What are the best Frequent Flyer awards?

A current discussion on Flyertalk got me thinking about what the very best loyalty program award values are. In general, the very best values come from redeeming points for international business and first class travel.

Beyond that general advice, there are a few specific awards that just seem to me to offer the very best for the fewest number of miles.

  • Mexicana’s Star Alliance awards from the U.S. and Canada to Hawaii. You can flying from anywhere in the US and Canada to Hawaii in First Class using 40,000 Mexicana Frecuenta miles.


    In contrast, United — the airline you’re most likely to be flying for this award — requires 60,000 miles for a first class ticket to Hawaii.

    What’s more, you can redeem American Express Membership Rewards points for Mexicana Frecuenta miles. (You can’t redeem Membership Rewards points for United miles directly.)

    And since Mexicana gives you 4000 miles just for signing up for their program, one first class ticket to Hawaii is really only going to cost you 36,000 miles — one thousand miles more than United charges for a coach ticket to Hawaii.

  • United’s first class awards to Australia and New Zealand. For 120,000 miles you can get $10,000 airline tickets and a United First Suite to sleep in.

  • Starwood’s Nights & Flights Award. Instead of the usual 1:1 conversion from Starwood points into airline miles plus 5000 bonus miles for each 20,000 points transferred, this award gives you both miles and hotel nights.

    You can redeem 60,000 Starwood points for 50,000 miles with your choice of airline plus 5 nights at a ‘category three’ hotel. You can also redeem 70,000 Starwood points for 50,000 miles with your choice of airline plus 5 nights at a ‘category four’ hotel.

  • Amtrak’s “One Zone” unreserved trains. 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points buys you a roundtrip from Washington DC to New York or Boston that’s good on any ‘unreserved’ train for six months with no capacity controls or stay requirements.

    And since Continental miles transfer 1:1 into Amtrak, a Continental Gold Elite book a roundtrip from Houston to Raleigh on-line and earn a free New York/DC train trip every time.

  • United’s one-way upgrades to Hawaii. For 15,000 United miles you can confirm an upgrade to first class at the time of booking from any published fare from anywhere in the mainland U.S. to Hawaii.

    This award used to be only 10,000 miles each way, but still represents an outstanding value at a 50% higher price. A flight from the East Coast to Hawaii is ten hours of flying.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *