100+ Birthday Freebies — Celebrate With Free Stuff!

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Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

103 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

Food & Drink

1. A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

2. ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

3. Abuelo’s

When you join the Mi Abuelo’s Rewards program, you’ll receive “special offers” on your birthday. You’ll also receive a special offer upon joining.

4. Acapulco

Sign up for the Acapulco eClub and get a free entree on your birthday. Plus, you’ll get a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree just for signing up.

5. Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free dessert on your birthday when you spend $15.

The exterior of an Arby's fast food restaurant.
Photo courtesy of Arby’s

6. Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free small milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get 50% off the sandwich or wrap of your choice when you sign up.

7. Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug just for signing up.

8. Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

9. Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

10. Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

11. bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

12. Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

13. Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

14. BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

15. Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

16. Bojangles

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

17. Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels Inner Circle will enjoy a free bagel and cream cheese on their birthday, and another free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

18. Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.
Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

19. Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

20. Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

21. Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

22. Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

23. Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club. Plus, as long as you spend $5, you get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

24. Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

25. Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

26. Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Two sundaes at Culver's.
Photo courtesy of Culver’s

27. Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

28. Del Taco

If you join Del Yeah! Rewards, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday. If you’ve racked up more than 1,500 points, you’ll get your choice of a shake or any dessert — except for Caramel Cheesecake Bites.

Plus you’ll get two free The Del tacos when you sign up.

29. Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus during your birthday month you’ll get your choice of a free dessert or a free Birthday Slam, which includes pancakes, eggs and your choice of bacon or sausage.

30. Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

31. Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

32. Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month as long as you’ve spent at least $29.99 in the past calendar year. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

33. Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

34. Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

35. Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

36. First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

37. Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

38. Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

39. Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

40. Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get a free appetizer of $8.99 or less when you sign up — and after every eighth visit..

41. Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

42. IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.
Robin Hartill scored a free birthday sub she got from Jersey Mike’s Sub in Saint Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

43. Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

44. Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

45. Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree when you sign up.

46. Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

47. Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Moe Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

48. Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

49. Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday. No signup necessary..

50. On the Border

Join Border Rewardsand get a ‘special surprise’ on your birthday. Plus, when you sign up, you’ll get a free dessert with the purchase of an entree.

51. Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

52. Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a “special gift” on their birthdays. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

53. Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

54. Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

The exterior of Pizza Hut.
Photo courtesy of Pizza Hut

55. Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

56. Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

57. Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday reward” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

58. Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

59. Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

60. Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday with the purchase of an adult entree.

61. Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a $5 off coupon for signing up.

62. Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

63. Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

64. Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Robin Hartill, an editor at The Penny Hoarder, sips an iced coffee she got for free on her birthday at Starbucks in Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Hartill sips an iced coffee she got for free on her birthday at Starbucks in Saint Petersburg, Fla. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

65. Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

66. Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

67. TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday — as long as you’ve spent $100 at TCBY over the past year.

68. Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

69. The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

70. The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

71. Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

72. Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

73. Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Extras program, and receive a birthday coupon, as well as a free individual pizza.

74. Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up. Additionally, Regulars receive an Anniversary Bacon Coupon, seasonal coupons, and other offers throughout the year.

75. Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a “free food” each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

76. Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free “birthday surprise” , plus a free signature sandwich for signing up.


77. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Join Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Victory program and get a free movie ticket on your birthday every year. If you visit Alamo Drafthouse Cinema more than 50 times per year, you’ll get two free tickets for your birthday.

78. AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

People wait outside Best Buy on Black Friday.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

79. Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

80. Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

81. Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

82. Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). If you have made 50 purchases or rentals, you’ll get two free birthday rentals.You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Clothes & Shoes

83. Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

84. Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

85. Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Penny Hoarder senior writer Robin Hartill knows how to score the freebies on her birthday. Check out her haul.

86. Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

87. Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward. You’ll also earn double points on all of your purchases during your birthday month.

88. JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 12 months. If you are a credit card member, you must have made a purchase with your JCPenney Credit Card within the past 12 months.

