Top 10 best frequent flyer programs to join in 2022

Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today: Top 10 best frequent flyer programs to join in 2022

Frequent flyer programs are used by many airlines to foster a sense of loyalty among passengers, who can earn points or miles that are redeemable for free flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals or shopping. Everybody should participate in these programs as they can save you money by traveling (almost for) free as well as offer you many other perks (signing up is free of charge and a no-brainer). Unfortunately, the last couple of years, frequent flyer programs in the USA took a turn for the worse, with the three largest programs going revenue based, meaning that miles are awarded based on the members’ spend rather than according to the number of miles traveled. The rest of the world quickly followed with several European and Asian loyalty programs becoming revenue based as well.

If you plan on traveling often this year, then it’s time to choose a frequent flyer program. To help you, I have compiled a list of my own 10 favorite loyalty programs in the world, although the one that fits you best will depend on your own travel behavior, your location, your credit card spending, and your expectations (e.g. loyalty benefits, easy award bookings, or number of airline partners).

There is more information below the slideshow. What’s your favorite frequent flyer program? Take my poll or leave a comment below.

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Created in 1981 as the ‘Delta Air Lines Frequent Flyer Program’, its name was changed to SkyMiles in 1995. The program is convenient for frequent flyers that live close to the Delta hubs of Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York City. Although Delta offers one of the best and most consistent inflight products of all USA airlines, its frequent flyer program is not in the same league as Delta continuously introduces surprise changes and unannounced devaluations that leave its loyal frequent flyers baffled. Delta was also the first airline in the world to introduce a revenue based program in 2015 (although others quickly followed).

  • Website: SkyMiles
  • Alliance program: SkyTeam
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments per calendar year (and $3,000 minimum annual spending level for USA residents).
  • What I like about the program: Miles don’t expire; you can earn elite status without ever flying (by spending big with a Delta branded credit card); and top-tier elite members get upgrade certificates and 25,000 bonus miles.
  • What I don’t like about the program: The program is very complicated; it costs more SkyMiles to fly partner carriers rather than Delta on routes originating from the USA; and Delta does not publish an award chart of how many miles it will cost you to fly to a particular destination with your SkyMiles.
  • Review: read my review of SkyMiles here.


Miles&More is the frequent flyer program used by the airlines of the Lufthansa group (Lufthansa, SWISS, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Eurowings) as well as by a few other carriers such as LOT Polish Airlines, Adria Airways, Croatia Airlines, Luxair, and Condor. The program was launched in 1993 and is now the largest frequent flyer loyalty scheme in Europe with more than 30 million members. Passengers earn miles on all Star Alliance airlines as well as several other airlines and non-airline partners. The program has introduced several devaluations over the past years (hence why it is often nicknamed More&Less). The program will get a complete makeover later this year.

  • Website: Miles&More
  • Alliance program: Star Alliance
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 35,000 status miles or 30 scheduled flights in one calendar year.
  • What I like the most about the program: Availability for award redemptions on airlines of the Lufthansa group is generally very good (often four Business Class tickets per cabin); frequent flyer elite status remains two years valid; and the program regularly launches mileage bargains where you can book award tickets at half the number of miles normally required for the trip.
  • What I don’t like about the program: The program became revenue based in 2020 and First Class award tickets on the Lufthansa Group’s premium airline – SWISS – are only available to its top elite members.
  • Review: read my review of Miles&More here.


When KLM and Air France merged in 2005, their frequent flyer programs (Fréquence Plus and Flying Dutchman) were merged into a new loyalty program called Flying Blue. Most airlines within the Air France-KLM family now use Flying Blue, including Kenya Airways (in which KLM is a major shareholder), Aircalin and Tarom. More than 100,000 new members sign up for Flying Blue each month, making it one of the most popular loyalty programs in the world. Unfortunately, Flying Blue became a revenue-based program in 2018 and has lost a lot of its value since then.

