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Best miles to earn? Alaska & Southwest say the experts in 2013

by on Tue July 9, 2013 • No Comment

Most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to miles and points until it’s too late – when we’re ready to book a vacation and the miles we’ve earned don’t have seats to when and where we want to go.

But there is a vocal group of frequent flyers who studies miles night and day (we admit to something similar), and they hang out at They had a chance to vote on the mileage programs they think are most satisfying (which is code for easy to use for valuable award travel) via

The results? A little surprising if you’re not in the know.

SatisfiedNot Satisfied
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan91%9%
Southwest Rapid Rewards83%17%
American Airlines Aadvantage79%21%
JetBlue TrueBlue78%22%
United MileagePlus78%22%
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles74%26%
US Airways Dividend Miles55%45%
Delta SkyMiles33%67%

#1 – Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.


Well it’s certainly not because they’re all flying Alaska Airlines. It’s because Alaska’s miles are some of the most flexible around – you can earn and use them on American *and* Delta, which is more mileage earning options in the U.S. than anyone, as well as a bunch of cool international partners like Qantas and Emirates.

#2 – Southwest Airlines.

It ranked high, but not for the reason you think.

Yes, Southwest is the largest domestic carrier – and its miles are really easy to use. But frequent flyer geeks want more than just easy to use miles – they want exceptional value. On the surface Southwest miles are kind of bland. The number of miles needed for a ticket goes up along with the cash price of a ticket, so every point is worth about 1.7 cents.

But savvy mile collectors are exploiting something called the Companion Pass.

If you earn 110,000 ‘Companion Pass Qualifying Miles’ in a calendar year you are the holder of a Companion Pass through the next calendar year. That means you can fly any companion you designate for free on every Southwest flight you take. That includes tickets you buy with miles.

So with a Companion Pass your miles go from being worth 1.7 cents each to nearly 4 cents each (since everything is 2 for the price of 1). That’s the kind of value no cash back credit card can beat, and why savvy flyers gun for this.

How do they get the Companion Pass?

Like Alaska, most of this isn’t from flying Southwest. You see, all of the points you earn from the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards count toward Companion Pass. And a few times a year, Chase offers a 50,000 point bonus for signing up for the cards. So people sign up for 2 separate versions of the card, get 50,000 points twice, and voila, get a quick 100,000 points toward Companion Pass status.

You can only do this once or twice, since Chase won’t give a bonus more than once for a particular card. But it’s enough to keep frequent flyer gamers engaged for now.

We post the 50,000 point Southwest offer whenever it’s active at this link

#3 and beyond – Stick with United / American

Hard to go wrong with United or American as all purpose mileage programs that are easy to earn miles via both flying and credit card bonus offers. They are still our top recommendations for global travel. Savvy flyers love their ability to use the miles to get in the really, really big first class seat on international flights. And the availability of those free seats is pretty good for both.

Just steer clear of Delta, which year in and year out gets low marks for availability, both in surveys and studies of actual reward data.


The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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