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My Ranking of Airline Frequent Flyer Programs

by on October 24, 2011 · 109 comments

in Aeroplan, Beginners Series, British Airways, Continental, Delta, United, US Airways

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All airline miles were not created equal. And while some programs are clearly better than others, the only thing that matters is how much value you get from your frequent flyer program. For example, if your preferred airport is only serviced by American – you may value your AAdvantage miles much more than any others. Or if you love the ability to build in stopovers into trips your British Airways miles may be extremely valuable – whereas someone who only flies to Europe may despise British Airways’ high fees on trips to/from that continent.

Overall, I feel that all programs have value for specific awards, but I actually took time this past weekend to rank each program on a several different metrics to see which one I find most valuable. My model is probably flawed and I expect and encourage people to disagree! That’s the great thing about miles and points- we can all value them differently and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what other people think.

I probably could have over-engineered this exercise, but decided instead to keep it pretty simple. I scored the most popular frequent flyer programs (not taking into account fixed value programs like Southwest Rapid Rewards and JetBlue TrueBlue because each of their points have set values) and scored either 1-10 for the most important categories and 1-5 for a couple less important categories.

Categories:
1) Ease in accruing: How easy it is to earn miles. Does the loyalty program runs lots of lucrative promotions? Are there lots of hotel and car partners? Can you transfer points from Amex, Chase or Starwood at good ratios?
2) Low level award availability for domestic flights. Is it easy to redeem for domestic awards on the program’s airline (non-partners)?
3) Low level award availability for international flights. Is it easy to redeem for international awards on the program’s airline (non-partners)?
4) Partner award availability – not only alliance partners, but does the program team up with a lot of good non-alliance partners?
5) Award levels – do they have good value awards? Do they offer off-peak or promo pricing?
6) Award flexibility – can you book one ways for half the price of roundtrip? Can you put awards on hold? Can you build in stopovers, route around the world, build in open-jaws, etc?
7) Taxes and fees – do you get hit with outrageous fees when redeeming awards? Last minute booking fees? Phone booking fees, etc.
8 ) Does the program make it easy and lucrative to redeem for upgrades? (1-5 scale)
9) Can you book awards easily through the airlines website? If not, do their phone reps make it easy? (1-5 scale)

Ease in accruing Low Level Award Availability Domestic Low Level Award Availability Intl Partner Award Availability Award Levels, Incl offpeak Award Flexibility (One ways, stopovers) Taxes/Fees Upgrades Website Total
American 7 9 7 7 9 5 8 4.5 3 59.5
Continental/UA 7 8 6 9 8 9 10 3 4.5 64.5
Delta 10 4 4 8 5 7 7 2.5 3 50.5
US Airways 9 9 6 9 10 7 6 3.5 3 62.5
Aeroplan 8 7 8 9 6 9 6 3 4.5 60.5
British Airways 7 9 10 7 7 10 3 5 3.5 61.5

 The results:
1) Continental/United: 64.5
2) US Airways: 62.5
3) British Airways: 61.5
4) Aeroplan 60.5
5) American 59.5
6) Delta 50.5

I could probably go back and keep tweaking my individual rankings, but I think I’m pretty satisfied with the overall results. I wrote down some of the positives and negatives for each program – feel free to add your thoughts as well.

Aside: many of you are probably wondering why I am loyal to Delta when their program is clearly not as strong as the others. I sometimes wonder the same, but to me, there’s more to an airline than just the redeemable miles. The reason I fly Delta as my main carrier is 1) Elite program – I get almost 100% domestic upgrades on the cheapest fares 2) I find their planes and flight attendants to be generally top notch (in comparison to other US carriers 3) WiFi – as a full-time blogger being connected is my business. Almost every single Delta plane, including regional jets, has WiFi 4) I can still get huge value from their miles, especially since I live in a Skyteam gateway city and I know all the tricks to get low level awards. 5) I accrue hundreds of thousands of miles in other programs from my credit card spend/bonuses, so I don’t put all of my eggs in one basket with Delta. If I can’t use my Skymiles for a trip, I simply dip into my stashes of other miles/points.

