What Programs Do Travelers Like the Most? (Freddies Results)

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I just attended my second Freddie Awards in as many years, and for the second year in a row I am very interested in what I learned.  For those not familiar, the Freddie Awards are a long running annual awards show that celebrates the “best”hotel and airline loyalty programs, promotions, etc. for the previous year.  This year over three million people voted – yes, three million.  That’s a long of travelers who took the time to share their favorites.

I like to think that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the pluses and minuses of travel loyalty programs and promotions, but even still, I can ultimately only figure out what works the best for my family.  i certainly don’t speak for three million travelers, and it turns out that in some ways other travelers have very different opinions of certain programs and promotions than I do.  Maybe I am missing something, maybe they are, or maybe we just have different priorities when traveling.

Regardless, here are the 2013 Freddie award winners for the Americas:

Best Loyalty Credit Card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

Really?  I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is better for earning Southwest points than this card (it came in 14th place).  I like Southwest and I think this card is great for the sign-up bonus, but I’m just not convinced it is the best loyalty credit card in the Americas.  The Citi AAdvantage card came in second and the LifeMiles Citi Visa Infinite came in third.

Best Airline Elite Program: American AAdvantage

I can buy this one for many reasons including the fact that their top tier elites get eight system-wide upgrades that can be used internationally on most all fare classes.  That is a hugely valuable benefit that is not common in the industry.  My airline (United) came in sixth place in this category.

Best Hotel Elite Program: Hyatt

I couldn’t agree more with this choice as Hyatt treats their top tier elite members very well with free full breakfast for all registered guests in the room, four confirmed suite upgrades per year, and more.  I’m very happy that Hyatt was recognized for what they do for their elite guests.

Best Airline Customer Service: Southwest Rapid Rewards

Best Hotel Customer Service: Marriott Rewards

Best Airline Redemption Ability: AviancaTACA LifeMiles

This is a program new to Star Alliance, but they have made redemptions pretty easy with their frequent mileage purchase promos.  There are also some good redemptions available via this program.  However, the program also has some real drawbacks.  I am surprised that United only placed sixth in this category as they make redeeming pretty darn simple.

Best Hotel Redemption Ability: Marriott Rewards

I’m not a big Marriott person as it doesn’t fit my travel patterns, but clearly they are doing something right!

Best Airline Promotion:  American Airlines Double Elite Qualifying Miles

Hard to argue with double elite qualifying miles!

Best Hotel Promotion: Marriott Rewards MegaBonus

I gotta say I am at least a little surprised that Club Carlson didn’t take this one with their Stay One Get One promo which awarded enough points for a free night at any of their properties after just one stay.  That was a great deal, and I sure do wish they would run it again.

Airline Program of the Year: American AAdvantage

American treats their elite travelers well, makes it pretty easy for their customers to earn and redeem valuable miles, and had a great promo last year, so I guess it is no surprise that they came out on top here.  For those curious, United came in sixth.

Hotel Program of the Year: Marriott Rewards

Marriott is big and consistent, and apparently offers the favorite loyalty program for many travelers.  I don’t dislike them at all, but they don’t come out on top for me.  Interestingly, Choice Privileges was second.  My favorites of Starwood and Hyatt came in sixth and seventh respectively.

It’s clear from looking at the winners that my priorities for loyalty programs aren’t necessarily the same as others, but that is okay.  We all get to pick and choose what works best for us.

I’ll post more about the event itself (after I get some sleep), but I wanted to share the winners now as I think that reflecting on how we agree or disagree with the selections can be interesting.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Here are the full results:

Program of the Year
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Virgin Australia Velocity
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: IHG Priority Club Rewards
Europe/Africa Airline: Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Europe/Africa Hotel: Le Club Accorhotels

Best Promotion
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Jet Airways JetPrivilege
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Taj Hotels & Resorts InnerCircle
Europe/Africa Airline: Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Europe/Africa Hotel: Le Club Accorhotels

Best Redemption Ability
Americas Airline: AviancaTACA LifeMiles
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Virgin Australia Velocity
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Hyatt Gold Passport
Europe/Africa Airline: Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Customer Service
Americas Airline: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Americas Hotel: Marriott Rewards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Emirates Skywards
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Hyatt Gold Passport
Europe/Africa Airline: SAS EuroBonus
Europe/Africa Hotel: IHG Priority Club Rewards

Best Elite Program
Americas Airline: American Airlines AAdvantage
Americas Hotel: Hyatt Gold Passport
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Airline: Virgin Australia Velocity
Middle East/Asia/Oceania Hotel: Hyatt Gold Passport
Europe/Africa Airline: Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Europe/Africa Hotel: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Loyalty Credit Card
Americas: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card
Middle East/Asia/Oceania: JetPrivilege HDFC Bank Credit Card
Europe/Africa: Flying Blue American Express Card

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  1. @Kay, you don’t see United winning because they screwed everyone below 1K by reducing the RDM bonus. I myself am a 1K so it doesn’t affect me, but I still think it sucks that a 50k mile flyer only gets a 50% bonus on UA while the other US based programs will award 100% bonuses.

