These days, it seems like every business has a loyalty program, and it can be difficult to decide which ones are worth your time.
The FlyerTalk Awards may help cut through the confusion by elevating its picks for the best loyalty programs in three categories: fly, stay and drive. These categories judge loyalty programs for airlines, hotels and rental cars, respectively.
The winners of the 2016 FlyerTalk Awards were announced earlier this week, with American Airlines AAdvantage, Starwood Preferred Guest and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards taking the top honors. Active members of FlyerTalk -- a site devoted to discussions from an interactive community about the interests of frequent travelers -- could vote via one ballot each for up to four programs in each category. The votes are weighted, USA Today explains, meaning that a first-place vote is given the most importance, and each subsequent placement has decreasing influence. Thousands of members voted, according to Paul O’Brien, FlyerTalk’s community manager and the lead administrator of the FlyerTalk Awards.
This years winners are veterans of the top slots. O’Brien tells USA Today, “AAdvantage has never lost this award, and it wasn’t even close this year.” He says that Hertz has "the winningest program in the history of the FlyerTalk Awards." Furthermore, Starwood has kept its title for the past five years.
The AAdvantage program offers members the ability to earn miles when they fly -- either on American Airlines or one of its partners -- as well as when they shop and eat. Another benefit includes elite status, which enables the traveler to get upgrades and airport privileges such as early boarding and no baggage fees.
Those who join the Starwood Preferred Guest program, which is honored at more than 1,200 hotels in 100 countries, can redeem points for free stays and VIP access to events and experiences.
For Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members, points -- earned for every dollar spent on qualifying expenses such as gas or rentals -- can be redeemed for a rental car on weekends free of charge or to rent a car that had been rated best in its class. Members can also exchange their points for miles on a partnering airline.
Besides the FlyerTalk Awards, which began in 2012, the only other recognition for loyalty programs is the Freddie Award, now in its 27th year. The winners of the Freddie Awards will be announced next month.
See the full list of FlyerTalk Award winners here.