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Ask a Points Nerd: Which Airline Has the Most Valuable Rewards?

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Many components go into selecting airline loyalty, from the legroom (or lack thereof) to the customer support (ditto). But the one variable that issues most can be the hardest to reply with a easy Google search: Which airline’s rewards program gives the most worth?

Not realizing the reply to this straightforward query is like attempting to decide on between job gives with out realizing how a lot each pays. Who cares which workplace has complimentary La Croix in the event you don’t know the wage?

You may suppose the reply is solely the worth of every airline’s frequent flyer miles. In spite of everything, if 1,000 American miles are price twice as a lot as 1,000 Alaska miles (spoiler: they aren’t), then American’s program is twice as precious as Alaska’s, proper?

Not so quick. What if flying with Alaska earns you twice as many miles as flying with American? Imagine it or not, you don’t earn miles primarily based on how far you fly with most airways nowawadays, however quite on how a lot you spend. And the variety of “miles” earned per greenback spent varies by airline. Thoughts: blown.

The worth of an airline rewards program due to this fact will depend on two components:

  1. The worth of award miles.
  2. The speed at which you earn these miles.

So which airline gives the finest worth? Let’s begin with the worth of these miles.

The ‘most useful miles’ winner is …

Our crew at NerdWallet did a large evaluation of airline mile worth that concerned many spreadsheets, formulae, and, nicely, nerdiness. I’ll spare you the messy particulars, however the TL;DR is that this: We cooked up these numbers by evaluating lots of of actual redemptions on actual routes. Right here’s the place we landed:

The ‘quickest mile-earning’ winner is …

Keep in mind how I advised you that you simply don’t earn miles primarily based on how far you fly with most airways anymore, and also you have been like “no manner” and I used to be like “sure, actually”? It raises the query of which airline doles out the most miles.

To determine that out, we did a complete different spreadsheet-y evaluation that’s too boring for phrases. Under you’ll see what number of miles you’ll be able to anticipate to earn with a given program primarily based on how a lot you spend. That’s, in the event you spend $100 for a ticket with Frontier, you’ll be able to anticipate to earn 1,050 Frontier miles.

Right here’s how the numbers shook out:

As a factors and miles nerd, I used to be surprised by this data. Surprised, I say!

Not surprised your self? Consider it this fashion: Frontier awards 4 occasions as many miles per greenback spent as JetBlue. However after all, JetBlue miles (technically “factors”) are price a lot greater than Frontier miles, as the first desk exhibits — which leads us to the payoff ultimately.

The ‘general most-valuable’ winner is … Alaska Airways

That is the least-nerdy a part of this complete factor, don’t fear. To find out the worth of every program, we simply multiply the worth of miles by the charge at which these miles are awarded.

What pops out is the efficient money again you’ll be able to anticipate to earn for every greenback spent with the airline:

Whereas Alaska doesn’t supply the most useful miles in our evaluation, it’s considered one of the few airways that nonetheless awards miles primarily based on how far you fly. Seems that’s a a lot sooner option to earn them than the “revenue-based” programs from the larger airways like American, Delta and United — which delivers extra worth general.

In fact, not everybody lives in an space served by Alaska Airways, which makes Southwest and Frontier robust alternate options.

Feeling overwhelmed about learn how to use your factors and miles? I’m right here to assist. On this column, I reply your questions on the baffling world of journey rewards, reducing by the jargon to supply clear solutions to actual issues. Ship your inquiries to [email protected]

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