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Over the past few years, some enterprising souls have developed useful airline award search tools. Seatspy, Point.me, AwardLogic, Seats.aero – are just a few examples of tools available to the general public to speed up and help people search for airline award space. And while we’ve seen a boom in airline booking tools, consolidated hotel award tools have been conspicuously missing from the party.
Under the Radar: An intriguing way to fly to Hawaii
Under the Radar: Awayz – the hotel award tool we’ve been waiting for?
The good news is that we’re finally seeing some hotel search tools popping up across the board recently. Having used a couple, I’ve generally found them helpful – and while they continue to work well for me, they each have apparent limitations, and the interface often leaves a lot to be desired. Is it too much for some keen mind to put my wish list into a snappy, well thought and all-encompassing hotel award search tool? Introducing Awayz – the tool that’s probably made the biggest splash in this void so far. Let’s dive into its features and see if it delivers on all that it promises (and many promises are being made).
What is Awayz?
‘Awayz by Odynn,’ as it’s sometimes referenced, is the hotel award search tool by a company called Odynn – the same folks behind CardArb – not a platform I’m familiar with. Still, it looks like a tool for recommending credit cards. The grand vision, it seems, is that in time, Odynn will have a couple of different travel and credit card points-related tools under other names that would ideally be integrated to essentially become a one-stop shop for your entire trip planning process… hotel booking, flights recommendations, credit card recommendations, points.com integration etc.
While the end state seems a long way off, they have made a decent start with the launch of Awayz. For those familiar with point.me – Awayz is essentially an equivalent tool but for hotel searches – which is to say that it has integration built in to search for award space and cash prices across a few major hotel programs while providing instructions (if applicable) on how to leverage credit card transferable currencies to book via the various programs.
At a high level, Awayz currently supports the following programs:
- Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards, and Hilton Honors are currently supported hotel programs.
- Chase, Bilt & American Express are the transferable currencies currently supported.
- Accor, Choice and Wyndham support are to be rolled out in future which should coincide with Capital One and Citi support (Platinum tier only).
Two other notable aspects to be aware of:
- Not all cities are currently covered. As expected, the coverage will be skewed towards popular travel destinations. Over time they claim the list will become more fulsome – something to be aware of. Some examples of cities not covered are Muscat, Arusha, and Zanzibar.
- Data shown on searches will not precisely be ‘live’ as of the moment you search. The tool is running searches at various times and caching and storing the results on its servers – so it is possible that by the time you see award availability, the space is no longer available. This probably impacts a small proportion of users – but it’s worthwhile pointing out.
First, you must create a free account on the site. Once done, you have automatically enrolled as a basic level “Awayz” tier member and are set to start using the tool. To begin the search, you need to select it in the top menu bar, and it’ll take you to the main search page, where the options are pretty self-explanatory.
At the basic level, you can select the city you want on specific dates and filter in/out any desired hotel chains. After running the search, Awayz displays the results neatly in a list and map format. It shows the cash rate, points rate, and a dynamic button that toggles through the equivalent points with any transferable currency options for all the listed properties.
Selecting a property takes you to another page where additional breakdowns of the booking options are displayed, and direct links to book through the website – and that’s all there is to it at the free membership level. A few additional features are reserved for one of the other paid membership tiers, which we’ll touch upon further down.
One innovative feature displayed in the search results is that when a cash and points rate is available, the application tells you which one is the “Best Value.” This appears to be based on their internal valuations of what each of the points currencies are worth – which are continuously tweaked based on user redemptions patterns over time – though it’s not a completely mechanical process and will rely on their views as well as redemptions patterns of their ‘power’ users.
Subscription Features & Pricing
The tool has three distinct membership tiers as follows:
- Awayz – free basic membership upon signing up
- Gold – $49.99/yr or 5.99/mth
- Platinum – 99.9/yr or 11.99/mth
Awayz: This is the basic membership level, and it is free, requiring only that you register for an account. As we saw above, this level only allows for unlimited searches across the four supported hotel programs on specific dates as input by the user. Searching is only possible via the city name first and selecting the hotel name.
Gold: The Gold tier gets a few more bells and whistles, most notably:
- The ability for users to view a 7-day calendar for a selected property.
- Search results begin to factor in 4th/5th nights free using IHG/Bonvoy/Hilton points into the total cost displayed.
- Support for searching by Bonvoy, Hyatt and Hilton Free Night Awards (yes.. all iterations of Bonvoy certificates – this alone is a technological marvel in and of itself).
- Weekly newsletter highlighting the top deals from that week – usually will contain redemptions providing outsized redemption value (>2.5x the internal base value of the points currency being referenced).
Platinum: The top tier membership level – and the one with the most exciting features… eventually :). Let’s start with what is currently available. In addition to all the features you get at the Gold level, Platinum users have the additional benefits:
- Access to single hotel search calendars for a full 31-day calendar view.
- Ability to search directly by hotel name (not available for Awayz Tier – and from my understanding, neither at the Gold Tier – though I haven’t tested it myself).
- An enhanced newsletter and more frequent newsletter. I don’t think I’ve seen anything specific to the Platinum tier since I’ve been a member – but it’s still early days, something that they are still figuring out.
