Best Travel Rewards Programs by U.S. News & World Report

Best Flight and Hotel Loyalty Programs

First Published: Aug, 2015 ADawnJournal.com

U.S. News & World Report recently looked at 28 airline and hotel loyalty programs and picked their 2015 best travel rewards programs. The factors used to decide the rankings are the following:

Airline Rewards Programs

Ease of Earning Free Round-Trip Flight (45%)

Additional Benefits (25%)

Network Coverage (10%)

Award Flight Availability (10%)

Number of Daily Flights (5%)

Airline Quality Rating (5%)

Hotel Rewards Programs

Ease of Earning Free Night (45%)

Additional Benefits (25%)

Geographic Coverage (15%)

Number of Hotels in Network (10%)

Property Diversity (5%)

Based on these criteria, here are the top ten airline programs:

Alaska Airlines 
American 
Southwest 
JetBlue 
Hawaiian 
Virgin America 
Frontier 
United 
Delta 
Spirit

And the top ten hotel rewards programs:

Marriott 
Wyndham 
Best Western (tie) 
Club Carlson (tie) 
InterContinental 
Leading Hotels 
La Quinta 
Starwood 
Hilton 
Hyatt

These rankings are on only U.S.-based airlines and hotel rewards. However, most of these hotels mentioned here also have a presence in Canada.

While the rankings might provide important insights, you should not adjust your rewards programs solely based on them. The factors determine these rankings may not have anything to do with the rewards programs you follow and you should stick to your programs based on what makes sense for you.

Aeroplan Customer Service Wait Time Is More Than An Hour

Aeroplan One Hour + Hold Time on Phone

First Published in July, 2015 ADawnJournal.com

The Aeroplan rewards program has always had complaints for various issues such as hefty fees and taxes, hard to find seats, no availability in business class, and much more. However, Aeroplan's other big problem is their terrible customer service and I was on hold for more than an hour when I called them on July 19, 2015.

I never had to call Aeroplan before, so I had no idea that it would be a one hour ten minutes wait to talk to a rep. After holding the phone for 20 minutes, I realized that I was wasting my time and could better utilize time doing something else while keeping the phone on speaker. So I started my workout and long after I was done I had the opportunity to talk to a live person. My total wait time was about one hour 10 minutes.

I asked the rep if this kind of long wait time is only today because it's Sunday or if it's a daily thing. I appreciate the fact that she told me the truth and said this happens everyday and they are trying to upgrade/fix the system to reduce the long wait.

How to Access Airport Lounges for Free

| Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey |

If you have a business-class flight, free lounge access comes with it for free. There is another way to enter the lounge and that is by paying at the entrance when you are flying economy. But the best way to access lounges without flying business class is to have a credit card that provides free lounge passes.

Credit cards use mainly two main lounge programmes to provide free lounge access. One is Priority Pass and the other is Lounge Key MasterCard Airport Experiences. Both of these programmes are owned by the same parent company. Priority Pass has slightly more airports covered than Lounge Key.

One main difference between Priority Pass and LoungeKey is that Priority Pass sells different levels of memberships to the general public, giving free access to certain numbers of free entrances, unlimited entrances, or just the annual membership (each entrance will cost you if you just have the annual membership plan) lounges.

On the other hand, LoungeKey is only available to credit card holders. Depending on your credit cards, you can have just the annual membership, a certain number of free entrances, or unlimited free entrances. You cannot buy LoungeKey; it’s given to you by your credit cards.

I love staying in lounges at airports because it adds a different dimension to your travel experiences. Lounges provide free food, drinks, spa, messages, showers, and some lounges even have a hotel inside and cooks are on standby to create your meals. You can view my lounge experiences across the globe here.

Also, I have a video discussing how to access airport lounges for free and sign up for the LoungeKey program. I will bring you a lot more business-class flight and lounge reviews in the next weeks once my trip to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia starts on Nov 24, 2018. Please subscribe now on my YouTube channel provided above.

