Best hotels, airline reward programs for traveler perks

You could be missing out on free hotel stays and flight upgrades while hopscotching around for the best travel deals.

U.S. News & World Report announced its picks for the Best Travel Rewards Programs of 2021-2022 on Tuesday, identifying which hotels and airlines offer the best perks in exchange for loyalty.

Wyndham Rewards was named the Best Hotel Rewards Program, unseating previous winner World of Hyatt. In addition to its namesake Wyndham hotels, the property group includes LaQuinta, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Travelodge and various other brands for different budgets. U.S. News noted Wyndham’s large network, high award availability and the ability to “book a free night with as few as 7,500 points” contributed to its top ranking.

Alaska Air Mileage Plan kept its top spot as the Best Airline Rewards Program for the seventh year in a row. U.S. News highlighted the airline’s wide selection of routes to popular destinations, like New York City and Honolulu. The program’s mileage-based earning structure was also recognized for making “it easier for members to earn miles for free flights faster.”

►The best credit card for travel:New grocery perks and a $1,250 welcome offer

►’We are humbled to play a small part’:Alaska Airlines offers to help transport families from Afghanistan within US

An Alaska Airline jet is parked at a gate at Virginia's Dulles international Airport on June 16, 2018.

Here are U.S. News’ top five picks for each category:

Best hotel rewards programs

  1. Wyndham Rewards
  2. World of Hyatt
  3. Marriott Bonvoy
  4. Choice Privileges
  5. IHG Rewards

Best airline rewards programs

  1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  2. Delta SkyMiles
  3. American Airlines AAdvantage
  4. JetBlue TrueBlue
  5. Southwest Rapid Rewards

U.S. News factors member benefits like free amenities, network coverage, and ease in accruing and redeeming free travel into its rankings. This year, criteria also included how travel rewards programs responded to the pandemic and flexibility for members. For hotel awards, U.S. News Travel ranks 15 loyalty programs associated with major hotel brands that have at least 50 properties, 10 or more of which are located in the U.S. For airlines awards, only those based in the U.S. are considered.