Best Travel Rewards Programs

Best Travel Rewards Programs

U.S. News & World Report recently published their list of the best travel rewards programs in the United States. “While it’s often easy to join a program, membership may come with a string of caveats. So how can you tell if a program is worth the investment of your time?” mentions the article’s author.

This is the second year that U.S. News editors have published a “Best” list. They evaluate each frequent flyer program based on several criteria including number of daily flights (10 percent weight), geographic coverage (10 percent weight), free flight options (20 percent weight), ease of earning roundtrip flight (30 percent weight), additional benefits (10 percent weight) and airline quality rating (20 percent weight).

These are the rankings in the frequent flyer program category: 1) JetBlue TrueBlue; 2) Southwest Rapid Rewards; 3) Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan; 4) United MileagePlus; 5) American AAdvantage; 6) Virgin America Elevate; 7) Delta SkyMiles; 8) Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles; 9) Frontier EarlyReturns; 10) Spirit Airlines FREE SPIRIT.

To evaluate hotel programs, the editors looked at these criteria: number of hotels in network (20 percent weight), property diversity (15 percent weight), geographic coverage (15 percent weight), ease of earning a free night (30 percent weight) and additional benefits (20 percent weight).

These are the rankings in the hotel program category: 1) Marriott Rewards; 2) IHG Rewards Club; 3) Best Western Rewards; 4) Club Carlson; 5) Starwood Preferred Guest; 6) Hilton HHonors; 7) Wyndham Rewards; 8) La Quinta Returns; 9) Hyatt Gold Passport; 10) The Leading Hotels of the World Leaders Club; 11) Le Club Accorhotels; 12) Choice Privileges; 13) Stash Hotel Rewards; 14) Omni Select Guest; 15) Kimpton Karma Rewards; 16) Fairmont President’s Club; 17) Loews YouFirst Rewards.

Bottom line: The term “ease of earning a roundtrip flight” is a bit misleading because the editors did not take into account the actual ability to book an award seat, but rather how many roundtrips were necessary to qualify for a free flight. AirTran and US Airways were not evaluated since they are merging with Southwest and American, respectively. To read the full report, visit Readers of US News can expect a ranking of credit card-based travel rewards programs in the future.

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