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Mileage Plus vs. AAdvantage vs. SkyMiles vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Travel Rewards Programs Compared

UnitedPlus works well if you’re looking to maximize traveling through your small business since that’s what one of its main cards focuses on. In contrast, AAdvantage has many short term deals that help you get more value out of your points up to 3 cents per mile or more. Delta SkyMiles has the Crossover program for combining hotel and plane miles and Chase Sapphire has one of the best sign on bonuses you can get with a value of over $600.
Covered in this report
Mileage Plus — Best Features
Get 50,000 bonus miles and the first year free for a small business card.
$0 Transaction fee for the Explorer card.
Best for: Small businesses that are just getting started and need travel breaks.
AAdvantage — Best Features
20% bonus miles rate and other frequent deals.
First three checked bags for free with the Elite program.
Best for: Bargain hunters looking for frequent bonus deals for trips.
SkyMiles — Best Features
Crossover rewards means that you can earn hotel stays with plane miles.
Infinite complimentary upgrades with the Gold program.
Best for: Those looking to combine rewards plans from planes and hotels.
Chase Sapphire Preferred — Best Features
4 star ratings and higher from more than half a dozen respected review sites.
Transfer points to many different airlines and hotels like Hyatt and British Airways.
Best for: Those looking specifically for credit cards from a highly rated source for travel.
Review

If you do a lot of traveling, it makes a lot of good sense to make sure that you find a reliable travel company in order to make sure that everything keeps straight in your travel itinerary, and that you’re maximizing mileage and other rewards programs according to your particular situation. Here are a few of the best travel services around with a comparison between them.

MileagePlus United

 

Mileage Plus is the program for the airplane service United. If you click on the “Earn miles” link from the United MileagePlus program page, you’ll see the option to “request mileage credit” if you think you’re owed. This is an example of how the service makes it easier to get on top with travel rewards.

Features

  • 50,000 Bonus Miles for Small Business Cards-You can earn 50,000 miles just for signing up with the small business credit card through Mileage Plus. The first year of the card is also free.
  • $0 Foreign Transaction Fee-The Explorer card from MileagePlus and Chase makes it so that you don’t have to pay any fees on foreign transactions. This can be a real boon to small businesses that need to do a lot of trading overseas.
  • Wide Credit Opportunities-This includes get miles when you rent a car, get a hotel, or make a flight.

AAdvantage

AAdvantage is the miles travel program from American Airlines. It has frequent deals and plenty of extras.

Features

  • 20% Bonus Miles Rate-This is an example of a limited promotion, but if you jump on them, you can end up with a huge number of extra free miles compared to what you’d get otherwise.
  • First Checked Bag Free-One of the major advantage cards gives you thousands of extra bonus miles and a free first checked bag on domestic flights.
  • Elite Status-Elite status for Platinum gets you 2 free checked bags, and even a 72 hour upgrade window.

Delta Skymiles

 

Features

  • Cross Over Program-There’s a program through Skymiles which lets you combine points on hotel stays through Starpoint with Skymiles in in order to maximize your rewards for both. This also includes a 4pm late checkout.
  • Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades-You can get as many upgrades as you want if you go for the Delta Elite gold program.
  • Priority Advantages-You get priority check-in and priority boarding when you become a SPG Platinum elite member.

Chase Saphire Preferred

Chase is one of the most respected names in credit cards, and this particular version has many features good for travel.

Features

  • Highly Well Rated-A large number of sites rate the card highly. This can make it easier to choose for those worried about dependability.
  • Transfer Points to Unique Partners-You can transfer to British Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, Korean Air and others, including a number of Hotels like the Hyatt or Marriott.
  • Large Signup Bonus-You can get upwards of $625 worth of free booking if you spend $4000 worth of purchases in the first 3 months while being a member.

Head to Head

Features

MileagePlus from United offers rewards for hotels, rentals, and other opportunities in addition to flights. In general, they have a lot of strong options for cards such as the ability to not pay anything extra on transaction fees if you get the Explorer card.

AAdvantage has a lot of options for upgrading in terms of travel rewards. For example, at Gold status, you get a 24-hour upgrade window in case you want to go up to first class. You also get a free checked bag and complimentary preferred seats as well as 1 free checked bag. At platinum you get 2 checked bags, and you get three free checked bags at AAdvantage Executive Platinum, which is often more than at many other places like MileagePlus.

Delta SkyMiles is more focused on allowing you to earn hotel stays in places like Starpoint with its Crossover program in contrast with AAdvantage and MileagePlus which don’t seem to focus on this nearly as much. The truth is that Skymiles has some of the strongest connections when it comes to hotels and closely related programs from airplanes over to hotels as well as back the other way. That’s what makes it ideal if you want to exploit both traveling by plane and staying afterward at a hotel.

Chase Sapphire Preferred has their Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus mall where you can also spend points if you want. This gives you additional points for places like Nordstrom or Starbucks. There are long term deals including 20% off in addition to the huge signing bonus you get and the free first year, with $95 being the fee after that. The main thing is that your rewards remain more permanent instead of being only a temporary thing like with many of the other cards and programs.

Rewards

United MileagePlus miles through the United miles program go for about 2.5 cents per mile in terms of what you get back from it. The rate for MileagePlus is 1% or so for the Explorer card. It starts with 30,000 miles. There are a lot of such cards that you can get through MileagePlus if you’re someone who racks up a lot of travel for your small business. This particular card goes for $95 per year after the first.

AAdvantage costs only 20,000 miles for a trip at the lowest end. The price per mile for AAdvantage through American is as low as 2.02 cents per mile, with a higher level closer to 3.17 cents per mile. That’s why it’s good to focus on deals through the site. is actually more about buying the miles than earning them, however.

Delta Skymiles have a value of about 1.8 cents, and as much as 2.8 cents per mile if you do the international business-class redemption. This is something you have to earn through the elite status through Medallion Qualifying Miles.

55000 points on Chase Sapphire are worth more than $550 when it comes to miles. It’s one of the highest rated cards at a per mile basis clocking in at around 1.25 cents per mile.

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