It has been seven years since we last reviewed the array of Web sites that exist to help loyalty program members keep track of their miles and points. Of the original seven we reviewed only two, MileageManager and Yodlee, are still around today. While one more, MileTracker, continues to today, it has completely changed its technology and has transitioned from a downloadable software program to an online platform. While none of the mileage management sites are perfect, each has their own unique features that will appeal to certain users.
Even though mileage managers have been around for around two decades, according to our research, most frequent travelers don’t use them. In our AirPoll survey this month, we asked frequent travelers their thoughts on mileage managers and the majority (over 80 percent) said they do not currently use an online mileage manager. We found that most feel they are able to manage on their own. As one frequent traveler put it, “I am fairly anal retentive when it comes to tracking all of my miles/points, and I just don’t believe that a mileage manager would do as good a job as I do for myself. If a mileage manager actually showed me a sample and better marketed their value proposition, I would reconsider use of such a service.” Another reason for not using an online mileage manager is a concern about security. The risk of identity theft makes many people wary of entering any personal information over the Internet. And a third reason mentioned is lack of information about the available services provided by online managers, “I honestly don’t know enough about these services to know if they would be a value for me.”
Each mileage manager has security measures in place designed to protect users from the risk of identity theft. All use some form of encryption technology to prevent the possibility that someone could hack into the system and steal your data and state their security policy on the Web site. It may be prudent, however, to consider that you are handing over your data to a third party site and you can’t be absolutley certain of the security that guards your information. Sometimes it’s better to go with a known name to be safe rather than sorry and in this area, MileageManager has a pretty cool alert in that it notifies you if any award redemptions are detected.
Even the best mileage manager won’t be able to book awards for you or call the airline when your miles don’t post, but they can be helpful in aggregating the account balances for all of your programs. Whether you are tracking your membership in 10 programs or 50 programs, all mileage managers will summarize the number of miles or points you have in each of your programs. Setting up all of your accounts with an online mileage manager will take some time since you will need to enter your user name and passwords for all of the programs you want to track. But after you have your accounts set up, the mileage manager application you choose will log on to each of your program’s Web sites for you, access your balances and provide you with your updated account information. Instead of having to visit numerous Web sites, you will only need to visit one Web site and view all of your account balances at a glance. Most sites will track your progress towards elite status and your mileage expiration dates too so you will never be surprised by an expiration date that sneaks up on you and causes you to lose all your miles.
Some of the mileage managers will provide this service for free while others charge a fee. We will give a brief rundown of all the major programs and compare their features to help you decide which mileage manager is the best for you.
Launched in November 2008, Acruw is the newest Web site to join the rest of the mileage managers and has a few interesting features. In addition to tracking your account balances, the Web site will also estimate the dollar value of your miles and points to help you decide whether you should pay for an airline ticket or hotel stay with cash or loyalty currency. Acruw.com is in beta stage and currently tracks the miles and points of only a handful of airlines, hotels, credit cards and car rental programs. But still in beta stage after a year? What does that say?
AwardWallet launched in 2004 and will keep track of your loyalty miles and points, including airlines, hotels, credit card points and other loyalty program points. The site will also track your itineraries and reservations, which you can organize and share with others. The site has a social networking component and members can communicate with other members in the site’s forums and write and read reviews of travel programs.
MileageManager is the oldest mileage manager around today and has a long history that dates back to the late 80s when it was an offline service. The company filed for the mileagemanager.com URL in 1997 and mailed paper statements to members prior to that. The Web site was updated with a new look and new services last year, including an Award Search service that will help you find flight awards for the travel dates and itinerary you select and alert you when an award is available. (We openly disclose that the company that publishes InsideFlyer also owns MileageManager.com. We have made every effort to remain objective in our article but we acknowledge a more thorough familiarity with this program.)
MilePort.com and MileTracker.com are basically the same application–the difference is that MileTracker is affiliated with USA Today and MilePort with FrequentFlier.com. If you register at one of the two Web sites, your login and password will work for the other one as well. MileTracker used to be available only as a downloadable software program. The service went online in 2008 but continues to provide the downloadable application. Members who have been using the desktop application and sign up for the online version can easily import their information. Both the online and downloadable versions will track your miles and provide account summaries and recent activity.