Program summaries:
American:
Positive- SPG transfer partner, one way awards, good domestic award availability, low copays on mileage upgrades , offpeak awards to Europe/Latin America
Negative- Poor routing rules – no stopovers. Expensive pricing of multi-partner awards, Oneworld the smallest alliance, aa.com only shows AA availability

Continental/United:
Positive- Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, robust online booking engine, one-way awards, flexible rules on roundtrip tickets including stopovers, open jaws and multiple partners, low fees, strong Star Alliance network
Negative- SPG transfer of only 2:1, high mileage upgrade co-pays, lackluster international availability on CO/UA metal, history of blocking Star Alliance awards – it seems to have gotten a lot better, but could return at any time

Delta
Positive- Amex and SPG transfer partner, TONS of mileage promos, Skyteam availability is generally very good, flexible routing rules, low fees on tickets leaving from anywhere but Europe, no last minute ticketing fees, no mileage expiration
Negative- 3 award tiers which can severely inflate awards, no one-ways, no offpeak awards, huge fees on awards that originate in Europe, high fare classes needed for upgrades, awful website, no international first class awards

US Airways
Positive- SPG transfer partner. Good domestic award availability, strong Star Alliance network, flexible routing rules (around the world with stopovers), lots of ways to get miles like 100% bonuses and lucrative Grand Slam promotion, offpeak awards – including business class
Negative- No one-way awards, awful website that only has US availability, expensive fees on awards

Air Canada
Positive- Amex, SPG transfer partner. Strong Star Alliance network, super flexible routing rules (2 stopovers and around the world routing)
Negative- Recently inflated award levels, high fees on Air Canada flights, one way awards are not 1/2 the price of roundtrip

British Airways
Positive- Amex and SPG transfer partner. Great award chart for partner awards, unlimited en-route stopovers, one-way awards, low fees on US/South American awards, incredible value in upgrades – 25,000 miles roundtrip for Premium Economy to Business
Negative- Impending program devaluation November 16, 2011. HUGE fees on European awards and Asia/Australia awards can also be very expensive. Buggy website and limited phone hours and tired phone reps

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  • Dave Op

    I generally agree with your ranking except for US Airways. At least in my experience, low level award availability in domestic is very difficult to find, even more so than Delta. I mainly fly out of Philly.

    How about a rating of how much each hotel points is worth? I have a hard time comparing them. All I know is that SPG seems to be the best, and each point is worth more than other hotel programs.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe its just my experience, but I always see tons of US airways availability. In fact I just got 2 first class CLT-LAX awards for the Monday before Thanksgiving and returning on a Sunday in December. I had a ton of options too.

    As for hotel points..stay tuned!

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    A good summary and I agree very much with your comment that best value / most valuable airline FFP will be different for everyone depending on where they live, the destinations they fly to, destinations they want to redeem to, their spend profile, etc, etc.

  • Domoarigato999

    Is it still much easier to collect Delta points? I always thought it was easiest to collect AAdvantage points (churning). One thing missing is “global coverage”. Getting to southeast Asia can be tricky with one world when Korean air doesn’t allow you to use AAdvantage points. Australia is also difficult. Out of the three, I think one world has the worst access to all of Europe. Star alliance has the best.

    I would assume that the award availability is based on first or business class. How about coach? Would that change the numbers?

  • Anonymous

    Award availability is based on coach/business/first. Star Alliance carriers did get more points because thats the most extensive alliance.

    As for earning miles, credit cards were just one piece of the equation

  • cruisr

    I was glad to see my top 3 programs are the same as yours. The other positive I see with BA is their partnership with CX. Just booked two RT J tkts to Bali for 100K. No problem at all getting the flights I wanted but then had to change it by one day. Did that online with no problem and no change fee. Yes, approx 350. in fees per tkt but considering the actual cost of the miles was the $95. fee for each of our credit cards I consider it well worth it.

  • Jeff

    Nice summary. I’d like to add if you want to go to East Asia, then AA is the best. 67.5K on-way on CX F plus no YQ is a steal. I’ll rate US second since you could do US-Europe-Asia-US for 100K J class with stopover. It’s just impossible to get a low award on DL. And DL’s partner has horrible blackout dates (like KE).

