Your Chance To Pick The Best Loyalty Programs Of The Year

This your chance to have your say on which frequent flyer programs are best.

  • There are awards where a panel of experts gets together to give out an award based on their own opinion.

  • There are awards where companies pay sponsorship fees and keep winning their sponsored award.

  • And then there’s the oldest and largest consumer-driven awards in airline, hotel and credit card loyalty: the Freddie Awards.

Voting in the Freddie Awards is now open and runs through March 31st. The Freddie Awards are the voice of the frequent traveler. Each year millions cast their ballots for the very best in loyalty, and the industry comes together at the awards ceremony in April to see the winners (and each other).

Full disclosure, Randy Petersen, Ed Pizzarello, and I run the Freddies. It is a passion project, not a profitable enterprise (in fact we aren’t making any money doing it). Petersen founded the Freddies in 1988, named for Sir Freddie Laker, the marketing pioneer who made transatlantic travel affordable. I was honored to meet the late Sir Freddie at the award ceremony in 2002.

Some of what makes the Freddie Awards unique:

  • Sheer number of votes make the results difficult to influence. While there are extensive checks on the back end to catch programs (or anyone else) trying to stuff the ballot box, the sheer fact that over 4 million program members are voting makes influencing the vote difficult (over 7 million votes cast in 2019).

    Indeed, since so many programs share the opportunity to vote with their members even get out the vote efforts (on which the awards places limits) have only limited effect, when IHG or Hilton emails their members those members cast ballots on the airline side too. And American AAdvantage members rank order their preferred hotel programs.

  • Sponsorship doesn’t influence the outcome. The main sponsor the past several years has been a bank whose credit cards didn’t win any awards. This year it’s a bank that doesn’t have any entries in the awards. No airline or hotel program is approached to sponsor, the rest of companies involved are vendors and partners. They all do it either to give back to the industry, or to highlight themselves in front of current and potential customers and vendors (business development).

  • Program members directly determine the winner. This isn’t a game where voters ‘nominate’ programs and then the same company seeking sponsors picks the winner. I often wouldn’t make the same choices as the voter about who wins, but I have no influence over the outcome and neither does any other individual.

  • Small programs stand just as much of a chance as large ones since voters rank order their preferred programs first, second and third and the winner is the one with the highest average ranking not the most number of votes. (A program does need to be ranked by at least 2% of the voters in a category to be eligible to win.) So a small program that members feel delivers value can and often will best the largest programs with the most members voting.

Ed and I spend a great deal of time in November and December talking to programs to get their input for the best promotion category in the awards. During January I put the ballot together. Then Ed has it translated into several languages and put up onto the voting platform for testing before we go live.

Here I am at the last in person event with emcee Leland Vittert along with Mommy Points and Deals We Like:

Here are the winners from 2020. You may agree or disagree with the outcome, but you can’t complain if you don’t vote.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I respect your passion, genuinely. Obviously this is a passion shared among many in this arena, old timers and newcomers, from all over.

    But I’ll never see the point of these awards. I admit I’ve mocked them. I don’t make travel decisions based on what company wins any given category and wonder who does. I’d love to see analysis as to whether marketing a win or nomination had measurable impact for an airline, hotel, or bank. Do the awards influence companies to improve product in hopes of winning? Would love to see that analysis as well.

    More power to you and anyone who is excited about Freddie awards. It’s not for me.

  2. I think the best rewards program you can easily use and where you live. United MileagePlus program works for me because I am near Dulles and Dulles is a United hub. I also find it easy to collect points for the program. Also the Award program is easy to figure out. I find IHG hotel program easier to get points for and use the points. Lots of hotels across the world. I know from the bigger world of airlines and hotel programs there are probably better programs, but for me those two work and give me rewards back.

  3. I voted because I hope it influences the industry to raise the bar and improve their products and services.

  4. Note that it’s Gary who put together the ballot. He knows more about elections than he lets on.

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