U.S. New & World Report released yesterday its annual Best Travel Rewards Programs that tries to compare airline and hotel loyalty programs and rank them.
These rankings are for US based airlines and hotel loyalty programs and the methodology used for airline ranking is better than the one for hotel ones.
You can access U.S. News & World Reports web page for this study here.
1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (4.39)
2. American Airlines AAdvantage (4.04)
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards (3.99)
4. JetBlue TrueBlue (3.95)
5. HawaiianMiles (3.88)
6. Virgin America Elevate (3.61)
7. Frontier EarlyReturns (3.55)
8. United MileagePlus (3.45)
9. Delta SkyMiles (3.11)
10. FREE SPIRIT (1.16)
The ranking of American, United and Delta is correct here. You could argue that the order of the smaller airlines programs is fine too, but difficult to compare with the three network carriers and their alliances.
The study ranks smaller programs too high basically. There is nothing wrong with Alaska, Southwest, JetBlue etc. but they just cannot compete for international travel with the three network airlines.
1. Marriott Rewards (4.72)
2. Wyndham Rewards (4.22)
3. Best Western Rewards (4.09)
3. Club Carlson (4.09)
5. IHG Rewards Club (4.04)
6. Leaders Club (3.93)
7. La Quinta Returns (3.88)
8. Starwood Preferred Guest (3.86)
9. Hilton HHonors (3.78)
10. Hyatt Gold Passport (3.68)
11. Choice Privileges (3.09)
12. Stash Hotel Rewards (2.88)
13. Omni Select Guest (2.73)
14. Kimpton Karma Rewards (2.72)
15. Le Club Accorhotels (2.10)
16. Fairmont President’s Club (2.01)
17. iPrefer (1.98)
18. Loews YouFirst (1.59)
Here’s where I am starting to have an issue with these rankings. Marriott Rewards should simply not be in the first spot due to its deceptive marketing practices when it comes to free nights. The program advertises that there are no blackout dates even when properties can have them.
Also, the award inventory is not tied to the base level room. It is difficult to redeem at popular destinations due to no award rooms being available when hotels continue to offer base level rooms for sale.
The study doesn’t take into account promotions that the hotel chains are offering that helps with accumulation of free nights and points boost from using affiliated credit card for paying stays.
Wyndham and Best Western rank very high, although their programs offer very little in the form of status recognition for frequent travelers and lack of quality properties.
I stopped covering the iPrefer last year when I calculated that you need 50 nights to earn one free night with the program. Why even bother at that point?
Le Club Accorhotels should be much higher considering the number of points that you earn for your stays and the ease of turning them to the free nights. Probably the lack of properties in North America has lead to this low ranking of them.
The study does rank the US network carriers in the right order but fails in the hotel sector due to difficulty trying to rank the programs to the depth required.
I really should update my study of hotel loyalty programs that I did two years ago (did take too much time) to update the average $$$ required to get a free night in number of these programs (access the 2013 finding here).