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The best airline loyalty programs worldwide

1 Sep 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

The best airline loyalty programs worldwide

Note: for our airline loyalty programs comparison for European business travelers, click here.

When you’re busy traveling, you might not have the time to scour the internet for the best frequent flyer program in the US. The truth is, there isn’t one best program for everyone. There are actually seven great programs, and we’ve put together all of the finer details so you can easily review them and sign up for the one that works for you.

Want the quick answer to which one you should pick? Skim the “partner airlines” section for each program and see if the airlines you often fly with are included. If there’s some overlap with your top-trusted airlines, you can just take a look at the benefits of each and make your choice.

And remember, TravelPerk makes it easy to save loyalty program membership numbers for business travelers. This way, no matter who’s booking—your internal travel manager, administrative assistant or the traveler themselves—the business travelers will automatically collect their miles.

Here’s our airline rewards program comparison with all the top programs for US-based business travelers.

ebook download button travel management guide

Airline Loyalty Programs Comparison

TrueBlue

With no blackout dates, a fair amount of partner airlines, and sweet bonuses in the upper tier, this rewards program from JetBlue is a fan favorite. Plus, if you’re a regular Lyft user (Lyft beats Uber on price and service in the Bay Area), then you’ll really be racking up those points quickly.

Partner Airlines:
  • JetBlue
  • Emirates
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • JetSuiteX
  • Silver Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
Top Partner Companies:
  • JetBlue credit cards
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Lyft
  • Jet Options (points for taking surveys!)
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Marriott
  • Amazon (do your Amazon shopping on JetBlue’s wi-fi for bonus points)
  • Citi
  • IHG Rewards Club (there are 4,700 participating hotels in 100 companies)
Tiers & Benefits

You’ll be collecting 3 points for every dollar spent with JetBlue and their partners. If you travel often, the Mosaic level will give you priority boarding, free changes and cancellations, and free booze!

Tier NamesTrueBlueTrueBlue Mosaic
QualificationsFree15,000 flight points in one year
No blackout dates for spending points
Use points for any seat, any time
Points don’t expire
Pool points with your family
No change or cancellation fees
1st and 2nd bag are free
Expedited security line
Early boarding
Get seats with extra legroom at reduced prices
Earn points on every flight3 points per dollar spent with JetBlue and partner airlines, plus bonus points when booking on jetblue.com (when on the Premium plan, your TravelPerk representative can do this for you to keep all travel spend trackable in one place)6 per dollar spent with JetBlue and partner airlines, plus get 15,000 bonus points after you qualify
Dedicated customer service line
Complimentary alcoholic beverages onboard

Learn more about signing up for TrueBlue

Rapid Rewards

The Rapid Rewards program from Southwest Airlines won’t allow you to collect points from other airlines other than Southwest, but it does have partnerships with over 800 retailers in the US (including heavyweights like Macy’s, Home Depot and Sephora) as well as a dozen popular hotel chains.

Partner Airlines:
  • Southwest Airlines
Top Partner Companies:
  • Southwest Hotels
  • Best Western
  • Choice Hotels
  • La Quinta
  • World of Hyatt
  • MGM Resorts
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Avis
  • Hertz
  • Budget
  • Macy’s
  • Home Depot
  • Sephora
Tiers & Benefits

When you ascend the tiers, you get even more points for dollars spent and you get that much closer to the famed Companion Pass.

Tier NamesBaseA-ListA-List Preferred
QualificationsFreeFly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 points in  a calendar yearFly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 points in  a calendar year
No blackout dates for spending points
No fee to change or cancel a flight purchased with rewards points
Earn points on every flight12 points per dollar on Business Select flights. 10 points per dollar on Anytime flights. 6 points per dollar on Wanna Get Away? Flights15 points per dollar on Business Select flights. 12.5 points per dollar on Anytime flights. 7.5 points per dollar on Wanna Get Away? Flights24 points per dollar on Business Select flights. 20 points per dollar on Anytime flights. 12 points per dollar on Wanna Get Away? Flights
Priority boarding
Free same-day standby (get an earlier flight on the same day of your ticket)
Priority check-in
Priority security
Dedicated customer service
Companion Pass

We can’t talk about Rapid Rewards without mentioning the Companion Pass. If you qualify (fly 100 one-way flights or earn 110,000 points in a calendar year) then you get a Companion Pass for the remainder of that calendar year plus the entirety of the next calendar year. The Companion Pass allows you to bring another passenger with you on any flight and only pay the applicable taxes and fees (not the airline charges for the ticket). Pretty sweet deal for the business traveler who’s also a weekend warrior. You can also get a Companion Pass for all of 2019 when you sign up for a Southwest credit card and spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. If you fly Southwest with a “companion” a lot, it’s certainly worth looking into!

Learn more about signing up for Rapid Rewards

ebook download button travel management guide

Mileage Plan

Alaska Airline’s rewards program, the Mileage Plan, has partnerships with global airlines, including many in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. If your travel takes you out of the states often, then choosing a program with a lot of global partnerships is a smart move.

Partner Airlines:
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Latam Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Airfrance
  • KLM
Tiers & Benefits

With First Class and Premium upgrades on lots of fares, you’ll be sitting pretty if you earn MVP status.

Tier NameMileage PlanMVPMVP GoldMVP Gold 75K
QualificationsFreeIn a single calendar year: 20,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines OR 25,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners OR 30 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partnersIn a single calendar year: 40,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines OR 50,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners OR 60 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partnersIn a single calendar year: 75,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines OR 90,000 miles flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners OR 90 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
Blackout datesSome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates apply
Earning points50% more bonus miles earned100% more bonus miles earned125% more bonus miles earned
First class upgrades at time of booking
(Alaska Airlines only)
Y, S, or Z faresY, S, B, M, or Z faresY, S, B, M, H or Z fares
Premium class upgrades at time of booking
(Alaska Airlines only)
Y, S, B, or Z faresY, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V, N, K, or Z faresAll fares except Saver fares
First or Premium Class upgrades on other fairs48 hours before departure72 hours before departure120 hours before departure
Companion upgrades to First Class
(Alaska Airlines only)
Companion Upgrades to Premium Class
(Alaska Airlines only)
Complimentary premium beverage
(Alaska Airlines only)
Priority check-in and boarding
Two free checked bags
Preferred seating
Express security line
Standby and waitlist for full flights
No fees for changing tickets

Learn more about signing up for Mileage Plan

SkyMiles

This is the best fit for the traveler who flies in Europe just as often as the States! If your national carrier is likely to be Delta but you want global partners, then consider SkyMiles for your top-choice rewards program.

Partner Airlines:
  • Delta Air Lines
  • AeroMexico
  • AirFrance
  • Alitalia
  • China Eastern
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • AirEuropa
  • Kenya Airways
  • MEA
  • Saudia
  • Tarom
  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • China Airlines
  • China Southern
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • WestJet
Top Partner Companies:
  • Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
  • Lyft
  • Airbnb
  • Marriott
  • Westin
  • Sheraton
  • InterContinental
  • Hertz
  • Enterprise
  • Apple
  • Macy’s
  • Nike
Tiers & Benefits

The coolest thing about the mass of tiers that the SkyMiles program offers is that you can rollover your MQMs (Medallion Qualification Miles) to the next calendar year, so if you have more than you needed to qualify, those extra MQMs rollover when it’s time to re-qualify for the next year. This makes it more likely that you’ll hit the higher tiers.

Another interesting element of this program is that in the two higher tiers, you choose your benefits.

Tier NamesSkyMilesSilver Medallion StatusGold Medallion StatusPlatinum Medallion StatusDiamond Medallion Status
QualificationsFree25,000 MQMs50,000 MQMs75,000 MQMs125,000 MQMs
No blackout dates for Delta Airlines
Blackout dates for partner airlinesSome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates apply
Earning points5 miles spent for each $1 on Delta flights7 miles spent for each $1 on Delta flights8 miles spent for each $1 on Delta flights9 miles spent for each $1 on Delta flights11 miles spent for each $1 on Delta flights
Rollover MQMsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Choice Benefits Options: Upgrade certificates, Global Entry Application Voucher, Delta Sky Club Access, Bonus Miles, $200 Travel VoucherChoose 1 “Choice Benefits”Choose 3 “Choice Benefits”
Unlimited Complimentary US Delta One Upgrades (except E fares)Day of DepartureDay of DepartureDay of DepartureDay of Departure
Unlimited Complimentary First Class Upgrades (except E fares)Availability begins 1 day prior to departureAvailability begins 3 days prior to departureAvailability begins 5 days prior to departureAvailability begins 5 days prior to departure (with priority over Platinum members)
Complimentary Preferred Seats
Priority Waitlist Status
Dedicated Phone Line
Priority Check In
Priority Boarding
Priority Security Line
SkyTeam Lounge Access

Learn more about signing up for SkyMiles

AAdvantage

With a long list of partner airlines, the AAdvantage program from American Airlines is a great option for the global traveler. Note that there are less European airlines here than the SkyMiles program. With the highest number of participating retailers (950 to be exact) this card lets shoppers rack up miles.

Partner Airlines:
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • S7 Airlines
  • Finnair
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air
  • Cape Air
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Interjet
  • Jet Airways
Top Partner Companies
  • Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
  • Marriott
  • Holiday Inn
  • Avis
  • Hertz
  • Budget
  • QVC
  • Staples
  • Banana Republic
  • Kohl’s
  • Bergdorf Goodman
Tiers & Benefits

To move up the tiers, you need EQMs, which aren’t exact miles but are a percentage of the miles flown. You can learn how to calculate EQMs here.

Tier NamesAAdvantageGoldPlatinumPlatinum ProExecutive Platinum
QualificationsFree25,000 EQMs or 30 segments in a calendar year50,000 EQMs or 60 segments in a calendar year75,000 EQMs or 90 segments in a calendar year100,000 EQMs or 120 segments in a calendar year
No blackout dates for American Airlines
Blackout dates for partner airlinesSome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates apply
Earning points5 miles for every dollar7 miles for every dollar8 miles for every dollar9 miles for every dollar11 miles for every dollar
Complimentary Auto-Requested UpgradesAvailable on flights 500 miles or less, 1 day prior to departureAvailable on any flight 2 days prior to departureAvailable on any flight 3 days prior to departureAvailable on any flight 4 days prior to departure
Free checked bags for each flight1223
Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred SeatsAt Check-inAt bookingAt bookingAt booking

Learn more about signing up for AAdvantage

MileagePlus

As part of the Star Alliance, United Airlines offers MileagePlus members the ability to collect miles from over 35 other airlines. Since United Airlines flies almost everywhere in the US (more than most other US companies), this is a great option for the States-bound traveler who also flies internationally. There are also 900+ retailers to collect 1 mile per dollar spent.

Partner Airlines:
  • United Airlines
  • Adria
  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • CopaAirlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Eva Air
  • Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss Airlines
  • AirPortugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • AirDolomiti
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
Top Partnering Companies
  • Several Chase Credit Cards
  • Le Club AccorHotels
  • Groupon
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • New Balance
  • Elizabeth Arden
  • Zales
  • CVS
Tiers & Benefits

Tiers are based on Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), which are simply the number of qualifying miles flown, and not a complex percentage calculation as with the AAdvantage program.

Tier NamesMileage PlusPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier PlatinumPremier 1k
Qualifications25,000 miles or 30 segments50,000 miles or 60 segments75,000 miles or 90 segments100,000 miles or 120 segments
No blackout datesSome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates applySome blackout dates apply
Earning points7 miles for every dollar spent8 miles for every dollar spent9 miles for every dollar spent11 miles for every dollar spent
Complimentary access to Economy PlusAt check-inAt bookingAt bookingAt booking
Complimentary access to Preferred SeatingAt bookingAt bookingAt bookingAt booking
Complimentary Premier UpgradesAvailable on the day of departureAvailable 2 days prior to departureAvailable 3 days prior to departureAvailable 4 days prior to departure
Instant Upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets
Instant Upgrades on M-class full-fare economy tickets
Priority waitlist and standby
Priority check-in
Priority security access
Priority boarding
International lounge access
Complimentary checked bags1233

Learn more about signing up for MileagePlus

HawaiianMiles

This program is great for Pacific Coast or Hawaiian-located travelers who fly often from the islands to the mainland or from either place to Asia. With their signature motto “a mile flown is a mile earned,” we’ll leave it to you to guess how you earn miles. 😉

Partner Airlines:
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • China Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
Top Partner Companies:
  • Hilton
  • Wyndham
  • Marriott
  • Hyatt Aston
  • IHG
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Payless Car Rental
  • Old Navy
  • Papa John’s
  • 76
Tiers & Benefits

The higher tiers are some of the easier ones to access versus other plans. Fly round-trip between SFO and HNL four times in one year and you’ll almost reach Pualani Gold. A few partner hotel stays should get you to the 20,000 mile requirement.

