Earning Miles

JetBlue Airways came in tops followed by Southwest and Alaska airlines in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014-15 rankings of airline rewards programs released Tuesday. The magazine looked at ticket prices, how easy it is to earn rewards, and the number of flights an airline operates in assessing the top 10 frequent-flier programs.

But there’s a big caveat that comes with the report too: Where you live and where you fly determines whether top-ranked programs will work for you. For example, the report notes that JetBlue’s TrueBlue program favors travelers “based in East Coast and Florida cities … who primarily fly domestically and to the Caribbean.”

That said, JetBlue got high marks for allowing fliers to earn points on partner airlines (Emirates and Hawaiian Airlines) as well as on car rentals and hotel stays. And you can earn points by using a JetBlue credit card to buy a seat for someone else. On the downside, JetBlue has fewer destinations than bigger airlines.

Southwest’s Rapid Rewards benefits travelers based in the U.S. Southwest, and Alaska’s Mileage Plan helps those based in or who fly frequently to destinations on the West Coast and Alaska.

The rest of the programs are:

4. United MileagePlus
5. American Airlines AAdvantage
6. Virgin America Elevate
7. DeltaSkyMiles
8. HawaiianMiles (Hawaiian Airlines)
9. Frontier EarlyReturns
10. Free Spirit (Spirit Airlines)

Airline reward programs are free to enroll, at least at the basic level. Here are the entire U.S. News & World’s rankings that compare reward programs.

Another good comparative report comes from the Points Guy website. In April it ranked best reward programs for things like upgrades and other extras specifically for transcontinental frequent fliers. American Airlines and United Premier came out on top.





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