Participating in one of the best frequent flyer programs can be a smart way to earn miles for a dream vacation. But choosing the right frequent flyer program for you isn’t easy. You’ll want to sign up for a loyalty program from an airline that serves your home airport and offers great perks (like free seat upgrades and complimentary checked bags) for members who earn elite status.
Fortunately, WalletHub has recently released a report on the best frequent flyer programs in 2022, which can help you narrow down your choices. It evaluated the loyalty programs at the 10 largest domestic airlines in the U.S. on 21 key factors, including the value of points and miles, number of destinations served, how easy it is to achieve elite status, whether you can transfer miles between accounts, and imposed blackout dates on reward flights.
Here’s what the analysis revealed.
Best frequent flyer programs of 2022
The results showed that Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan was the best frequent flyer program of 2022, surpassing last year’s winner, United MileagePlus.
“Alaska Mileage Plan ranks in the top five among major airline loyalty programs in terms of rewards-earning policies, redemption policies, rewards value, geographical coverage, partner-airline coverage, and other features. No other airline excels in so many categories,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez in a press release.
Here’s the complete list of the top five frequent flyer programs of 2022, according to the WalletHub study:
- Mileage Plan from Alaska Airlines
- MileagePlus from United Airlines
- SkyMiles from Delta Air Lines
- HawaiianMiles from Hawaiian Airlines
- AAdvantage from American Airlines
Advantages of each frequent flyer program
In its report, WalletHub noted that each of the top five frequent flyer programs also has their own strengths.
The best airline loyalty programs based on the rewards value included Alaska Mileage Plan and HawaiianMiles, according to the rankings. However, experts say that the exact value you’ll get from frequent flyer miles or points can depend on a number of factors that are rarely easy to decipher.
“Even within a single airline’s program, redeeming for the same route can cost a different number of miles depending on the time of year or time of day of the flight. So it makes comparison very difficult,” Charles R. Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova School of Business, explained in the report.
On the other hand, American Airlines AAdvantage and United MileagePlus earned the most points for airline coverage. This factor was based on the number of U.S. destinations and international destinations served by each airline compared with its competitors. It’s an important point of consideration when choosing a frequent flyer program, as you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of points or miles you can’t use to get to your vacation destination.
If you’re looking for a frequent flyer program with the best redemption policies, consider signing up for Delta SkyMiles, which ranked highest in that category. This was based on whether the airline imposes blackout dates, offers advance booking, charges a fee for last-minute rewards redemptions or cancellations, and allows miles to be used for flights that include stopovers.
Finding the best frequent flyer program for you
Even though Mileage Plan from Alaska Airlines took the number one spot in WalletHub’s rankings, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best frequent flyer program for you. Here are some other factors to consider when choosing an airline loyalty program:
- Which airports do you use most frequently? Choosing an airline that serves your home airport gives you the best chance at earning and redeeming miles.
- Where do you want to go? Think about your future travel plans, then search online to see which airlines serve those destinations.
- Do you want to fly first or business class? Not all airlines offer premium cabins. If flying first or business class is important to you, avoid choosing a frequent flyer program from an airline that only offers economy seats.
- How quickly can you achieve elite status? Check out each frequent flyer program’s requirements for flying a certain number of miles, spending a designated amount of money, or often both to see whether it’s feasible for you to achieve elite status relatively quickly.
- What are the perks? From free checked bags to complimentary seat upgrades, earning elite status through a frequent flyer program can pay off. Make sure the program you choose offers perks that excite you.