  • Website: Flying Blue
  • Alliance program: SkyTeam
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 100 XP (‘experience points) per 12 months
  • What I like about the program? Award availability on KLM and Air France is usually great; Flying Blue offers the best tool for finding SkyTeam award seats, and new promo awards are launched every month, which are discounted award tickets that save you up to 50% on Award Miles.
  • What I don’t like about the program? Only elite members of the Flying Blue program can redeem miles for Air France La Premiere (First Class), which is one of the world’s greatest First Class products.
  • Review: read my review of the Flying Blue program here.


Following the 2011 merger agreement between United Airlines and Continental Airlines, United Mileage Plus was chosen to be the frequent flyer program for the combined airline. The program was subsequently renamed to MileagePlus, and maintained its relationship with its Star Alliance partners, as well as other airline and travel enterprise agreements. Following the merger, several controversial changes were introduced to the program, such as the reduction in bonus miles for elite members, and the introduction of a revenue based model in 2015, making it a less attractive option for frequent flyers.

  • Website: Mileage Plus
  • Alliance program: Star Alliance
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments per calendar year (and $3,000 minimum annual spending level for USA residents).
  • What I like about the program: United and its Star Alliance partner airlines fly to more than 1,100 destinations worldwide; you can earn and redeem miles on dozens of participating airlines; and top-tier elite members get six upgrades each year.
  • What I don’t like about the program: The program is revenue based with rules that make it very complex; the number of seats available on United for award travel is limited; and miles expire after 18 months of account inactivity.


Turkish Airlines, with its main hub at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, is the flag carrier of Turkey and the world’s fourth-biggest airline in the world, flying to more international destinations than any other carrier. Turkish Airlines calls its frequent flyer program Miles&Smiles, offering its members many advantages, such as award tickets, cabin upgrades and extra baggage allowance. As long as you choose to fly with Turkish Airlines and to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the Miles&Smiles program partners, you can collect miles to spend as you wish and to make your life a little easier.

  • Website: Miles&Smiles
  • Alliance program: Star Alliance
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 25,000 qualifying miles per 12 months.
  • What I like about the program: The program is straightforward and easy to use (with one award chart for all airlines); elite members have access to a family miles pooling program; companion awards are offered at 30% off; frequent flyer elite status remains two years valid; the region-based award chart is the best in the Star Alliance group; and Miles & Smiles has been routinely offering status matches.
  • What I don’t like about the program: There are significant fuel surcharges on Turkish Airlines and most airline partners; and the award ticket booking process can be a frustrating ordeal when you have to call the Turkish Airline call center.


Avianca is the largest airline in Colombia and second largest in Latin America. Launched in 1919, when it was initially registered under the name SCADTA, it’s also one of the oldest airlines in the world. The frequent flyer program of Avianca is LifeMiles and its members earn miles every time they fly with Star Alliance carriers and Avianca subsidiaries or use service in some hotels, retails, car rental and credit card partners. The program was first introduced in 2012, and while it has slightly devaluated since then, it’s still a favorite among points and miles enthusiasts and I consider LifeMiles to be the best Star Alliance frequent flyer program.

  • Website: LifeMiles
  • Alliance program: Star Alliance
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 22,000 qualifying miles on Avianca and/or Star Alliance airline partners in a calendar year.
  • What I like about the program: The program is easy to use; the entry-level for elite status is one of the lowest of all airlines; you can also book award tickets on non-Star Alliance partner Iberia; you can redeem miles and cash to cover an award flight if you don’t have enough miles; LifeMiles don’t charge fuel surcharges on awards, no matter what airline you’re flying (although a $25 USD booking fee applies for Star Alliance Award tickets); and you can redeem all award tickets using or LifeMiles App (iOS/Android) to travel on Avianca, Star Alliance and other travel partners as Iberia and Aeromexico
  • What I don’t like about the program: LifeMiles does not always have access to Lufthansa First Class availability; and miles expire after 12 months of account inactivity.