Pageonce isn’t just a mileage manager and goes beyond even Yodlee (see below) in the number and types of accounts it will track for you. But we mention it because it does have a mileage manager feature and many people like it because of its broad reach. The Web site has only been around since June 2008 and Pageonce Personal Assistant has been repeatedly selected as one of the top iPhone apps. In addition to your miles and points, it will track financial and leisure information, such as your Netflix, eBay, LinkedIn, Hotmail and other accounts.
TripIt.com launched in September 2007 and is an online travel organizer that allows travelers to organize their trip details into one online itinerary. After you make reservations, you can send your travel confirmation emails to TripIt and the Web site will act as your personal travel assistant and organize all the details of your travel in one place. TripIt users can also add notes, photos, maps, directions and a weather forecast to their travel plans and share their plans with other users. The reason we mention TripIt here is that members can upgrade to TripIt Pro for $69 a year and access the site’s Point Tracker, which will monitor your loyalty program account balances.
In addition to tracking your miles and points, Yodlee will also keep track of your credit card account balances, bank accounts, investments and other financial information. Yodlee has been helping members since 1999 and many members like the convenience of viewing their finances and loyalty account balances all in one place. The company also provides its account tracking services to several partners and is the back-end solution behind Fidelity’s Full View, Citibank’s My Accounts Aggregation and Bank of America’s My Portfolio.
Many of the online mileage managers are free. Acruw.com, Pageonce.com, Yodlee.com and MileTracker are available at no charge. While the programs are free to the user, however, someone is paying for the service and you may have to tolerate the presence of advertisements in exchange for the free service. Acruw.com, MileTracker.com and AwardWallet.com all have ads on their sites, although they don’t interfere with the usefulness or usability of the sites. PageOnce does not have any ads on its Web site, but the site has paid and free versions of an iPhone app and if you pick the free version, you’ll be subject to advertisements.
AwardWallet.com has a free version and you can upgrade to AwardWallet Plus for six months for a variable fee–you get to choose how much (even $1 will suffice). You can also get the fee waived if you invite five people who then join AwardWallet. With AwardWallet Plus, expiration notices for all of your accounts will be displayed. The free version will only show expiration notices for three programs. AwardWallet Plus members can also view a chart that will display account balance changes over time and other account information.
MileageManager charges a modest $15 annual fee for its mileage consolidation service and other features. The Web site added a new award search tool last year and in a review of mileage managers on his blog, Gary Leff of View from the Wing said, “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.” At $69 a year, TripIt Pro is by far the most expensive way to manage your miles and points. But upgrading your free TripIt account to the Pro version comes with other benefits you may find useful. TripIt Pro members receive mobile alerts or emails about flight delays, cancellations and gate changes. They can also automatically share trip details with other members and will be notified of alternate flight options if travel plans change. Both MileageManager and TripIt Pro offer free limited-time trial memberships so you can try out their paid services at no charge for 30 days.
When it comes to the number of programs each mileage manager supports we recommend you check to make sure your programs will be covered by the application you choose. In general, they all provide adequate coverage but some are missing key loyalty programs.
The biggest drawback of Acruw.com is that it will only track a limited number of programs–only 14 major North American carriers, seven U.S.-based hotel loyalty programs, seven credit card programs and the Hertz rental car program. But as we mentioned, the site is in beta and we would expect more programs to be available in the future.
AwardWallet supports 47 airlines, 13 hotels, eight car rentals, two trains, nine credit card programs and 12 other programs, such as MyPoints, FatWallet.com, iDine and AIR MILES. The Web site adds new programs all the time.
MileageManager includes the most number of airline and hotel programs at 51 airlines and 16 hotels. If you participate in other types of loyalty programs, only two car rentals, four credit card programs and three other programs are supported.
MileTracker tracks over 100 programs, including 46 airlines, 15 hotels and four car rental programs.
Pageonce.com tracks 42 airlines, 11 hotels, four car rental partners, American Express Membership Rewards and Amtrak. However, the application does not track American Airlines AAdvantage, which is a primary program for many frequent flyers.
TripIt Pro tracks 37 airlines, 13 hotel programs, two car rental programs and AMEX Membership Rewards, Diners Club, MBNA Elite Rewards, ThankYou Network and Amtrak.
Yodlee supports over 10,000 sites but the majority of those sites are financial institutions. The only way to check and see if your program is supported is to enter it in the search box. It would be helpful to be able to access a full list of supported programs to know if all of your programs are supported before beginning to enter your accounts. We entered some program names and found that the major U.S. airlines and hotel programs and most of the oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance airlines are supported by Yodlee.
