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I have frequent flyer accounts with at least one US based member of the 3 major alliances. For ex, Delta, United, American Airlines

When I fly internationally on partner airlines (say Japan Airlines <--> American Airlines). Is it better for me to create an account with Japan Airlines or simply for me to use my American Airlines frequent flyer number?

Am I trivializing this problem? What are some cases where creating new accounts makes sense, for ex?

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Generally, it is best to join one airline per alliance unless you travel extremely frequently. Some airlines within an alliance will have advantages over others, depending on your travel habits. Since you already have accounts in each alliance, you probably shouldn't change any that have points in them.

There are several significant advantages to having one program per alliance:

  • The opportunity to accrue points on most flights.
  • Avoid fragmenting points between many accounts which makes it difficult to reach status.
  • Reduced chances of points expiring in most programs other than Delta.

Unless you fly very frequently, it is difficult to maintain a balance on many accounts yet it is good to have a way to get points for flights taken. So, in addition to one program per alliance, you can open loyalty accounts with airlines that you fly with which are not part of an alliance.

While loyalty programs are similar in concept, there are advantages to some. So, it is possible that adding an extra program would be advantageous but remember to maintain you have to balance those with opportunity lost from accumulating points at a slower rate. Programs tend to have some home-advantages, so it could be worth considering switching a low-balance account for one from an airline you are flying more frequently with. Another big deal is redemption ease and flexibility. Some programs make it much harder to book award travel than others.

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    Slight nuance: you should be a member of every airline you fly with just for ease booking, app, online service, electronic boarding passes etc. You should credit miles only to one program in each alliance. When I fly with Lufthansa I use my Lufthansa Miles & More account for check in, status, boarding pass, etc but I still credit the miles to my United account.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 11:53
  • The answer makes sense. In the nuance mentioned by @Hilmar I am not sure I completely understand. You use the account for fast checkin but in the member num you have a way to specify United and the corresponding member num? Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 15:11
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    @perennial_noob: When you check in (or book) you can specify a frequent flyer number which can be different from the operating or marketing airline's. It is still very useful to a have an account with the operating airline for online services. I have accounts on Lufthansa, Austrian, Swish, ANA, Turkish, Air New Zealand etc. All mileage balances are zero (since I always use my United number for mile accrual) but I use the airline's app and website for check in, selecting seats, managing the booking, boarding pass on my phone, etc. Does that clarify the comment ?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 16:15

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