Award flights are a cornerstone of travel hacking, allowing budget-conscious travelers to leverage their miles and points for free or discounted air travel.
However, the quest for the perfect award seat comes with challenges, including limited availability. (Not every seat on a flight can be booked with points.)
Over the past year, there’s been a significant uptick in awards flight search engines — some of which are entirely free, while others offer robust features if you pay to upgrade your account.
Drawing from my extensive testing and investment in these platforms, this article introduces you to the best free tools for finding award flights. Along with my thoughts and insights, this guide will help you determine which option is best suited for your specific needs.
Here are my top picks:
- Point.me. Ideal for travelers enrolled in multiple loyalty programs who are looking for a comprehensive way to search across various airlines.
- PointsYeah.com. Best for those with flexible dates and a need for real-time award seat alerts.
- Seats.aero. Perfect for travelers open to exploring premium international awards across regions.
- Roame.Travel. Suited for those who prioritize search speed and are open to exploring multiple destinations quickly.
- AwardLogic. Great for travelers in the planning phase who need to conduct extensive research in a short amount of time.
- ExpertFlyer. Tailored for travelers focused on upgrading specific flights and monitoring seat availability.
Point.me allows you to search award availability across over 30 loyalty programs and 100 airlines, making it a go-to first stop for finding award flights. It does have a subscription fee, but there’s a simple way to get nearly full access for free.
|Subscription-based with daily, monthly or annual fee options. Free with Bilt sign-up.
|Comprehensive award flight options, real-time availability, simple user interface, and incorporates transfer bonuses.
|No date range search, limited accuracy, and searches take around a minute to finalize.
Best for: Point.me is useful for those enrolled in multiple loyalty programs and have transferable point currencies (such as Chase, Amex or Citi points) with a specific destination in mind.
The tool allows you to conduct three free searches to give you a taste of its capabilities; if you sign up with Bilt (which is free) you can access Point.me for free through their partnership.
How I use this tool: Point.me is my go-to platform when searching for award availability to a particular destination. The site’s real-time updates have been instrumental in helping me optimize my points usage for multiple trips.
I use it as an excellent starting guide to see what’s available, though I always double-check the information on the airline’s website (there have been multiple occasions where the prices differ on the airline’s site compared to Point.me). To get around the fact that the search engine is slow, I perform searches in multiple tabs. This way, I can search multiple dates or airports faster than by using just one tab.
Final verdict: Point.me is an excellent choice for travelers seeking a comprehensive award flight search tool. Its clean user interface, akin to Kayak, allows for easy searches to and from specific destinations. While its limitations include the inability to search date ranges and occasional inaccuracies, its ease of use makes it a valuable resource for finding award flights.
PointsYeah.com specializes in award flight searches across 18 loyalty programs and over 120 airlines. Currently, it’s 100% free. The standout features are the ability to search three days at a time and a unique alert system.
|Currently 100% free.
|Fast search, multi-date search, and free points alerts (up to three active alerts).
|Limited airline coverage (lacks Southwest Airlines) and no nearby airport search.
Best for: Ideal for travelers who have flexible dates and who want to stay updated on award seat availability. PointsYeah.com’s “My Points Price Alerts” feature offers functionality similar to Kayak or Google price alerts, though it caps you at three active alerts.
How I use this tool: I use PointsYeah.com mainly for its alert features and fast multi-date searches. It’s my primary tool for tracking award availability for specific periods. Because it’s fast, the tool is a great starting point if you have multiple destinations in mind and want to see what’s available.
Final verdict: If Point.me weren’t available for free through Bilt, PointsYeah.com would be my preferred tool for award flight searches. While its user interface isn’t as polished as Point.me’s, it compensates with quicker search speeds and the highly valuable multi-date search feature. It’s also beneficial in the early stages of trip planning, showing you how many points you’ll need for your dream destination (which can inform your strategy on the best ways to earn points and miles). However, it does have limitations, such as the absence of nearby airport search functionality and the notable omission of Southwest Airlines.
Seats.aero offers a unique approach to award flight searches by allowing you to search across entire regions with instant results — e.g., search North America to all of Africa. While it does offer a pro account for more advanced features, the free version provides substantial value.
|Free version available, pro account for advanced features.
|Regional search, instant results, and unlimited alerts.
|Limited airline coverage, less user-friendly interface, and a pro account is required when searching for awards flights more than two months in the future.
Best for: Seats.aero is ideal for travelers who aren’t tied to specific destinations and are looking for premium international awards. The free version allows you to create unlimited alerts and explore awards by clicking on airport codes, making it great for brainstorming trips or finding last-minute availability.
How I use this tool: As a paying user, I find Seats.aero ideal for searching for potential destinations on specific dates, especially given that I have to take my kids’ school calendars into consideration. For example, it allows me to see to what destinations my points can buy five international business class seats during Spring Break.
The free version offers insight into two months of award availability, providing a good starting point for planning or for those who like taking last-minute trips. Being a premium user allows you to see up to a year of availability on all routes.
