) enhanced any day alert which will support 2/3/4/5 nights with a given duration. Again, thanks for the article.

MaxMyPoint

MaxMyPoint

That’s correct. The minimal nights condition applies to the whole year for now. But given some hotel may have 2 nights requirements in some months or more availability with 2 nights over the year, I will consider to add a feature to the daily change alert to allow the user to configure the minimal nights they prefer.

Dom

Thanks for the overview Greg. I’ve been using maxmypoint for the last 6 months, and it has been so valuable! That feeling you get when you receive an email alert that a room is available for dates you have specified is priceless!

One other valuable feature is setting the Daily Change alert on a hotel that you are interested, even before you know what dates you want. You can quickly see patterns on how and when they release their award inventory which seems to vary quite a bit by property.

I didn’t know about the number of rooms available in list view. That is a great tip! Thanks Greg.

MaxMyPoint

Hi Dom,

Glad to hear MaxMyPoint works well for you. I will try to add the number of rooms available to the calendar view so it’s easier for the user to see.

Thanks.

Dom

I see you added this directly on the calendar view now. Thanks!

For some properties there is too much text in the small box to display, but turning my phone landscape mode works.

MaxMyPoint

yes, it may not be looking very nice on small screens. but landscape mode should work better. and we will continue to improve the UI in the future.

Raylan

I think hotel search platforms exist in a different space than airline program searches. With airlines, there’s 20+ programs to search but with hotel programs, the average points/miles person has generously 5 different programs to search. Room alerts and particularly price drop alerts are pretty nice but I struggle to see how that’d be worth $80+ a year when there are clunky free tools that do the job for alerts and the most valuable currency and chain where most of my stays are, Hyatt, isn’t dynamic so I don’t have to worry about fluctuating prices.

I suppose what I’m saying is that I think charging comparable prices to airline award search engines is a highly dubious value proposition. The value prop for seats.aero including both hotels and flights is top though.