The exterior of a Kohls store.
Getty Images

89. Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

90. Old Navy

When you join Navyist Rewards, you’re eligible for one free “birthday surprise.”

91. Torrid

Sign up for Torrid Rewards and get a coupon for $10 off during your birthday month.

92. Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Beauty & Jewelry

93. Aveda

You need to pay $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

94. bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

95. Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

96. Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

97. Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

98. Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get a free gift. If you’ve spent enough money to be a Platinum ($500) or Diamond ($1,200) member, you get an additional bonus gift.

During your birthday month, you’ll earn double points on all of your purchases.


99. Ace Hardware

Ace Rewards members get $5 off for their birthday at participating locations. If you’ve spent $750 at Ace Hardware over a 12-month period, your birthday rewards get bumped up to $10 off, regardless of location.

100. Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

101. CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare program, you’ll get a free, $3 Extrabucks reward on your birthday, as well as 2% back every time you shop.

102. Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

103. World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

The Penny Hoarder Staff

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Cheapest Places to Live in Missouri

Missouri may be known as the “Show-Me” state but make no mistake — there’s a lot to see and enjoy in this Midwestern state beyond the iconic Gateway Arch.

Historic sites, professional sports, fun attractions and great food are just some of the things Missourians enjoy year-round. The Mississippi River forms the state’s eastern border and the Missouri river winds across the state. Several industries employ thousands of residents, from aerospace engineering to manufacturing and retail. There are also some awesome cities that are the cheapest places to live in Missouri.

Missouri average rent prices

Missouri has been on the top 10 lowest costs of living in the nation list for several years and had the eighth-lowest cost as recently as the second quarter in 2021, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Housing costs are almost 22 percent below the national average. Across the state, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,443, down 6.5 percent from last year.

While rent in major cities like St. Louis might inch closer to the $2,000 mark, it’s possible to find apartments for less than the average rate throughout the state. We found 10 of the cheapest places to live in Missouri.

The cheapest cities in Missouri for renters

Those on a budget will appreciate the fact that almost all of the cities on this list fall below the state average. Take a look at the 10 cheapest places to live in Missouri, based on one-bedroom rent prices.

10. Florissant

Florissant, Missouri

Florissant, Missouri

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $776
  • Average rent change in the past year: +6.99%

A large suburban area located about 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Florissant is home to St. Louis Christian College. It also boasts 400 acres of parkland and historic landmarks in Old Town, including Casa Alvarez, the oldest residence in the city dating back to 1790. A drive through Old Town Florissant feels like you’re driving through history since many homeowners and local residents have preserved the historical buildings.

9. Columbia

Columbia, Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $771
  • Average rent change in the past year: +6.99%

Located in the center of the state, Columbia is the home of the University of Missouri, which has one of the oldest journalism schools in the world. Its central location offers quick access to other major cities in the state, including St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as Lake of the Ozarks. Its downtown area features several restaurants and shops and a former meatpacking facility built in the 1960s that has become the Logboat Brewing Company. While rent in this area has increased in the past year, it’s still affordable and possible to find an apartment for less than $1,000 a month.

8. Liberty

Liberty, MissouriLiberty, Missouri
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $763
  • Average rent change in the past year: +9.71%

A suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, Liberty is also home to William Jewell College. The close-knit and family-friendly community hosts various events throughout the year, including the Liberty Christmas Tree program, which is designed to assist disadvantaged families and older adults facing a difficult holiday season.

7. Clayton

Clayton, Missouri

Clayton, Missouri

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $726
  • Average rent change in the past year: -62.15%

There’s no shortage of things to do in Clayton. An inner-ring suburb of St. Louis, residents and even those who work in Clayton can take advantage of the services at the Center of Clayton. The 136,000-square-foot facility features four gymnasiums, two pools, a suspended jogging track, weight lifting, aerobic/dance areas and a 30-foot climbing wall. The town is near Washington University of St. Louis, making it an affordable place to live for college students, too.

