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.

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

Companion Flies to Hawaii only for $121 |Cheap Flight to Hawaii

Alaska Airlines MBNA World Elite MasterCard Annual Fee Goes Up

Alaska Airlines recently increased its World Elite MasterCard and Platinum Plus MasterCard annual fees to $75 and $99. However, these cards still provide a lot more value than their annual fees.

These cards come with a bonus 20,000 and 30,000 Mileage Plan miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months. 30,000 miles are good enough to fly one-way business class (for example, Vancouver to New York) short distance or one-way economy class long distance (for example, Toronto to Iceland) on Alaska Airlines partner members.

And then Alaska Airlines MBNA World Elite and Platinum Plus MasterCard let your companion fly for $121 US only when you pay full fare for yourself.

You can fly anywhere Alaska Airlines flies and one popular destination is Hawaii, which could cost around $1000 to $1200 for your companion. The only drawback is that companion fare can be used only on Alaska Airlines and they serve only Western Canadian cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver, and Victoria.

Fly Companion to Hawaii for $121 | Alaska Airlines

Companion fare can easily pay off the cost of the annual fees for these cards: $75 and $99 for Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus & World Elite Mastercard every year.

In the first year, you will have to meet the minimum $1000 spent requirement within the first three months and then the companion fare will be awarded to the primary account holder’s Mileage Plan account after two billing cycles.

Starting the 2nd year, companion fare will be awarded after the anniversary date + within 2 billing cycles.

The anniversary date is not the date when you opened your account, but when you opened the account + an additional 6 to 8 weeks.

As you can see, these two Alaska Airlines cards still provide value if you use them tactically.

Redeem Aeroplan or Hold On It To As Aeroplan & Porter Form Partnership

Aeroplan, Air Canada, Oneworld, & Porter Airlines

Loyalty Program Aeroplan had a few runs in the news again for some recent developments. We heard about the failed unsolicited $250 million hostile bid where Air Canada partnered with 3 other financial institutions—TD Bank, CIBC Bank, and Visa —and attempted to purchase Aeroplan.

Also, more news broke out that Aeroplan and Toronto-based airline Porter formed a partnership that will make Porter Airlines a preferred Canadian partner for the Aeroplan loyalty points program and let Aeroplan members earn and redeem miles on Porter flights starting July 2020.

July 2020 is also the deadline when Air Canada splits from Aeroplan.

And then there was the news that Aeroplan is in talks with another alliance, Oneworld, to form a partnership. Oneworld is an alliance of 13 of the world's leading airlines (+ other affiliate partners) and has partners such as American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Canadian Airlines, etc.

Currently, Aeroplan is a part of Star Alliance through Air Canada, which will end in 2020.

After absorbing all these developments, readers may naturally ask whether they should redeem Aeroplan now or hold on to it to redeem later? I will answer these questions in a video I just published.

Aeroplan Partners with Porter Airlines | Redeem Aeroplan Now or Wait?