How To Get Cheaper Air Fares

How To Get Cheap Airfare Tickets

One sector of the economy which has suffered perhaps more than any other from the depression in the global financial market is the travel industry. To be slightly more accurate, international travel is where the squeeze has really been placed. A lot of people who most years would actively consider flying abroad for their holiday have decided in the wake of job losses and reduced incomes that staying close to home for a holiday is perhaps more prudent. For anyone who retains an element of wanderlust that simply cannot be satisfied by a short stay in a neighbouring state, the importance of reduced air fares has become all the greater. You can still fly abroad for a holiday, assuming you have the means to pay – it is all about maximising what you can get for your money.

To find the cheapest air fares, you need to widen the range of your search. The laws of supply and demand dictate that where there is a lot of demand the prices will be higher. Therefore, while prices may have dropped to forestall a mass exodus from the traditional holiday hot spots, there will still be a premium for flying to places where a lot of people still want to go. But just because a place is not frequented by as many tourists, that does not mean that it is going to be a bad place to visit. For many of us, in fact, that is a selling point. Many people complain about the tourist traps as holiday destinations, feeling that if they want an experience that is just like home, they could stay at home and save a lot of money. Visiting somewhere that is off the beaten track may be the best thing you can do to enjoy your holiday and save on your budget.

To find a cheaper air fare you may be well advised to avoid package deals. Certainly, it is easier to make one payment and have your flight, board and meals covered for the holiday. It is, however, also more expensive. You can make an immediate saving by looking to arrange the details separately, although this will obviously be easier if you have a working knowledge of the language spoken in the country you are visiting. Travel agents are excellent at arranging lower cost air-fares if these are not bundled with transfers and accommodation.

Another way of finding lower air fares is to look online. There are numerous sites which promise to arrange the flight for you, and search for the lowest fare. You do, however, then have to pay them for the privilege of arranging things. There is an alternative here – you can use these sites to search for lower air fares and then book directly via the airline website, saving the arrangement fees in the process. This will mean more work on your part, but when you see the savings you make by being prepared to make your own arrangements it can easily pay for itself, and also give you greater freedom once you are on the ground in your destination.

What Happens to Your Aeroplan Miles?

Air Canada Buys Aeroplan

Air Canada created Aeroplan in 1984 to reward Air Canada and its alliance members. Then in 2008 Air Canada sold Aeroplan, but still maintained its partnership. Last year, Air Canada declared its intention to abandon Aeroplan in 2020 to create its own frequent flyer program and then this year (2018), Air Canada - along with its partners such as TD, CIBC, and VISA - have bought back Aeroplan for $450 million with its 1.9 billion miles liability.

If you are an Aeroplan member and not sure what to do with your miles after all these developments, I will shed some light today in simple terms so you can get the most out of your Aeroplan miles.

Aeroplan provides the best value when you redeem them for business class flights. However, make sure you don’t pay fuel and other surcharges levied by some airlines including Air Canada. Watch this video to learn more about it: How Not to Get Dinged by Air Canada on Aeroplan Rewards

So if you have a trip coming up before 2020, redeeming Aeroplan for business class will provide the most value. Although, Air Canada mentioned Aeroplan will be transferable to the new Air Canada loyalty program, I doubt that you will get better value than redeeming your miles now for business class flights.

However, if you are not taking a trip, don’t rush to redeem your miles. Rush decisions often make poorer judgements and lower redemption values.

In terms of Aeroplan credit cards, no one knows at this point whether these cards will continue as is or will have decreased rewards and benefits. As far as you are concerned, you can keep using these cards to earn miles. I don’t see any need to cancel and change these Aeroplan cobranded credit cards yet.

I do see more credit cards with hefty sign-up bonuses and a variety of benefits & rewards coming up in the future, once Air Canada is set to go with its new frequent flyer loyalty program in 2020 and beyond.  

There is a possibility that Air Canada will devalue Aeroplan at the time of the transfer or after that. This is because of the humongous amounts Air Canada and its partners are paying to absorb Aeroplan will have to come from somewhere and devaluing seems to be the easiest way to make that happen.

So, to summarize everything in brief:

- If you need to redeem Aeroplan, redeeming for business class flight will provide the best value and I doubt you will getter better value than now even after the transfer to the new program.

- Keep using your Aeroplan credit cards as usual.

- Keep an eye out for more credit cards with mega bonuses and possibly better reward structure and benefits in the future.

If you are interested to learn more about Aeroplan, watch my Aeroplan videos here:

Aeroplan 101 - Tips, Tricks, & the Basics