I don’t just participate in a coiuple of airline and hotel loyalty programs, I participate in dozens. That’s great for taking advantage of the best promotions on offer, and it’s great when the time comes to redeem miles because I have s omany options. But it’s cumbersome to manage — all those account numbers, all those passwords, and a lot to keep track of like how soon will points in a given account expire?
Fortunately there are plenty of solutions that make this easier — aggregating account information in a single place, allowing login to an account with a single click, updating all account balances at once. And offering it all for free, for a couple dollars a year, or at most a bit over a dollar a month.
There are really three sites worth considering in my estimation:
MileTracker (aka Mileport) has been the standard in tools for managing a myriad of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty program accounts for some time. I’ve used it for years. It has a clean display, support for a huge array of programs, and checks accounts quickly. The service is free.
I much prefer the downloadable, software-based version that’s packaged in Deskport. Unfortunately the developers don’t really seem to be supporting it any longer, which means that every time a loyalty program changes its website the software stops being able to check that program. Over time, through neglect, the software-based version has become less and less useful.
To a lesser extent this is also a problem for Miletracker. They’ve been keeping up much better with the web version, and appear to want folks to migrate online (and do make it easy with the ability to import all of your frequent flyer programs from the software application to a website account). But they do seem to fall behind a bit, so not all programs are checkable at all times. And they don’t help you track mileage expiration, you have to keep up with that on your own.
The granddaddy of services is Mileage Manager. This is Randy Petersen‘s entry into the field. It’s $15 a year but comes with a 30-day free trial so you can be sure you like it before you pay for it. They are pretty comprehensive in the programs they support, though not quite to the extent that Miletracker is (e.g. they don’t support Malaysian’s frequent flyer program..).
The best feature is that they now let you set up award searches and it will keep checking until it finds the seats you want, which is huge. It will only find those awards that can be booked via the airline websites in whose programs you have your miles. So if you have American miles it will search flights to Tokyo on American, but not flights on Japan Air Lines. And the only websites which are supported are the major US carriers so far, if you have Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles it won’t search for Cathay awards. The upside of this strategy though is that they’ll find award seats that are available to you as a result of your elite status, since they’re using your account information to search for awards.
If you’re a non-expert, someone who isn’t going to pay for the KVS Availability Tool to find your awards and isn’t going to use (or isn’t satisfied by the range of programs supported by) ExpertFlyer to do the same, then Mileage Manager may be for you. The award search tool seems worth the price of admission, since they will keep checking on award availability and email you when the award seats you want open up. That’s pretty huge.
The big downside of this service is that they do not check mileage balances in real-time. I check my miles every day, at least once a day. Partly I’m obsessive. But partly I have so much activity in so many programs that I want to see when various things post. There’s enough change in my balances that there’s new information so frequently. I don’t want to wait for MileageManager to update on its own.
This is the new entrant on the scene and I like it. As with Miletracker, it’s free. (For the most part, more on that in a moment.) It has a nice interface, and the site seems to update the way it interacts with loyalty programs frequently enough that in the week I’ve been testing it all the programs I’ve tried work.
Award Wallet has a pay version that displays more program expiration dates (the free version will display only a handful) and displays more of the data history for each of your programs, as well as offering you advice such as how to extend the life of your expiring points. Their trick is that you decide how much this service is worth — you can pay as little as $1 for six months of their premium service. But the free version is also almost entirely functional and will suffice for most. [Disclosure, they didn’t make me pay the $1 in order to test the difference between the free and pay versions.]
They integrate an itinerary service as well, they check your accounts for airline, car, and hotel trips and make those accessible in one place. I haven’t played around with this much yet, I haven’t decided how useful it is, but it’s an interesting feature.
They support most of the major programs, to be sure, but they still need to add several — I can’t check my ANA or Mexicana balance with Award Wallet yet, and I can’t check Diners Club. Award Wallet also isn’t as fast as Miletracker.
I also think they could improve the display a bit. Miletracker will total all your miles across programs, and while this isn’t really a useful feature (what does it mean to add 16 Southwest Rapid Reward credits to 80,000 United miles?) it’s something fun that I miss with Award Wallet. Frankly, I just like seeing my hefty seven-figure total mileage balance across all programs grow. Not sure if it’s rational, but I like it, and miss it.
I also wish that the summary page on Award Wallet showed the change in balance for each program. They do have a tab for recently updated accounts, but I’d like to see the change in each program right up front the way it’s displayed on Miletracker. In fairness, Award Wallet does show the change in a little box/screen as programs are being updated.
They’re the new site on the scene, they’re adding features like additional programs, and tweaking the display. The main advantage to me is that they’re less buggy than Miletracker. The main disadvantage is that they aren’t yet as comprehensive as Miletracker. But they may get there. For now I’m using both.