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The Best Airline Reward Programs

Updated on February 8, 2010

Fly Away - For Free!

Best Reward Programs Simplified

We've all heard the advertisements for the different frequent flyer programs promising free flights if you sign up with their airline's program. Trying to wade through their rules to figure out how you actually get a free flight is another thing altogether. Trust me - I just did it! The good news is you can actually earn free flights through these programs. The bad news is that you may need a doctorate degree to figure out how! After reading all the fine print, the following five airlines come out at the top of the list for the best rewards programs in my opinion.

1. Southwest Airlines: Southwest's Rapid Rewards program is by far the simplest to understand. Fly eight round trips within a 24 month period and you get a free ticket to anywhere Southwest travels. Yep, it really is that simple. What makes it even better is that you can also earn points in place of a round trip through affiliate programs such as car rentals, hotels and credit card purchases. Best for the occasional economy traveler.

2. Delta Airlines: Delta's Skymiles program is best for someone who travels frequently, can qualify for a credit card, and will use an American Express credit card. Delta has the best affiliate program so if you actually use your credit card and purchase from the affiliates then you will earn a substantial amount of Skymiles. Skymiles can be redeemed starting at 25,000 miles but you may not be able to find a seat at that level. Best for the professional traveler.

3. Jet Blue: Jet Blue's True Blue program is almost as easy to understand as Southwest's. You earn points with True Blue based on where you are flying to or from. Additional points can be earned if you purchase through their website. Free flights start as low as 5,000 points which according to their point structure can be reached fairly rapidly. Best for occasional traveler.

4. American Airlines: The AAdvantage program works in much the same way as the other major airlines. The one advantage you have with AAdvantage is that they offer One-Way Flex Awards. In a nutshell this gives you more flexibility when redeeming your rewards. Best for pleasure travelers who have more flexibility when making plans.

5. Continental Airlines: Continental's OnePass program made the list simply because it is easy to understand. It is comparable to other major airlines in the amount of miles necessary to redeem rewards and has similar affiliate programs. What sets it apart from other airlines is that you can log on to their website and have a clear understanding of how many points you need to redeem free airfare in under ten minutes. Best for anyone without a doctorate degree!


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