The 5 Best Frequent Flier Programs

Airline reward programs aren’t what they used to be. Here’s a ranking that helps you weigh the perks and a confusing array of restrictions.

Once upon a time, earning and redeeming airline miles was simple and straightforward. That’s hardly the case these days.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 100 million consumers belong to airline loyalty programs. But the widely varying frequent flier programs can be confusing.

“With a rising number of revenue-based programs (like those offered by Delta and United) rewarding travelers based on dollars spent rather than distance flown, collecting enough points to use for free flights has become increasingly challenging for infrequent travelers,” Liz Weiss, travel editor for U.S. News, told MarketWatch.

Difficulty cashing in frequent flier miles and limited seat and flight availability are common traveler complaints about airline reward programs.

If you’re in the market for an airline reward program, but don’t know where to begin, you’re in luck. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the best travel rewards programs, both for hotels and airlines.

The rankings are based on a number of key components, including how quickly you can accumulate miles, the size of the airline network, the number of ways you can use the rewards you earn, airline quality, and any additional program perks.

According to U.S. News, these are the top 5 airline rewards programs (click on the individual airline links for more information):

  1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Not only can fliers earn miles by flying Alaska, but they can also earn and redeem those miles with 15 other partner airlines, including: Delta, American Airlines and British Airways.
  2. American Airlines AAdvantage. According to U.S. News, AA’s frequent-flier program benefits travelers in eastern, central and southern American cities. You can earn miles by flying and with everyday purchases on the Citi AAdvantage credit card.
  3. Southwest Rapid Rewards. U.S. News said Southwest’s program has no blackout dates, plus you can use the rewards points on both flights and hotels.
  4. JetBlue TrueBlue. JetBlue’s program, which is best for travelers along the East Coast and in Florida cities, has the option to earn points on multiple airlines and no blackout dates.
  5. HawaiianMiles. With a variety of ways to earn miles that can be redeemed on hotel stays, car rentals and flights, HawaiianMiles is a good program for people traveling to Hawaii.

Do you have experience with frequent flier programs? Which airline’s reward program stands out? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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