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Which Frequent Flyer Program to Join? Help Is Here!

Which Frequent Flyer Program to Join? Help Is Here!

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Old Mar 29, 21, 1:04 pm   -   Wikipost
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Before posting please read POSTS 1-3 for a comprehensive overview of how to select a program.
If you already plan to focus on one particular alliance, please visit the sticky in the relevant forum: Deciding on a oneworld FFP or Which SkyTeam FFP or Choosing a Star FFP

List of frequent flyer programs from Wikipedia

Questionnaire: Copy and paste into your post
Provide the requested information.

1. What is most important to you in a frequent flyer program (FFP)?
upgrades, priority services, baggage allowance, good award redemption rates, better award access, lounge access, etc.
>>> Reply:

2. How many miles do you usually fly each year? How many flights/sectors?
less than 25000 miles, 50000+ miles and 20-25 flights, etc.
>>> Reply:

3. What fare class do you usually buy?
first, business, premium economy, economy
>>> Reply:

4. Are you able to choose your airlines and/or class of service? Do you travel for work and/or pleasure?
>>> Reply:

5. Which routes do you fly most often?
transatlantic, domestic USA, intra-Asia, etc.
>>> Reply:

6. What is your home airport?
>>> Reply:

7. Do you have status in any FFP? What is it? How miles do you have banked in each FFP, if any?
>>> Reply:

8. What are your preferred airlines, if any?
>>> Reply:
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Old Jan 2, 21, 8:55 pm
  #1651  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: VPS
Programs: IHG Diamond, Delta PM, Hilton Gold, Marriott Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 5,810
Delta and Southwest mile no longer expire either.

Part of the question is just how much you enjoy going down the rabbit hole in terms of trying to figure out angles to get free tickets. If you want to keep it pretty simple, using the 2% back you get from a Citi double cash card as your travel fund can be a sensible way to go. If you like puzzles, then something like the American Express Everyday no annual fee card can be useful because it lets you get Member Rewards points in a number of different ways (they have a partnership with the Rakuten shopping web site that can be pretty lucrative depending on your sho[ping habits) and then transfer to 10 different airlines and 3 different hotel programs.

Does the phrase- "I took advantage of the 40% transfer bonus for Member Rewards to Iberia Avios and then used my Iberia Avios to book a first class ticket on American airlines to California" intrigue you or sound like something like it would be too much to bother with? Either answer is perfectly acceptable- if the answer is 'mo' go the cash back card route, but if you want to learn more, then a lot of folks around here can explain how to execute the sentence above and get you that nice plane ride for the cost of a few taxes and fees.
beachmouse is offline  
Old Jan 3, 21, 5:52 pm
  #1652  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 24
Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
Never hurts to sign up for a carrier's frequent flyer program. United, as an example, has miles that don't expire, so if you fly coast to coast once a year, that's 5,000 miles. Some other programs may have miles that expire without some account activity every 18-24 months, so if you credit elsewhere just keep an eye on that. You don't need to fly to keep frequent flyer accounts alive by flying - all sorts of partner activity will qualify from dining to airline mall purchases.

Airlines typically offer their own branded credit card for less than $100 a year. Alaska, as an example, and something that is unique to them, offers a companion ticket each year with their credit card. For $99 plus taxes, a companion can fly with you. Airline credit cards may offer things like free checked bag or seat selection, in addition to bonus miles for signing up. I just signed up for a United credit card that came with a $250 credit plus 25,000 miles - one that was hard to resist even though I don't fly United a lot. Once you settle on an airline that you might want to fly each year, you might find a credit card that's worth having at least the first year for the signup bonus which might be enough to cover a free trip on domestic routes. You can always switch to a cash back card later. I have a 2% cash back card but it only came with a $100 signup bonus, worth a lot less than what's out there for airline credit cards.
Thank you, tom911! I see what you're saying. But wouldn't I do better signing up for a Chase card that will get me Ultimate Rewards instead? I'm not particular to any airline (I think I'd prefer to have the flexibility for flight times, locations, etc). From what I'm reading, it seems like UR is considered rather "liquid" and I can therefore transfer to various airlines.
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Old Jan 3, 21, 5:56 pm
  #1653  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 24
Originally Posted by beachmouse View Post
Delta and Southwest mile no longer expire either.

