The Best Travel Rewards Programs of 2015

U.S. News just announced its best travel reward program rankings for the year.

There’s a new sheriff in town. Each year, U.S. News & World Report ranks the best travel rewards program. And this year, for the first time, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan has topped the list of the Best Airline Rewards Programs. Generous elite membership benefits, ease of earning reward travel, and high network coverage boosted the airline in the rankings. American’s AAdvantage program, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Hawaiian’s HawaiianMiles programs rounded out the top five.

On the hotel front, Marriott Rewards was declared the Best Hotel Rewards program for the third year in a row. Marriott earned highest marks for its variety of lodging types and price ranges and ease of earning free nights. Wyndham follows in the number two spot, while Best Western Rewards and Club Carlson tie for third and IHG Rewards Club rounds out the top five.

Are your preferred mileage programs on the list? Are you surprised?

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By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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