WalletHub Ranks Delta as Top Frequent Flyer Program

Even if you don’t have visions of achieving elite status on your airline of choice, there’s no question that frequent flier miles can still come in handy. Unfortunately, not all of these programs are created equal, with some making it difficult to ever really make use of the points you accrue. Thankfully the personal finance site WalletHub has just released their latest report on the best airline loyalty programs.

As it turns out, Delta’s SkyMiles once again topped the list, extending its streak to four years. One of the main factors behind the decision was the reality that SkyMiles never expire — which can only be said of one other program on the list, JetBlue’s TrueBlue. In contrast, 20% of airline programs have miles expire after only three to 11 months of inactivity, 30% expire after 12 to 23 months, and another 30% of programs void miles after 24 to 36 months of inactivity.

Elsewhere, Delta was found to be the top choice in all three annual spending categories WalletHub assessed: light flyer ($527 spent annually), average flyer ($3,880), and frequent flyer ($7,232). Coming in second overall was United’s Mileage Plan, which also performed strongly among all three spending categories. However Southwest’s Rapid Rewards was second only to Delta for light flyers while the aforementioned JetBlue was second for frequent fliers. As a result JetBlue and Southwest landed in the third and fourth overall spots respectively while fifth place went to Hawaiian Airlines’ HawaiianMiles.

Speaking of Hawaiian, their miles were found to have the most value, offering $21.29 per $100 spent. They were followed by another airline named after a non-continental U.S. state, Alaska, which averages $18.12 per $100. Those two were followed by Frontier with $10.68 across all three spending categories and finally Delta with a frequent flier value of $12.05 — although the benefit for light flyers was only $7.53.

Despite the fact that frequent flier miles can be a great way to save on travel, it’s worth noting that sometimes flying a cheaper airline can be more beneficial overall. For example, while Southwest may offer the best of both worlds, other budget airlines like Allegiant that don’t have traditional frequent flier miles (outside of their co-branded credit card product) might be able to provide a better option depending on your destination. Plus, as WalletHub points out, these miles might be attractive at the time but won’t help you if you aren’t able to cash them in before their expiration.

For more on what frequent flier programs are best, I’d definitely recommend checking out WalletHub’s study. Beyond the extra interesting data they list, there’s also a tool where you can enter your average annual airline spending to see what programs are likely best for you. Of course, choosing an airline to pledge your allegiance to will also likely come down to hub location, flight availability, and other features that can vary for each individuals. Still, hopefully this latest study can help point you toward more free travel.


Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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Frequent flier programs can be good incentivefor those who travel a lot but for me, I don’t use it as a basis for choosing my airline. It really depends on the time and the affordability.

Not really a frequent flier and its a good thing that Skymiles have no expiry. But of course when flying, its still the cost that makes me decide what airline to choose.

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