HomeAirline LoyaltyA Good Indicator That A "Best..." List Is Utter Nonsense

A Good Indicator That A “Best…” List Is Utter Nonsense

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Note: By the time this article goes live there’s a chance that the errors highlighted in this post will have been corrected (you can check using the links I’ve provided) but that shouldn’t take away from just how embarrassing these errors should be to the publication in question.

If you’re immersed in the miles and point world and aren’t blinkered in your approach to the various loyalty programs that are available (i.e you don’t blindly “love” a single program and see no wrong with it), you probably have a good idea which loyalty programs are good and which are second rate. Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t so fortunate and they often rely on the various “top” and “best” lists that get published all too frequently.

Sadly, these lists are almost always incredibly flawed so they don’t give the less well-informed any useful advice whatsoever. Even worse is the fact that it can often be hard for the less well-informed to realize just how useless these lists are.

Every now and again, however, one of the publishers of these lists drops the ball and their incompetence and lack of attention to detail are bared for all to see. Right now is one of those moments.

US News has just (yesterday) published its list of “best rewards programs” and at the time of writing, this is what its lead page shows are its picks for 2021:

a close up of an airplane wing a room with a bed and bench

Anyone who has paid attention to what US News has published under its travel section in the past will already know to take absolutely no notice of what this publication considers to be a good rewards program, but those newer to the world of loyalty programs may not be so clued-in.

Fortunately, to see just how unreliable the opinions emanating from US News are, all one has to do is click on the links that say “see full rankings list”.

As you’ll see from the images above, US News has decided that the top 5 airline loyalty programs (in order) are the programs from Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and American. That makes it more than a little odd that when you check to see the full rankings list, this is what US News shows:

a screenshot of a website
Click or tap to enlarge

Alaska and Delta are still in first and second place, but American is now up to 3rd, JetBlue has been dropped to 4th and United is down in 6th.

Things don’t get much better if you check the hotel loyalty program rankings. Per the lead page, US News thinks that the best 5 hotel loyalty programs come from Marriott, Wyndham, Hyatt, Choice, and Best Western (in that order), but when you click through to see the “full rankings list“, the order is very obviously different:

screens screenshot of a website
Click or tap to enlarge

Marriott is down in 3rd place, Wyndham is now top (really?!), Hyatt has moved up to 2nd place, Choice has dropped to 4th place and Best Western doesn’t even appear in the top 6.

I’ve checked and checked and checked and I cannot see what I’m missing so I can only conclude that US News doesn’t really have a clue what it’s writing about (this could really come back to bite me if I’ve missed something obvious!) and, sadly, that’s not new information.

The good news here is that US News has shown itself to be exactly what a lot of us already knew it to be – a highly unreliable source of opinions on the world of travel and mostly full of nonsense – and now everyone gets to see the proof.

Bottom Line

If you can’t even get the rankings correct in a list that you made up you should probably take that as a sign that this isn’t an area you should be venturing into. Sadly, I doubt US News will take heed.

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  1. I find a lot of the “Best Of” listings to be dubious at the best of times. Any time that Skymiles breaks into the top 3 of anything good, it’s a huge red flag. We’re talking about the program where Delta announced at The Freddy’s that if they won any award for Skymiles they were doing their job wrong.

  2. Agree this is a very bad list. Also not sure of the context (won’t subscribe or pay a firewall to read it). Is it for basic membership, mid level or top level? All IMHO matter. Also, Hilton isn’t even on the hotel list at all? I realize their points aren’t worth much but I get them by the hundreds of thousands with all the credit cards and promotions. Also, I frankly get more value out of them (try to always book the 5th night free if possible to maximize value) than other programs. I know Hyatt is most highly regarded on here (I’m Explorist there) but given their much smaller footprint I find more value with Hilton, Marriott and IHG (mainly at mid-level properties)

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