Travel Tips

How to Find the Best Frequent Flyer Programs for You

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Frequent flyer miles in my accounts help me fantasize about my next vacation.

I love collecting frequent flyer miles, almost as coveted as money in the bank. Being based in Atlanta, I tend to rack up miles on Delta more than any other airlines.

That’s good news for me, as a study done by WalletHub compared the top 11 major airlines in the country using 23 metrics. These included black-out date policies, the value per mile, whether miles expire, the number of daily flights and number of destinations served.

The study rated Delta as number one for the second year in a row – woo hoo! One of the best things to me about Delta is that it’s one of only two airlines where miles don’t expire due to inactivity in your account. (Note to self: check those miles on United Airlines!) The other is JetBlue.

Other good news is that three of the 10 largest airlines offered more rewards in 2017 than in 2016. I was also surprised to find out that eight out of 11 airlines do not impose blackout dates – I just assumed there was no way you’d find a flight on major holidays. Then again, with just a few week’s notice we flew to Paris one year for Thanksgiving on frequent flyer miles. But I figured that was just because France isn’t top of the list for Thanksgiving travel.

Use this custom calculator to determine your best frequent flyer program.

Another benefit is that 45% of airlines will give you credit retroactively up to 12 months after your flight. Not that they make this an easy process. I did this once with Delta and had to fax in several pages of documents,which I believe is their way of cutting out the number of people willing to go to the trouble. So I traveled back to the 1980’s to find a place to actually fax something, Seriously, a fax?!

So how much extra are flyers willing to pay to reap those precious points? Aaron Hackett, a lecturer in marketing in the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech says airline rewards programs have significant influence on consumers’ behavior. When he asks his undergraduate and MBA students, how much more they are willing to pay, they typically respond around 20%. That’s a hefty amount for anyone, and especially for a college student.

To find out the best program for you, try this Custom Calculator. Just put in the amount of money you spend on air travel per year, and find out which program is best for you.

Check out the full report here.

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