Friday, May 24, 2024

How to use the Points Path extension in Google Flights – The Points Guy

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My first stop when I need to book airfare is Google Flights, which aggregates ticket options and pricing in one place. However, Google Flights only displays totals in dollar amounts, not award rates. So, to decide whether to book an award flight or a cash rate, I usually also open up airline websites to search for comparable award flights or start a search with an award travel tool like Point.me or Roame.travel.

As of Jan. 18, a new web browser extension for Google Flights named Points Path is publicly available. When you use a desktop version of Google Flights, Points Path displays award rates next to cash totals for flights sold by select airlines. The extension also tells you which transferable points can be used with the airlines it supports, recommends when to use points and miles, and suggests when to book a paid rate.

So, let’s take a closer look at the Points Path extension, including what it is, how to install it and how to use it.

What is Points Path?

Points Path is a free web browser extension that shows award rates next to cash prices in Google Flights and indicates the better option for both one-way and round-trip itineraries. Once you select an itinerary, you can book a paid rate as you typically would with Google Flights or redeem an award directly with the airline loyalty program.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

When asked who should use Points Path, Julian Kheel — founder of Points Path and a former editorial director for TPG — told me:

There are already lots of search tools out there for people who are experts at using their points and willing to transfer to obscure programs to maximize them. I think those tools are great, and I use them myself when I need them. But Points Path is designed for people who don’t have the time to become experts at using frequent flyer miles. It’s for travelers who want to quickly find the best flights available with the points or miles they have, and know whether they’re getting a good deal when using them. Points Path is built to answer both those questions in just a few seconds every time you search, without having to use a separate website or app, since our results appear directly within Google Flights.

So, while advanced points and miles users may find it interesting to use the Points Path extension in Google Flights, they aren’t the target audience for the tool. Instead, Points Path is designed to help travelers who aren’t sure when to redeem points and miles for their flights yet want to get good value from their rewards.

Related: How to decide when to use cash or miles for buying airline tickets

What airline loyalty programs does Points Path cover?

Points Path currently considers award itineraries you can book through the American Airlines AAdvantage, JetBlue TrueBlue, United MileagePlus and Delta SkyMiles loyalty programs. This means Points Path works for flights operated by these airlines and flights operated by their partners as long as Google Flights shows an itinerary sold by American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines or United Airlines.

Experienced points and miles users know you can often book the same flight through multiple airline loyalty programs. For example, an American Airlines flight is likely bookable through the American AAdvantage program but may also be bookable with British Airways Avios and other partner currencies. Kheel told me the Points Path team is “in the process of building out additional airline programs that will make Points Path even more useful.”

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Related: How to book your first award flight using airline miles

How to install the Points Path extension

To install the Points Path extension, you must be a Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge user and sign up for the Points Path email list. However, Kheel assured me his team’s “priority is making a Safari version of Points Path available.”

OSCAR WONG/GETTY IMAGES

To get started with Points Path, head to its website and click the blue “Download the extension” button near the top of the page. Doing so will take you to a form where you must provide your name and email. Once I filled out the form, I got an email titled “Points Path: You’re in!” in the Updates tab of my Gmail inbox within two minutes.

I used the Google Chrome browser when I clicked the Points Path installation link from the email. As such, clicking the link took me to the Chrome Web Store page for Points Path. I clicked the “Add to Chrome” button from this page to install the Points Path Chrome extension. The installation only took a few seconds, after which I could begin using the Points Path extension.

Related: Your ultimate guide on how to search award availability for the major airlines

How to use Points Path

Once you’ve installed the Points Path extension, head to Google Flights. You’ll need to use the basic Google Flights page at flights.google.com, select “English (United States)” as your language and choose U.S. dollars as your currency for Points Path to work properly. You can change your language and currency at the bottom of the Google Flights website.

I searched for a one-way flight from Atlanta to New York this fall, as I typically would with Google Flights. As you can see, my results show options for multiple New York City airports, as I’d expect, but my search results look slightly different now that I have installed the Points Path Chrome extension.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

I can still use all the standard Google Flights filters. For example, I can filter to only see Delta flights that don’t depart too early or arrive too late.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

And if I’m not traveling solo, I can change my search to be for two passengers.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

The first Delta flight option looks appealing, especially since the award costs only 16,000 miles plus $11 in taxes and fees for two passengers. I can click on the information symbol in the results to see the transferable points currencies I could transfer to book this award.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

I could select this flight as normal in Google Flights, but thanks to the Points Path extension, there’s now an option to book an award with Delta miles.

GOOGLE FLIGHTS

I clicked “Continue” next to the option for 16,000 miles plus $11, and it took me to the Points Path website. From there, click the “Continue to Delta.com” button to book your award flight. Know, though, that the link didn’t take me directly to a page to book the award but instead to a page where I could input my search query.

DELTA.COM

Related: 6 award chart sweet spots that can save you money on domestic flights

How much does Points Path cost?

Points Path is currently free to install and use. However, the frequently asked questions section on the Points Path website mentions that “there may be a small monthly fee for personalized or advanced features” in the future, but “the basic Points Path search extension will always be free.”

Points Path recommendations

One useful aspect of the Points Path extension is a recommendation on whether you should redeem rewards or book a paid rate.

At a high level, the recommendation is made by setting a value for each airline’s points or miles. According to its frequently asked questions, Points Path has determined median values of Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United Airlines and American Airlines miles by gathering pricing for thousands of flights. It then considers the taxes and fees on award flights and calculates whether you should redeem rewards or book a paid rate. At the time of writing, Points Path uses the following median values:

Program Points Path median value TPG’s valuation
American AAdvantage 1.3 cents per mile 1.6 cents per mile
Delta SkyMiles 1.1 cents per mile 1.15 cents per mile
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.3 cents per point 1.35 cents per point
United MileagePlus 1.25 cents per mile 1.35 cents per mile

Points Path median values are slightly lower than TPG’s valuations, which we calculate according to the data-driven valuations framework we introduced in September 2023.

But, what is lost in many decisions on whether to redeem rewards or book a paid rate is the differences in what you are purchasing. For example, if you charge an American Airlines flight to your favorite travel rewards credit card and then decide to cancel, you’ll usually get a credit for use on a future trip instead of a refund. If you book an AAdvantage award flight, you can cancel and redeposit your miles without any fees. Likewise, you’ll earn miles and Loyalty Points on paid flights, but not award redemptions, with American AAdvantage.

Bottom line

I enjoy seeing Points Path results as I search for flights with Google Flights because it gives me a feel for award pricing with supported programs. Although I’m not the target audience for Points Path, I recommend it to causal points and miles users as a good way to become accustomed to how many points or miles popular programs charge for flights.

The Points Path extension also helps travelers know when they can get good value from their points and miles with select programs. As Kheel noted in the Points Path press release when the extension exited its beta phase, “Points Path is designed for travelers who don’t have the time to become experts at using frequent flyer miles, but who want to quickly find the best flights available with their travel rewards and know whether they’re getting a good deal when using them.”

Related: The best airline credit cards with annual fees under $100

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