SkyPass – which uses the motto ‘Beyond your Imagination’ – is the frequent flyer program of Korean Air, the flag carrier of South Korea. It’s probably one of the most underrated frequent flyer programs in the world. If you tend to fly with Korean Air often, you definitely have to take some time to look into this program and its many benefits. Even when you don’t fly Korean Air a lot but your preference is flying airlines of the SkyTeam alliance, you should still consider a SkyPAss membership because Korean Air’s frequent flyer program is by far the best loyalty schedule in the SkyTeam alliance (and definitely more rewarding than Delta’s SkyMiles).

  • Website: SkyPass
  • Alliance program: SkyTeam
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 50,000 miles or 40 qualifying flights on Korean Air per calendar year.
  • What I like about the program: There is excellent award availability on Korean Air-operated flights (including tons of First Class seat awards); SkyPass allows the registration of a family account; you can book award flights with all SkyTeam members online; and the program has many interesting non-SkyTeam partners (e.g. Alaska Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Japan Airlines).
  • What I don’t like about the program: SkyPass charges significant fuel surcharges; and the entry level for elite status requires an insane amount of miles.


British Airways’ tiered loyalty program is called the Executive Club and was launched in 1995. In 2011, following its merger with Iberia, the flag carrier of the United Kingdom and the founding member of the One World global airline introduced dramatic changes to its Executive Club program, creating a distinct reward currency, Avios. Avios is a coalition program, offering members of the frequent flyer programs of British Airways and Iberia thousands of ways to earn and redeem Avios for flights, hotels, and even travel experiences. Although Executive Club has many downsides, it scores high in my list because it’s the only loyalty program of a major Western legacy airline that is not (yet) revenue based.

  • Website: Executive Club
  • Alliance program: One World
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 300 tier points in a calendar year.
  • What I like about the program: Executive Club offers several flight bargains (such as Boston to Dublin on partner Aer Lingus or 12,500 Avios for one-way USA West Coast to Hawaii flights); you can pool earned Avios in a family account to maximize your earnings; elite members can invite a guest in the airport lounges; and the program is not revenue based (yet).
  • What I don’t like about the program: Executive Club adds incredibly high surcharges for award flights, especially for British Airways-operated flights departing from the United Kingdom.
  • Review: read my review of Executive Club here.


Mileage Plan is the frequent flyer program of USA based airline Alaska Airlines (which merged with Virgin America in 2016). Members earn flight miles according to the distance flown, rather than according to the price of their tickets (which is now the new standard in the USA, Europe and Asia). For the average traveler, this means more free flights and faster elite status. Mileage Plan miles can be redeemed for award flights on Alaska Airlines and its partner carriers and provide eligibility for frequent flyer elite status. Alaska Airlines is a member of the One World alliance but has also established an impressive collaboration with a dozen other airlines, serving more than 900 destinations worldwide.

  • Website: Mileage Plan
  • Alliance program: One World
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 20,000 eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America per calendar year.
  • What I like about the program: Mileage Plan is not revenue based; you can earn and spend miles on great airline partners (e.g. all One World airlines and several others such as Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Fiji Airways and Emirates); and the program has one of the best all-around award charts.
  • What I don’t like about the program: Blackout dates apply on reward travel; miles expire after two years of inactivity; and the program is only of interest to USA based travelers.
  • Review: read my review of Mileage Plan here.


AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. Launched in 1981, it was the second such loyalty program in the world (after the first at Texas International Airlines in 1979) and remains the largest with a reported membership of more than 100 million. For decades, AAdvantage was by far the best and most rewarding loyalty program, not only for American citizens living nearby the American Airlines hubs of Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas) but also for travelers based outside the USA. However, that all changed after USA Airways took over American Airlines, keeping the brand name and the loyalty program, but introducing a massive devaluation and – last year – a revenue based earning system. But despite these changes, I still consider AAdvantage to be the best frequent flyer program in the world because of the many benefits.