In addition to keeping track of your mileage balances, staying on top of your mileage expiration dates is a main reason to use a mileage manager. Some applications will display the expiration date for your miles on your account balance page and others will alert you if your miles are about to expire so you don’t have to worry about it as long as the email address you have on file is correct. Ideally, the airline itself would provide this service to members but we’ve heard enough stories from members who have had their account balances wiped out due to expiration to know the airlines could do a much better job at notifying their members.
At Acruw.com, you will need to click on each individual program to see when miles are estimated to expire. On the left side of the page is a graphic that looks similar to a car’s temperature gauge. If the arrow is to the left and in the green, your miles are relatively safe but be prepared to take action when the arrow moves into the red. An expiration date is listed below the risk-o-meter, along with the airline’s expiration policy. While Acruw.com has a useful expiration visual, you will need to click on each of your programs, which is time consuming compared to the sites that list the expiration dates for all programs on one page.
AwardWallet.com makes it very easy to see when your miles will expire by displaying expiration dates on your account page and you can request email alerts to be sent to you when there is a change to your account–but the notification does not include when miles are about to expire. As mentioned earlier, the free version will only list expiration dates for three programs but if you upgrade to the paid version, you can view the expiration on all your programs.
MileageManager has an Expiration Summary page that will display all the expiration dates for your miles and points on one page. You can also sign up for email alerts to be notified 30 days before your miles are about to expire, although this will be changing. The alerts for expiring miles is going to change from an optional feature to a permanent one. This alert is being revised so that all members will always be notified of their expiring miles without having to do anything.
MileTracker.com will not tell you when your miles are about to expire. Click account details for any of your programs and the application will tell you the number of miles subject to expiration (but not when those miles will expire) and miles with expiration deferred. Click Navigate and you will be automatically redirected and logged in to your account at the airline’s Web site where you can view the expiration dates for your miles.
Pageonce has the expiration date for miles listed on the Travel Account page so you can immediately see when miles are set to expire but you aren’t able to sign up for email alerts. Expiration dates are listed for most (but not all) programs.
One glance at the TripIt Pro Point Tracker page and you can see exactly when your miles will expire underneath your account balance for each program but you cannot request email alerts to let you know when your miles are in danger of expiring.
With Yodlee.com, you can sign up for alerts to be sent to you between one and seven days before your miles are about to expire. While a week is long enough to buy a few miles to keep your account active, sometimes it can take four to six weeks for miles to post for some types of partner activity so we would like to be notified sooner than seven days. To view expiration dates, you will need to click the name of the program from the accounts overview page. The account summary page only displays your account balance and the date it was last updated.
As we mentioned earlier, some of the mileage management sites aren’t restricted to simply tracking your miles and points and have many other functions to help travelers manage their travel and personal lives.
Aside from the fact that the site supports very few programs compared to the rest, it does have an interesting feature that will provide you with an estimated value of your miles to help you decide whether to purchase a flight or redeem miles for your next flight. Of course, everyone values their miles differently and deciding whether to use miles or cash depends on many variables, but it’s helpful to have a general estimate to give you one assessment of how much your miles are worth. The site also has a “points or pay” calculator. Enter in the number of miles or points you would be using for an award and the cost of the flight or hotel stay in cash. The calculator will let you know how much value you would get for your miles for that particular award and provide a recommendation. For example, we plugged in 25,000 American AAdvantage miles and $250 for the flight cost. The tool provided these results: Your call. The average value of a American Airlines mile is $0.0155. In this scenario you are getting a value of $0.01, so your miles might be better used another time.” When we increased the flight cost to $500, the tool told us: “In this scenario, you’re getting a value of $0.02. Because you’re getting higher than average value, this is a great time to use your miles.”
AwardWallet.com displays basic information about account balances on the main My Balance screen but also has a number of tools you can use to help manage your account. You can check your balance and get the most up-to-date information about your account. Click redeem and you will automatically be logged into your loyalty program’s “redeem miles” page. Members can also track the mileage accounts of multiple users, including family members and employees. When you upgrade to the Pro version, you can view a balance history of your account in chart form that will show monthly changes and your progress toward elite status.
Site users can also store upcoming trips to their profile and read ratings and reviews of supported loyalty programs written by other users. They also have a forum where members can communicate with other members but in nearly two years, there have only been 12 posts (yep, only 12 posts) about award programs in their forums. Obviously most members prefer visiting well-known Web sites like FlyerTalk.com for this purpose.