  2. @Kay, it looks to me like it’s to a significant extent a matter of self promotion to potential voters. I sure saw plenty of promotional pieces (“vote for us”) during the voting window. Thus I wonder how much the results are really based on merit and how much on campaigning. Southwest Rapid Rewards Card first and CSP 14th? I’m afraid the Freddies may not be worth taking seriously.

  3. If it based on volume of votes, then the large programs would always win and advertising helps.
    I do not care if the masses go on SW. But the real risk is that the other programs which we as elite travelers love could get swayed by this and align their programs more with SW and simplify cash value. If that happens, I am back to a cash back card.

  4. Why do you think the lifemiles card came in 3rd, seems like a really average card? Maybe I’m missing something.

  5. It’s not as simple as most number of votes as then you are right only the largest programs could win. You do have to have a minimum number of votes, but it isn’t a straight popular vote. I’m sure there is a detailed explanation out there…I’ll try to link to it today for anyone who is curious.

  6. For me, when it comes to QUALITY (properties, service, my stay in general) Hyatt vs Marriott, Hyatt wins everytime. Most recent example, two weeks ago my husband and I arrived at Hyatt Regency Tamaya, ABQ, NM for a 3 day stay. We were greeted by a doorman, provided with a luggage rack and directed to check-in, then, after checking, we were escorted to our room. After or stay there, we traveled to Denver for a 4 day stay at Marriott. Upon arrival, I immediately could see the difference. No one greeted or assisted us as we struggled with our luggage. The warm, welcoming feeling we had throughout our stay at Hyatt was so totally lacking at Marriott EVEN though the front desk ladies were somewhat nice. My take? If I’m looking for an overnight stay or business travel, Marriott is OK, but when I’m planning our next vacation, definitely a Hyatt property. Hyatt gives a different level of service.

  7. I’m a scientist (currently stay at home mom), and I know many in my field who prefer Marriott? I don’t really get it.
    In fact, as I plumb the depths of my memory further, before entering this game every business traveller whose hotel preference I’ve known, it was always Mariott. Still don’t get it. I had always assumed there was something great about Mariott that I just hadn’t experienced, because I was never a top tier elite with them. But now that I know hotel loyalty programs better, I really can’t understand it.

  8. Chacun a son gout. I am no fan of Hyatt, largely because too many of their hotels are designed without considering acoustics. All of those atrium hotels are a nightmare for me.

    I find Marriotts to be very consistent. And they generally give me more than my money’s worth. In addition, they have properties where I need to go, while Hyatt often doesn’t. On the minus side, it’s harder to get status with them (though rollover nights help).

  9. CSP came in 14th? I would’ve asked for my money back. But seriously, most of the voters probably didn’t do any research of the best cards and how to maximize their potential. Take a vote on FlyerTalk and you will get different results- which I think would be more valuable for us.

  10. Southwest is a VERY DAMN good airline, but it is a domestic carrier, basically. That is why that CC is cherished by the masses. I prefer AA (as of today), it is the best program overall, and I hope the merger makes it better. ( AA DON’T SCREW IT !!!! )

    I love Hyatt but stay at Hiltons since they have lost of properties.

    Avianca is a very damn good airline, and hope that the program (Lifemiles) improves its customer service and website. But too much exposure is not that good… :-p

  11. Marriott is popular because they are consistent and everywhere. Unlike Hyatt, which do not have properties where I go, Marriott does.

    Marriott is also very unpopular with the blogging crowd due to the difficulty in maintaining status. It requires lots of nights in their beds (real loyalty) as opposed to 20-25 mattress runs for top tier. Until they add a stays component, they’ll never be popular with the travel blogging groups.

  12. I agree with Shane, most bloggers significantly understate the value of Marriott’s property network. As a frequent business traveler that (unfortuneately) has to hit some fairly remote locations, I can always count on finding a Marriott – Hyatt and Starwood are great in larger metropolitan areas, but just too hard to find on a consistent basis.
    Plus, Marriott has one of the best programs in terms of value you get for your stay – Starwood gets you great value on their credit card, but terrible value of points for a stay.
    Personally, I like a balance of Marriott and Hyatt for the best overall value. Hilton is really not even an option.

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