Airline Rewards Program Rankings

Airline Rewards Program Rankings

 Airline Rewards Program Rankings

Selecting What to Include on the List:

For now, we only rank frequent flyer programs offered by airlines based in the United States. Nine programs have been evaluated for the Best Airline Rewards Program rankings.

Calculating the Rankings:

The frequent flyer program rankings are based on a scoring algorithm, which computes an Overall Score based on the following components:

Ease of Earning Free Round-Trip Flight (47% weight): In order to evaluate the ease of earning a free round-trip flight, U.S. News analyzed two components: ease of earning and ease of redemption. The Ease of Earning a Free Round-Trip Flight score is a 50/50 composite of each program's earning and redemption scores.

Each program's earning score measures the typical miles or points earned by a U.S.-based flyer on an average flight within or to/from the U.S. To identify the typical cost and miles required for the average flight, U.S. News analyzed price and mileage survey data published in the Department of Transportation's Domestic Airline Consumer Airfare Report and the Bureau of Transportation Statistic's Annual U.S. Domestic Average Itinerary Fare in Current and Constant Dollars and TranStats.

The redemption score represents the average value an airline rewards program offers in points required for a free flight. The calculated redemption scores are based on searches conducted by U.S. News in July 2022. U.S. News analyzed up to 16 of each airline's highly trafficked routes within three round-trip mileage categories: short domestic (400 to 500 miles), medium domestic (2,200 to 2,600 miles), and long (4,800 to 5,200 miles) for four different round-trip dates between July and September to determine the average number of award points needed for a free round-trip flight across each airline.

Additional Benefits (25% weight): The Additional Benefits score comprises the number of ways members can earn and use points (other than for booking flights), whether or not points expire, and additional perks that elite members and members with basic branded credit cards (with an annual fee of $100 or less) receive, such as a free checked bag and airport lounge access. Programs can earn a benefits score between 1 and 5 depending on whether points can be acquired through hotel stays and credit card purchases and used to cover cabin upgrades, experiences (like concert tickets and sporting events), and hotel costs. Programs can also earn credit depending on how many miles program members must fly to take advantage of benefits like free checked bags and complimentary upgrades. Additionally, programs that offer more than one affiliated credit card can earn a higher Additional Benefits score. Programs will earn additional points if they: do not require members to spend a minimum amount of money to achieve elite status, let members with affiliated credit cards earn elite status or qualifying dollars toward elite status, and allow members to match elite status to the status equivalent from another airline or hotel loyalty program. For the 2022-2023 ranking, U.S. News also considered each frequent flyer program's response to the coronavirus pandemic and factored in how flexible and accommodating each program was for members.

Network Coverage (10% weight): The Network Coverage score represents the breadth and diversity of routes offered by each airline and its alliance network. The score is based on the total percent coverage each carrier offers in major regions across the globe (i.e. Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the Caribbean and Mexico, Central and South America, Australia and the Pacific, and the U.S. and Canada). U.S. News referred to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to determine the percentage of cities within each region serviced by each airline and its partners. The programs that service most cities in each region receive a 100% coverage rating and a higher overall Network Coverage score. Programs are awarded a score of 1 to 5 based on the passenger-weighted average of their individual region coverage scores.

The number of Daily Flights (10% weight): The Number of Daily Flights is awarded a score between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest score. The score is directly related to the number of domestic flights the airline operates, which reflects the level of opportunity a program participant has to earn or use rewards. If an airline offers between 1 and 499 domestic flights per day, then the airline's Number of Daily Flights score would be 1 out of 5, while a carrier that provides 2,000 or more domestic flights per day would be awarded a 5.

Airline Quality Rating (8% weight): The Airline Quality Rating score is based on each airline's quality rating as determined in the annual Airline Quality Rating report published by Dean Headley, of Wichita State University, and Brent Bowen, of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The ratings represent each airline's performance in regard to on-time arrivals, lost or mishandled baggage rates, involuntary denied boarding rates, and consumer complaint rates. Each airline with a frequent flyer program represented in our rankings receives a score of 1 through 5 based on its AQR score.

Award Flight Availability (0% weight): The Award Flight Availability score represents the number and variety of award flights that can be purchased at a low cost using points or miles. In order to calculate this score, U.S. News compared the number of award flights available to program members at a lower threshold of point redemption (defined as flights that are at or below the average number of miles required to redeem across all airlines for a given mileage category). U.S. News calculated the volume of award flight options available at a low point value for up to 16 of each airline's highly trafficked short, medium, and long routes on four different round-trip dates between July and September.

NOTE: Due to insufficient data, likely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic's continued effect on travel, Award Flight Availability was not factored into the scoring formula for the 2022-2023 ranking. As such, other components were weighted higher to reach the 100% scoring threshold.

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