Best Airline and Hotel Rewards Programs of 2024

Alaska Airlines and Hyatt each lead the way in airline and hotel loyalty programs for another year.
Sally French
Sam Kemmis
By Sam Kemmis and  Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Big airline and hotel brands want your loyalty, which is why each has its own distinctive program that rewards you (the traveler) with its version of reward currency (points, miles). Yet understanding how even a single one of these programs — never mind several — actually work and compare with one another takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.

That’s where we come in.

NerdWallet’s editorial travel team spent months collecting data, analyzing the fine print and generally nerding out to determine not only the best travel loyalty programs, but also the best airline and best hotel of 2024. Check out all of our Best-Of winners.

How we picked the best travel rewards programs

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our travel loyalty program rankings. If you’re just starting to collect points or miles, you may want to know what program will give you the best return on your investment. On the other hand, frequent travelers chasing a higher status may want to know what program makes earning most effortless.

With this in mind, we prioritized elements of rewards programs that offer clear, objective and measurable benefits. Then, we boiled these elements into a single overall rating across airlines and hotels.

Here’s what we compared:

Airline rewards

Hotel rewards

We rated each hotel brand and airline in each of the two categories on a five-point scale, then used a weighted average of these ratings to determine an overall winner. Use the links above to learn more about how we built these ratings.

Best airline rewards program

Winner: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

For travelers who only care about earning miles and elite status, Alaska’s Mileage Plan crushes the rankings.

Because Alaska still rewards miles based on distance flown rather than the amount spent, and because it hasn’t muddied the earning qualifications for its elite status programs as some others have over the past two years, Alaska offers the best value per dollar spent for frequent flyers.

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Alaska Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each.

Hawaiian Airlines’ HawaiianMiles, including its Pualani elite program, took second place among airline rewards programs because of its modest spending requirements and valuable rewards.

American Airlines beats out the other legacy carriers (namely Delta and United) by a strong margin.

Finding Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines at the bottom of these rankings is unsurprising, given how these airlines prioritize low fares and other benefits over elite status membership.

But seeing Delta Air Lines near the bottom might be surprising for anyone who hasn’t followed its elite status devaluation meltdown. Because Delta’s elite status levels are so costly to earn, they are effectively worth less.

Best hotel rewards program

Winner: World of Hyatt

Focusing only on the value of hotel points and elite status perks puts the World of Hyatt in first place among hotel loyalty programs. Point value and status benefits are the two categories where Hyatt excels, putting a wide range between itself and the second-place Choice.

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 2.3 cents each, far more than any other hotel program.

Best Western finds itself in last place, which makes sense as it's a budget-conscious hotel brand.

The mega programs of Marriott, IHG and Hilton are muddling in the lower half. Since many frequent travelers chose between these large programs, seeing them score so poorly is interesting.

Save money by booking with points and miles

Points and miles can be redeemed for award flights or stays within these top travel rewards programs. But before you start using points and miles, you have to earn them.

Beyond flying or booking hotel stays, another way to amass a large number of travel rewards is to earn a sign-up bonus for a travel credit card.

Credit cards from top travel rewards programs
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Bank of America's website

World Of Hyatt Credit Card
World of Hyatt Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Choice Privileges Mastercard
Choice Privileges® Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Wells Fargo's website

Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual Fee
$95
$95
$0
$95
Horizontal scroll

If you seek more flexibility in redeeming miles for award flights, consider applying for a more general travel credit card instead. A more general travel credit card differs from an airline card in that you can book flights with multiple carriers, rather than reaping the benefits of staying loyal to a single brand.

The more high-end the travel credit card, the more benefits you can enjoy, including lounge access or automatic elite status in certain programs.

That said, a brand-specific airline or hotel card can net you benefits like waived baggage fees or free breakfast, which can have meaningful dollar value.

The bottom line

Alaska Airlines is one of the few airlines left that still rewards miles based on distance flown versus amount spent, making it one of the reasons it is the best airline rewards program of 2024.

World of Hyatt has been at the top for several years now, unsurprisingly, because of the high cent-per-point value and elite benefits.

No matter which airline or hotel status you choose to chase, it’s important not to let your points and miles pile up.

Methodology

Read our editorial guidelines for additional information.

Best Airline Rewards Program

How we picked the programs to evaluate

For an airline to be eligible, it had to be based in the U.S. and have a publicly available rewards search calendar with availability from 15 days to eight months from the time of search.

Nine airlines fit these criteria: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United. No other U.S.-based airlines met these criteria.

How we chose the winner

We looked at the rewards rate and elite rewards rate. We rated each of these factors separately, then determined an overall rating based on the weighting described below.

How we rated and weighted each factor:

  • Rewards rate (57.1%). We determined the dollar value of each program’s rewards miles and the earnings rate of miles. To determine the rewards rate, we multiplied the value of each mile by the earnings rate, then multiplied by 100. For example, if an airline’s rewards miles were worth $0.01 apiece (the value of rewards miles) and 10 miles were earned per dollar spent (the earnings rate of miles), its program would have a 10% rewards rate. (In this example, the two equations would be: $0.01 x 10 = 0.1, then 0.1 x 100 = 10, or 10%.)

  • Elite rewards rate (42.9%). We determined (a) the value and (b) the cost of earning elite status with each program, and determined an overall value by dividing (a) by (b). 

How we assigned star ratings

For each factor, we subtracted the lowest value from the highest value to determine the range. Then, we split this range into five separate “star rating” ranges. We assigned each airline program an appropriate star rating based on where its value fell in the range.

How we verified our data

We independently spot-checked data collected to ensure accuracy. Information about loyalty programs was verified on the airlines’ websites.

Best Hotel Rewards Program

How we picked the programs to evaluate

To be eligible, a hotel brand had to have properties in the majority of states in the U.S. and offer a loyalty program with a publicly available rewards search calendar. Rewards booking availability from 15 days to eight months from the time of search was also required.

Seven hotel brands met these requirements: Best Western, Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott and Wyndham.

How we chose the winner

We compared the rewards rate and the value of the elite status program. We rated each of these factors separately, then determined an overall rating based on the weighting described below.

How we rated and weighted each factor:

  • Rewards rate (53.8%). We determined the dollar value of each program’s rewards points and the earnings rate of points. To determine the rewards rate, we multiplied the value of each point by the earnings rate, then multiplied by 100. For example, if a hotel’s rewards points were worth $0.01 apiece (the value of rewards points) and 10 points were earned per dollar spent (the earnings rate of points), its program would have a 10% rewards rate. (In this example, the two equations would be: $0.01 x 10 = 0.1, then 0.1 x 100 = 10, or 10%.)

  • Elite status value rate (46.2%). We determined (a) the value and (b) the cost of earning elite status with each program, and determined an overall value by dividing (a) by (b). 

How we assigned star ratings

For each factor, we subtracted the lowest value among all programs from the highest value among all programs to determine the range. Then, we split this range into five separate “star rating” ranges. We assigned each hotel program an appropriate star rating based on where its value fell in the range.

How we verified our data

We independently spot-checked data collected to ensure accuracy. Information about loyalty programs was verified on the hotels’ websites.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
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