This flight search site simplifies the complex game of miles and points
Yet another travel site is now vying for your attention, and this one wants you to spend some of your money now to avoid spending a lot later.
Dot.Mecreated by the people behind the travel blog One mile at a timestarts with the same origin-destination-date details as any travel search site, but rates flights in the virtual currencies that are airline frequent flyer miles.
The results take a few minutes to show, because this site has to run individual queries against over 30 airline sites instead of routing them through one of the “global distribution system” backends that streamline most flight purchases. Its results may reveal surprising bargains, and not just for those who want to connect instead of flying nonstop: better values may come from booking a flight on one airline using miles from a partner airline. .
For example, searching for flights from Washington, D.C., to Belize revealed that the best deal for a first-class ticket involved booking a United Airlines one-stop itinerary using 25,000 miles from Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, a transfer partner of American Express, Capital One and Chase rewards cards, as the results page helpfully states, plus $36 in taxes and fees.
Point.Me does not handle actual bookings, but instead provides illustrated walkthroughs of the process, which in this case (assuming you are an Aeroplan newbie but have enough Amex, Capital One or Chase points ) involves opening an Aeroplan account, logging into your credit card account to transfer the points, then returning to the Air Canada site to book the flight.
This type of booking bank may be familiar to regular readers of One Mile at a Time and other travel blogs that refer to miles and points optimization as “Leisure,” but the Point.Me developers have a different audience in mind.
“They’re usually overwhelmed with the number of transfer options,” Jordan Rozum, director of product development, said in a Zoom interview. “They have no idea you can transfer points from Amex to British Airways to book a flight to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines.”
Point.Me’s resource-intensive grip, much like booking travel with miles, comes with its own cost. A one-year subscription costs $129, which seems steep for people not looking to engage in the miles and points hobby; $12 per month or $5 per day, however, might work for people looking for special occasion trips.
The site benefits from a lack of competition. The iPhone application of another travel blog, The dot guy, has a rewards explorer that estimates point and mileage pricing for particular routes, but it doesn’t check inventory. (Disclosure: I have wrote some stories for TPG.)
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On the other hand, Point.Me also runs the risk that airline sites will not appreciate its automated queries and resulting server load, not to mention how easy it can be to spend their currencies.
“If one of those carriers is a bit more aggressive and wants us to take them offline, we should take them offline,” Rozum said. He added that Point.Me does not store loyalty account credentials (the TPG app’s option to do so led to a trial in progress of American Airlines), although it allows users who manage them through the third-party service PricePortfolio to connect this to their Point.Me account.
Rozum noted that Point.Me has already had real-life airline relationship management practice in the form of a flight search tool he created for Amex which was launched in September. He suggested the partnership had already helped elevate the site’s status with airlines, an important goal for any frequent traveler.
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