6. Grandview

Grandview, MissouriGrandview, Missouri
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $695
  • Average rent change in the past year: -1.88%

Grandview was once a farming town where young Harry Truman, who would later become the country’s 33rd president, spent much time on the family farm in the early 1900s. It has since become a vibrant city filled with parks, an active Main Street, major retail centers, restaurants, a microbrewery and hotel. Local legend has it that early leaders looked upon the rolling hills in the area and asked if it was a grand view, hence its name Grandview. The area, grand view and all, has been holding its rental rates on apartments pretty steady. Since last year, the monthly rate for a one-bedroom apartment dipped slightly, keeping the area at less than $700 a month.

5. Branson

Branson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $684
  • Average rent change in the past year: +36.71%

Branson is known as a tourist attraction, and locals benefit from the shows, music and entertainment this area produces for its thousands of out-of-town visitors annually. While it’s a popular family vacation destination, it’s also home to more than 12,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The area is becoming more popular and rent has increased more than 35 percent from last year. Still, it’s possible to find a one-bedroom apartment in this entertaining city for less than $700 a month.

4. Springfield

Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, Missouri

  • Average 1-BR rent price: $675
  • Average rent change in the past year: -17.04%

The third-largest city in Missouri, Springfield is also known as the “Queen City of the Ozarks” thanks to its location. Its downtown features shopping boutiques, restaurants and craft breweries, as well as art galleries and antique shops. The historic Gillioz Theatre stages plays and concerts while the Springfield Contemporary Theater shows more original and classic work. Rent has been decreasing in Springfield. Since last year, it’s dipped 17 percent, making this busy and robust city very affordable.

3. Republic

Republic, MissouriRepublic, Missouri
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $670
  • Average rent change in the past year: -15.75%

Located in southwest Missouri, Republic features several parks and trails, an aquatics center and is home to Ozarks Technical Community College. Although its population grew by almost 14 percent over the last decade, according to the most recent U.S. Census data, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom has decreased by almost 16 percent since last year, making Republic one of the cheapest places to live in Missouri.

2. Riverside

Riverside, MissouriRiverside, Missouri
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $635
  • Average rent change in the past year: +3.25%

Whether it’s enjoying films outdoors during Movie Night at E.H. Young Riverfront Park, taking in the newest public art installations or working out in the new Kansas City NWSL complex trailing facility, there’s something for everyone to do in Riverside. Located on the edge of the Missouri River just 10 minutes north of downtown Kansas City, this town is known for its well-regarded schools and a strong sense of community.

1. Saint Ann

Saint Ann, MissouriSaint Ann, Missouri
  • Average 1-BR rent price: $583
  • Average rent change in the past year: N/A

A suburb of St. Louis, Saint Ann borders Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and features a 34-par, nine-hole golf course, as well as six parks. It’s a quiet residential community so if you want to live near St. Louis, Saint Ann might be a great and affordable option as a one-bedroom unit is less than $600 a month.

The most expensive places to live in Missouri

While this is a list of the top cheapest cities to live in Missouri, check out some of the most expensive cities here.


Rent prices are based on a one-year rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of August 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.

We excluded cities with insufficient inventory from this report.

The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

Savvy Saturday: How to use the Southwest Companion Pass to visit Europe, Asia and more – The Points Guy

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass to save on trips to Europe, Asia and more- The Points Guy

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

How 100,000 Southwest bonus points got me an all-inclusive trip to Mexico and a Companion Pass – The Points Guy

Using 100,000 Southwest points for an all-inclusive trip – The Points Guy

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Best Airline Stocks to Buy Amid a Rocky Recovery

Airline stocks, like the rest of the travel industry these days, can’t seem to catch a break. 

After surviving the initial wave of COVID-19 and seeing travelers tentatively taking to the skies again, the Delta variant came along. But there’s a silver lining: This time around, the impact doesn’t seem as dire.

