You probably wouldn't turn down a ticket for a free flight if you won it in a contest or it was given to you as a gift. It's also unlikely that you'd happily decline the option to sit in a better seat, enjoy free meals or get money toward a future flight with no strings attached if someone approached you at the airport and offered you all of those things. However, so many American travelers are essentially turning their noses up at free travel perks. They're doing this by ignoring airline loyalty programs that offer generous perks for frequent travelers.

In fact, anyone who travels at least a handful of times per year is essentially turning away free money if they aren't signed up for the loyalty program of the airline they prefer to use. Why are so many American travelers shunning loyalty programs? Below, we at take a look at why many travelers are overlooking the benefits waiting for them in the skies.

1. They Feel Like Loyalty Programs Are Only For Elite Travelers

Many people have seen member lounges or watched other passengers settle into luxurious seats on flights without ever even considering the possibility that those same perks are available to ordinary travelers.

The common assumption is that lounges, meals, bag privileges, comfortable seats and bonus miles are reserved strictly for travelers who lead lives without room to compromise for anything less than champagne and caviar.

While airlines do reserve some top-tier perks strictly for elite members, there are many perks that are available to members at the bottom tier. Travelers who don't at least sign up will never even have a chance to get a taste of the good life.

2. They Don't Realize That Membership Is Free

Most travelers assume that you have to pay to play when it comes to enjoying the best perks that airlines have to offer. What they don't register is that getting your name on an airline membership card is almost always free. However, it usually takes spending a certain amount in miles before you can actually jump tiers to start getting some major perks.

3. They Don't Realize That Rewards Go Far Beyond Flying

You don't have to fly every week for business to receive some pretty great perks from airline loyalty programs. Many perks can actually be earned and used in everyday life. Most airlines have impressive partnerships with restaurants, merchants, hotel chains and rental agencies. Having an airline credit card that's co-branded with an airline loyalty program can be your ticket to doing more with your money every time you make a purchase.

4. They Can't Keep Track Of Changes To Loyalty Programs

It's not always travelers' bad when it comes to why American travelers aren't taking advantage of such loyalty programs. Airlines take a big chunk of the blame simply because of the fact that they are always reducing perks or rearranging how their loyalty programs offer perks.

Many travelers are reluctant to sign up for a program that they believe is bound to change in the future. For instance, Delta recently scrapped a wide number of perks for loyal members. In addition, big downgrades in perks happening as a result of the deterioration of the partnership between Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have travelers feeling like a loyalty program just isn't worth the hassle.