My husband and I are avid travelers. Paul and I met in Japan and carried on a long distance relationship 7,000 frequent flyer miles away, and then just 1,000 frequent flyer miles away, until eventually there were no miles between us!
There are about 600 frequent flyer miles between my family and I, and so we are still racking up the points on holidays and mid-year trips.
Even if you are not a regular traveler, frequent flyer programs are a great tool, and generally the memberships are free. You can even trade in your frequent flyer miles for magazines, gift cards, etc. in case you do not earn enough miles to take a free flight before they expire.
However, not all frequent flyer programs, or airlines, are created equal. Below is a comparison between the major frequent flyer mile programs, listing the pros and cons to each, as well as how many frequent flyer miles you must earn before receiving a free flight.
How Many Frequent Flyer Miles to Fly
|Program||Free Ticket Redemption Point||Pros||Cons|
|Delta SkyMiles||25,000 miles||25,000 free miles with the Delta credit card. You can pay with any denomination of miles that you have (don’t have to meet a certain threshold to redeem)||Has baggage fees|
|American AAdvantage||25,000 miles||Has a share program where you can give your friends/family/etc. your miles||Has baggage fees|
|Continental OnePass||20,000 miles||Has baggage fees|
|US Airways Dividend Miles||25,000 miles||Charges a $30 minimum fee just to use your free reward ticket; has baggage fees|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||16 credits (from 8 roundtrip tickets purchased)||Short flights earn you the same amount of credits as long flights; credits are good for 24 months after earning them; no baggage fees (for first two check-in bags)||Reward tickets are only good to use in the US (Southwest currently does not offer international travel)|
Which is the Best Frequent Flyer Program?
Determining which program is the best will be based off of your own traveling habits and needs. For instance, if you do a lot of short trips, using Southwest Rapid Rewards is great because you receive the same amount of credit for short trips as you do long trips. When you receive your reward ticket, book a flight across the U.S. to take the most advantage of this!
Delta SkyMiles may make sense for you if you do not plan on earning enough miles for a reward ticket because you can use the miles you have accumulated to partially pay for a ticket.
As for Paul and I, we enjoy Southwest Rapid Rewards the most. I earned a free ticket that I used last March for a mini-weekend vacation to the Northeast, and am working my way towards a second free ticket probably mid-year 2010. I have also earned free tickets on American Airlines through AAdvantage, as well as US Airways through Dividend Miles.
Which frequent flyer program works best for you?