While travelers’ fear over the Delta variant “may continue to drive a choppy recovery,” says Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth, the risks are seen as abating “particularly due to increasing vaccine penetration,” albeit with regional differences. Helping things is the recent full FDA approval of the COVID vaccine co-developed by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX).

Travel trends are getting brighter: Flight bookings and yield trends for the second half of the year and first quarter of 2022 are “tracking fairly positive,” says Susquehanna analyst Christopher Stathoulopoulos. This suggests that traveler confidence “has not meaningfully eroded” despite the resurgence of COVID cases, he adds.

Tellingly, airlines also are signaling via their spending that they’re less fearful. In the second quarter, the industry shifted from cash conservation to investing “precious capital” for the future as the pandemic waned, especially in the U.S., according to Peter McNally, global sector lead for industrials, materials and energy at research firm Third Bridge Group.

Read on as we take a closer look at how nine airline stocks look amid this rocky road to recovery. Not all carriers are created equal; the best airline stocks are flying on far sturdier wings than their peers. We’ll look to identify the strongest candidates.

Data as of Sept. 22. Analyst ratings provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

1 of 9

American Airlines

American Airlines planeAmerican Airlines plane
  • Market value: $13.3 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 0 Buy, 10 Hold, 3 Sell, 4 Strong Sell

The largest airline in the world, American Airlines (AAL, $20.52) was in the midst of paying back debt when the pandemic derailed its deleveraging plans. At the end of 2020, the carrier had $41 billion in debt, which was higher than its competitors, after years of capital expenditures and share buybacks, according to Fitch Ratings.

But its financials, although not out of the woods, began improving. In June, Fitch raised its outlook for the carrier to Stable from Negative to reflect its improved finances, passenger traffic rebound and a potential lift for the industry as more people get vaccinated.

Currently, American is taking steps to get its house in order by reducing debt and spending. It is accelerating debt repayments, with a plan to pay down $15 billion by the end of 2025, according to Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth. However, that also means liquidity will fall from $21 billion at the end of the second quarter to $10 billion to $12 billion next year, she says. Syth has a Market Perform rating on the stock, which is equivalent to a Hold.

AAL is tightening its belt on the capital expenditures front as well, lowering spending to $2.6 billion a year for 2022 and 2023 – far below Syth’s forecasts for Delta Air Lines (DAL) and United Airlines (UAL).

The carrier’s moves come in light of its forecast for a third-quarter loss, which “is not encouraging,” Syth notes. “This is in contrast to legacy peers guiding to profitability despite a less favorable geographic mix, resulting in a slower revenue recovery vs. American.”

One bit of good news: In July, AAL’s revenue came in higher than expected. And while August numbers were weaker than anticipated due to the Delta variant, the company’s “book business for the holidays continues to be very strong,” Vasu Raja, American’s chief revenue officer, said at Cowen & Co.’s 14th Annual Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference earlier this month.

As far as airline stocks go, most analysts are lukewarm toward this one. Argus Research also has a Hold rating on AAL, citing the impact from the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft, Delta variant headwinds and high debt levels.

2 of 9

United Airlines

United Airlines planeUnited Airlines plane
  • Market value: $14.8 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 10 Hold, 2 Sell, 1 Strong Sell

Among the three legacy airline stocks, United Airlines (UAL, $45.68) is the most internationally focused, with nearly 40% of its 2019 revenue coming from travelers going abroad, according to Morningstar analyst Burkett Huey.

However, as international travel wilted during the pandemic, one saving grace for United has been its practice of tightly managing costs, which helped it get through a sharp drop in business last year. “We think that consistently being the lowest-unit-cost legacy carrier since 2016 is evidence of strong management,” Huey writes in a recent report.

UBS analyst Myles Walton has a Buy rating on United. He says that United surprised Wall Street recently by forecasting positive adjusted pre-tax income for the third and fourth quarters. The consensus was a third-quarter loss, as was his projection. “The positive third-quarter outlook was very encouraging,” Walton adds.

