Miles Plus

Balance popular with practical and you'll get the best reward
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

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

Top Fliers

Airline Program of the Year: Continental OnePass

Best Airline Bonus: Southwest Rapid Rewards

Best Airline Elite Level: Continental OnePass

Hotel Program of the Year: Marriott Rewards

Best Hotel Bonus: Hilton HHonors

Best Hotel Elite Level: Hyatt Gold Passport

Best Affinity Card: Diners Club Rewards

Source: InsideFlyer magazine

Fall Fantasy

Leaving business behind to celebrate autumn

New England is one of the most popular travel destinations from Labor Day to Halloween, when the leaves turn from green to bright orange to brown and fall from the trees. If you want to catch the foliage fireworks this year, it's time to make a few phone calls.

"Plan as far in advance as you can," says Laura Simoes of the New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism Development. Some well-known inns sell out as much as a year in advance, but during late summer, there are still plenty of good choices, she notes.

Another tip: Take advantage of a state's tourism resources. Most of the New England states, for example, offer weekly updates on foliage conditions, hotlines for booking hotel rooms during peak season, and Web sites with all the information on how to see the most leaves.

The Lowdown on Leaves

Connecticut: (800) CT-BOUND,

Maine: (888) MAINE45,

Massachusetts: (800) 447-MASS,

New Hampshire: (800) 258-3608,

New York: (800) CALL-NYS,

Rhode Island: (800) 556-2484,

Vermont: (800) VERMONT,

Forest Service Fall Color Hotline: (800) 354-4595,

In The Know

The last word on essential travel tips for entrepreneurs

The Unofficial Business Traveler's Pocket Guide (McGraw-Hill) is the bestselling follow-up to CNN travel expert Christopher J. McGinnis' 202 Tips Even the Best Business Travelers May Not Know. In the book, the Atlanta travel consultant reveals how to land an upgrade, which hotel rooms are the safest, how to secure the best rental car in the lot and where to get useful information on travel. McGinnis' clever and common-sense approach to corporate travel makes for a must-read before taking a trip.

Road Notes

  • On August 17, US Airways will launch daily nonstop round-trip service between Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport and both Logan International Airport in Boston and Washington's Reagan National Airport. The carrier will operate three daily nonstop flights between Atlanta and each of the two airports.
  • Hertz has created a new Web site for its truck and van division: The site offers businesses a quick and easy means of renting a truck or van online. It now also has a dedicated toll-free number (888-999-5500) for its truck and van division.

Contact Sources

InsideFlyer, (800) 767-8896,

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, (800) 325-3589,

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

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