Booking your flights through travel engines might not get you the same airline. This might save you money now, but you will surely lose out on some sweet perks in the long run. Majority of airlines have frequent flyer programs that rewards with points or miles, redeemable for free flights, better seats, special treatment and other benefits.
If you travel often, definitely look into signing up for the airline loyalty programs. You can continue reading below to see our top five picks for the best frequent flyer airline rewards program to sign up for!
See the best hotel loyalty programs here.
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Finding The Right Airline Rewards Program
In order to get the best frequent flyer program, you have to take into consideration some personal factors such as:
- Where you live
- Where you want to fly to
- How often you fly
You should also look at what exactly the program offers:
- Is it easy to earn miles? Collect your miles quickly, and you’ll be well on your way towards a free flight.
- What is each mile worth? The more valuable the miles, the more worthwhile the program. You’ll want to shoot for at least $0.01 per mile, on average.
- Are miles easy to redeem? Go for a program that lets you cash in your miles easily. And watch out for those blackout dates, if any.
- How fast can you earn elite status? Know what it takes to unlock valuable VIP benefits.
Top 5 Airline Loyalty Programs
Here are some of the best frequent flyer programs that offers you the biggest perks for your loyalty:
Alaska Airlines is partnered with 15+ carriers, including American Airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, reaching more than 900 destinations worldwide. This alone makes the Alaska Airlines loyalty program a nice option for both domestic and international travel.
Keep in mind that Mileage Plan allows one stopover on one-way award flights, meaning you can travel to two destinations for the price of one.
|Hubs||Anchorage (AL), Los Angeles (CA), Portland (OR), San Francisco (CA), Seattle (WA)|
|Base earning rate||1 mile for every mile flown with Alaska or any partner airline.|
|Best use for miles||Flights with Alaska or a partner airline. Starting at 5,000 miles.|
|Average mile value||$0.018 / mile|
|Elite status||20,000 miles on Alaska Airlines and partner flights within a calendar year.|
|Drawbacks||Miles expire after 2 years of inactivity, blackout dates|
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card offers 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
Earn now. Travel when you're ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit on your Card to inspire your next travel.
You'll earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, and at U.S. supermarkets; 1X mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
Earn now. Travel when you're ready. After you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year, you will receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to inspire your next travel.
There is a $99 annual fee, however, there is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (See Rates & Fees). Now, you'll get get more savings with your first checked bag for free on Delta flights. Terms apply.
Delta SkyMiles is known for its excellent customer experience. As a Medallion elite status member, you will feel like a VIP with their services. Redeem your SkyMiles for travel with 20+ partner airlines. There are no blackout dates for Delta award flights, and your SkyMiles will never expire.
|Hubs||Atlanta (GA), Detroit (MI), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN), New York (NY, JFK and LaGuardia), Salt Lake City (UT), Seattle/Tacoma (WA)|
|Base earning rate||5 miles for every $1 spent on Delta and partner flights.|
|Best use for miles||Flights with Delta or a partner airline. Starting at 8,000 miles.|
|Average mile value||$0.012 / mile|
|Elite status||25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles, $3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars or 30 Medallion Qualifying Segments, within a calendar year.|
|Drawbacks||No award chart|
JetBlue provides great deals on flights and even more with the TrueBlue frequent flyer program. This airline travels to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. There are no blackout dates, and your points will never expire.
If you book directly on JetBlue.com, you’ll receive bonus points and baggage allowance.
|Hubs||Boston (MA), Fort Lauderdale (FL), Long Beach (CA), New York (NY, JFK), Orlando (FL), San Juan (PR)|
|Base earning rate||3 points per $1 spent on JetBlue flights.|
|JetBlue.com earning rates||Blue Fare: 6x points
Blue Plus Fare: 7x points
Blue Flex Fare: 8x points
Mint Fare: 6x points
|Best use for points||Flights with JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines.|
|Average point value||$0.013 / point|
|Elite status||15,000 points, or 30 segments + 12,000 points, within a calendar year.|
|Drawbacks||Cannot book award flights with all partner airlines|
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card offers 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
In addition, you'll earn 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
• 2x points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases & Rapid Rewards® hotel/car rental partner purchases;
• 1x point on all other purchases.
