Which Airline Rewards Programs Really Worth It?

If you have ever booked a flight, then you are probably prompted to create an account and collect miles or points for your trip. The real question is, are these programs worth our information and time? Here is a breakdown of three of the most popular U.S. airline reward programs and what benefits you can receive as a member.

American Airlines AAdvantage

This program is mostly beneficial to those who live in larger cities. Your miles are worth around $1.26 each which makes them one of the lowest values on this list. As a basic member, you earn five miles for every $1 you spend when booking American Airlines flights.

Like many programs, American Airlines offers exclusive benefits to members who have one of their branded credit cards such as

Miles can also be earned through partner airlines such as Alaska Airlines and British Airways. They can be redeemed for air travel, hotels, car rentals, and even gift cards. These points can expire if you do not use them. One negative of this program is that it is based on how much money you spend as opposed to how many miles you fly.  American Airlines has five different tiers that you can reach. AAdvantage Gold is the you can first start collecting additional points.

  • AAdvantage Gold begins after spending $3,000 or earning 25,000 EQMs per year. You begin to earn seven miles per dollar spent and receive one checked bag for free. Priority boarding, cabin upgrades, and expedited security are additional benefits. 
  • AAdvantage Platinum is for those who have spent over $6,000 or earned 50,000 EQMs. This tier has all of the benefits of Gold with the added benefits of expedited security and lounge access with one guest.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro has minimum requirements of $9,000 or 75,000 EQMs in a year. All of the benefits previously mentioned are available in addition to same-day flight changes or auto-requested upgrades.
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum is obtainable after reaching $15,000 spent or accumulating 100,000 EQMs. In addition to the benefits of Platinum Pro, you also begin to earn 11 points per dollar. You also receive access to first-class lounges, and three complimentary bags. You will receive free snacks and an alcoholic beverage in the main cabin.
  • ConciergeKey is an invite only tier for those who are the airlines most prestigious members. Members receive entry to first-class lounges for them and their family or two guests as well as the rest of the benefits for other tiers. There is a dedicated service line, and it also allows you to join the World of Hyatt rewards program.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta is another program that has over twenty partner airlines. Every mile is equivalent to around $1.32 each and you earn a minimum of five miles for every $1 you spend on Delta flights as a general member. They also have credit cards that help you earn miles as you shop.

Miles never expire, and you can even earn miles through Lyft and Airbnb. Points can be used on flights, upgrades, car rentals, and hotel stays. Delta has six different levels of their membership program. Similar to the other programs, the first tier allows you to additional miles on the flights you book. 

  • Silver Medallion is obtained at 25,000 MQMs and $3,000 spent. You and up to eight guests can check their bags for free. You also receive priority boarding and free cabin upgrades. Members can get a CLEAR membership at a discounted rate as well. This tier earns 7 miles per dollar spent on flights.
  • Gold Medallion requires 50,000 MQMs and $6,000 spent to achieve this tier. All benefits of Silver are available as well as expedited baggage service, priority security access, and free access to SkyTeam lounges. This tier earns 8 miles per dollar spent on flights.
  • Platinum Medallion after 75,000 and $9,000 spent, the Platinum Medallion offers all previous benefits and offers a gift card, mileage, domestic upgrade certificates or gifting Silver status to a friend or family member. Free upgrade to Delta Comfort+ seats shortly after booking.  This tier earns 9 miles per dollar spent on flights.
  • Diamond Medallion tier has a minimum of 125,000 MQMs and $15,000 spent. You can pick a welcome gift ranging from bonus miles, international upgrades, Skyclub membership, or gift Gold status to a friend or family member. Free upgrade to Delta Comfort+ seats shortly after booking. At this level, you receive CLEAR for free.  This tier earns 11 miles per dollar spent on flights.
  • Delta 360 this final tier is invite only. Members at this level receive a number of benefits such as transfers with Porsche Tarmacs, premium bottles of champagne, and the best agents Delta offers.


United MileagePlus

United Airlines has the lowest dollar rate per mile at $1.21. Basic membership allows you turn earn at least five miles for every dollar you spend on United flights. The airline also has two cards which allow you to earn more miles.

United Airlines has six different levels of membership. The first level allows you to earn additional miles over the basic membership. At this point you can also sign up for a CLEAR membership at a discounted rate.

  • Premier Silver at 25,000 PQMs and $3,000 spent on airfare. The Premier Silver tier allows you to check one bag for free, enjoy priority boarding, free cabin upgrades if available, and an expedited security route. 
  • Premier Gold requires you to earn 50,000 PQMs and spend $6,000. In addition to the benefits offered for Silver. The number of free bags you can check goes up to two and you have access to United Club lounges.
  • Premier Platinum is obtainable at 75,000 PQMs and after you spend $9,000. In addition to all of the benefits from previous tiers, you earn up to nine miles per dollar spent. You also can book free Economy Plus seating for up to eight people.
  • Premier 1K which begins once you earn 100,00 PQMs and spend $15,000. Additional benefits allow you to upgrade up to 96 hours in advance, and a dedicated line for reservations. A CLEAR membership is also part of the benefits.
  • United Global Services is another invite only program that gives you all previous benefits, and you also receive the highest status on upgrades and standby lists.

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