How to Earn Airline Miles Without Flying
From credit cards to online shopping.
There are plenty of ways to rack up frequent flyer miles, no flying required. Not all of us are in the high-flying position to jet off regularly on mileage runs — not yet at least.
I'm so, so close to reaching the threshold for a free ticket with American that I'm determined to get there without having to buy another one. Turns out if I play it right I can earn miles for plenty of things I'm already doing or would be doing regardless of whether miles were involved.
Credit cards are the typical motherload for earning miles — buckets of them. But it's not any or every credit card.
Ones billed as travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will typically do the trick, as long as you watch the fine print about which credit cards transfer to which programs or have great redemptions. In case there's any doubt, there's the plastic airlines themselves offer, which can come with huge signup bonuses ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 miles that's offered by cards like the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card on occasion. (And if they don't, wait to apply until they do! For point of reference, 25,000 miles is often good enough for one domestic round-trip ticket or more.)
Spending with the card also earns additional miles or points. It's a whole wide world of gaming the system out there.
Even if they don't tout their alliances, most major hotel chains are hooked up with some airline. I went to a wedding and stayed at an InterContinental Hotel Group property, so I could earn miles on American Airlines for my stay. I'll take those, thank you very much. In fact, most major airlines have relationships with pretty much almost all of the hotel chains. Just make sure to drop your frequent flyer number off at the door.
Get somewhere with a car rental and earn miles. Like with hotel groups, most major car rental companies are affiliated with frequent flyer programs. It's a quick and easy way for most travelers to keep their frequent flyer miles active, too.
The only thing to look out for when crediting those points to a major airline is that there may be a (small) surcharge but like everything else, there's a way to avoid those too.
Maybe it has something to do with wanting to make up for the poor quality of airplane food but many airlines give miles for eating out at specific restaurants through their dining rewards programs. Searching "[Airline] dining rewards program" will bring them right up. Basically, any money I spend at restaurants in their network also will earn me miles. All it takes is a little premeditated action.
There aren't even that many hoops to jump through, just sign up for the program with an existing frequent flyer number and associate a credit card with the account, which is how miles are issued. And then, you know, actually use that card to pay once there. (They have to get you somewhere, right?)
I plugged in a New Jersey ZIP code for a couple airlines' programs for a quick look. Honestly, I had expected a smattering of blah chains to pop up but instead I got a nice spread of participating spots (mostly independently-owned) ranging from fine dining to pizzerias.
A slew of airlines have arrangements with big name retailers so travelers can earn miles for purchases online. United Airlines' MileagePlus Shopping works with Apple (a mile per dollar) and Macy's (four miles for every dollar currently), for example. Getting those miles requires signing in and going to the airline's shopping portal first but it's really just an extra stop online for nifty travel bucks. By going through the website, the cookie gets logged onto the browser and you'll eventually land on the retailer's regular page. I am still in the market for a new laptop…
Rewards search engine Evreward.com makes it all that much easier. Searching the name of a store brings up every loyalty reward program that place is associated with including frequent flyer miles (and also hotel rewards). Banana Republic, for example, works with American, Delta, Hawaiian, Hilton, Southwest and United. Amazon lovers are out of luck.
This is more of a piecemeal approach to earning miles but instead of falling down the rabbit hole of Facebook or Candy Crush or whatever it is, I can spend my idle time online completing surveys and questionnaires to earn miles. That can happen through sites like e-Rewards, which is global, e-Miles, Opinion Miles Club for United, e-Miles, and My Points.
On that note, follow airlines on social media and watch for their promotions and updates. From time to time they bait us with miles in exchange for simple likes or clicks. #clickformiles
DirecTV has been known to throw in some 30,000 miles as a sign-up bonus; even Netflix ran a similar promotion to spur new sign-ups. (No harm no foul in canceling an existing subscription and signing up again, either.) And JetBlue and Zipcar have a thing. The miles are out there!