Part of the question is just how much you enjoy going down the rabbit hole in terms of trying to figure out angles to get free tickets. If you want to keep it pretty simple, using the 2% back you get from a Citi double cash card as your travel fund can be a sensible way to go. If you like puzzles, then something like the American Express Everyday no annual fee card can be useful because it lets you get Member Rewards points in a number of different ways (they have a partnership with the Rakuten shopping web site that can be pretty lucrative depending on your sho[ping habits) and then transfer to 10 different airlines and 3 different hotel programs.

Does the phrase- "I took advantage of the 40% transfer bonus for Member Rewards to Iberia Avios and then used my Iberia Avios to book a first class ticket on American airlines to California" intrigue you or sound like something like it would be too much to bother with? Either answer is perfectly acceptable- if the answer is 'mo' go the cash back card route, but if you want to learn more, then a lot of folks around here can explain how to execute the sentence above and get you that nice plane ride for the cost of a few taxes and fees.
Thanks!! You're right. Honestly, at first I didn't want to deal with any of this. But now that I've been reading through various threads on FT for the past couple of hours I might be changing my mind . I think my plan now is to aim to go away in the Spring using my cash back fund from the 2% Citi card. As I ready and understand more, maybe I'll go down the route for the phrase you quoted
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Old Jan 3, 21, 8:01 pm
  #1654  
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Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Benicia CA
Programs: Alaska MVP Gold 75K, AA 3.8MM, UA 1.1MM, enjoying the retired life
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Originally Posted by EstherS12 View Post
Thank you, tom911! I see what you're saying. But wouldn't I do better signing up for a Chase card that will get me Ultimate Rewards instead? I'm not particular to any airline (I think I'd prefer to have the flexibility for flight times, locations, etc). From what I'm reading, it seems like UR is considered rather "liquid" and I can therefore transfer to various airlines.
Depends what you value the signup bonuses between the various cards - does 60,000 miles from an airline (UA is offering that today) outweigh the bonus from whatever Chase card you're looking at? You can always cancel the card come renewal time and switch to something else, or, for that matter, get a couple cards if you can meet the minimum spending on each for the account opening bonus. You don't need to lock yourself into one specific card.

I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve that came with a hefty bonus that is no longer being offered, and keep it because of the travel-related benefits (mostly Priority Pass but also some insurance aspects). There's only one hotel partner I regularly transfer to that I find a good value (Hyatt) - just because they offer redemptions through hotels does not mean the exchange rate is a good value. I will transfer miles to UA if I'm short of what I need for an award ticket there.

Not sure I'd recommend you paying the $450 annual fee for that one as you won't get a lot of value out of it with one trip a year to recoup that fee. I've never looked at their lower price card (Preferred) as it doesn't meet my needs.
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Old Jan 3, 21, 8:59 pm
  #1655  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: VPS
Programs: IHG Diamond, Delta PM, Hilton Gold, Marriott Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 5,810
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and other large annual fee cards generally only make sense for very frequent flyers who are pretty sure theyre going to get more in card benefits than the annual fee.

The airline specific cards with about a $100 fee- their sweet spot is people who fly the same airline 3-5 times a year and like to check bags since you get more value in bag fees than you pay in annual fees. They can be worth the sign up bonus for once or twice a year flyers if the offer comes with the annual fee waived the first year.

The no annual fee airline specific cards generally will give you a sign up bonus roughly the same number of miles as a domestic coach ticket. Theyre not the most exciting cards from a bonuses and benefits standpoint but they can be a useful way of dipping your toe into the award game pond and seeing if its for you.
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Old Jan 3, 21, 10:00 pm
  #1656  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 24
Originally Posted by beachmouse View Post
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and other large annual fee cards generally only make sense for very frequent flyers who are pretty sure theyre going to get more in card benefits than the annual fee.

