There are many airline, hotel and car rental mileage and loyalty programs out there, but which ones are the best? Here are the top picks of 2014 according to the well-traveled readers of Flyertalk.com.
For the survey, thousands of registered FlyerTalk members were asked to nominate their favorite travel rewards programs in four main categories: best overall rewards programs, best travel reward program benefit (Americas), best travel reward program benefit (Europe/Africa), and best travel reward program benefit (Middle East/Asia/Oceania). All categories included best overall airline, hotel and rental car programs, in addition to best specific program benefits.
Best overall rewards programs
In the domestic category, American Airlines AAdvantage won the top airline affinity program in the Americas, with United Airlines coming in second place.
The Starwood Preferred Guest program beat out Hilton HHonors for the top in hotel category. And Hertz Gold Plus Rewards took the rental car honors.
In the Europe/Africa category, best overall rewards program went to British Airways Executive Club.
Also in this category, Starwood Preferred Guest took top hotel and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards earned best rental car.
In the Middle East/Asia/Oceania region, India’s Jet Airways JetPrivilege won best airline affinity program, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces’ InnerCircle took top hotel honors, and in the rental car category, Hertz swept all three regions with its Gold Plus Rewards.
Best travel reward program benefit (Americas)
Regarding specific program benefits, FlyerTalk’s readers voted the most for American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum member upgrades, which gives members eight free one-way upgrades once they qualify or requalify for elite status.
In the hotel benefit race, Marriott Rewards members showed the most love, specifically for the Concierge Lounge service, which offers free food and drink and a dedicated concierge in U.S. lounges.
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards’ Gold service won again in the rental car benefit category. Actually a package of upgrades, Gold service offers members faster reservations, a speedy vehicle pick up process and VIP treatment.
Best travel reward program benefit (Europe/Africa)
For best program benefits in Europe and Africa, British Airways Executive Club members voted Avios upgrades to the top spot. British Airways uses distance-based award charts, which allows travelers to trade in fewer miles (called Avios at the airline) for short trips.
Best hotel benefit in Europe/Africa went to Hilton HHonors Executive lounge access, where the unique, one-of-a-kind lounges offer free food and beverages.
Best rental car benefits again went to Hertz Gold Plus Rewards for giving members points toward free rentals or exchange for other programs’ miles or points.
Best travel reward program benefit (Middle East/Asia/Oceania)
Best travel benefits in the Middle East/Asia/Oceania include Jet Airways JetPrivilege program, which allows members to pay cash for domestic award ticket upgrades. Best hotel benefits went to Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces’ InnerCircle’s for their room upgrades. FlyerTalk members didn’t nominate any car rental benefits in this region.