  • Ri Zheng

    I agree with the ranking.

    Continental & American allows you to make changes to your itinerary as long as origin/destination stays the same, you can change flight, routing, and dates! However, on Delta, you can not. It is a very valuable benefit because at the times of booking, perhaps the shortest flight or desired stopover or desired airline was not available, must make the change 21 days prior to departure, I think this is fair.

    However, Continental does not allow any hold on your flights(there’s a way around that) if you’re interested. AA let you hold flights for 5 days and you can possibly extend if the flights are available(if not there’s another trick around that).

  • Anonymous

    BA also allows changes. And Continental does allow holds online if you don’t have enough miles (simply transfer them to United or create a new account)- was that the trick?

    Agree that Delta’s no change whatsoever policy is customer unfriendly and factored into their score.

  • notsosmart

    Where does British Midland fit in your rankings? ;-)

  • Airline Dork

    What about Alaska’s program which allows you to collect/spend miles on a host of different carriers?

  • Mark

    A huge negative for me when it comes to Delta is their constant changing of program rules and their recent 72-hour “no change to award ticket” policy. What is even worse, they made the change immediately (no warning) and retroactive (already issued tickets that are in the public domain are subject to the change). This is completely unacceptable and soured me on Delta.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=41900029 Josh MacDonald

    I fly UA/CO however have some Delta miles and from what I understand they upgrade you when you fly on miles if you have status, that’s a plus in my book as UA/CO doesn’t.

  • Mark

    I agree with Dave Op. I have had a very hard timing finding low level award availability on US Airways.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1277136063 Curiouz Jorge

    I also agree with your ranking, except I have never used BA or AC. I used my miles extensively for long international flights and have been doing so mainly on Delta because it is my favorite U.S. legacy airline. I am about to give up on Skymiles because their award tier system, lack of one-way awards and blackout dates (mainly on Korean). Although I love the fact that miles don’t expire with Skyteam, and it is easy to get them, it really annoys me how difficult theymake it to use miles. I normally plan a year in advance and still, it is hard to book the awards. I normally manage with some flexibility, lots of calls and telling the agents what to do to book and award, but when I compare the award booking process with AA and UA/CO, and it makes me give up on Skyteam much faster. I think the amount of choices of airlines and routings offered by StarAlliance is much “rewarding”. CO’s website lets you book several partners online, they allow one ways, etc. As a DC resident, switching to StarAlliance makes all the sense, except that I am not a fan of US Airways. Then, we have AA. I have lots of miles on AA because I find it easy to accumulate thru banks and credit cards, but the routings are so bad as I always have to do double connections with long layovers to go anywhere internationally. My only choice to fly nonstop to Europe is BA IAD-LHR and no nonstops to Asia, Caribbean or Latin America. Yet, I manage, but will give more business to CO/US from now on

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    I’m guessing Brian’s ranking’s feature the most active/biggest FFPs in America? If you were to include BMI then you would really need to include LH, AF/KLM, VS, etc.

  • GLIE

    cruisr, how do you change the date online on your CX award from BA? I also need to move the date by 1 day.

  • http://twitter.com/markaddis75 Mark Addis

    I must be missing something… What do you mean by this statement in the Delta rating: “…no international first class awards”??

  • Anonymous

    Delta blocks the booking of international first class on it’s partners like Korean. You can only redeem for international business class using skymiles (delta doesn’t have international first class on it’s own planes- just businesselite)

  • cruisr

    I did it through BA.com. Went to manager my reservation and there is an icon to click to change the time or the date. You select the flight you want to change, put in the date you want and the available flights will come up. Just click on what you want. They do want the cc that you paid for the tkt to insure that the change is authorized but there is no charge.

