Don't Wing It with Frequent Flier Programs
Forget about beverage selections. The flight attendant on a recent
Any passenger willing to sign up for the airline's frequent flier reward credit card would get 30,000 bonus miles -- enough for a domestic flight -- plus a litany of perks longer than the drink menu. But you had to act fast. The flight attendant said you'd get the promised perks only if you signed up while still in the air.
But limited-time offers almost always come with a catch, and this one had two: The card had an
As summer travel season gets underway, consumers will probably be barraged with all sorts of frequent flier pitches, many of which include some type of rewards credit card. Those cards usually demand annual fees, so consumers need to carefully examine the frequent flier programs to avoid getting stuck with all fees and no freebies.
An analysis of what makes a great frequent flier program doesn't start and end with the availability of free seats, said
Here's how to get the best lift from your miles.
Price or perks:
Frequent flier programs reward loyalty, but if you're all about price, you need to ditch loyalty and fly on the carrier that offers the best deal. Of course, you can join any and all airlines' frequent flier programs, because joining is free, said
But don't get one airline's credit card if you're a multiple airline person.
If you focus on just one or two airline frequent flier programs, the ease of getting a free ticket is a key deciding factor. For example, if you fly frequently to
But it's vastly easier to get a free ticket with Southwest. Moreover, if you book in advance and qualify for a cheap fare, Southwest will deduct fewer points from your frequent flier account than
If you are saving up miles for an international trip, you might want to consider an airline's partners. For instance, while American might not score particularly high on the availability of frequent flier seats, some of its partners score well.
"If there was one perfect program, everybody would flock to it," Cohen said. "But the best program is the one that's going to best suit your needs. For that, there's no single answer."
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