The 10 Best Airline and Hotel Rewards Programs for Your Travel Dollar

Getting free flights, rooms or upgrades is a major perk for any traveler. But how easy it is to get these rewards depends on the program you use. Looking at how many points you earn per dollar spent and how much each point is worth when redeeming them, here’s a look at the best airline and hotel rewards for your money.

Top Airline Programs

Alaska Airlines tops the list of airline rewards programs. Travelers get a return of about 9 cents per dollar spent with the airline. Frontier Airlines comes in second with a return of 7.3 cents per dollar spent. Alaskan and Frontier base their rewards on actual miles flown, while many other major carriers (United, Delta, etc.) base their rewards on ticket price.

Here are the top five ranked airline rewards systems, including the rate of return in cents on the dollar:

  1. Alaska Airlines – 9 cents on the dollar
  2. Frontier Airlines — 7.3 cents on the dollar
  3. Southwest Airlines — 6.6 cents on the dollar
  4. Hawaiian Airlines – 6.3 cents per dollar
  5. Delta Airlines — 5.4 cents on the dollar

On the backend, JetBlue points are worth the most when redeemed for flights. Each point translates to approximately 1.5 cents. The Southwest is close behind with a value of 1.4 cents per point.

Here are the top five spots for rewards programs based on redemption rates:

  1. JetBlue — 1.5 cents
  2. Southwest Airline – 1.4 cents
  3. Delta Airlines — 1.3 cents
  4. American Airlines — 1.2 cents
  5. Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines (tied) – 1.1 cents

Best Hotel Programs

A similar measuring stick is used to rank hotel rewards systems. In this category, rankings are based on how much a traveler earns per $100 spent with the hotel. Radisson Hotels tops the charts in 2022 with 12% earning power (i.e. for every $100 spent, you will receive $12 back). Hyatt comes in second with a pay rate of 9.5%.

Here are the top five spots for hotel rewards programs and their respective earning rates:

  1. Radisson Hotels — 12%
  2. Hyatt – 9.5%
  3. Wyndham – 9%
  4. IHG – 8%
  5. Best Western and Marriott (tied) – 7%

When it comes to redeeming rewards, Hyatt stands out with a value of 1.9 cents per point. That’s significantly higher than any other hotel rewards program.

Here is a list of the top five hotel rewards programs based on redemption rates:

  1. Hyatt – 1.9 cents
  2. Wyndham — 0.9 cents
  3. IHG — 0.8 cents
  4. Best Western and Marriott (tied) — 0.7 cents

It can be very beneficial to become loyal to a travel rewards program, but when deciding which one, consider both the number of points you earn and their redemption rate. You may have a program with high point redemption rates, but the points themselves are very difficult to earn, or vice versa. Also consider where you like to travel. Some programs, like Radisson, split their national and international reward systems. And some airlines don’t fly to potentially popular destinations (ie Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe). And when you’re ready to book, be sure to check out our tips for buying the cheapest flights.

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