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Top 5 best airline rewards programs
With so many to choose from, we narrowed down some of the top airline programs for your benefit.
1. Largest airline network: United Airlines MileagePlus
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You can earn a 50,000 bonus mile welcome offer when you sign up for this card and spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. This card also provides a host of travel perks, including United Club membership, waived fees for your first and second checked bags, alongside an increased mile bonus when you purchase tickets from United.
2. Easiest to earn and redeem rewards: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
|Average Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan mile value||How to earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles||Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption options||Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan perks||Finder’s credit card pick for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan|
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offers a signup bonus of 40,000 miles when you make $2,000 in purchases within your first 90 days of account opening. You’ll also gain access to Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare every year on your account anniversary — a perk worth hundreds of dollars in savings.
3. Highest value for earning and redeeming rewards: Southwest Rapid Rewards
While other airlines can offer redemption values that outpace Southwest Rapid Rewards in edge cases, few can compare to Southwest’s average overall value. That’s because you can redeem award flights by using points on practically any ticket, on practically any day.
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Use the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card to earn more miles
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card also features other perks, such as 50,000 points each year on your 12 months, travel credits, upgraded boarding and points toward qualifying for A-list status.
4. Best for complimentary travel benefits: Delta SkyMiles
The Delta SkyMiles program is known for its numerous complimentary benefits for Medallion status members. Many of these benefits apply to even the first level of Medallion status and are unlimited, restricted only by availability or priority.
While earning this status can appear confusing at first, the perks are worth it. Few airlines can match the sheer number and generosity of these travel benefits.
|Delta SkyMiles mile value||How to earn Delta SkyMiles miles||Delta SkyMiles redemption options||Delta SkyMiles perks||Finder’s credit card pick for Delta SkyMiles|
You can earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. (Terms apply, see rates & fees).
5. Best for flexible reward options: JetBlue TrueBlue
Many airlines offer “traps” in their reward selections. For example, the value you get per point spent on new things like a speaker or coffee pot is typically abysmal.
JetBlue TrueBlue sidesteps this issue by limiting your redemption options but ensuring they all give a solid or even great value for each point spent. That means there are no wrong choices in how you choose to spend these points and no matter where you fly.
|JetBlue TrueBlue mile value||How to earn JetBlue TrueBlue miles||JetBlue TrueBlue redemption options||JetBlue TrueBlue perks||Finder’s credit card pick for JetBlue TrueBlue|
You’ll earn an impressive 6x additional points on JetBlue Plus Card purchases when you use this card, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x points on all other purchases. This alone is a solid earnings bonus, but you can also earn a 70,000 bonus point welcome offer when you sign up and spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account and paying your annual fee.
Who should join an airline rewards program?
While you can join a frequent-flyer program for free and earn miles to redeem for award flights, this type of rewards program isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a quick cheat sheet on when it might make sense to join an airline rewards program.
- You frequently fly for travel. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t join an airline rewards program unless you travel enough to build up an appreciable number of points.
- You want to use travel perks. Airline rewards program often come with several travel perks that can make travel more comfortable or cheaper, such as free checked bags.
- You have a preferred airline. If you prefer the services of a single airline, it can pay off to join their loyalty program so that you can start to accrue points.
How to choose the best airline rewards program for you
Here are some considerations when choosing an airline rewards program for your travel needs.
- What airlines do you fly with most? Chose a frequent-flyer program for an airline that has many flights available to you. This increases the chances you can earn miles and book award flights.
- How many airline partners does your preferred program have? Airlines partner with other carriers to give their customers more flight options. Check out who your preferred airline partners with, and see if it’s part of an alliance that lets you use miles across many carriers.
- What are the fees or other requirements? Most airline reward programs are free to join. However, many require you earn elite status to obtain the best travel benefits.
- How frequently does the airline fly? Choose an airline that flies often so you won’t have to adjust your schedule around available flights.
- What credit cards are available? Making purchases with credit cards is often the fastest and most effective way to accumulate miles. Whether the card is cobranded or one that can transfer points, find one that fits your spending habits.
Cobranded airline credit card or general airline credit card?
You have two options for an airline credit card: a cobranded card, which is associated with a single airline, and a general airline card, which can earn miles or points on all airlines. Generally, a cobranded credit card offers more perks and features for that specific airline, as well as a bigger opportunity for miles earnings compared to general airline cards. You can read more about the differences between each at our full guide.
Compare airline rewards credit cards
Cobranded cards aren’t your only option for earning reward points. Several general travel reward cards allow you to earn and transfer points to different airlines. The Chase Ultimate Rewards points are transferable to several airlines at a 1:1 ratio, including JetBlue, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
Here are just a few of the cards that can help you earn airline points and miles.
It’s hard to go wrong when selecting an airline rewards program as there are so many great options. Pick from any of the ones we highlighted above for good results or review your own travel and spending preferences to determine which will create the most value for you during your travels. You can also read more about the best credit card rewards programs and best hotel rewards programs. Finally, read more about how credit card miles work for a better understanding of how point values are determined.
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