One thing I get emails about on regular basis is readers asking me to help them book award trips using the miles and points they have accumulated. While I don’t use a booking service myself (in part so I can write about the first-hand experience of booking trips), and unfortunately don’t have the time to have an awards booking service of my own, I do regularly recommend other booking services.  It can be a smart tool if you don’t have a lot of time to sit and research how to optimize your award trips, or if you are unsure how to put your miles and points to best use.

Recently, while my husband was trying to win a million SPG points playing blackjack (which you can read about here), I met a few founders of the award booking site, Award Magic.

awardmagic logo

The three founders are Ari Charlestein, Michael Reiserer, and Tahsir Ahsan (aka the Bengali Miles Guru).  I am always interested in learning about reliable award booking sites, especially ones that are willing to offer a family discount.  Their website is pretty informative and I suggest checking it out if you are shopping around for an award booking site.  To be clear, this is for award bookings with miles, and not revenue tickets you want to buy with cash.  Like most award booking sites I have recommended, they have a 100% guarantee, so if you are not satisfied with your itinerary they put together for you then you do not pay.

From the FAQ section of their website they go into detail about their pricing.

“There are actually two tiers of services offered here. First, our Standard Awards; these are one-way or round-trip tickets booked through Award Magic that may include one stopover along the way (as per the rules of the airline). Second, our Magic Awards; these are awards involving three or more destinations – for example, a RTW award or the American Airlines Explorer Award. The rate for Standard Awards is $139, while the rate for our Magic Award is $249 per person, per booking.”

While it is not something they advertise on their website, they told me they are offering a family discount, which is not overly common in the award booking industry.  Their discount is 10% off the third passenger, then 15% off for all passengers after that.  Make sure you ask for the family discount if it isn’t offered proactively!  If you are in a hurry, they also provide an expedited service which is an additional charge of $25 per person. If you submit a request to them and you are leaving within seven days then you will be charged that expedited price.  If you need assistance with an award booking that has already been made and would like their help they charge $65 per person.  I almost used this recently to help sort out a hot mess I had on a LifeMiles ticket!

Their pricing and guarantees are on par with other award booking sites I often recommend like Lucky, One Mile at a Time, who has an award booking services called PointsPros.  Their prices can run around $200 per passenger and then $100 for each passenger, on the same itinerary.  Gary Leff, View From the Wing, also has an award booking service called Book Your Award.  Their pricing is $150 per person.  Like Award Magic, if you need to make changes to an existing award you made and would like them to be involved then that fee is $75.

If you would like to learn more about Award Magic, visit their website or feel free to contact them directly at this link.  If you have used Award Magic or anther award booking service I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

I do not receive a commission from recommending Award Magic or any of the award booking services mentioned in this post.

Posted by Mommy Points | 13 Comments

13 Responses to “Award Magic Booking Service”

  1. Nancy says:

    I’m curious as to under what circumstances do people use an award booking service? It would cost my family of 5 over $600 to use the standard awards service. Do they have knowledge or connections the average person does not, or is the fee strictly for their time? Thanks.

  2. J says:

    Award booking services are a waste of money 99% of the time. You are just paying for convenience. I find it funny that people will spend hours trying to earn points using complicated techniques, but when it comes to redeeming the points they would just rather pay someone to figure it out for them. If you really want help booking a flight, just go on to flyertalk and ask for some help. If you show some initiative and don’t make it seem like you are trying to get someone to do it for you, you will often find someone willing to give some pointers.

    Award booing services do not have connections, but they probably do the know the rules of the frequent flyer services better than most people so they can more easily find awards that might not show up with a simple search.

    Unless you have unlimited flexibility, it can often be difficult to redeem points. I have spent hours trying to find the ideal itinerary, but for that particular circumstance I did not have a ton of flexibility. I could have just outsourced the search to a booking service, but to me that would be a waste of money. Personally, I would not use an award booking service except in extreme circumstances.

    Blogs don’t like to point out that points are a lot easier to earn than they are to redeem. People come to read blogs and see trip reports about lavish over the top trips that bloggers do not hesitate point out were gotten for little cost. What the bloggers are less likely to point out is that the trips there are at most 2 people going on the trip, the trip was booked almost a year in advance or at the very last second, and that the blogger didn’t necessarily use a saver award to get the maximum value from their points.

    The vast majority of people are not able to travel like bloggers. We don’t have the flexibility to book a trip a year in advance or at the very last second. We aren’t always able to take an extra day off work to leave on a random weekday or to book a positioning flight a day in advance to catch an early morning flight from another city. We have families so we need more than 1 or 2 award tickets. We don’t have millions of miles that we can afford non-saver level tickets for multiple people.

    I think its a bit of a conflict of interest for bloggers to also run award booking services. This just incentivizes bloggers to push credit card referrals and earning techniques without providing any explanation as to how to use points.

  3. Nick says:

    @Nancy it takes quite a bit of effort to learn the ins and outs of the various programs. I am good at Star Alliance and have booked trips to Africa and Europe in Business and First class ,but it has taken some time. The other alliance I would be starting from scratch. So if you have miles but not the time to invest theses guys can help you out. You probably wouldn’t use this for a trip to Hawaii though.