Walton says UAL’s management was also “bullish” on travel continuing to recover despite the surge in Delta infections – its recent customer survey shows more than 80% of its MileagePlus members have been vaccinated. United’s outlook for international and business travel is for Europe to recover in 2022 as more borders reopen while Asia is further out, in 2023.

Another positive note: Business travel trends at United, although still weak, are improving. It is now down by around 60% compared to 2019 – improving from a drop of 90% in prior months.

Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu, however, has a Hold rating on the airline stock. While United is “poised to be the first U.S. network carrier to return to 2019 capacity levels,” its $17 billion in planned capital expenditures through 2023 will dent cash flow and restrict its ability to pay down debt, thus “limiting value creation potential,” she says.

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Delta Air Lines

Delta airplanes at the airportDelta airplanes at the airport
  • Market value: $26.6 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 10 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Delta Air Lines (DAL, $41.59) is considered to be “highest-quality” among the Big Three legacy airline stocks. This is due to its ability to attract the most profitable business travelers – thanks to a cabin-segmentation strategy and its co-branded credit card partnerships, mainly American Express (AXP), Morningstar analyst Burkett Huey says.

The airline’s “five-cabin segmentation” strategy gives high-spending travelers the option to upgrade to more luxurious options when they can. Also, Delta gets “top dollar” when it sells miles to American Express, which, in turn, awards it to cardholders.

Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth recently upgraded the stock to Strong Buy from Market Perform. While risks remain in the industry, fundamentals are improving and so is demand for business travel. With the mid-summer selloff in airline stocks amid an increasingly favorable view on the sector, “we find Delta too hard to ignore at current levels,” she says.

DAL said U.S. business travel demand was at 40% of 2019 levels in June, and should rise to 65% to 80% by the fourth quarter, Syth adds. In a Delta survey, 5% of large corporate customers believe business travel won’t fully rebound, but that is an improvement over 8% saying so in a prior survey. “The recent trajectory is encouraging,” the analyst says.

Argus Research analyst John Staszak has a Buy rating on Delta, but recently cut his price target by $10 to $48. While the airline posted a “solid” second quarter, the third quarter will be “difficult” due to a projected 11% to 14% increase in CASM (cost per available seat mile) vs. the same quarter in 2019. The good news is DAL should return to profitability in the second half of 2021 and free cash flow should remain positive, he writes in a note.

Longer term, Staszak expects Delta to benefit from new routes and partnerships with other carriers, once the overhang from COVID-19 passes.

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Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines planeSouthwest Airlines plane
  • Market value: $30.0 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 13 Strong Buy, 5 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Since its early ground-breaking days in the airline industry, Southwest Airlines (LUV, $50.65) has been executing solidly, even as the regional air transport market had gotten more crowded with competitors. 

The pandemic has shaken the industry to the core, and only the best-positioned airline stocks will have the fastest recovery. As the largest domestic U.S. airline offering low-cost fares to leisure travelers, Southwest Airlines will likely be one of those carriers.

“We think that Southwest is among the best low-cost carriers, with a clean balance sheet, a strong management team and low costs and fares,” Argus Research analyst John Staszak says. He points out that the airline has billions in liquidity – critical in a capital-intensive industry when business conditions are worrisome – and targets leisure travelers, which is a segment rebounding faster than business travel.

As such, “Southwest appears well-positioned to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic,” Staszak adds. He maintains a long-term Buy rating on the stock, due to Southwest’s track record of “above-peer-average revenue growth, driven by its simple fare structure and reputation for generally good customer service.” However, the analyst did recently cut his target price by $10 to $60, an indication of the headwinds still buffeting the industry.

Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu also has a Buy on the stock, saying that despite near-term challenges, Southwest has “the most difficult to replicate domestic network” that serves as a competitive advantage.

Moreover, the airline had the foresight to expand aggressively into 18 new cities through the pandemic, which will result in Southwest effectively pulling “years of network growth forward,” Kahyaoglu adds. Today, Southwest has the largest domestic network in 26 of the top 50 U.S. cities.