The airline specific cards with about a $100 fee- their sweet spot is people who fly the same airline 3-5 times a year and like to check bags since you get more value in bag fees than you pay in annual fees. They can be worth the sign up bonus for once or twice a year flyers if the offer comes with the annual fee waived the first year.

The no annual fee airline specific cards generally will give you a sign up bonus roughly the same number of miles as a domestic coach ticket. Theyre not the most exciting cards from a bonuses and benefits standpoint but they can be a useful way of dipping your toe into the award game pond and seeing if its for you.
Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
Depends what you value the signup bonuses between the various cards - does 60,000 miles from an airline (UA is offering that today) outweigh the bonus from whatever Chase card you're looking at? You can always cancel the card come renewal time and switch to something else, or, for that matter, get a couple cards if you can meet the minimum spending on each for the account opening bonus. You don't need to lock yourself into one specific card.

I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve that came with a hefty bonus that is no longer being offered, and keep it because of the travel-related benefits (mostly Priority Pass but also some insurance aspects). There's only one hotel partner I regularly transfer to that I find a good value (Hyatt) - just because they offer redemptions through hotels does not mean the exchange rate is a good value. I will transfer miles to UA if I'm short of what I need for an award ticket there.

Not sure I'd recommend you paying the $450 annual fee for that one as you won't get a lot of value out of it with one trip a year to recoup that fee. I've never looked at their lower price card (Preferred) as it doesn't meet my needs.
Thank you both! I definitely see your points. I think I need to do some more reading on these credit cards and specifically how to downgrade them when I receive the SUB. Once I get myself more involved in the game I can see what gives me the best value for my needs. One thing brought up was meeting spending requirements. I've been reading through the Manufactured Spending threads since at this point I'm still hesitant to lose my 2% cash back from my regular purchases and want to keep the award game as more of a "hobby". Seems like that's becoming very difficult now, especially in the NYC area where I live . Will keep going through the forum though. Thank you both!
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Old Feb 6, 21, 11:37 pm
  #1657  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 13
Need an outside opinion

So I've been traveling heavily since mid-July despite the pandemic. Problem is my flights are scattered between United, American and Delta. I'm a member of all 3 programs, but not being able to commit to one due to scheduling is driving me insane as I will probably make silver for all 3 by the end of the year. What would you do?

My home airport is: IAH (Houston, TX) United hub

My frequently traveled airports are PHX (Phoenix, AZ), ATL (Atlanta, GA) and MIA (Miami, FL).

With current flight schedules, my outbound is mostly United but coming back, because I always have to take the last flight out, anything after 6-7 pm local time, I'm stuck with American from PHX and MIA or Delta out of Atlanta, unless if I stay an extra night and catch a morning flight the next day. Any advice from the seasoned pros out there? I've given this a ton of thought and doesn't seem to work out in achieving anything other than the lowest tier on any program unfortunately.
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Old Feb 7, 21, 12:17 am
  #1658  
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Join Date: Jan 2021
Posts: 21
I don't travel your routes so others may be able to offer more specific advice. Just a few non-specific thoughts. Staying extra nights or taking flights inconvenient for your schedule just to make status rarely is worth it.

As a general strategy, I'd stick to booking as is. During the summer, I'd check where I'm at which each program. Then, I'd ask if it makes sense to make some changes geared towards achieving gold. Also keep in mind that current schedules are thinned out. You'll likely have better means of "optimizing" for status in the second half of the year.
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Old Feb 7, 21, 12:44 am
  #1659  
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: NYC
Posts: 8,446
I'd look at some of the status and credit card promos. That should get you a higher status pretty fast. Also check if it is worthwhile to sign up with a non-US prg as that might be faster and provide you lounge access. E.g. Flying Blue - the credit card promo will get you close to silver - and gold is lounge access.
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Old Feb 7, 21, 12:53 am
  #1660  
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Join Date: Jan 2021
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But non-US programs come with other tradeoffs. Usually no complimentary upgrades and no access to VIP phone lines. Yeah, you get lounge access on domestic itineraries but as you're talking credit cards, those cards can potentially open up lounges as well (Priority Pass, Amex Centurion lounges etc.)

