The 6 Best Frequent Flyer Programs

The 6 Best Frequent Flyer Programs for Savvy Travelers

By Mirela Necsutu, Mon, Sep 16, 2013

Interested in joining a frequent flyer program, but don’t want to do hours of research? We’ve got you covered.

We’ve combed the reviews, awards and small print of dozens of airlines and have come up with the 6 best frequent flyer programs. But if you’re still not sure whether these types of reward plans will really benefit you, don’t read another word. Instead, check out our article 5 Things To Consider Before Joining A Frequent Flyer Program.

For those who are confident that signing up is in their best interests, read on and get the low-down on six of the world’s top frequent flyer programs.

Alaskan Airlines - Flying Club

While it may seem like a strange choice, Alaskan Airlines does not only fly near Alaska. While the majority of their flights service the western US, Alaska and Hawaii, their true value lies in their partnerships.

They are partners with very popular airlines from across different alliances, including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines and Emerates Air. You can earn points on Alaskan easily and then transfer them (usually one for one) to a larger airline that services your route.

The miles never expire and Alaskan has been rated as the best overall frequent flyer program by Frequent Business Traveler. Alaskan Airlines’ Flying Club is truly a hidden gem in the travel world.

Alaskan Airlines Flying Club Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

MVP

On Alaska: 20,000 Miles

On Alaska and Partners: 25,000 Miles

OR

30 Segments

50% Earning Bonus, 2 Free Checked Bags on Alaskan and Several Partners, Priority Check-In, Preferred Seating, Priority Boarding, Complimentary Upgrades 48 Hours before Flight

MVP Gold

On Alaska: 40,000 Miles

On Alaska and Partners: 50,000 Miles

OR

60 Segments

MVP Perks PLUS

100% Earning Bonus (total), Express Security Lines at Select Airports, Free Same Day Flight Changes, Priority Standby, Priority Waitlist, Complimentary Premium Beverage in Main Cabin, Companion Upgrades, Complimentary Upgrades 72 Hours before Flight

MVP Gold 75K

On Alaska: 75,000 Miles

On Alaska and Partners: 90,000 Miles

OR

90 Segments

MVP Gold Perks PLUS

50,000 Bonus Miles, Complimentary In-Flight Entertainment Player in Main Cabin, Complimentary Upgrades 120 Hours before Flight

Best Perk:

Ability to Nominate a Friend or Family Member for Free MVP Level Membership

 

American Airlines - AAdvantage

American Airlines AAdvantage has been highly rated in consumer surveys and industry reviews. A very simple program with few hoops to jump through, AAdvantage has some of the coolest perks available on a wide range of partner airlines through oneworld. They are also in the process of acquiring USAirways, which will increase their location offerings and flight availability even more.

It’s easy to earn miles through American. Not only can you get them for flying, but also for other travel services and even by donating to charity or ordering home decor. Unlike 90% of the airlines out there, Gold is actually AAdvantage’s lowest tier. They offer a huge range of benefits and travel not only the US but also most of the globe.

American Airlines AAdvantage Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

Gold

25,000 Miles OR

25,000 Points

OR

30 Segments

Complimentary Upgrades on Full-Fare Tickets, 25% Earning Bonus, 1 Free Checked Bag, Priority Check-In, Priority Security, Priority Boarding, Complimentary Access to Preferred Seats and Main Cabin Extras, Specialty Service Desk

Platinum

50,000 Miles OR

50,000 Points

OR

60 Segments

Gold Perks PLUS

oneworld Partner Lounge Access, Priority Baggage Delivery, 100% Earning Bonus (total)

Executive Platinum

100,000 Miles

OR

100,000 Points OR

100 Segments

Platinum Perks PLUS

Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades, Expanded Award Seat Availability, No Ticketing Service Charge, Waitlist Priority for Purchased First or Business Class, Guaranteed Economy Class Availability

Best Perk: Free Food and Drink in Main Cabin

 

British Airways - Executive Club

Collecting points, known as Avios for British Airways’ Executive Club, is extremely easy, meaning you get to your perks faster. When paired with a BA co-sponsored credit card, you can get a huge sign up bonus and earn the higher rate of 1.25 Avios per dollar or 2.5 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways purchases.

A member of the oneworld airline alliance, British Airways is well connected with airlines that travel almost everywhere across the globe. In addition, travelers rave about upgraded in-flight amenities that other airlines skimp on. You can also get benefits right away, which is highly unusual for Frequent Flyer programs. A very cool perk.

