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Voters Pick the 6 Best Travel Loyalty Programs

SmarterTravel

There is no best frequent-traveler program. What there is, crucially, is a best program for you, given your goals, your travel and shopping patterns.

But if there were a best program, there’s probably no better indicator than the results of the latest Freddie Awards.

Since 1988, the Freddies, named for Sir Freddie Laker, have given travelers a chance to vote for their favorite programs, best promotions, best award availability, and so on. This year, more than 3.2 million votes were cast.

The best airline and hotel programs, according to Freddies voters:

  • Best Americas Airline program – American AAdvantage
  • Best Americas Hotel program – Marriott Rewards
  • Best Europe/Africa Airline program – Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Best Europe/Africa Hotel program – Le Club Accorhotels
  • Best Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline program – Virgin Australia Velocity
  • Best Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel program – Le Club Accorhotels

Other highlights:

  • Best airline customer service – Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Best airline elite program – American AAdvantage
  • Best airline redemption ability – Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Best hotel customer service – MGM M Life
  • Best hotel elite program – Hyatt Gold Passport
  • Best hotel redemption ability – Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Best loyalty credit card – Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

What’s it all mean, aside from grist for the winners’ self-promotion over the next 12 months?

It sometimes seems like the Freddies are more a measure of the nominated programs’ advertising and social media efforts than they are of popular opinion, as print media and Twitter are awash with “Vote for Me” ads and Tweets. And I know from first-hand experience that travel suppliers vying for votes aggressively push their own employees, as well as those of their subcontractors, to support the cause. Driven by their enormous workforces (80,000 full timers for Delta, for instance; more than 100,000 for American), the potential numbers of company-influenced voters are significant. Factor in employees’ family members and friends and they’re bigger still. So yes, there are questions about who’s voting, and why they’re making the choices they do.

In the end, you have to hope that less legitimate votes are overwhelmed by the volume of votes by true road warriors, yielding results that skew more toward the real-world truth than toward an engineered outcome.

And you have to remember: No matter what the Freddies say, the best program is the one that works best for you.

Reader Reality Check

How do the Freddies results compare to your own experience?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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