The Top Travel Loyalty Programs
There are many different types of travel reward cards. Some credit card points are tied to the bank themselves. Other’s have partnered with either an airline or hotel chain. If the reward program is held by a financial institution your points can either be transferred to a airline or hotel loyalty program or the credit used through a statement credit. Airline and hotel branded card points will dump the reward points directly into their specific reward program. Below is an overview of the types of credit card programs you can be a part of.
Flexible Reward Programs
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – Chase Ultimate Rewards are the gold standard for travel rewards. First, their cards offer some of the biggest sign up bonuses. They have some of the best perks. They have a high cent per mile rate. Most important they are the most flexible rewards you will find. While most programs will only allow them to be used within a loyalty program or a statement credit, Chase points can be used either way. You may make a purchase through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal site using reward points at a rate of 1.5 cents per mile. You can transfer the points to the loyalty program of some of the heavy hitters including Star Alliance airlines like United as well as Southwest Airlines, or use them on hotels through Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott.
- Starwood Preferred Guest – Starwood owns some of the top tier hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, the W, and Westin. A recent merger with Marriott brings all of their properties into the fold as well. They also fit into the flexible reward program mold with some extremely valuable transfer partners such as American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, Japan Air, Singapore, United and many more.
- American Express – American Express Membership Reward points can be transferred to several popular airlines such as ANA, Delta, Hawaiian, Singapore, and Jet Blue. Hotel transfer partners include Starwood, Hilton, and Choice Privileges.
- United – United Airlines does not have the best reputation and for the most part it is deserved. However United is part of the wide ranging Star Alliance. You can use United miles on great airlines like Lufthansa, Singapore, ASA and Air Canada. The fact is United and its partner airlines fly just about anywhere you will want to go and have some of the most desirable time slots.
- American Airlines – American Airlines is part of the large One World alliance and you can use AA miles on flights with British Airways, Carthay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qatar airlines, and many more. The biggest drawback to using AA miles is they have less award availability than other airlines.
- Delta – Delta is part of the Sky Team alliance. They do not have the reach that Star and One World have, but if you are near a Delta hub like Atlanta, they can be your best bet.
- Southwest – Southwest is the gold standard of low cost airlines. They provide a great product at a great price. They also have perks that many budget airlines or few legacy carriers have like 2 free checked bags. For couples, Southwest can be a great value with the companion pass. It can difficult to get with having to acquire 110,000 points to qualify. Once you do, a designated companion can fly with you for only the cost of taxes and fees. Better yet, once you qualify you receive the benefit for the rest of the current year, plus the entirety of the next year. Play your cards right and you can get nearly two years of the benefit.
- Jet Blue – Jet Blue is a quality experience at a good price. They have a quality customer service experience, an ever expanding route lineup, and their newly introduced business class Mint is very nice. The con’s are the limited partners and few credit card options. One plus is that you can transfer American Express Membership Reward points to Jet Blue. For those looking to fly Jet Blue take a look at their branded cards or American Express.
- Starwood –Starwood owns some of the top tier hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, the W, and Westin. A recent merger with Marriott brings all of their properties into the fold as well. They also fit into the flexible reward program mold with some extremely valuable transfer partners such as American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, Japan Air, Singapore, United and many more.
- IHG – InterContinental Hotel Group has a large collection of popular hotel chains under their umbrella including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.
- Hilton – Hilton has one of the largest collections of hotel brands out there including Conrad, Double Tree, Hampton, and of course the Hilton brands. Their reward program is a bit devalued compared to other brands, but it is always a good idea to load up on Hilton points with a Hilton brand hotel being available almost everywhere you travel.
- Hyatt – Hyatt is another well known brand with hotels located all over the world. World of Hyatt points are another great thing to have in hand.
For more information in travel reward programs see our complete guide on conquering travel reward credit cards.