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JetBlue Airways

JetBlue planeJetBlue plane
  • Market value: $4.8 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 5 Hold, 1 Sell, 1 Strong Sell

JetBlue Airways (JBLU, $15.18) is a low-cost airline serving primarily U.S. markets whose shares have been pummeled of late. But the selloff might have been overdone.

Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg says the airline is forecasting positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the second half of 2021. Yet despite the news, disclosed in the company’s second-quarter earnings results, JBLU stock fell on the day of the announcement.

But Linenberg’s outlook on the carrier remains positive. “We are narrowing our loss forecast for the year and feel even more confident about our forecasts in the out years.” He further points out that the airline stock is undervalued: “Valuations are not even close to being stretched.”

With JetBlue’s management indicating that the carrier would be aiming for investment-grade credit ratings by 2024, meaning that it expects to be in a better financial position to repay debt, “there is a real, tangible, deleveraging story here as well,” Linenberg says. “We see an attractive entry-point on the selloff” of the stock, he adds.

Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth says JetBlue’s second quarter had both good and bad news. The good news was that fares have recovered to 2019 levels and its other revenue initiatives are ramping up; the bad news out of the quarter was JBLU’s higher-than-expected CASM outlook. Nevertheless, she says, the good outweighed the bad.

Syth also points to JetBlue’s actions to lower its debt burden, which will make a dent on its interest payments (from about $230 million in annual run rate in the second half of 2020 to around $165 million in the second half of 2022). As such, she maintains her Outperform rating, which is the equivalent of a Buy.

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Alaska Air Group

An Alaska Air planeAn Alaska Air plane
  • Market value: $7.2 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 3 Buy, 1 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Alaska Airlines, whose parent is Alaska Air Group (ALK, $57.45), turned profitable in June as “vaccinations unleashed a surge of pent-up domestic leisure travel demand in the U.S.,” CFRA analyst Colin Scarola says.

With domestic air passenger traffic trending higher from June into July, “we expect an unabated demand recovery” for Alaska that leads to “material” profits in the third and fourth quarters, Scarola writes. He recently upgraded the airline stock to Strong Buy from Buy and raised his price target by $1 to $80.

Another reason why Scarola looks at Alaska Air favorably: Shares have fallen by around a fifth since mid-May “even as operations turned more profitable than expected in June and the outlook for the remaining international and business travel recovery has greatly improved since May.” As such, the stock selloff is an “attractive buying opportunity,” he concludes.

Importantly, ALK said it has exercised its option to buy a dozen Boeing 737-9 planes earlier than expected. This decision will “accelerate Alaska’s growth” and represents a “prudent, long-term investment in our business,” the carrier says.

UBS has a Buy rating on ALK. Analyst Myles Walton writes in a recent note that load factors (passengers filling available seats) at Alaska have steadily increased in the second quarter – from 70% in April to 86% in June. Cash flow turned positive in June as did pre-tax margins, he also notes.

Moreover, business travel rose in the second quarter and management guided to further improvements. Walton, however, cut his price target to $85 from $88 to reflect 2023 valuation expectations, discounted back a year.

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Mesa Air Group

American Eagle planeAmerican Eagle plane
  • Market value: $275.6 million
  • Analyst ratings: 2 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 1 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Mesa Air Group (MESA, $7.68) is a regional carrier that operates American Eagle, United Express and DHL Express flights on behalf of its partners. In return, Mesa receives fixed fees for each aircraft used and is reimbursed for certain direct operating expenses, plus other related costs. It operates 165 aircraft with around 450 daily departures serving 95 U.S. cities, Washington, D.C. and Mexico.

Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg has a Buy rating on the stock. In a recent note, he writes that Mesa’s total operating revenue rose 71% year-over-year in its fiscal third quarter, compared with a decline of 46% in the prior quarter.