  • Dan

    Brian,

    I’d have dinged BA’s partners a bit more. Although BA and AA are both part of One World, AA has a bunch more non-One World partners than BA does, so I would have dinged BA more relative to AA.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely a valid point

  • john

    I had a favorite program with an airline that I actually liked; but then Southwest bought them. :(

    Since then, airline frequent flyer programs for me have become more about travel things other than actual airline travel.
    I choose AA first; but I like CO better, partially because I like Chase better than Citi. :)

  • hobo13

    Wow, coming from Brian, I expected to find Delta the best by a mile….. (pun intended)

    Pretty good analysis Brian. Maybe you should do a companion post with your personal ranking — and to give Delta their moment in the sun!

  • Anonymous

    LOL. We all know Delta isn’t as valuable. That being said, I find it more productive to find creative, valuable ways to use DL miles instead of just assuming they are worthless. I know you value DL miles as well from time to time, so you know what I’m saying.

  • hobo13

    Haha, yes indeed. Picking Delta is somewhat like contrarian investing….. there are times when it really does pay-off.

    For someone who has a variety of ST flights to choose from, I can really see how DL could work. Unfortunately, for those of us in the mid-continent, it’s just brutal to get to a gateway.

    And until they slash the GOLD RDM bonus, they might just be competitive in that segment of the market.

  • 2B

    I would like to hear more about Alaska too.

  • beaubo

    Big advantage of BA (and bmi, plus Korean, Asiana, ANA among others) is ability to POOL MILES FOR FREE amongst multiple ‘family’ members. Especially helpful for aggregating modest credit card signup bonuses into a valuable intl J/F award.

    If BA gets a ’3′ for taxes/surcharges, who the hell gets a ’1′?!!! I have never paid taxes for any award as high as BA.
    I would give BA a ’0′ if I could, and FFPs like bmi a ’1′, AF/KL and LH a ’3′.

    I understand your focus on ‘popular’ FFPs for your rankings, but there are gems scattered around the world depending on one’s priorities- AZ has excellent award charts to Europe/Israel, TK to Africa, VS on NZ LAX-LHR among others.

    Ultimately, the ‘best’ program is a function of individual needs. Award availability really needs to be segmented into Economy vs. Business vs. First. For example, using BA miles on BA or CX, J is tough to find, but F seems to be quite more available in m experience. And for those willing to play chicken with the FFPs, just about ANY low level award I’m looking for (excepting obvious peak periods) is available within 24-72 hours of flight time. So, when you factor in strategic award booking conduct, ALL of the programs look pretty damn good.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Just curious why you give LH a 3 for taxes… is it because you can pay taxes and YQ on award flights with miles?

  • Anonymous

    BA gets a 3 for fees because the fees on US/South America awards are really low. You can’t beat a multi stop South American trip in business class for 80k miles and $90ish in fees!

  • ec

    This is good to know.
    I booked 5 CX flight for ORD- HKG – SIN with stopover and the rep told me that there will be $75 each if I want to change any of the segments.

  • ec

    anybody can suggest the best way to use DL points? I tried to find local flight but they are outrageously expensive (ie. 50K round trip). How you guys use DL points?

  • Ri Zheng

    Yes, for the time being, you can transfer to United. The 2nd trick is create a new account & put the award on hold, when you are ready to ticket, just copy the existing confirmation from the new account, and enter in the account with miles to purchase the ticket. This trick also helps you save the $25 ticketing fee if you want to travel to certain destinations not available on continental website.

  • Derek

    US has great low level award availability for 1st class(F). Since you are probably booking intl in C or F, that is the reason. They have terrible Y award availability.

  • GLIE

    Thank YOU!!

  • Joseph N

    Points Guy, thank you for making up this matrix. However, as other commenters have pointed out, using your own anecdotal evidence has produced one big flaw: Both Delta and USA are notorious for their horrible low point redemption award availability. The annual survey puts them at the bottom of availability every year. So bad that I find them to be essentially unusable. If the matrix had realistic (super bad) rankings for availability for those two, both programs would drop like a stone in the overall ranking.

  • Joseph N

    Delta partners with Alaska Air and Hawaiian. Are you going someplace where you could use Delta points to buy a ticket on either of them?

    One trick everyone uses on Delta is to price each segment separately first. That lets you make sure that there really a low miles award seat available on the itinerary. With Delta’s stone age web site, this does involve a fair amount of time.

