Are Rewards Programs Worth the Hassle?

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“Frequent flyer miles are one of the only true perks left to travelers, and I can’t think of any reason not to accumulate them.” — thit_cho

We recently asked travelers in our Travel Talk Forums to share their experiences with travel-rewards programs. Many responded, voicing the benefits of participating in some type of loyalty program. Of course, getting the most out of your travel-rewards program requires diligent research, as no single program fits everyone’s needs. You might get a headache from reading all that fine print, but there’s no second-guessing the benefits. Below are a few testimonials from folks who’ve been able to stretch their points for upgrades, hotel rooms, and international flights.

Satisfied by your points payout? Share your experience.

“We’re taking a three-week vacation to China in September. Flying AA international first into Shanghai, free with AA miles, the cash cost would be $22,000 a ticket! All hotels are being booked free with Starpoints, and we’re staying in suites the entire time. ” — chazas

“I’m big on the hotel programs. I will be using Hilton points for seven free nights on that Paris trip, and will be using the Starwood points+cash program in Montreal, Quebec City, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, Chile. Almost all of my Starwood points have come from using the Amex Starwood card.” — luv2cthings

“In terms of FF programs, I work AA, United, and Delta. Delta is great for free domestic trips. I’ve gone to Europe free several times with AA. With United, I tend to use my miles for east coast/west coast upgrades.I’ve recently joined Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott programs. With Marriott they gave me instant room upgrades, even with not a lot of points.” — PalmPilot

“I use a United Airlines’ Mileage Plus Visa card. I put everything on it that’s possible, even on-line bill paying. It only costs $60 in annual fees, and I pay no interest since I pay it in full each month. Using this card, we have earned many, many roundtrip tickets to take our family of four to Hawaii and Europe. It’s so easy to use, I recommend it.” — mambo

“I’ve had a Citibank AA card since 2003, spend about $20-25K per year on the card, earning free flights to California (twice), Mexico (twice), Peru, Paris, and two tickets to Japan (in April). I have exactly 334 miles right now but I’m not complaining!!! I have never had a problem getting an award ticket (but I mostly travel offpeak, in April and October).” — puttakka

“We prefer cash rewards, then we can use the money without any restrictions, blackout dates, reward seat limits, etc. Depending on what we are buying, we get from 1-5% back on everything we charge. And we charge everything we can.” — Jake1

Links and Resources

Airline Alliances
One World — www.oneworld.com/
SkyTeam — www.skyteam.com/skyteam
Star Alliance — www.staralliance.com/

Frequent Flier Programs
Delta Skymiles — www.delta.com/skymiles/
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan — www.alaskaair.com/as/mileageplan/
US Airways Dividend Miles — www.usairways.com/awa/content/dividendmiles/
American Airlines AAdvantage – www.aa.com/apps/AAdvantage/
Continental Airlines OnePass — www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/onepass/
Northwest WorldPerks — www.nwa.com/worldperks/earn/
United Mileage Plus – www.united.com/
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards — www.southwest.com/rapid_rewards/

Hotel Programs
Starwood Preferred Guest – www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/
Marriott Rewards — www.marriott.com/rewards/rewards-program.mi
Priority Club Rewards — www.ichotelsgroup.com
Sofitel Loyalty Programs — www.sofitel.com/gb/loyalty-program/
Hilton HHonors — http://hhonors1.hilton.com/en_US/hh/