There are so many frequent flyer programs out there, and determining which programs to earn miles in can be a challenge. Each program has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, both when it comes to earning miles, redeeming them and more. Fortunately, you don’t need to do all of the research to determine which miles are best for you. Below we will go into detail about the top five frequent flyer programs for flights within the US and what makes these programs the best so you can decide which program is right for you.
For many people Southwest is easily the best program for domestic travel. They offer an extensive route network, generally reasonable prices, and two free checked bags on every flight.
Southwest is more or less a revenue-based program. You earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points based on how much your flight costs and flight redemptions cost more or less points based on the cash price of a ticket for the same flight.
Southwest miles are relatively easy to earn via credit cards as well. Southwest offers three different credit cards -two personal cards, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, and one business card – Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, that all offer great sign-up bonuses. Southwest is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so any card that earns Ultimate Rewards in effect also earns Southwest points.
In addition to everything else good about Southwest, they also offer a Companion Pass if you earn enough points each year. After earning 110,000 points within a calendar year (and yes, credit card sign-up bonuses and spending count!), you will be granted a companion pass for the rest of that year and the entire following year. This means that you can designate a companion to fly with you on all paid and award tickets for only the cost of taxes and fees – $5.60 each way on routes within the U.S.!
2. British Airways
British Airways: an airline based in the UK — so how can they offer good value for domestic travel within the US? The answer–short flights. Any direct flight on American Airlines that is less than 1,150 miles flown costs only 7,500 British Airways Avios for a flight redemption. This includes flights to Mexico and the Caribbean, too! If you do have to make a connection, however, this deal isn’t quite as sweet because you’ll have to pay that price for two flights for a total of 15,000 Avios.
Redeeming British Airways Avios is best for people who live in American Airlines hub cities because there are so many options for places to travel within 1,150 miles. Avios are also useful for getting to American Airlines hub cities.
What happens for longer flights though? The ticket will cost more miles. Flights between 1,151 and 2,000 miles in length will cost 10,000 Avios each way which still is a better deal than many other reward programs. Flights longer than 2,000 miles cost 12,500 Avios or more, so at that point there are often better choices than redeeming British Airways Avios.
British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.
Singapore Airlines also might not sound like a great program for flights within the U.S., but they actually offer great value especially if you want to redeem for first class flights on United.
Singapore has access to the same award space that United offers at Saver prices, in other words, the lowest award prices. For a domestic one-way ticket in first class, the lowest price generally available with United miles is 25,000 miles. If you redeem Singapore Airlines miles for the same flights, you’ll be able to save 5,000 miles on a one-way booking. That means your one-way booking with Singapore Airlines miles will only cost 20,000 Singapore miles.
In addition to offering lower prices for domestic premium cabin tickets, Singapore Airlines miles are also easier to get than United miles. United miles can only be earned via their co-branded credit card and through transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards. Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.
Like Southwest, JetBlue offers a good route network, reasonable prices, and a revenue-based rewards system. Unlike Southwest, JetBlue has a killer business class product on select flights, called Mint.
If you fly on routes that Mint is available and prefer to fly in premium cabins, there’s very little reason to fly any other airline. JetBlue points generally offer between 1.3 and 1.7 cents per point in value. If you redeem for Mint, you’re usually going to be looking at the lower end of that range, but it’s still possible to find redemptions for flights like New York to Los Angeles for around 40,000 points per ticket. You’re not going to be able to redeem that few points that easily for any other lie-flat business class product on a transcontinental flight.
Better yet, if you have the JetBlue credit card, you’ll get 10% of your points back on your redemptions meaning that you will really only be spending 36,000 (or so) points for that beautiful Mint seat.
5. Alaska Airlines
Lastly, for some, Alaska Airlines presents good value. They don’t offer a lower price than other programs, but they do allow you to have a little more fun with your tickets. Alaska Airlines allows stopovers even on one-way domestic award tickets, and you can redeem Alaska Airlines miles on Alaska flights and American Airlines flights!
Consider that you want to travel to Alaska, if you redeem with Alaska Airlines miles, you could stop for a day or two in Seattle on the way there, and on the way home you could stop for another couple of days in another city and only pay 25,000 miles round trip to fly in economy!