  • Joseph N

    But Josh, there is a downside to that: Delta gives status to sooo many people that you usually find people with higher status get the upgrades before you.

  • Anonymous

    I did slam Delta for bad low level awards, with a 4 ranking. Maybe it could have been a 2 or 3 but that wouldn’t have changed the fact Delta was still in dead last.

    As for US, I guess I’m just really lucky, because I always find a ton of US coach and first class domestic awards.

    But as I said, this is “My Ranking” based on my experience- I’m by no means trying to create an industry standard based on any sort of historical data.

  • Joseph N

    If you’re going to compare hotel programs’ points, you better write it in pencil. At the rate that Hilton is devaluing HHonors points, if you use ink, you’ll have to white out the Hilton portion before the ink is dry.

    In all honesty, comparing hotel points is a valuable service. I’ve made those comparisons, and it’s hard, because there is no standard (like 25000 miles for a domestic RT) in the hotel programs.

  • hobo13

    So I guess you’ll be updating this matrix in another month when BA eliminates that option…..

  • Benthelefty

    Does anyone have word on the severity of the changes? Like from 80k trip Brian mentioned to 100, 120, etc? Any idea the % change?

  • pbd456

    AA deserves more than a 5 on award flexibility giving that one can have a stopover at NA gateway.

  • PJ

    BA does not allow changes WITHOUT fees right? not allowed hold time either correct?

  • PJ

    with the help from agents 75 total was my experience

  • Cliburn

    I also wonder why I am so loyal to Delta…….

  • oldmanpeabody

    Joseph N, can you explain pricing each segment separately in a little more detail? I’m willing to put in the time but not sure I follow how that would work. I’m an Atlanta guy, so I have a ton of Delta miles but despise trying to use them just like EC.

    On a related note, TPG, I know ec and I (and many other fans) would LOVE to hear you do a thorough analysis of the best ways to use Delta Skymiles to redeem. I’ve found the exact same thing as others – terrible availability pretty much all the time.

  • oldmanpeabody

    Sorry for a very newbie question, but can anyone point me to a link here or flyertalk or somewhere else about the devaluation of points on BA? I had heard about the avios switch but wasn’t sure how that would affect my points. I’ve got those 100k miles from the CC offer earlier this year and still haven’t figured out a good way to use them (don’t travel all that much, only travel coach, don’t want to pay their insane overseas taxes). Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    No – BA have not posted / issued / released ANYTHING other than the redemption levels ex-UK which is now distance based.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    No – BA have not posted / issued / released ANYTHING other than the redemption levels ex-UK which is now distance based.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Come 16 November BA introduce new redemption charts which are changing to distance based zones. So far they have only released the new redemption levels ex-UK and while few awards increase, a number decrease (East Coast USA by 20% and Asia by 25%).

    However, what this means is that there are likely to be changes (how significant no-one knows) for redemptions from North America to Asia and South America as based on ‘distance’ when compared to ex-UK distances these redemption levels (100k to Asia and 80k to South America) appear very cheap.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://www.euanross.com Euan

    Come 16 November BA introduce new redemption charts which are changing to distance based zones. So far they have only released the new redemption levels ex-UK and while few awards increase, a number decrease (East Coast USA by 20% and Asia by 25%).

    However, what this means is that there are likely to be changes (how significant no-one knows) for redemptions from North America to Asia and South America as based on ‘distance’ when compared to ex-UK distances these redemption levels (100k to Asia and 80k to South America) appear very cheap.

    Hope this helps.

  • Matt

    Hi TPG, first love your site, read it almost every day. I think you pick great things to post.

    Just wanted to pick up on something one or two people other mentioned – delta frequently gets lambasted in these sorts of rankings, and deserves it for the most part for the reasons raised. however, most of the rankers are higher-tier FFs, and as a lower-tier FF, i think delta is easily one of the best programs. yes, the same issues of difficulty of award availability and difficulty of intl upgrades apply, but the unlimited complimentary medallion upgrades for low tier elites is an enormous benefit that completely dwarfs all else for me and i’m sure many others. the 100% bonus for GMs is also incredibly valuable, and one UA is taking away.

    not sure how it could be incorporated, but i think delta should be getting more recognition for its low-tier program.