Tier NamesHawaiianMilesPualani GoldPualani Platinum
QualificationsFly 30 segments or 20,000 miles in a calendar yearFly 60 segments or 40,000 miles in a calendar year
No blackout dates
Earning milesEarn 1 mile for every mile flown (ex: Honolulu to Hilo gives you 216 miles each way, while Honolulu to San Francisco gives you 2,397 miles each way regardless of your ticket price)
More seats available for selection
First Class check-In
Premier Club Access (Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Kahului, Lihue)
Priority Security Lines (in select airports)
Complimentary checked bags23
Earn 500 HawaiianMiles on any Neighbor Island flight
Neighbor Island Same Day Standby for an earlier flight with no additional fee
Complimentary First Class Upgrade based on availability50% discount
Complimentary Preferred Seat Upgrade based on availability

Learn more about signing up for HawaiianMiles

British Airways Executive Club

There are many reasons why frequent business travelers would want to join the British Airways Executive Club. With its distinct reward currency, Avios, cardholders have countless ways to redeem miles for flights, hotels, airport lounges, and even travel experiences. You can use miles for a number of exciting perks that fall under the One World umbrella. 

As part of the Star Alliance, United Airlines offers MileagePlus members the ability to collect miles from over 35 other airlines. Since United Airlines flies almost everywhere in the US (more than most other US companies), this is a great option for the States-bound traveler who also flies internationally. There are also 900+ retailers to collect 1 mile per dollar spent.

Partner Airlines:

As part of the Star Alliance, United Airlines offers MileagePlus members the ability to collect miles from over 35 other airlines. Since United Airlines flies almost everywhere in the US (more than most other US companies), this is a great option for the States-bound traveler who also flies internationally. There are also 900+ retailers to collect 1 mile per dollar spent.

Partner Airlines:
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • China Southern
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • Sri Lankan Airlines
Top partner companies
  • Accor
  • Airbnb
  • Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Booking.com
  • Hotels.com
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • Marriott International
  • Avis
  • Budget
Tiers & Benefits

There are 4 tiers of membership that you can join – blue, bronze, silver, and gold. Your award miles and the way you redeem them will differ depending on which membership tier you are part of. You automatically become a Blue Member as soon as you join the British Airways Executive Club.

Tier NamesBlueBronzeSilverGold
QualificationsAs soon as you joinAt 300 tier points and if you fly 2 eligible flights with BA per yearAt 600 tier points and when you fly 4 eligible flights with BA per yearAt 1500 tier points and when you fly 4 eligible flights with BA per year
Priority check-in
Priority boarding
Free seat selection 7 days before departure
Free seat selection at booking
Access to business lounges
Extra baggage allowance
First-class check-in and boarding
Access to First lounges

AirFrance & KLM Flying Blue

Considered one of the most popular loyalty programs in the world, this union between AirFrance and KLM attracts over 100,000 new sign-ups per year. Earning miles on air travel with them is easy, as is finding desirable airfare options with their Promo Rewards. Discounts can often reach up to 50% off on trips to specific cities around the world!

Partner Airlines:

As part of the Star Alliance, United Airlines offers MileagePlus members the ability to collect miles from over 35 other airlines. Since United Airlines flies almost everywhere in the US (more than most other US companies), this is a great option for the States-bound traveler who also flies internationally. There are also 900+ retailers to collect 1 mile per dollar spent.