  4. Journey4Happy says:

    @Nancy sometimes it’s about drudging through all the different options, especially on complicated awards – like where to search for award space when it doesn’t show up on your airline search, what routes are valid, what rules can you take advantage of, nuances of different agents, how to lower airline fees, which airplanes have the best seats, etc.

    For example, not on the list, but the MileValue Booking Service did a pretty good job for me.. For 90k USAir miles each (the price has gone up now), he got me from Columbus, OH to Athens (for 4 days), then to Shanghai with an open jaw 6 days later out of Beijing, then back to Columbus… with the 3 long legs of the trip in a fully flat business class bed. It was a sweet trip that I just came back from 2 weeks ago, where I proposed to my girlfriend in Santorini… trip of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own (especially not the first time)

  5. Journey4Happy says:

    2nd data point : I then tried to do a complicated award myself on United.. I eventually figured it out, but I spent about 30 hours over a week trying to iron it out (with my girlfriend pissed I was taking so much time on the phone with United). SDQ-YVR(OJ 3 days)PDX-CMH(stop for 5 months)-SDQ

  6. caveman says:

    In my experience booking with star alliance is always easy (relatively speaking). One world is a bigger challenge. For me the best use of these services was for AA explorer awards which is not an option any more. I have yet to stumble upon any service which is family friendly since charges/fee piles up very quickly for a party of four or five but I believe they do have a strong market and can be very useful for certain people.

  7. JBG says:

    @nancy I’ve used Luckys award booking 4 times for me and my wife. Most may see that as silly and expensive since I know (mostly) how to do it myself. But it’s nice to just tell them where and when you want to go to a destination and give them my account numbers and a credit card in an email that takes a few minutes to write. I’ve never been disappointed with the trips, or service they provided booking it for me. Id say you have to crunch the numbers to see if the cost of using a service outweighs what it took to earn the miles needed for the trip.

  8. mommypoints says:

    Award booking services certainly are not for everyone. I’ve never used one, but my situation is also a bit unique in that I write about this stuff. There is a fair amount of learning that must go into figuring out how to get the most for your miles – especially when it comes to around the world journeys, maximizing stopovers, knowing which carriers have the best products, which program will offer the best value for your miles, etc. You can learn all of that for free online.

    However, most of us are never going to know as much as the guys that book hundreds of these awards a year. Additionally, you cannot discount the hours and hours of your own time that must go into learning all of this on the redemption side. For some that is part of the fun or just a part of it even if it isn’t fun. However, for others who may go on one of these big redemptions every couple of years, it simply is not worth learning all the ins and outs of redemptions. It is a better use of time/money to simply pay someone who is an expert to do it for you.

    Again, not for everyone. Not necessary at all on some simple redemptions, but I bet most who use it feel they get their money worth…or at least that’s what I have heard. ;)

  9. farbster says:

    Not for everyone, but they can be great for some. I think part of the difficulty is knowing what airline points can be used for what airline. Some people have a business that they charge a lot. Then they go on a particular airline and they don’t see the flight. They may not know that even though an airline is a alliance partner, that their flights won’t show up. I don’t think Brussels Airlines shows up on the United site for example.

    The bookers may also know how to stretch the value of the points.

    I’d be curious if they have fewer bookings now that AA got rid of the explorer award.

    Also, non-alliance partners can be tricky — gotta remember those too!

  10. David says:

    For only a one person booking, what does Lucky to warrant a $50 premium over other award booking service?

  11. FlyerDad says:

    I used PointsPros when I was just staring out–Lucky got us two 1st class tickets on Lufthansa to Europe, and was extremely responsive throughout.

    I tried to use MileValue to book two business class tickets to Nicaragua–they didn’t deliver. But I would definitely consider using them again–Scott really knows what he’s doing.

    If you are new, lots of people traveling, or complicated itinerary, I’d still use them, although I now pretty much book all my travel on my own. Sure, if they can do it, you can do it, but it takes time and knowing the system and sometimes thinking outside the box; I have no problem paying for the service in those situations (or recommending to anyone who’s new to the game).

  12. Award Magic says:

    As many have said above, booking services are not for everyone. If you’re an individual who knows the ins and outs of the “mileage game” the only value we offer is that of saved time. After all, even the most skilled award-bookers need (at LEAST) 30-60 minutes to book complex awards. So, depending on how much you value your time – this could be quite a valuable service. That said, unfortunately, there are many who still do not know the mileage rules/opportunities like the backs of their hands. For them the value of our service is twofold: First is the saved time, but second (and more importantly) is the knowledge and expertise that often saves them hundreds of thousands of miles as well – after all, plenty of our clients would consider spending high-level mileage if it weren’t for us; at the end of the day, it’s all about convenience.

    While I’m sure many of the readers here are well versed and more than capable of booking their own awards, we welcome any and all challenges and hope to help some of you out in the near future!

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