The next time you're fumbling in your wallet, purse, desk drawer, or e-mail inbox trying to retrieve your United Airlines MileagePlus or Hilton HHonors loyalty program account number, remind yourself that you should have registered for a loyalty program tracking site.
Several websites, including Traxo, AwardWallet, UsingMiles, and PointHub, keep tabs on your rewards programs for free. Other sites, such as TripIt Pro, charge a fee.
Generally, these sites let you enter your account numbers and passwords for all of your loyalty programs. The sites will then automatically retrieve your information and update your account balances, send monthly e-mails as reminders of where you stand, and even notify you when your points are about to expire.
This is a tremendous convenience if you belong to several loyalty programs.
These sites generally use encryption technology and say you don't need to worry about handing over your account passwords. Of course, if concerns about data security are going to have you counting past vacations to get to sleep, then these sites are not for you. (You should continue to calculate your miles and points the old-fashioned way -- one program at a time.)
These tracking sites tend to be fairly comprehensive, but none of the sites automatically track Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards (www.southwest.com/rapidrewards). The low-cost carrier has cracked down on these sites over security and proprietary issues, demanding that they cease accessing Rapid Rewards account information.
Here's a brief look at the some notable loyalty program tracking sites:
Traxo (www.traxo.com) covers almost 100 airline, hotel, online travel agency, car rental, and rail programs. Its My Travel Sites feature automatically retrieves your loyalty-program bookings and sends alerts if your points are set to expire. Account names and numbers, trip activity, and points are listed in separate columns.
AwardWallet (http://awardwallet.com) says it keeps tally on more than 400 loyalty programs for airlines, hotels, car rental companies, credit cards, shopping, and dining. Once you register your loyalty accounts, AwardWallet notifies you about any point expiration dates. One attractive feature is that the site also posts user-generated ratings and reviews of various loyalty programs. This well-rounded view offers the pros and cons of participating programs, plus tips about how to maximize each program. The site even powers other loyalty tracking sites, such as Points.com (www.points.com).
UsingMiles (www.usingmiles.com) is in beta mode and supports nearly 100 airline, hotel, car rental, credit card, and other loyalty programs. UsingMiles then goes a step further, enabling users to search for awards flights or hotel stays, for example, and then book them on supplier websites.
In addition to tracking your loyalty program points, PointHub (www.pointhub.com) has a Cash vs. Points feature that displays side-by-side comparisons of flights and hotel stays in cash versus miles and points. Like many of the other tracking sites, PointHub sends alerts when points or airline vouchers are due to expire, and it also recommends the most opportune ways to qualify for free hotel stays or flights.
Like Traxo, TripIt's primary mission is itinerary-sharing, but its fee-based TripIt Pro (www.tripit.com/pro; $49 per year) service offers point-tracking. Other features include alerts about flight delays and cancellations, alternate flight searches, flight refund notifications, and complimentary lounge access to 1,100 business lounges.