MileageManager.com organizes information a bit differently than the rest and has some additional features. Instead of clicking on a program to view more information about your account, information is organized into summaries where you can view a summary of account balances, expiration dates, program account activity and elite status for all of your accounts. This approach will work well for those travelers who are members of many programs and don’t want to click each individual program to see details for each account but would rather see an overview for all accounts.
MileageManager.com users can also choose to receive email alerts to let you know when changes are made to your account or your FFP. Alerts are available for expiring miles, when accounts reach or dip below a pre-set limit that has been set up by the member and when accounts have been updated. Currently, account balances are updated once a week and new members may have to wait a couple of days for their account balances to update. Soon members will be able to view account balances in “instant-mode” so that members signing up can see what they have right away.
Another new feature members will be able to see soon on the site is “In The Bank,” a tool that will add up all your miles and points to give you your “net worth” in miles and points. Sort of a fun little way to see that you are a mileage millionaire–even if those miles are spread out across accounts.
MileageManager.com recently added a new AwardPlanner search to the site that will help members find awards. After you enter in your desired itinerary, dates, award type and number of tickets, the tool will search for awards on the airlines’ Web sites. The service can be a timesaver since award inventory changes frequently. The tool will search daily for your desired awards and send you an email if awards become available so you don’t have to continually scour the airlines’ Web sites for awards. The tool will only search online inventory and some award seats (such as awards on partner airlines) will only be found by calling the airline itself. The tool will search for awards on the following programs: American AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club, Continental OnePass, Delta SkyMiles, Lufthansa Miles & More, Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United Mileage Plus and US Airways Dividend Miles. Members can perform up to five search requests at a time. Not only does MileageManager offer a built-in search engine, but they also have a paid service of experts if you want the entire award planning process done for you–especially valuable if you have complicated or hard-to-find award requests like four business class awards on the same flight.
Currently, MileageManager users can only track the miles/points for the member who is enrolled, but this may change. According to the FAQ, “we are reviewing this policy and working on technical solutions that will likely make multi-user accounts a reality in the not-too-distant future.”
If you are only looking for the bare bones of mileage tracking, MilePort.com or MileTracker.com are the simplest of them all. You can track balances for more than one person and view your account balances. Click on one of your programs and you can view details such as the last activity date, year-to-date elite qualifying miles and recent account activity. For some members, this is enough. But if you want expiration dates for your miles, you won’t find them here.
As we mentioned earlier, your loyalty programs are just one of the many accounts that Pageonce will track. You can also enter your financial accounts, shopping accounts, utilities, social accounts and email accounts. The number of Web sites you can track from Pageonce can be overwhelming. Of course, you can use PageOnce primarily to track your loyalty programs and ignore the site’s other applications. Click the travel icon in the top navigation menu and you can view all of your loyalty program accounts on one page. The interface works best if you are only tracking a few accounts since you can only view around six accounts at one time and will need to scroll down the page if you have more than that. The page will display your current balance, elite-qualifying miles, elite level, membership level and expiration date for many programs. You cannot set up email alerts.
The Point Tracker section of TripIt.com is also quite simple. You won’t be able to track the accounts of family members with the site or set up any mileage alerts. If you just want to view your account balances, expiration dates and recent activity, TripIt’s Point Tracker displays all of this information on one page, but we don’t recommend paying the $69 fee just for the mileage tracking service when you can find the same functions on other sites for much less or even free.
Yodlee.com is primarily designed to track your finances, but you can also
view your loyalty program account balances, which are updated daily. At the bottom of your account page, you can choose to open a new window and be automatically logged in to one of your loyalty programs. You can also set up alerts to be notified when miles post to your account or when your balance reaches a pre-set amount you select. Members can also share accounts with others so you can effectively manage the mileage accounts of family members as well as your own.
Ease of Use
Navigating through Acruw.com is intuitive and the rewards summary is displayed in a simple chart that includes the program name, your current elite status, account balance, estimated value of your miles and points and a link to a dashboard that will display more information about your account. Account balances aren’t always updated and at times the numbers were over a week old and we had to click Update Balances to get the most current numbers, a process that can take up to 30 seconds per program.
