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What are the best airline frequent flyer programs?

Delta Plane One Flying 2

With U.S. airlines expected to carry more than 800 million passengers on domestic flights this year, consumers are interested in figuring out how they can save money on airline costs this year.

Do frequent flyer programs help consumers cut travel costs? They’re beneficial for me. My daughter lives in Madrid, and I’ll be using a free ticket this spring with the airline miles I’ve accumulated.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, released a report Wednesday on “2019’s Best Frequent Flyer Program.” It ranks the 10 largest domestic airlines based on 23 key items, ranging from the value of a point/mile to blackout dates for rewards flights.
 
Highlights from the report are:

  • Delta SkyMiles is the best frequent flyer program for the fourth straight year.
  • The average airline rewards program gives frequent flyers up to 12 percent off their airline spending.
  • Hawaiian Airlines offers the most rewards value, at $21.29 per $100 spent. Alaska Airlines comes in second, with $18.12 per $100 spent.
  • Three of the 10 largest airlines are offering more rewards in 2019 than in 2018 by an average of 13 percent.
  • Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways are the only two major airlines whose miles don’t expire because of inactivity.
  • Eight of the 10 largest airlines don’t have blackout dates for tickets purchased with miles.
  • Five of the 10 major U.S. airlines will retroactively credit loyalty program members with miles for a flight up to 12 months after the flight.
  • Seven of the 10 largest U.S. airlines allow rewards program members to earn and redeem miles with partner carriers.
  • Airline miles cost an average of 61 percent more than they’re worth when purchased rather than earned.

WalletHub’s report also features a custom calculator that allows consumers to personalize the results based on their own budget.

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