  • Website: AAdvantage
  • Alliance program: One World
  • Minimum elite status requirement: 25,000 qualifying miles or 30 qualifying segments per calendar year in addition to a $3,000 USD minimum annual spending level.
  • What I like about the program: You can earn miles with more than 1,000 partner companies; AAdvantage has plenty of interesting non-One World airline partners (e.g. Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Westjet, Hawaiian Airlines); the program regularly launches terrific promotions to earn extra miles; and top-tier members receive four upgrades per year on American Airlines flights.
  • What I don’t like about the program: Although it was the last of the big three USA airlines to do so, AAdvantage is now revenue-based, meaning miles are awarded based on dollars spent rather than number of miles flown. Also, your mileage credit will be forfeited if your account is inactive for 18 months.
  • Review: read my review of the AAdvantage program here.

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  1. Thank you for a helpful list. I am a devoted Lufthansa Senator, I like this program, but it is becoming very difficult to maintain the status…
    Ani Right

  2. I do not think AAvantage is even close to number 1. All of the other programs have easy ways to move or purchase miles inexpensively. For example you can add Chase UR to Mileage Plus and Amex MR to Delta, but the only ‘hybrid’ points that can transfer to American are SPG. AAdvantage awards to Europe are usually fuel surcharged on BA, there are some are nice awards on Iberia. But AA releases very little premium award seats. Also getting AA flights to connect to partner awards is very difficult and when available they are Anytime awards.

    I like Alaskan with its easy to use miles. With almost everyone having one way awards, I frequently use one program’s miles outbound and another to return.

  3. Hi. Good article. I have gold cards for TAP Air Portugal (Star Alliance) and British Airways (One World). The former is way, way better and seems to be better than Lufthansa’s Miles & More, (also in StarAlliance).

    Some key benefits I get from TAP gold status:

    – Gaining/keeping status is much easier. Once you gain your first Gold card (75,000 earned miles), they reduce the renewal level to only 50,000 miles (including cabin and status bonuses). The BA level for Gold status is 1500 Tier Points (which are only loosely related to Avios = Air miles, what a messy system!) and is equivalent to around 200,000 air miles and massive step up from Silver at 300 Tier Points = c. 40,000 air miles)

    – I get a free second TAP gold card for a nominated person (in my case, my wife).

    – Dedicated TAP Gold phone lines (English and Portuguese) are much quicker, friendlier, more helpful and much easier to find on their website.

    – Much better availability for reward flights and upgrades. BA availability for upgrade from Business to First Class is, I have found, useless – I have yet to manage a SINGLE upgrade in the last three years!

    – I find onboard service on TAP to be excellent, with significantly better food and wines in Business than on BA and certainly than Iberia, AA or United. And they are honestly friendly, not just plastic “have a nice day” stuff. Some of their aircraft are getting a bit old but they are modernising (no A380s yet…) but big partners Lufthansa and Singapore have very good fleets (not true of tired old United). Avoid BA’s partner Iberia, they are just consistently awful – online, on the ground and in the air.

    Otherwise the benefits are the same as everyone else. You earn the same air miles (including bonuses) whichever Star Alliance airline you use. There are some differences with non-TAP Star Alliance members for rewards/upgrades.

    I had thought about trying Sky Team more seriously but all comments suggest it’s not good and anyway most of their airlines are pretty unfriendly these days.

  4. American Airlines used to give me around 26,000 miles for a round trip from MTY to CDG, now they just give 6,700 miles!, that does not sound like the best Award Program to me.

  5. I agree but if don’t fly much it’s very difficult to keep FB miles from expiring. Any tricks on how to keep them from expiring. Expiring miles is not listed as a con and it should be. It’s the only reason I don’t transfer my chase points to FB.

  6. I was poyal tp miles and smiles. Turkish airlines.

    Once i read abut buying bonus miles, i called to ask will these miles increase my status . Amswer yes . Wrong info. They refused to refund or to upgrade my status . O e employee als asked me to recall exact date and hour of call i made to inquire which was 4 months earlier.

    Second thier log in password policy is stricter than my credit card or my european digital id login for passport , license etc… Isues.

  7. UNITED’s MileagePlus is the stingiest program I have encountered in my life. I was awarded 36 miles once for a Mexico City/Houston flight. At that rate I would need to fly the route over 485 times to earn a free ticket for the same route. Think about it.