You're able to redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more.
This card does carry a $99 annual fee, but there are no foreign transaction fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards is a great option if you want to earn a Companion Pass. This would essentially be a BOGO ticket! However, you need to collect 110,000 Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 Southwest segments, in one calendar year to earn the pass.
As a Rapid Rewards member, you get two checked bags for free, no blackout dates, and no change or cancellation fees.
|Hubs||Atlanta (GA), Baltimore (MD), Chicago (IL, Midway), Dallas (TX, Love), Houston (TX, Hobby), Las Vegas (NV), Los Angeles (CA), Oakland (CA), Orlando (FL), Phoenix (AZ, Sky Harbor)|
|Base earning rate||Wanna Get Away Fare: 6x points
Anytime Fare: 10x points
Business Select Fare: 12x points
|Best use for points||Flights with Southwest.|
|Average point value||$0.015 / point|
|Elite status||35,000 qualifying points, or 25 segments, within a calendar year.|
|Drawbacks||Miles expire after 2 years of inactivity, limited international network|
The United Explorer Card offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
• Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
• Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining and eligible delivery services
Perks of this card include:
• Getting up to $100 Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Fee Credit
• Get your first bag checked for free (up to $140 savings per roundtrip) when you using your Card to purchase your ticket
• Get priority boarding perks & visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
This card does come with a $95 annual fee, however, the annual fee is waived for the first year.
The United Airlines loyalty program provides you with access to over 1,100 destinations worldwide with its Star Alliance network. MileagePlus can get you where you want to go but United Airlines charges reasonable taxes and fees.
United offers “The Excursionist Perk” which allows you to visit two destinations for the price of one. There are tons of perks to reaching elite status. Continue reading to learn more about the worth of United Premier elite status.
|Hubs||Chicago (IL), Denver (CO), Houston (TX), Los Angeles (CA), Nwark (NJ), San Francisco (CA), Washington, D.C.|
|Base earning rate||5 miles for every $1 spent on United flights.|
|Best use for miles||Flights with United Airlines or a Star Alliance partner. Starting at 5,000 miles.|
|Average mile value||$0.014 / mile|
|Elite status||25,000 premier qualifying miles, or 30 premier qualifying segments + $3,000 spent on United flights, within a calendar year.|
|Drawbacks||Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, $100 last-minute booking fee, $75 change fee, $200 cancellation fee|
|Air China||Air India||Air New Zealand|
|ANA||Asiana Airlines||Austrian Airlines|
|Avianca||Brussels Airlines||Copa Airlines|
|Croatia Airlines||EgyptAir||Ethiopian Airlines|
|EVA Air||LOT Polish Airlines||Lufthansa|
|SAS||Shenzhen Airlines||Singapore Airlines|
|South African Airways||Swiss International Airways||Air Portugal|
|Thai Airways International||Turkish Airlines|
Other worldwide partners include:
|Azul Brazilian Airlines||Boutique Air||Cape Air|
|Olympic Air||Silver Airways||Vistara|
Tips & Tricks
Most frequent flyer programs have a good amount of value, to get the most for your money, see additional tips below:
Apply for an airline credit card to achieve a free flight quicker. You earn additional miles for purchases, as well as bonus miles in welcome offering. Some cards even give you free checked bags, priority boarding and other airline-specific perks.
Elite status is what makes you feel like VIP. Depending on the program, you could get bonus miles, free checked bags, complimentary upgrades, priority check-in, lounge access, inflight freebies and more.
Signing up for a frequent flyer rewards programs might be more beneficial than you think. Keep in mind that each airline offer different loyalty programs so make sure you choose the one that best suit you location and lifestyle.
Furthermore, if you frequently travel outside of the U.S., you can check out which credit card offers no foreign transaction fee, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra. And while you’re here on HMB, you can see whether Miles vs. Cash Back card fits you better and learn how much credit card points are worth.