  • Nick

    I may be late to post on this to get responses, but here goes:
    I know summer is “peak”, but being a teacher, that’s basically the only time I can travel. I have about 25000 US miles. Anyone with experience know if I have a chance of finding a low level award ticket for the US flying out of PIT?

    If not, any suggestions on which airline would be best for low level awards during the summer?

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  • Joseph N

    Let me give an example. Let’s say you want to fly PBI-OAK RT. If you go to the skymiles website, the calender may show availability for low point redemptions, but then when you click on each day, it either shows NO low point tickets, or only tickets if you accept some ludicrous routing that turns a 7 hr flight into double that. Often this is due to no award availability on just one segment.

    One way to get around that is to first check individual segments, like PBI-ATL, and find dates that have low point award non-stops available. Then plug in ATL-OAK, and find dates. Once you’ve found dates where individual segments have award tickets for PBI-ATL-OAK, then try to use those dates on the Skymiles calender to find PBI-OAK. Yes, searching each segment one by one until you find one date with availability is frustrating, but it beats clicking on day after day, only to find that the award is actually some 3 stopover redeye. Apparently DL employees never use their own award engine.

    A few caveats:

    If low level awards aren’t available, DL is good about having higher level redemptions. IMHO, they ought to just admit that 25,000 miles doesn’t buy a RT anymore.

    If you have status, DL has better availability. Also, if you are flying out of ATL, that is a real problem. ATL is bursting with DL FFs medallions. Finding an award is tougher in ATL.

    (Of course, this excludes the other big question: is it better to buy a Y ticket and use the points to upgrade.)

  • Ri Zheng

    It really depends on where you are flying too… in addition, if you book your flights 3-4 months before departure, generally pretty good chance you’ll get a seat.

  • Objectform

    looks good in theory but if you’ve tried them .. nothing beats the practical .. sorry, unless you’re at you’re at IK level Untied is bullshit … maybe on paper its better .. simply because one doesn’t have to pay for your upgrades domestically .. but honestly .. speaking to someone in Dallas (American) vs the Philippines, or that little bit of exclusivity you get for having to pay to move up front (American), and the simple fact that at Platinum on American ( Gold on United) you are treated like you’re treated at 1k on United/CON … things you wouldn’t know unless you got out there and actually tried the other carriers .. And Delta?.. ATL ?.. forget about it .. obviously the author looked at paper and made his point, but has he ever had anything above silver on more than one airline .. doubtful .. just like most of you haven’t .. you dont know until you experience it first hand … I have, and trust me, America is the only way to go…

  • Dan

    I don’t think this is true. I booked a rewards travel to Vegas and was twice told that I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade and I’m at the Silver medallion level and there were available seats in business class.

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  • KP

    I concur with Joseph. Delta and US Airways are the worst programs for low level award in US FFPs. As a frequent flier in focus cities of both Delta and US I can say that I’ve burned several hundred thousand UA/CO miles because redeeming on DL and US SUCK!

  • Canadakikou

    Do please update this very useful chart for beginners TPG. Now we have Avios, the free BA stopovers are gone.

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  • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

    Good thing I got United! Can’t wait to use my miles for RT tickets to Peru or something.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I think the website rating carries too much weight since for most award redemption and booking by a power-user you’ll want to contact an agent anyhow.

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  • Steeldude

    You are nuts when you talk about Delta and their equipment. I’ve taken them twice to Asia and both times ended up on aging 747-400 with shared video, terrible screens and even worse seats. Domestically they might have good stuff, but my international experience has been terrible.

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  • rmcd

    United generally has more expensive flights than Delta or American. So accruing miles via flying can be more expensive using United.

  • mr.ken.1296

    Do you have a list of loyalty programs without expirations can you please post or email? It seems your search feature is not working. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/harlanvaughn Harlan Vaughn

    It’d be interesting to have a 2012 version now that CO is officially kaput. ;)

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  • Mpaulk10

    Hey Points Guy,
    I was hoping you could create a chart like this for rental car rewards programs as well as hotel reward programs. If you have, I couldn’t find it on the site search.

