by Allen J. Sheinman | July 31, 2018
U.S. News & World Report this morning released its 2018-19 Best Travel Rewards Programs, annual rankings that identify 25 hotel and airline loyalty programs with the most rewarding perks for everyday travelers. On the hotel side, Marriott Rewards ranked No. 1 for the second consecutive year, while among carriers, the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan kept its top spot for the fourth year in a row.
The report noted that Marriott Rewards' merger with the Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs helped it to keep its No. 1 spot, as the new combined program features five elite tiers (up from three) with lower qualification requirements and member access to a greater variety of properties and room types when redeeming points for free nights. No. 2, Wyndham Rewards, earns high marks for its large network of hotels, the ease of earning and redeeming a free night, and its benefits to elite members. World of Hyatt ranked No. 3 on the strength of its low points redemption requirements and variety of ways to earn points.
Alaska Airlines' mileage program kept its top spot for carriers thanks to its mileage-based earning structure, a large network of flight routes to popular destinations and options for cashing in miles for free flights. The report noted that Delta SkyMiles, ranking No. 2, offered ample members benefits, a large network of destinations and a high volume of daily domestic flights.
Here are the Top 5 for both categories of rankings:
Hotel Rewards Programs
1. Marriott Rewards
2. Wyndham Rewards
3. World of Hyatt
4. Choice Privileges 
5. Best Western Rewards
Airlines Rewards Programs
1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
2. Delta SkyMiles
3. JetBlue TrueBlue 
4. American Airlines AAdvantage 
5. Southwest Rapid Rewards 
The rankings are based on evaluations by U.S. News of several factors, including membership benefits such as free amenities, program-affiliated credit cards and redeemable experiences, as well as network coverage and a strong emphasis on ease of earning and redeeming free room nights or flights. In addition, the report takes note of hotel chains' property diversity and carriers' Airline Quality Rating scores.