Partner Airlines:
  • AirFrance
  • KLM
  • Aeromexico
  • Kenya Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Delta
  • Aircalin
  • Transavia
Top partner companies
  • American Express
  • Booking.com
  • Accor
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Hilton Hotels
  • Golden Tulip
  • Shangri-La
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Hertz
  • Enterprise
Tiers & benefits

You can actually start claiming award tickets with a relatively low number of miles thanks to the Promo Rewards feature offered. Flying Blue provides a great tool for finding seats and issues interesting new award programs and deals every month.

Tier namesExplorerSilverGoldPlatinum
QualificationsAs soon as you joinStarting with 100 XPStarting with 180 XPStarting with 300 XP
Miles per euro spent4678
Discount on seat options explorer10%25%50%Free
Priority check-in
Priority drop-off
Priority boarding
Free seat selection
1 free extra checked baggage item
Free access to global SkyTeam lounges
Free access to global SkyTeam lounges with a guest
Service line for extra help
Lifelong membershipAfter 10 years

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Gather frequent flyer miles with the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and redeem them particularly well with Delta, specifically. You can collect award seats for very reasonable sums, and can even put them on hold for up to 72 hours before transferring points!

Partner Airlines:
  • Delta
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Air France-KLM
  • Virgin Australia
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • South African Airways
Top partner companies
  • American Express
  • Virgin Holidays
  • Virgin Hotels
  • Virgin Galactic
  • Hyatt Hotels
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Yotel
  • Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Hilton Hotels
Tiers & benefits

If there’s one thing Virgin Atlantic does well, it’s giving you perks. From giving you the opportunity to earn points on every flight taken to clubhouse guest passes, this program’s got it all! It’s especially good for frequent flyers traveling to London often.

Tier namesRedSilverGold
Earn points on every flight
Additional bonus points per flight30%60%
Reward flights
Points + money
Free seat selection in Economy LightMember-onlyMember & partner
Complementary Exit Row seats in Economy
Extra hand & hold luggage
Premium check-in
Clubhouse passes for you and a guest
Access to lounge at Heathrow airport

4 factors to consider when choosing the best frequent flyer program

Whether elite status is the goal or whether you’re simply trying to save money on business travel expenses, there are certain factors to take into account before committing to a frequent flyer program. Doing so will determine how beneficial the airline miles program is for your organization, and will help you optimize your business travel program in general. 

Here are 4 factors to consider before choosing the best airline rewards program. 

1. Where you travel and how often

This is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing your frequent flyer program. In short, there’s little point in choosing a frequent flier program with all the bells and whistles if you’re not actually going to benefit from it. 

The most influential factor here is whether you fly more domestically or internationally, or whether there’s a mix of both. Not only will you have a bigger and more suitable flight inventory to choose from, but you’ll have more chances to earn miles and book reward air travel in the future. 

Plus, choosing a frequent flyer program solely on its points policy is a big no-no. Although you might earn more points with a certain program, you may end up making more or multiple connections if you choose an airline that doesn’t align with your base location and destinations, resulting in a huge waste of travel time for frequent travelers.  

2. Whether points are accrued based on miles traveled or money spent

Frequent flyer loyalty programs and airline loyalty schemes have, traditionally, rewarded customers based on the number of miles they fly. However, it’s now also common to reward the customers that spend more money with them, resulting in reward programs that combine both the number of miles flown and the amount of money spent. 

Which type of points accrual is best will depend on your business and the balance of long and short-haul journeys made and the type of airfare you regularly choose. 

3. Which partners the program offers

Many airlines have both partner airlines and partner hotels, travel companies, and credit card providers, which makes earning miles much easier. Choosing a frequent flyer loyalty program with relevant partners for your needs can greatly expand the range of available destinations as well as the chance to earn and redeem more frequent flyer miles for free flights. 

Not only does this increase the flexibility you have with your travel plans, but you can also benefit from credit card reward programs, hotel partnerships, and many other perks. 

4. What exactly is redeemable 

Frequent flyer miles are regularly used for reward flights, but check to see what else is on offer with each airline rewards program, and how exactly you can spend your points. For example, some airlines might only offer certain flights when you redeem your points, while others may not allow you to redeem 100% of the flight cost. 

If you’re looking for a program that will allow you to redeem miles for more than just free flights, check whether each program offers perks such as upgrading to extra legroom, having access to airport lounges, or putting your points towards hotel stays and car hires. 

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