Traveling has been getting easier and easier, as bank card operators have been working in association with airlines to bring clients more and more mileage benefits.
Well, we couldn’t be happier! But, faced with so many options, it may be hard even to pick the best program. Considering all that, I have decided to go after the five biggest North American airline companies to understand how each of their reward program works.
Their program, AAdvantage, offers mileage that can be used to fly with American Airlines or with other participating airlines. According to AA, members can use their miles to fly to over 1,000 destinations worldwide, do upgrades, buy vacation packages, rent cars and stay in hotels.
Do you want to know more about that? Well, that’s precisely why I’m here. In the flight awards, members can use their AAnytime® Awards, and can choose where to go first with no blackout dates, and if there’s an available seat, they can book that by redeeming their points.
This is the title they give members who get an upgrade. That’s right! Those who don’t need any more upgrades and that take part in the VIP rooms on the airplane.
Stay calm! I can explain that. EQMs and EQSs are miles or segments you earn when you get a flight ticket with American Airlines or with partner airlines.
According to them, you must fly at least four segments on American Airlines or American Eagle so you qualify for Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold.
Each Category, Several Benefits
As I said before, in the Elite category you’ll find Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum statuses.
The advantages for Gold: complimentary unlimited automatic upgrades on flights 500 miles or less (with a 24-hour upgrade period), 25% elite mileage bonus and 50% off Main Cabin Extra seats. Complimentary access to Preferred seats and 1 free checked bag.
As for Platinum, upgrades are complimentary, unlimited and automatic on flights 500 miles or less. And the upgrade period is 72 hours. Besides that, they also offer 100% elite mileage bonus, free access to Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, plus two free checked bags.
Last, but not least, the best of the three, the Executive Platinum: you are entitled to four upgrades (one-way or roundtrip), and the ability to earn 4 more for a total of 8 upgrades yearly. Upgrades are complimentary, unlimited and automatic, and are valid for 100 hours.
Plus, they also offer 100% elite mileage bonus, free access to Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats and three free checked bags.
If you’re looking into traveling with Virgin, their reward program is called Elevate. As far as I can tell, things are as simple as they can get here. You should accumulate as many points as possible, either through your credit card or using the service of their partners, so this way you can go an extra mile.
And the best part is that, according to Virgin, your points don’t ever expire! All you gotta do is remain active on the reward program. Which means that when you make a purchase or travel and activate your points at least one time in a period of 18 months (that’s right!), your miles remain beautifully available for a great opportunity to be used.
At Virgin, the more points you get, the more chances for a status upgrade.
Here’s how it works: in order to reach Elevate Silver status you must earn 20,000 status points in a one-year period. Now, if your goal is Elevate Gold, you’ll need to earn 50,000 status points in a one-year period too.
At United Airlines, the third airline I have checked, I found their program called MileagePlus. And just like most of the programs, you accumulate points through flights, partner airlines, hotel stays, car rentals and purchases in partner stores.
I have to admit that I haven’t really found anything very relevant about their reward program. Naturally, they offer upgrades. And in it, they offer checking your baggage for free, extra comfort and room seating, premier access to check in and to security screening, priority boarding and baggage handling. Plus, complimentary alcoholic beverages.
All that’s amazing, but nothing new when it comes to what the other airlines have to offer.
Besides, the members can upgrade their statuses yearly, combining miles or routes with their annual expenses to enjoy additional benefits in the airport or on board.
Experience Beyond Traveling
The best thing about the program is the Skymiles Experience. Your miles are turned into tickets for amazing experiences, exclusive merchandise and VIP access to events.
Some of them are: first row seats at sporting and cultural events, resort stays and even the unique opportunity to meet celebrities. But pay attention: the SkyMiles Experience must be used within the 50 states and the District of Columbia with U.S. addresses. Plus, the merchandise can only be shipped within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The airline offers True Blue, a program in which, among their main benefits, makes the use of your points available anywhere, anytime and gives you the chance of getting at least 6 points per eligible dollar when you book a flight on the airline website.
Plus, the program is quite fun: you can use different badges for each category in which you are. And, according to their system, you always get new badges.
For instance: get 5,000 points when you purchase and fly 3 roundtrip flights in a one-year period. Get 7,000 points when you purchase and fly 7 roundtrip flights in a one-year period. And that’s not all: you can get 10,000 points when you purchase and fly 10 one-way JetBlue flights in the same year. (okay, this last one is quite extravagant, but you could always travel to the same destination on business!)
Your Family Gets More Points
Known as “family pooling”, it’s a great way to get some benefits by taking the family together and getting even more points. Besides, you can always collect more points for your family account.
It’s good to know that a family is accounted for up to two adults with five children. There should be, at least, two people in the program. The head of the family is going to be in charge of managing the points in the account.
When the invitation for Pooling is accepted, each member will start off by selecting the number of points they want to contribute with beforehand (free-tax transfers) and the percentage of points they’ll contribute with continually per transaction.
All airlines will have some advantage (naturally), but I admit I was quite interested in the frequent flyer programs that American Airlines and Delta offer. American Airlines’ upgrade system seems to be quite professional and thorough.
Now, Delta’s experience service shows that their reward program can go so much further than just a free flight.
Anyways, it’s really worthwhile contacting each airline and thinking benefits and your objectives through so you can make the best choice.