Moreover, Linenberg says the airline grew its cash by 22% to $180 million quarter-over-quarter. Mesa posted a net income of $4.3 million (11 cents per share), but it was buoyed by a $26 million CARES Act government payroll support grant.

While the airline is not without its challenges, Mesa’s low-cost structure and fleet mix improvements will likely raise its cost and operational efficiencies. And this “reinforces our belief that Mesa will remain an important partner with the opportunity to take on additional flying,” says Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth, who has an Outperform rating on the stock.

Moreover, while Mesa’s business is tied to its partners’ financial health, the likelihood of American, United and DHL filing bankruptcy is “unlikely,” Syth adds. As such, she views the risk-reward tradeoff for the stock as “compelling.”

COVID-19 woes also should hasten consolidation among regional airline stocks, and Mesa could benefit since it has one of the “most competitive” cost structures, Syth writes.

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Allegiant Travel

Allegiant planeAllegiant plane
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 1 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Allegiant Travel (ALGT, $197.29), which operates Allegiant Air, is a different breed of carrier with a singular business model. It sees airline seats as commodities that can lead to other ways to earn revenue from less capital-intensive and higher-margin operations, such as offering hotel rooms, car rentals and the like.

Consider that the company is restarting the development of its waterfront Sunseeker Resort in Port Charlotte, Florida,, which will offer shopping and entertainment services along with a rooftop pool and a 55,000-square-foot meeting and event space. Construction recently resumed and a tentative opening is slated for late 2022 or early 2023, according to Susquehanna analyst Christopher Stathoulopoulos, who has a Positive (Buy) rating on the stock.

While the analyst acknowledged that an airline and hotel combination might seem “odd,” he nevertheless is bullish about Allegiant’s venture. He cites the carrier’s “strong” presence in Florida, opportunity to boost revenue through bundling travel services, “solid” air travel trends to Florida even through the pandemic and ALGT’s decision to own and directly operate the resort, which will capture all of the margin and revenue upside.

Stifel analyst Joseph DeNardi has a Buy rating on the stock, noting that second-quarter revenue and EBITDA results beat estimates, although the company guided to lower-than expected-revenue for the third quarter. Nevertheless, Allegiant “has proven how differentiated and durable its core business model is through COVID, and we see little reason why that changes in the next 12 to 24 months,” he says.

Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth has a Strong Buy on the airline stock. She says ALGT is in a “unique” position to generate higher profitability in 2022 than pre-pandemic times “due to a differentiated business model, favorable demand exposure and opportunity to lower unit costs,” plus a “strong” capital structure.

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Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines planeSpirit Airlines plane
  • Market value: $2.7 billion
  • Analyst ratings: 5 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 7 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell

Spirit Airlines (SAVE, $25.26) is an ultra-low cost carrier that offers substantially lower airfares and makes up for it by charging for baggage check-in, seat selection and other ancillary perks. Like with the other airline stocks, business has been improving.

In the just-concluded second-quarter, Spirit posted a narrower-than-expected loss while operating revenues were higher than the consensus estimate. Operating revenue rose 520% in the quarter compared to a year ago, while revenues improved 86% sequentially.

But Spirit received a black eye from investors for cancelling more than 2,800 flights over 11 days starting in late July, during the height of summer. CEO Ted Christie cited inclement weather, flight delays, staff shortages, technical problems and an unexpectedly large surge in demand among other issues for the disruption. (Spirit does not have agreements to rebook passengers on other airlines when flights are canceled.)

For now, Spirit has reduced its number of flights to avoid similar disruptions, but this will dent third-quarter revenue. The carrier is now forecasting revenue to be 4% to 11% below the same quarter in 2019. 

In reaction to the news, SAVE shares hit a year-to-date low near $23 in mid-August, but have since stabilized. Analysts are optimistic for more upside ahead, too. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the average target price is $37.60, representing expected upside of nearly 50% over the next 12 months or so.

Source: kiplinger.com