The top 9 US airline rewards programs where it's easiest to earn a free round-trip flight

Jet blue terminal jfk travel girl airlinesMario Tama / GettyTime for an upgrade.

Air travel can be pricey.

But rest assured, you don’t have to be a world-class travel hacker with dozens of credit cards to save money on flights.

In fact, most of America’s biggest airlines offer perk-filled frequent flyer programs for the average spender. It’s just a matter of finding the one that will meet your needs — and will reward you with some freebies along the way.

U.S. News & World Report recently released their annual ranking of the best airline rewards programs for everyday travellers, based largely on the ease of earning and redeeming free round-trip flights through miles and points.

To compile its list, U.S. News looked at nine frequent flyer programs offered by US-based airlines. U.S. News also factored in the breadth and diversity of flight routes, award flight availability, and additional benefits, like free checked bags or upgrades, for basic members of each program.

They also considered the number of daily flights and the airline’s quality rating, though these metrics held the least weight in calculating the final ranking. You can read U.S. News’ full methodology here.

The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan landed the No. 1 spot on the list. Members of the program can earn miles to redeem free flights by flying on a number of carriers, including American Airlines, Virgin, British Airways, and Emirates. Members also have the option of redeeming points by staying with 10 hotel partners, including Best Western, Marriott, and Hilton.

Below, check out the rest of the top nine travel rewards programs for 2017 (for detailed information on each program, follow the links back to U.S. News):

1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

  • Overall score: 4.49
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 4.7
  • Network coverage score: 4.7
  • Additional benefits score: 5

2. Delta SkyMiles

  • Overall score: 4.19
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 3.8
  • Network coverage score: 4.6
  • Additional benefits score: 5

3. JetBlue TrueBlue

  • Overall score: 4.12
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 4.5
  • Network coverage score: 3
  • Additional benefits score: 5

4. Southwest Rapid Rewards

  • Overall score: 3.96
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 4.5
  • Network coverage score: 2
  • Additional benefits score: 3.8

5. United MileagePlus

  • Overall score: 3.87
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 3.1
  • Network coverage score: 4.9
  • Additional benefits score: 5

6. American Airlines AAdvantage

  • Overall score: 3.84
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 3.4
  • Network coverage score: 4.5
  • Additional benefits score: 5

7. HawaiianMiles

  • Overall score: 3.4
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 3
  • Network coverage score: 2.5
  • Additional benefits score: 5

8. Frontier EarlyReturns

  • Overall score: 3.05
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 4.4
  • Network coverage score: 1.3
  • Additional benefits score: 2.8


  • Overall score: 1.76
  • Ease of earning a free flight score: 2.2
  • Network coverage score: 0.7
  • Additional benefits score: 1.5

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