British Airways Executive Club Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

Blue

Sign Up, 0 Tier Points

Priority Waitlist, Seating Preferences Stored, Meal Preferences Stored, Free Seat Selection 24 Hours before Departure

Bronze

300 Tier Points & 2 Eligible One-Way Flights

OR

25 Eligible One-Way Flights

Blue Perks PLUS

Free Seat Selection 7 Days before Departure, Priority Boarding, 25% Earning Bonus

Silver

300 Tier Points & 4 Eligible One-Way Flights

OR

50 Eligible One-Way Flights

Bronze Perks PLUS

Free Seat Selection at Booking, 100% Earning Bonus (total), 1 Free Checked Bag, Lounge Access when Flying BA or Partners

Gold

1500 Tier Points & 4 Eligible One-Way Flights

Silver Perks PLUS

3 Free Checked Bags, Use of BA First and other oneworld First-Class Check-In Desks, No Booking or Service Fees on Rewards, Silver Partner Card

Best Perk:

Concorde Room Card & Gold Uprade for Two

 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program is a phenomenal choice for those who travel internationally. They have the best customer service in the industry and they have incredible first class and premium cabins with lay-flat beds that are addicting.

That’s where the KrisFlyer program can help you, savvy traveler. With points earned on this program, you can upgrade to those gold standard sleep pods or earn free flights. In addition to some fantastic perks, Singapore Airlines rates highly on the ease of redemption of their points. There is a great deal of availability for seats and as a StarAlliance member, you can use those points with over two dozen other airlines.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

Red

Sign Up

 

Silver

25,000 Miles

25% Earning Bonus, Priority Waitlist, Priority Standby, Reduced or Waived Fees

Gold

50,000 Miles

Silver Perks PLUS

One Free Checked Bag, Priority Boarding, Priority Check-in, Priority Baggage Handling

Best Perk: StarAlliance Gold Lounge Access

 

Southwest - Rapid Rewards

For the low-fare US traveler, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program can’t be beat. Southwest recently acquired AirTran airways, another low-fare airline, and has expanded its offerings across the US.

They have extremely highly rated customer service and a legion of passionate fans. Rapid Rewards can be earned through airline purchases as well as all purchases on partner airlines. If you open the Chase Rapid Rewards credit card, every purchase earns points toward a free flight or upgrade. With no blackout dates, Southwest is the best program for seat availability.

If the seat is open, you can choose it. It doesn’t matter what level your booking is. This makes the process quite simple and you never have to worry about missing out based on a technicality. While there is no special lounge access, Southwest excels at delivering perks that most travelers really want like free WiFi and a companion free travel pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

A-List

25 One-Way Flights

OR

35,000 Miles

25% Earning Bonus, Priority Standby, Priority Boarding, Priority Check-In, Priority Security

A-List Preferred

50 One-Way Flights

OR

70,000 Miles

A-List Perks PLUS

100% Earning Bonus (total), Free In-Flight WiFi

Companion Pass

100 One-Way Flights

OR

110,000 Miles

A-List Preferred Perks PLUS

Best Perk: Bring One Companion with You for FREE for a Year

 

Virgin Atlantic - Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic is a fantastic carrier. They pay special attention to the comfort of the passenger as well as all of the details of your booking - very attentive. Although not a member of a flight alliance, Virgin Atlantic is an excellent choice because they pair with their own airline extensions, Virgin America and Virgin Australia. Together, they circle the globe.

They also partner with several other major airlines like Delta and Singapore Airlines. Virgin’s miles almost never expire (as long as you have at least one transaction every three years) and they can be earned through flights and partner shopping experiences like rental cars, hotels and excursions on land or sea. They are highly rated for customer satisfaction and for ease of mile redemption.

The tier points earned to get from one level to the next are based on the cabin level of your ticket, ranging from 1-6 points one-way. They double tier point earnings for London-Sydney flights, so you can earn up to 24 points in one trip. Flying Club is seriously easy to use and a favorite among expert travelers.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Summary

LevelDo This...To Get This!

Red

Sign Up

7% off of Virgin Holidays

Silver

15 Tier Points

Red Perks PLUS

50% Earning Bonus, Premium Check-In, Priority Waitlist, Priority Standby

Gold

40 Tier Points

Silver Perks PLUS

100% Earning Bonus (total), Upper Class Check-In, Priority Boarding, One Free Checked Bag, Immigration & Security Fast Track, Guaranteed Economy Seat on any VA flight, Happy Birthday miles bonus, No Date Change fees

Best Perk: Access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses (plus 1 Guest) and several Partner Gold-Level Lounges

 
There you have it, folks! We hope that among these top 6 contenders you’ll find the best frequent flyer program for your traveling needs. Please be aware that we haven’t discussed every pro, con or available perk in this post. For complete details, be sure to do a little research before you sign up.

And remember: frequent flyer programs aren’t for everyone. If you’re not sure whether or not you’d really benefit by joining, read our article 5 Things To Consider Before Joining A Frequent Flyer Program

 

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