  8. I am surprised Aegean Airlines’ Miles&Bonus did not make it onto this list. It is a Star Alliance member and you reach your first Gold status with as little as 36.000 miles + 4 legs with Aegean Airlines. After this you just need 12.000 miles per year to retain your Gold status and miles never expire as long as there is one activity on your card every 18 months. It is perfect for anyone that travels to Europe or live there.

  9. I don’t like flying British, KLM and Air France have worse services than most of Star Alliance members.
    I used to have (I stil have it but not using it anymore) a Miles and More account and Gold status on Miles and Smiles. The reason I am using Miles and Smiles(Turkish) instead of Miles and More is because it was so much easier to reach Gold at Turkish. in 1 and a half years I am almost Platinum, an almost impossible task if using M&M.
    Other than that I can get my family to Istanbul Lounge at Ataturk(the best lounge ever and I am not turkish, btw…:)), gift an elite status, 2 business class upgrades per year and so much more benefits. Plus Turkish flies all over the world and they have very good services on both economy and business. Another program I would consider is Qatar’s.

  10. I am a 1 K ( Flew over 100,000 miles) as well as a Million Miler on United Airlines. United Recently changed their program to a “Plus Points”. I have NEVER been able to use this to directly book an Upgraded flight. On every attempt to upgrade, I am put on a Wait list. When I book, I want to know immediately if the Upgrade was available. I had over 580 points ( It takes only 40 Points to upgrade for European Flight)) but over 200 points expired. This is the Worse prog ever for Upgrades despite my 1 K Status and being a Million Miler

  11. I am based in the US with AAdvantage and will be relocating to Malaysia. Would it be better to use all my miles for awards out of AAdvantage and start again with Malaysian Enrich or just accumulate the lesser miles in AAdvantage flying Malaysian Airlines?

  12. I think the above recommendations are from an American point of view for people who travel to Europe sometimes. For me living in Europe and frequently traveling to Asia, by far the best loyalty program is Qatar Airways “privilege club”. I have been a platinum member for 9 years now and it’s far better than any of the 5 other award programs I tried before (KLM, Lufthansa, TAP, Turkish, Thai). Miles are easily generated and nearly every time I tried to upgrade it worked right away.

    Lufthansa gold status is nearly impossible to achieve, unless you fly intercontinental business class at least 6-7 times per year. Its far better to achieve your status with Aegean, TAP or Turkish and then enjoy the amazing Lufthansa lounges with your partner gold card.

  13. Thanks again for all the valuable research and analysis; I appreciate referring back to this for guidance. But, just over halfway into 2021, I think it may be time for a serious update. Firstly, as Alaska is no fully-fledged Oneworld member, that must shake things up and maybe propel it into the #1 spot. Second, the AC program has been thoroughly re-tooled, that should be recognized and surely counts for something; LH, let’s wait to see what their re-boot will bring. Lastly, what about the following which may take precedence over some on this list: ANA, Virgin, Etihad, Singapore, TAP as mentioned above, Cathay? Please update soon, maybe expand from 10 to 12, and kick a couple of sluggards off the list!

  14. Where is Aeroplan? Hands down one of the best, it should be on this list. Great new CC options and earning/redemption opportunities with many airlines outside of Star Alliance as well.

  15. Please update the information in this article. Don’t just rehash old info. United Airlines and Alaska Airlines air miles do not expire.

  16. hi, nice article.. i’m a member with star alliance (SAS) and skyteam/flying blue… even though SAS is local i must admit skyteam combined with all accor bonus program (hotels) appeals more and more to me.. i like that it is very easy to keep your points if you haven’t spend them…. with star alliance (SAS) they will expire..

  17. Please update your article. Some details are incorrect. Airmiles in the United Airlines and Alaska Airlines programmes do not expire.

  18. SpiceClub India’s first loyalty program from a low-cost airline and get more out of your travels and everyday spends. Enjoy exclusive rewards and benefits every time you fly with SpiceJet and shop, dine, and stay.

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