While navigating around AwardWallet’s site is fairly simple, the site includes a lot of information and options on its My Balances page that makes it more difficult to see at a glance the most important information–account balances and expiration dates–although some members may like having all the extra information displayed on the main page so they don’t have to click through to more details. A user-friendly feature we like is the use of drop-down menus for program information. Click the green plus sign next to a program name and you can view your balance history and elite qualifying miles balance without having to open a new Web page.
In addition to providing a mileage consolidation service, MileageManager offers a wide array of other options and a navigational structure to support the extra services. After logging in, you will be presented with an account summary of all of your accounts at a glance. You can then choose from six menu options to find more specific information about your accounts, such as your progress towards elite status or bonus offers. If you need assistance, a rather lengthy and thorough FAQ list will help guide you through the site.
MileTracker.com isn’t the best looking site out there and doesn’t have any of the extra features of the newer mileage manager sites, but it is uncomplicated, fast and user-friendly because of its simplicity. We have heard from users that MileTracker occasionally has some glitches and fails to update some of their accounts and the online version is better at updating accounts than the desktop application.
Because Pageonce isn’t exclusively a mileage manager, you will need to click Travel to get to the mileage tracking section. If you just want to see the number of miles you have, you can also view your account balances from the AtOnce screen, which gives you a brief overview of all the accounts you are tracking. Information on the site is well-organized and employs symbols in addition to words to help you find your way around. All of the account information for each program is listed in separate boxes on the travel page and each box has scroll bars that can be used to view account details located at the bottom of the box. Expiration dates are listed at the bottom so you will need to scroll down to view this information.
While TripIt’s primary purpose is to manage your travel, it has a Point Tracker tab on the main menu, which makes it easy to navigate to your travel accounts. The site has a neat and clean layout with only the basic information listed on the account page–program name, balance (with expiration dates listed underneath) and options to edit or delete your account. Recent activity is listed on the page as well with the ability to view all activity.
Because Yodlee has so many other functions, the format is more complex than the rest and it takes some time to become familiar with the application and all of the tools on the site. Members can group accounts, which makes it easier to organize all of the information on the site. You can create one group just for your loyalty programs and view only your point and mile account balances. One downside to the complexity of the site is that pages are slower to load than some of the other mileage managers.
Which One is Right for You?
In the end, the best mileage manager is the one that has the features most important to you. A few questions to ask yourself before choosing a Web site include: Do you want a free service or are you willing to pay for a service that offers additional functionality? Are you interested in additional features such as the ability to track your finances and travel? Will you be managing the miles of family members or just yourself? Is it important that the mileage manager track your expiration dates? Do you want a mileage manager that you can access from your iPhone? iPhone apps are a hot topic for those who want to keep up with the latest technology and a growing number of these types of applications don’t necessarily have a Web site but are available on the iPhone.
Pageonce has an iPhone app but is not dedicated to loyalty programs. Yodlee and AwardWallet also have versions that have been optimized for browsing on mobile devices. The current iPhone apps that somewhat proclaim to help you manage your miles are: FFMiles, FFlyer, mileBlaster and Tripster. Tripster has a mileage tracker but the app is primarily designed to allow you to share your travel experiences with others. The app has not officially launched but you can enter your email address to request an invitation to be part of the beta testing.
The other three are more dedicated to keeping track of your miles and points. FFlyer has dropped in price from $3.99 when it was first introduced in June 2009 to $0.99 today. With the FFlyer app, you can track your frequent flyer miles for you and your family members and add any upcoming trips, including car rental and hotel reservations. The mileage tracker is very basic and will only track miles but not your elite status, hotel loyalty programs or expiration dates. FFMiles is also offered by the same company, Dash Technologies, for $.99.
The best of the bunch is mileBlaster, which has more features related to loyalty programs than the other three. With mileBlaster, you can track your frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points and view bonus offers related to your programs. The app will also display your progress toward award flights, mileage expiration dates, elite status and which alliance your airline is a member of. The app is available for a limited time for $4.99 (normally $6.99) and is also available as a widget that you can download to your computer for $4.99 and comes with a 14-day free trial period. The app has received mostly positive reviews from users but it will only track the miles and points of 24 airlines and hotels, although the developer says that more programs are coming.
According to our informal research, the vast majority of frequent flyers don’t use a mileage manager but whether you use your mobile device or computer to manage your miles, we think the small amount of time it takes to set up an account is well worth what you get in return–the ability to keep track of all of your account balances in one place with a minimum of effort.