Final verdict: Seats.aero is a powerful tool for those who enjoy exploring award flight options across regions. Its unique features, like regional search and unlimited alerts, make it stand out compared to the competing alternatives. However, its interface could be more intuitive, as it resembles a database more than a user-friendly search engine like Kayak. Despite this, the tool offers unique value in the space and is worth getting familiar with to help plan your next trip.
Roame.Travel is a relatively new but promising award flight search engine. It covers 14 airline loyalty programs and over 122 airlines, offering real-time pricing information and advanced filtering options. While it excels in speed, it lacks features like multi-date search.
|Free version available. $9.99 monthly or $109 annually.
|Fast search, user-friendly interface, and advanced filtering for paid users.
|Limited airline coverage, no multi-date search, and no alerts for award space changes.
Best for: Roame.Travel is best suited for travelers who prioritize speed. Therefore, it’s a great starting point for seeing what’s available at numerous destinations. For example, if I wanted to get from New York to the Caribbean on a certain date, I would use Roame.Travel to search the many combinations of potential destinations. The tool’s SkyView feature, available only to paid subscribers, allows for region-to-region searches, similar to Seats.aero (but with a better user interface).
How I use this tool: I appreciate Roame.Travel for its speed. Because it produces results so quickly, it’s a great tool for brainstorming potential trips. I also find their free newsletter valuable for keeping an eye on great redemption opportunities.
Final verdict: Roame.Travel is a newcomer with a lot of potential. Its speed and user-friendly interface make it a strong contender in the award flight search space. The SkyView feature, available only to paying members, allows for region-to-region searches, adding unique value. However, it does have limitations, like the absence of multi-date and multi-airport searches, which could be a drawback for some travelers.
AwardLogic is a robust award flight search engine resembling Point.me in functionality, though it also offers valuable features like multi-date search and award alerts. While free for the first three days, it switches to a paid model afterward and is one of the more expensive tools on this list.
|Free three-day trial. $4.99 for a day pass, $19.99 monthly, or $199.99 annually.
|Multi-date search (+/- 2 days) and award alerts.
|Limited free trial and high pricing compared to competitors.
Best for: AwardLogic is best suited for travelers in the planning phase who need to conduct extensive research quickly. While many free tools offer similar functionality, AwardLogic stands out for its multi-date search and modern user interface.
How I use this tool: I haven’t used AwardLogic extensively, primarily because the free tools mentioned above fit my needs and thus I’m not inclined to pay more than $199 per year in fees.
Final verdict: AwardLogic offers various pricing tiers: $4.99 for a day pass, $19.99 monthly, or $199.99 annually. Although it was one of the first award search tools on the market (thereby justifying its higher price point), the proliferation of free tools now makes it a less compelling option.
ExpertFlyer offers seat alerts, tailored for travelers looking to upgrade on specific flights. It offers two pricing tiers: basic and premium, but does provide one free alert.
|Basic at $4.99 per month, premium at $9.99 per month, or $99.99 per year. Free alerts available.
|Seat alerts for specific flights (making it ideal for finding upgrades).
|Limited to specific flights, outdated user interface, and is not ideal for broad searches.
Best for: ExpertFlyer is most useful for travelers who have a ticket and are eyeing upgrade opportunities on that specific flight. The seat alert feature is its standout offering, allowing you to monitor availability for upgrades.
How I use this tool: I’ve used ExpertFlyer’s free seat alerts in the past. While I haven’t personally had success with upgrades, I know others who have. The tool is not as user-friendly as some other platforms; its interface is somewhat outdated and not very intuitive.
Final verdict: ExpertFlyer excels in its unique seat alert feature, making it a valuable tool for those focused on upgrading specific flights. However, its user interface could use an update to improve usability. The pricing tiers and the availability of free alerts make it a flexible option, especially for those who frequently seek upgrades but are on a budget.
When I started in the points and miles world, these tools weren’t available.
Whether you’re new and considering the best first credit card for earning points and miles or an experienced award traveler, these search engines can help cut hours off the process of finding award availability.
A few tips I’ve found helpful when using any award search engine:
- Double-check with the Airline. Never transfer your hard-earned points until you’ve confirmed that the seats are actually available directly with the airline or loyalty program. Award search engines are great, but they’re not infallible.
- Compare with The Big Three. Before transferring your points, make sure to also check Delta, American Airlines and United. I’ve had instances where these loyalty programs showed lower award prices than I found on the search engines. I mention these three specifically as they’ll allow you to search across each of the major alliance networks.
- Set up alerts. Award availability is volatile. What’s available today might not be there tomorrow, and vice versa. While it’s true that the best seats often open up far in advance, airlines also release award seats at random intervals. So, set up alerts and keep your options open.
Don’t overlook these steps; they could be the difference between a smooth booking experience and a frustrating one. And once you’ve secured your flights, don’t forget to look into how to book hotels with points.
Not sure where to start or what’s available? Check out my travel hacking case studies guide for examples of free trips I’ve booked over the years.
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