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Ask a Factors Nerd: Which Airline Has the Most Useful Rewards?


At NerdWallet, we try that can assist you make monetary selections with confidence. To do that, many or the entire merchandise featured listed here are from our companions. Nevertheless, this doesn't affect our evaluations. Our opinions are our personal.

Many components go into selecting airline loyalty, from the legroom (or lack thereof) to the customer support (ditto). But the one variable that issues most can also be the toughest to reply with a easy Google search: Which airline’s rewards program gives essentially the most worth?

Not figuring out the reply to this easy query is like making an attempt to decide on between job gives with out figuring out how a lot every one pays. Who cares which workplace has complimentary La Croix should you don’t know the wage?

You would possibly assume the reply is solely the worth of every airline’s frequent flyer miles. In any case, if 1,000 American miles are value twice as a lot as 1,000 Alaska miles (spoiler: they aren’t), then American’s program is twice as helpful as Alaska’s, proper?

Not virtually. What if flying with Alaska earns you twice as many miles as flying with American? Consider it or not, you don’t earn miles primarily based on how far you fly with most airways nowawadays, however somewhat on how a lot you spend. And the variety of “miles” earned per greenback spent varies by airline. Thoughts: blown.

The worth of an airline rewards program due to this fact depends upon two components:

  1. The worth of award miles.
  2. The speed at which you earn these miles.

So which airline gives the perfect worth? Let's begin with the worth of these miles.

The 'Most worthy miles' winner is …

Our workforce at NerdWallet did an enormous evaluation of airline mile worth that concerned many spreadsheets, formulation, and, effectively, nerdiness. I'll prevent the messy particulars, however the TL; DR is that this: We cooked up these numbers by evaluating lots of of actual redemptions on actual routes. Right here’s the place we landed:

The 'quickest mile-earning' winner is …

Bear in mind how I instructed you that you simply don’t earn miles primarily based on how far you fly with most airways anymore, and also you have been like “no method” and I used to be like “sure, actually”? It raises the query of which airline doles out essentially the most miles.

To determine that out, we did a complete different spreadsheet-y evaluation that’s too boring for phrases. Under you’ll see what number of miles you possibly can anticipate to earn with a given program primarily based on how a lot you spend. That’s, should you spend $ 100 for a ticket with Frontier, you possibly can anticipate to earn 1,050 Frontier miles.

Right here’s how the numbers shook out:

As a factors and miles nerd, I used to be surprised by this data. Surprised, I say!

Not surprised your self? Consider it this manner: Frontier awards 4 occasions as many miles per greenback spent as JetBlue. However in fact, JetBlue miles (technically “factors”) are value much more than Frontier miles, as the primary desk exhibits – which leads us to the payoff ultimately.

The ‘total most-valuable’ winner is… Alaska Airways

That is the least-nerdy a part of this complete factor, don’t fear. To find out the worth of every program, we simply multiply the worth of miles by the speed at which these miles are awarded.

What pops out is the efficient money again you possibly can anticipate to earn for every greenback spent with the airline:

Whereas Alaska doesn't supply essentially the most helpful miles in our evaluation, it is among the few airways that also awards miles primarily based on how far you fly. Seems that’s a a lot sooner solution to earn them than the “revenue-based” programs from the larger airways like American, Delta and United – which delivers extra worth total.

In fact, not everybody lives in an space served by Alaska Airways, which makes Southwest and Frontier sturdy options.

Feeling overwhelmed about use your factors and miles? I'm right here to assist. On this column, I reply your questions concerning the baffling world of journey rewards, chopping by way of the jargon to supply clear solutions to actual issues. Ship your inquiries to [email protected]

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