U.S. News & World Report, publisher of Best Hotels, Best Cruise Lines and Best Vacations, today announced the 2019-20 Best Travel Rewards Programs. The annual rankings identify 24 hotel and airline loyalty programs with the most rewarding perks for everyday travelers. For the third consecutive year, Marriott Bonvoy is the No. 1 Best Hotel Rewards Program. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan remains the No. 1 Best Airline Rewards Program for the fifth year in a row.
Marriott Bonvoy (formerly Marriott Rewards) maintains the No. 1 spot on the Best Hotel Rewards Programs ranking thanks in part to earning top marks for its large network of hotels in popular vacation destinations, ample benefits given to members, relatively low points redemption rates and high award availability. Additionally, any member of the program who uses points to book a reward stay lasting five or more nights receives one night free. Wyndham Rewards, No. 2, continues to score highly because members don’t need to stay as many times (on average) as they would with another program before qualifying for a free night. World of Hyatt came in at No. 3 by offering low points redemption requirements and a variety of ways to earn points.
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan keeps its No. 1 position on the Best Airline Rewards Programs list because of its high award choice availability and its large network of flight routes to popular destinations. Plus, the program’s mileage-based earning structure makes it easier for members to earn miles for free flights faster. Delta SkyMiles‘ ample member benefits, large network of flight destinations and high volume of daily flights helped it retain its No. 2 rank for the third year in a row.
“Choosing among the countless travel rewards options available can seem like a challenge, but the financial benefits outweigh this potential drawback,” said Christine Smith, travel editor at U.S. News. “The top-ranked rewards programs offer all travelers the opportunity to earn valuable rewards by simply signing up for a program and taking a trip. Whether travelers care most about cashing in accruals for a free night or flight, or receiving complimentary perks like Wi-Fi access or a checked bag, they can use these rankings to find the program that best suits their needs.”
Additionally, U.S. News conducted a recent survey about airline credit cards, finding:
- Nearly half of respondents (48%) estimated the value of the airline rewards they’ve earned by using their credit card is more than $600, with more than 20% saying they earned a value of $1,200 or more.
- About one in three consumers (32%) redeemed free domestic flights in the last year by using the points or miles accrued with their airline credit card. U.S. News weighs the ease of earning a free flight as the most important factor in the Best Airline Rewards Programs methodology.
- Annual fees are a sticking point for consumers. Almost half of those surveyed (45%) wouldn’t pay an annual fee to open an airline credit card. Some airlines offer no-fee co-branded credit cards that include welcome bonus points or miles if consumers spend a certain amount after signing up, which can help travelers redeem flight awards faster.
The survey was conducted through Google Surveys. From July 18 to 21, the survey asked 10 questions related to airline credit cards and sampled 1,000 people in the general American population who visit desktop and mobile sites where Google conducts surveys.
U.S. News ranks the Best Travel Rewards Programs in two categories: hotel loyalty programs and airline frequent flyer programs. The methodologies take into account membership benefits – such as free amenities, program-affiliated credit cards and redeemable experiences – network coverage and a strong emphasis on the ease of earning and redeeming free flights or nights. Additionally, U.S. News factors in property diversity for the Best Hotel Rewards Programs and Airline Quality Rating scores for the Best Airline Rewards Programs.
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Wyndham Rewards
- World of Hyatt
- Choice Privileges
- Best Western Rewards
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- Delta SkyMiles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- United MileagePlus
- American Airlines AAdvantage