    Thanks!

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  • stevend2

    Hello just starting out writing and learning . I’m don’t understand a lot of the abbreviations. Is there key ? Thank you.

  • Mark

    I would add that if you ever fly through London it has the most expensive taxes in the world. For an award ticket with American to Nairobi the taxes were going to cost me $1400 bc I flew through London! So instead I ended up just buying the ticket for $1700. Problem is with American it is difficult to avoid London when going from US to Africa.

  • juneymoon

    Novice here with 200,000 ff miles to blow. Great info here but too much jargon. What is SPG? Starwood Preferred? What does CA/UA metal mean? (Continental/United metal??? ) Open jaws? Good info but we are not all s sav (which is why we are visiting, right?) Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/eddietirebiter Eddie Tirebiter

    Been with Alaska for over 10 years. Yes I use their partner program more than I use Alaska. But the flights cost more, booking them is more trouble, and I feel like the partner airlines are serving their own people first. Why I’m here looking to switch. Just go to their website and they pretty much spell out how it works, the exchange rates and such.

  • Castleo

    Now that AA and United are combining—you will do an update on the chart—right?

  • Austin Healey 100

    we only fly 6 – 8 times a year and end up on different carriers due to area we fly to. What do you do with small milage award credits when you might not fly again on that airline for a year or so?

  • Pingback: Travel Tuesday Top 10: Best Credit Cards for Travelers | The Points Guy

  • mlc4

    Hi Points Guy! Could you please update this post for those entering into the credit card travel market in November 2013? For instance, are you a bigger fan of Blue Sky from American Express 2013, Delta Sky Miles, or American Express Premium Rewards? Much appreciated!

  • Amy Jacobs

    Hi Points Guy, this is a really useful summary, however I’ve read about some changes to a few programs recently. Any chance you can update the chart?!

  • RGK_SC

    I’m currently platinum level with USAirways and don’t know yet how this will transfer to AA where there is no equivalent to platinum level. Of great importance to me is the priority airport check in, particularly at international airports, that comes with Star Alliance Gold (which disappears as of March 31, 2014) . It seems from my reading of current AA rules that priority airport check-in is only a perk for the top tier (100,000 miles) level, which I do not anticipate achieving once the merger is completed. Is there a way to gain the priority check-in perk if I remain loyal to the new American other than achieving this top status (e.g. credit card)? My other option is to switch loyalty to United and make Star Alliance Gold but I’ve read very negative comments about what’s happening to United frequent flyers program.

  • Mp-Seattle

    Please update this to 2014. Am very interested. Mahalo

  • popy

    yes spg is starwood

  • CS Williams

    Could you please update this article? I’m a beginner and with this being 2 years old, I’m sure terms and cards have changed. So pretty please? Thanks!

  • Double

    Can you please update this? This is really an article that should be linked on your top navigation bar, and should be updated yearly. Out of all the great things on this site that are added daily, it’s really surprising that this is over two years old. Please, please update this at least yearly, if not whenever there are major changes to the flyer programs.

  • MontisiMama

    Hi! with Delta’s announcement a few days ago, bargain international flyers like me (I fly to Italy 4 to 5 times a year) are REALLY getting hurt, since it seems to be no longer miles flown but dollars spent. I actually LIKE coach, for many of the reasons you outlined above. I’ve open’d a KLM/AirFrance mileage account in protest, but I’m guilt-ridden. I have been a Northwest Airlines darling all my career and so therefore Delta. what are your thoughts on this new change to Delta’s plan? I used their calculator and my mileage points dropped from 14,000 to 4,200 under the new plan for a rt, affordable ticket. MontisiMama

  • JamesJ

    PLEASE update the grid. I feel enough has changed over the last year that this list could have changed greatly. Love your info!

  • Panda

    Hi, would you update this table? looks like it’s from 3 years ago and it feels like a lot has changed since then. thanks

  • Hersh

    Could you update these rankings please? I’m beginning to fly for work and need to pick an airline to concentrate flying.

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