- Transfer bonuses are also allegedly factored in. I say allegedly because I haven’t seen this in practice despite ongoing transfer bonuses. For example, at the time of writing, there is a 50% transfer bonus for points transferred from Amex to Bonvoy until May 15 – however, it is not factored in the screenshot further down.
- Some additional personalization features are available – which may or may not be helpful depending on your user type. The application allows a virtual wallet to be set up (no personal details are required to save for card type and points balances). The information entered factors into tailored recommendations of what to do based on existing points balances for a particular hotel search. In the below example, I input some points balance into my virtual wallet for Amex, Bonvoy and Chase. I then searched for a 5-night stay in Abu Dhabi and selected the Courtyard World Trade Center. Once selected, the below results were displayed.
The screenshot tells us at the top that this stay costs USD $630 or 86,000 Bonvoy points. It then informs the user that the “Best Value” is the cash rate for these nights. It continues to display the points rate as well. If you were viewing this from the Awayz or Gold levels, it would just say the 86,000 Bonvoy points cost. In the Platinum version, and because I have my virtual wallet set up, it tailors a recommendation telling me that I don’t have enough Bonvoy points for the whole booking (I input 46,000 points in my wallet for this example) and that I can convert 15,000 Amex MR along with 25,000 UR to make this booking.
At the bottom, using the information populated into the virtual wallet, the application allows me to redeem Chase Sapphire Reserve points to cash at the 1.25 cents travel redemption route. Finally, to view the full 30-day calendar view, you can click the green calendar button in the top right area of the screen, which should give the below view on availability.
As alluded to above, there are a couple of highly requested features that are expected to be rolled out to Platinum users in future, with the main ones in my mind being (i) setting award alerts; (ii) Hyatt suite availability; (iii) dynamic map which will show potentially display cost on the map as you move around (at least that is my understanding of how it would work) and (iv) search results to include Choice and Wyndham (yawn on Accor).
What I Like So Far
- I’m a big fan of the interface. It’s clean, intuitive and easy to use.
- This is the only hotel tool I’ve used that displays results for the current hotel programs together. I like scanning a city for hotel options across the programs while viewing cash prices – though this would be less useful should I know precisely where I want to stay.
- The ability to filter for many Bonvoy certificate types is also a nice feature.
- Something that will be useful to newer/occasional users is their “Best Value” feature.
- The rollout of Choice and Wyndham properties will give Awayz a big leg up in the space and is something I’m looking forward to.
Where Can Awayz Improve
Understanding that this application is still in its infancy, there are a few essential items that need to be developed to be competitive in this space:
- Award alerts. There is no question this would be the single most valuable feature for me should it become available. I know it’s on the road map – so I’m eagerly awaiting news on when they expect to roll it out.
- Hyatt suites availability. Again – it’s on the road map – but it’s another major weakness of this application especially considering that competing tools introduced this feature a few months ago.
- Another feature, or lack of, is that the search criteria is currently locked at 1 room/two guests. This is another aspect they are aware of and looking to roll out.
- More cities need to be integrated into the setup for me to consider subscribing to this tool year in and year out.
- How great would an app be? It would be fabulous! Awayz.. get on it. CardArb does seem to have an app, and while I don’t know any better than you guys, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is already in the pipeline.
- In the few weeks I’ve been playing around with it, I have noticed some on-and-off bugs.. from issues with the calendar loading to being unable to input a destination. Given everything – this is probably a minor quibble and not unexpected given where the tool is in its life cycle.
- Finally – my few experiences communicating with the company have ranged from being ignored on one series of communications to being very quick to troubleshoot and respond to the issue I faced. I hope the latter reflects the support users can expect – but the jury is still out on that for me for the time being.
Final Word: Happy to see new innovative tools being developed.
I’ll preface what I say: I am a big fan of award search tools. Regardless of how they pan out long-term, I rarely find some element that does not enhance my day-to-day in this hobby. I probably have more subscriptions than most people, but I’m always happy to give these sorts of tools a trial.
This brings up a more significant point about paying for travel tools. In this era of travel influencers constantly peddling masterclasses, conferences, and memberships to closed communities – often citing how these are the keys to unlocking greater rewards in this hobby – I instead advocate for paid travel tools – something I feel often gets overlooked. Airline award search tools to hotel search tools to award alert services… these services provide so much tangible value for the right person, not to mention an incredible amount of convenience and time savings – which I think can only help to enhance your award-booking savvy.
With that said – I’ve been impressed with Awayz – impressed enough to give their annual platinum membership a try for the year. Unfortunately – it’s not quite the one-stop all-encompassing booking tool I’ve been yearning for. A significant consideration for me when thinking about renewing past the first year will be to see how the rollout of some of the key promised features goes. Without delivering on those features, it won’t be competitive with the other tools currently already in this space. Still – for those who aren’t loyal to a particular chain and are open to cash and award bookings – Awayz could be a good fit for your rewards tool kit.
Thanks for this Mohammad! Looks like it would be a very useful tool if they can roll out the future features. Do you know if it support Marriott suites upgrade?
Doesn’t look like it. As far as I know, only support for Hyatt suites is expected to be rolled out. Understandably the challenge with Marriott how to tell which hotels even accept them, along with the fact that space is never really guaranteed – so would make this is much trickier problem to solve than identifying Hyatt standard suite types and availability.