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What are the best frequent flyer programs?

Consider frequent flyer programs when you are booking your flights. Find out more by reading our Skyscanner Elite travel expert's guide to the best airlines for frequent flyers.

If you’re frequently traveling, you might as well take advantage of it and turn those flying miles into points and rewards. There’s nothing quite like gathering enough points to then get a free flight, especially when programs like Southwest rapid rewards fly to more than 90 destinations.

In this article, we’ll outline the 8 most chosen Frequent Flyer programs and analyze their pros and cons to give our opinion on which is the best

  • Delta
  • United
  • Skyteam
  • American Airlines
  • Southwest
  • Jetblue
  • Blue Alliance

What is a Frequent Flyer program?

A frequent flyer program simply means the airline offers rewards to their ongoing customers – this is especially useful for travel bloggers, long-distance commuters, and those frequently attending business trips.

Frequent Flyer programs come with many benefits, some of which include free checked baggage, free tickets for family members, and unlimited upgrades.

What Are the Best Frequent Flyer Programs?

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest frequent flyer program recently upgraded their Southwest Rapid Rewards to Southwest Companion Pass, and while many aren’t happy with the outcome, let’s look at some pros and cons of their new reward system.

Pros:

  • Earn points with Southwest credit cards and lifestyle partners.
  • Bring along a family member for free (you only pay tax and fees).
  • 2 years to redeem your pass.
  • Bonus points include shopping, dining, home and leisure partners.

Cons:

  • To earn the pass, you will need to gather 110,000 points (100 one-way flights).
  • You can’t transfer points from the current Southwest rapid rewards program.
  • Transfer of your hotel points is only eligible through March 31st with no exception.

United Frequent Flyer

A favorite among worldwide travelers (and the Global Traveler magazine), United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program, split into four tiers – Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K. To redeem your flight, you must spend $2500 and 12,500 Award Points, and acquire 25,000 miles to qualify for the program. Make sure you check out the United award chart to see the best options!

Pros:

  • Affordable credit cards, with a zero annual fee for the first year.
  • Access to sold-out flights in most cases, perfect for last minute purchases.
  • International lounge access.
  • Free checked baggage (3 bags at at 70 lbs for the Premier 1K tier) and priority baggage handling.

Cons:

  • Be aware of the annual fees after the first year.

Delta Frequent Flyer

Delta frequent flyer program is often used by passengers who frequently commute to and from New York City as well as other US cities like LA, Detroit and Atlanta. With more than 330 destinations and 5,500 daily flights, the company created a program which allows their most loyal commuters to collect points and redeem them for free flights.

The program is split into Basic Membership and Medallion Membership (further split into Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond), and each comes with its own benefits.

Pros:

  • The miles never expire and can be used whenever.
  • Upgrades are unlimited for all elite members. (Medallion Program)
  • Free checked bags. (Medallion Program)
  • Priority boarding and seating. (Medallion Program)
  • Welcome gifts (25,000 bonus points or gifting Gold Medallion status, reserved for the Diamond Medallion program) Cons:
  • Medallion Programs are incredibly hard to reach and tend to get very expensive.
  • Although you have the option of priority boarding, seating is still limited
  • The rates depend on the airline you fly with and Delta SkyMiles partners don’t always offer the same number of miles as Delta.

American Airlines Frequent Flyer

As one of the biggest airlines in the US, American Airlines as an extensive AAdvantage frequent flyer program and redeemable points to over 1,000 destinations worldwide – more than any other airline on our list.

Unlike previously mentioned programs, American Airlines points can also be redeemed on cruises and other AA partners. Don’t forget to check the AA award chart when planning your travels!

Pros:

  • Your points are redeemable through 1,000 partner companies (including hotels, shopping, dining, car rentals, and cruises).
  • Thousands of destinations across the globe.
  • New Elite Qualifying Dollars program, which allows redeeming points of the ticket fare.
  • Free upgrade for every 500 miles flown. Cons:
  • Unlike other programs, points are being rewarded for dollars spent and not miles flown.
  • You must actively use your membership.
  • Miles can be transferred to another account, but do not count towards elite status qualification.

Other frequent flyer programs gaining momentum are also Jetblue’s TrueBlue, which is perfect for family travels, BlueAlliance, and Skyteam Frequent Flyer program, which allows you to redeem your miles even after you fly.

Which is your favorite frequent flyer program?

About the Author

Mandy Lutman // Soulful Mandy

Mandy is a digital nomad, originally born in Slovenia, but have so far has lived in London for 4 years, Madrid in 2.5 and is now hanging out in Santorini. Check out her blog for her unique and completely honest advice on all things travel and digital nomads!

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