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Airlines know that brand loyalty is critical to ensure repeat travelers. Frequent flyer programs and reward systems are designed to offer perks and upgrades for flying with a certain carrier on a regular basis. However, with each airline offering different incentives, which ones will work for you as a customer? Here are five frequent flyer programs, along with their pros and cons, to help you determine which one is right for you.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, now offering flights to most large cities in the U.S. for affordable prices. Their Southwest Rapid Rewards program looks to keep customers happy by redeeming points for free flights and companion passes.


  • No blackout dates for reward travel. You can redeem your points at any time for any flight, an option most airlines do not offer.
  • Points do not expire.
  • If you fly 100 one-way flights, or earn 110,000 reward points in a calendar year, you qualify for a free “companion pass” for the upcoming year, as well as the remainder of the year it was earned.
  • By applying for the Southwest credit card, you can substantially increase your points. For example, if you spend $1,000 in the first three months, you’ll earn 40,000 reward points.


  • You cannot upgrade your seating to first class with reward points because the planes do not have this type of seating section.

Best for you if:

You’re someone who flies frequently, as you will easily earn free flights for yourself and a companion. You also value the destination more than the flight itself, as Southwest does not offer meals, upgraded seating or coast-to-coast flights.

Delta Sky Miles

Delta has major hubs across the U.S., and also partners with several international airlines for access to hundreds of locations across the globe. Their Sky Miles reward program is a tiered system where the amount of points you’ve earned determines your destination.


  • Easy to sign up through Delta’s website.
  • Partnership with Air France, China Southern and other international carriers make overseas redemption lucrative.
  • Using the Delta Sky Miles credit card will earn you one point for every dollar spent.


  • Online booking system doesn’t always show reward flights that are available when looking to redeem points.
  • Lots of hidden fees, such as fuel surcharges, when redeeming reward flights.
  • Number of seats held for rewards members has declined, so seat availability on reward flights is limited.

Best for you if:

You are flexible in your reward travel itinerary or dates. The Sky Miles program will also work well for you if you are seeking international flights and a wide array of reward destinations.

American Airlines

American Airlines’ frequent flier program, AAdvantage, is not only popular, but also widely used across the globe. American’s Oneworld alliance partners with many overseas carriers, enabling you to use your reward points all across the world.


  • Fewer points needed for domestic, one-way flights than with most airlines.
  • Reward flights to the Caribbean and Central America now require fewer points since AA’s 2016 points reconfiguration.
  • Easy-to-use reward chart system clearly outlines amount of points needed for reward flights.


  • It’s increasingly difficult to redeem rewards during off-peak times, and can end up costing you more reward points.
  • Off-peak windows can be confusing and overly specific, which can make planning your trip with points a hassle.

Best for you if:

Having access to numerous destinations and deals with related airlines makes it worthwhile for you to work around a sometimes complicated off-peak schedule. If you would also like to use rewards for shorter domestic trips, AAdvantage’s point system is ideal for your needs.

United Airlines

The United Mileage Plus reward system offers travelers perks in addition to reward flights. These attractive options are intended to set this program apart from the competition.


  • Can use reward points for upgraded seating and priority baggage handling.
  • As a member of the Star Alliance, there are 28 affiliated airlines across the world who will honor United Mileage Plus reward points.
  • Signing up for the program is easy through United’s website.


  • Changing any part of your reward flight will result in fees. The lower your Mileage Plus membership status, the higher your fees will be.
  • Point redemption chart can be confusing, making it difficult to understand how many points you will need for a flight.

Best for you if:

You are willing to accept fees and other conditions related to changing travel plans in order to have access to a broad network of flights. With many United hubs across the U.S. and internationally, Mileage Plus is another program for those who need flexibility with regard to destinations.

Jet Blue

Another discount airline, JetBlue, looks to lure travelers with its TrueBlue rewards program that offers not only flights, but also vacation packages.


  • Points can be used toward JetBlue vacation packages, which can include car rentals and hotel stays.
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue flights.
  • Points do not expire.


  • There are blackout dates on airlines associated with JetBlue.
  • Fewer destinations, with departures typically limited to the East Coast.
  • Fewer membership tiers, which limits reward perks.

Best for you if:

You primarily need domestic flights and are not concerned with in-flight amenities. If you’re looking for future vacation packages at discounted rates, JetBlue’s program will also work well for your needs.

Whether you’re shopping for a mortgage or comparing airlines’ reward policies, trust the Quicken Loans Zing Blog to lay out all of the fine print to help you make an informed decision before you begin your journey. Wheels up!

What’s your favorite frequent flyer program and why? Let us know in the comments below!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Southwest actually does allow you to use your points for international travel and travel with other airlines, hotels etc. It is in the “More Rewards” section of their Rapid Rewards page. I have used this several times.

  2. Accurate information and a good comparison – with one correction. If you are a Southwest Visa Card holder and Rapid Rewards member, you can indeed purchase Hawaii or International travel with Southwest points, through a rewards portal provided the membership. The point exchange rate is not as good as when using directly for Southwest flights, but you can pay for hotels, airfare, car rentals and more using those points. I’ve done it for hotels and car rentals, and have even purchased two Amazon Echo devices and bluetooth earbuds that way.

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