IMO, the use of credit cards and the choice of program within a given alliance doesn't really resolve the OP's conundrum. (Which involves travel being split up across three alliances.)
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Old Feb 8, 21, 11:16 am
  #1661  
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Minneapolis: DL DM charter 2.3MM
Programs: A3*Gold, SPG Plat, HyattDiamond, MarriottPP, LHW exAccess, ICI, Raffles Amb, NW PE MM, TWA Gold MM
Posts: 99,710
Putting $50,000-60,000 spend on DL AmEx Plat or Reserve credit card would get enough MQMs to make the difference between Silver and Gold, and would also get a MQD waiver for the OP (up to Plat). Miles would still be scattered, but at least the OP would have gold tier status with one airline/alliance. The Reserve card also gives entry into all DL and SkyTeam lounges when flying DL/SkyTeam (but not contract lounges unless on an international business class itinerary).
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Old Mar 21, 21, 12:19 am
  #1662  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 13
Thank you all for the insight! After another month plus of playing around with the different airlines and my normal destinations, it does appear I'll have to be spread out through all 3 alliances. That said my home airport being IAH, I will probably stop using my Chase Sapphire and get either a United Explorer or United Club Infinite card and try to boost my status with UA since my destinations can change over time but my home airport will probably be IAH for quite some time.
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Old Mar 28, 21, 12:33 pm
  #1663  
 
Join Date: Mar 2021
Posts: 1
Best airline/program for frequent NYC - London travel?

Hi all,

I'm based in NYC and my SO is moving to London shortly for a year. I anticipate visiting often and would like to maximize reward points travel. Can someone recommend an airline and tips on how to maximize benefits (credit card, etc.)? I typically get JetBlue status for domestic but am not beholden to any international airline. I have a chase saphire CC and a American Express gold card (that I rarely use). I'd ideally like to mix it up and fly a mix of business class and economy.

Any tips and recommendations would be much appreciated!
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Old Mar 28, 21, 1:27 pm
  #1664  
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Minneapolis: DL DM charter 2.3MM
Programs: A3*Gold, SPG Plat, HyattDiamond, MarriottPP, LHW exAccess, ICI, Raffles Amb, NW PE MM, TWA Gold MM
Posts: 99,710
For starters, is EWR or JFK better for you? Do you prefer the eastbound daytime flights that leave very early in the morning or do you like the evening departures to Europe?

You might start by looking at schedules for airlines such as AA, BA, UA, DL, and Virgin Atlantic. Especially now, don't consider connections in Europe. AA and BA are close partners in oneworld, UA is Star Alliance, DL is SkyTeam, and DL and Virgin Atlantic are close partners. To some extent, miles and status are valuable almost equally on partners, but normally you should pick one and try to credit all flights to that program.

If the girlfriend will be traveling back and forth too (or doing business travel herself), you might want to look into the rules for BA family accounts.
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Old Mar 28, 21, 3:23 pm
  #1665  
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Originally Posted by suka110 View Post
I'm based in NYC and my SO is moving to London shortly for a year. I anticipate visiting often and would like to maximize reward points travel. Can someone recommend an airline and tips on how to maximize benefits (credit card, etc.)? I typically get JetBlue status for domestic but am not beholden to any international airline. I have a chase saphire CC and a American Express gold card (that I rarely use). I'd ideally like to mix it up and fly a mix of business class and economy.

Any tips and recommendations would be much appreciated!
Best airline/program for frequent NYC - London travel?
What is your criteria for best?
What benefits would you like? (It will not be upgrades)
Are you a member of any freq flyer programs now? Status?
Flying economy do not expect much. NYC-LHR is a commuter run

Which Frequent Flyer Program to Join? Help Is Here!
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