Skift Take

Contrary to the definition of "loyalty," navigating loyalty programs has become an ever-moving game.

A new study from Card Hub, a credit card search and comparison tool, says that JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty program may be the best value frequent travelers.

The airline tabulated 23 metrics including the number of daily flights, the number of destinations served and the ease of achieving elite status in order to arrive at the solution, then projected scenarios for light, average and frequent flyers. JetBlue scored an arbitrary 65.53 points for frequent (spending roughly $5,743 annually on airline travel) flyers, above Delta (60.99), Virgin America (57.94) and Alaska (55.99). The worst carrier for frequent flyers based on this study was Frontier at 27.68.


For light and average flyers (both spending less than $3,105 annually on air travel), Card Hub suggested that the SkyMiles program from Delta Air Lines is the best bet.

One of the factors that carried the most weight throughout this study (and that is perhaps most debatable) was the Rewards Value Per $100 Spent metric. That score was calculated by taking the profile of a light, average or frequent flyer, projecting the number of miles that passenger would earn each year and then extracting a returned value for each $100 spent with the airline.

According to the study, the airlines with the highest Rewards Values for frequent flyers were Alaska Airlines ($14.85), Virgin America ($14.35) and JetBlue ($14.15). To reach that returned value, however, several generalizations about ticket price and award value needed to be made — after all, passengers earn miles by spend on some airlines and by distance flown on others.

Rewards Value Per $100 Spent accounted for 20% of the weight of the study, while complimentary upgrades accounted for 1%, priority check-in/security/boarding accounted for 1% and free checked checked bags counted for 1.5%.

The three largest factors past Rewards Value were number of daily flights, whether miles have an expiration date and whether awards have blackout dates. Each of those values accounted for 7% of the study’s weight and largely pushed Delta Air Lines to the top of the charts.

Interestingly, Card Hub also included a personalized recommendation tool for passengers to calculate their own best airline match. In line with the projections from the report, the tool suggests that for those spending between $0 and $4,999 on airline travel each year, Delta is the best carrier. At $5,000 and up to $5,999 JetBlue slightly edges out Delta for the top spot. For spend $6,000 or above though, Delta once more takes the lead.

More insight into the study’s complicated methodology and the personalized recommendation tool can be found over on Card Hub’s landing page.


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Tags: frequent flyer programs, loyalty

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