My good friend Kyle asked me a very difficult question (like all good friends do). And no, it was not why am I not married? So everyone, stop asking (just look at me and you’ll know why)! He asked me, “which airline has the best frequent flyer program?” Great question! Since most airlines offer 1 mile per mile traveled when you buy an economy ticket, it becomes necessary to look at other variables. These variables include the place of departure, destinations, upgrades, possibility of using miles for hotels or shopping, and which airline offers the most reward points.
Don’t worry I’m not going to write a complex formula to demonstrate how much work it was for me to get the answer, although I am a scientist (a scientist of politics). I found that there were two frequent flyer programs that stood head and shoulders above the rest; Continental and American Airlines.
Continental has more partners, which means you will be able to fly to more countries and more airports. It’s also easier to find flights using miles on Continental compared to almost all other U.S. carriers. If you have to fly on a specific date this will be very important.
*No matter what airline you use it is very important to book as early as possible when using miles*
American Airlines charge less miles to fly to Latin American and Western Europe (40k compared to 50k on Continental). The problem is that you have to fly on certain dates to get the 40k. If you fly outside of those dates then the number of miles drastically goes up for both international and domestic flights (120k and 50k respectively). I found that American Airlines credit cards offer more initial reward miles (there’s one with 75k, see previous Travel Tip). Obviously this makes it initially easier to fly for free.
Kyle, I will specifically answer your question. If you’re flying domestically Continental would be the best option for you because it has a lot more flights and seats available for redeeming miles. You’ll use the same number of miles on both airlines to fly domestically out of Utah. If you’re flying internationally it depends. American may require fewer miles, but your plans will have to be flexible. Delta does have a main hub in Utah, but they have a lot less partners and the overall consensus is that it’s harder to fly Delta using miles.
The miles I quoted are for non-peak dates. If you fly during summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or spring break the number of miles will increase. Also, I only compared U.S. carriers because I feel that most of my audience will be using U.S. carriers. If not, let me know and I can research international carriers as well. Finally, it pays to comment and ask questions on my blog because I will research your question and answer it to the best of my ability. Let me know what you think of this post!
What’s been your experience with rewards programs?