MONEY ranked the frequent flier programs at the nine biggest airlines based on overall customer satisfaction; ease of earning points and exchanging them for an upgrade; and cancellation fees.
While frequent-flier programs usually favor globetrotting business travelers, JetBlue’s program is a rare good deal for leisure travelers. You need just 15,000 points to earn elite status—the lowest threshold in the industry. What’s more, family pooling allows you to collect your points with your spouse’s and your kids’, an unusual perk that helps the points add up faster. Elite status will get you two free checked bags, expedited security, and complimentary spirits on long flights.
Alaska Airlines is one of the few carriers that still lets you earn points based on miles flown, not dollars spent. That’s a big plus for leisure travelers, who don’t often pay the full business class or even coach fare, explains Saglie of Travelzoo. You’ll need just 12,500 points to earn a free one-way flight, and 20,000 points for elite status and its priority boarding, second free checked bag, and more.
tip: Leave on Wednesday
The secret to saving on airfares: Fly when others don’t. On average, seven-day trips starting on Wednesdays are 15% cheaper than seven-day trips that start on Sundays, according to data from Fareness.com, a site that helps people find dates with the lowest fares. Flying on an “off-peak” week—away from big holidays—you can often cut your fare by 30% to 50%, says Fareness.com founder Scott Wainner.