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Miles Plus

Balance popular with practical and you'll get the best reward

Who's got the best frequent-flier program? The top hotel reward program? How about the number-one affinity card? Depends on who you ask--and who you are.

Randy Petersen, editor of InsideFlyer magazine, polls his readers on these subjects every year. This time around, the top picks included Continental OnePass and Marriott Rewards.

But selecting the program that's right for you isn't as easy as looking at the list of winners, warns Petersen. "When choosing a program, you have to take a number of things into consideration," he says.

Such as? Geography, for one. Determine which airlines offer the most flights to your closest airports or which hotel chain is best represented in the places you travel to. It makes no sense to start collecting miles with a supplier you'll rarely use.

Another factor is alliances, says Petersen. It isn't enough to look at a program on its own. Find out which other airlines or hotels you can collect points with as a member of the program. That way, even if you're not using your preferred airline, you can still rack up mileage credits.

"Talk to other people who are travelers in your area," suggests Petersen. "Ask them about their own experience. Get their advice."

What if it turns out to be bad advice? Don't worry, you can always switch programs. Often, an airline will even let you transfer your elite mileage status from another airplane, meaning you don't have to start from the beginning when you jump ship.

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at

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Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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This article was originally published in the August 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Miles Plus.

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