The Best Frequent Flyer Programs for 2015

Knowing about the best frequent flyer programs for 2015 allows you to earn, save, and use airline miles so that you can fly for free – or get awesome upgrades.

Instead of shopping around and trying to find the best deal on airfare each time you fly, it’s sometimes best to stay loyal to one carrier and enjoy earned perks instead of saving a few bucks – like receiving complimentary flights, zero checked-baggage fees, or upgraded first-class seats, among other benefits.

The term “frequent flyer program” sometimes causes travelers think they need to travel frequently to see any benefit at all.

That’s not true, as most of the top frequent flyer programs make it easy to earn miles by signing up for their branded credit cards, making purchases with those cards, or even registering their current credit card with the program and then shopping or dining out with it.

This article will introduce you to some of the best frequent flyer programs out there, and it will help you navigate the many ways you can earn miles / points with the programs – such as with credit card signing bonuses, taking actual flights with one carrier or partner carriers, and more.

Many travelers find it exciting to see their points or miles add up for doing things they normally do anyway.

Top Frequent Flyer Programs


Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines offers one of the best frequent flyer programs if you want to earn free – or almost-free – domestic flights. Southwest makes it easy to redeem miles too, which is why this carrier’s program is tops on our list.

And, Southwest offers one of the most clear mile redemption policies (something that travelers wholeheartedly embrace).

Southwest’s free and nearly-free reward flights are based solely on the cost of the airline ticket. For instance, if you book a cheap flight, it will cost you fewer miles. Book a more expensive airline ticket and you’ll be back a few more miles.

There are no blackout dates for award air travel, you just need to make sure there is an open seat on the plane – and that you have the miles to book the flight. It’s as simple as that.

Southwest recently merged with AirTran, so in addition to flying all over the U.S., the carrier now flies to several locations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Internationally, Southwest’s flight schedule includes destinations like Nassau, Cancun, Mexico City, Aruba, Montego Bay, San Juan, and San Jose – with locales in the works for the future.

What do you need to know about booking award flights with Southwest?

  • Southwest reward flights are based on the price of the ticket, so shop around for the best rates – on different days or even at different times during the day (flexibility gives you the best bang for your buck).
  • Even though your reward flight might be free, you’ll still need to pay applicable fees and taxes (typically less than $12 round trip for domestic flights, but it can be up to $100 for international flights).
  • You can earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. This usually enables flyers to earn at least one round-tip flight within the U.S. or Caribbean during the course of a year (depending on your purchases).

Delta Airlines

Delta has hubs in Atlanta, Detroit, New York (JFK/ LGA) Cincinnati, Memphis, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis. This airline’s Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer program is a great place to start when you want a program that will allow you to access flights from / to many locations in the United States – and even outside of the U.S.

Delta does, however, have a bit of a confusing award chart for reward flights. This means that it’s important to read up a bit on the Delta SkyMiles instructions and benefits so that you can see if the program will truly benefit you (and your anticipated flying schedule).

One thing that’s great about the Delta SkyMiles program is that if you’re planning on flying outside of the U.S., you can still redeem / earn miles for award flights on Air France, Aeroflot, Air Europa, China Southern, Malaysian, and many other partner airlines.

Your ideal award itinerary will, of course, depend on where you’re going and how many miles / points you’ve earned through previous flights and through SkyMiles programs like the Gold SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express – but the program is pretty open to use for a variety of circumstances.

Level 1 (formerly Saver) award one-way flights with the SkyMiles program are achieved starting at 12,500 miles earned (flights within the Continental U.S.) and can require up to 50,000 miles earned (one-way to the South Pacific).

What do you need to remember about booking awards with the SkyMiles program?

  • Start earning SkyMiles just by signing up for the frequent flyer program and by purchasing airfare from Delta (or their partner airlines).
  • Sign up for the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and meet the $1,000 minimum-spending requirement within 90 days of account opening to get you 30,000 miles.
American Airlines Logo

American Airlines

American Airlines’ AAdvantage is one of the most popular and largest frequent flyer programs in the world.

It’s part of the oneworld® alliance, which means American Airlines has partnered with several different airlines to bring passengers to and from more than 1,000 destinations in the world.

American Airlines makes it really easy to earn and redeem miles through their AAdvantage program. Since American Airlines operates major hubs in locals across the United States – and the globe – it’s simple to sign up for AAdvantage and choose to fly American (or a partner air carrier) domestically or internationally.

Flying American – or its partner airlines – will help you accrue miles that can be redeemed for free flights.

The American AAdvantage program does have peak dates blackouts in effect, which means that you cannot typically use reward miles to fly during busy travel seasons to certain destinations. But, since the airline and its partners fly to so many locations, you should be able to find a flight to get you somewhere you want to go – sometime during the year.

What do you need to remember when earning and redeeming AAdvantage Miles?

  • Award flight mile requirements are listed on the airlines’ chart for one-way fares only.
  • Government-mandated fees and taxes need to be paid for all reward flights, and you cannot use your miles to pay for them.
  • Some American AAdvantage partners charge a fee for fuel (typically on international flights).