Airline Miles

Creative Ways to Earn Airline Miles and Points

How I Use Airline Miles to Book Free International Flights

Many of you followed along as Matt and I explored the Baltics over the summer, but most of you are unaware that we flew and stayed in hotels completely free of charge. How is this possible? Through membership to airline and hotel loyalty programs. These programs are completely free of charge and exist to incentivize consumers to exclusively use their airline or hotel chain. I quickly became hooked to the concept of redeeming airline miles for free flights (and hotel rooms).

While most Americans are fairly familiar with a variety of travel reward credit cards offering tens of thousands of airline miles as sign up bonuses, they remain in the dark as to how to acquire frequent flyer miles without ever stepping onto a plane. Furthermore, when you accrue enough airline miles/points in a calendar year, you gain status which not only makes your vacation free, but you get special treatment. This special treatments gets you perks including access to airport lounges and exclusive premier hotlines, which we have used to route our stopovers during our international trips.

As United gold and SPG platinum members, we had access to airport lounges, priority boarding and baggage checking, and received a free upgrade in our hotel in Copenhagen to the corner room with a breathtaking view of Copenhagen.

 

1. Ride Share

You can earn Delta Skymiles for riding with Lyft. You can earn one airline mile per dollar spent riding with Lyft and for a limited time, 3 miles per dollar spend on airport rides.

2. Dining Out for airline miles

Most of these programs are similar, but all provide frequent flyer miles for your favorite airline. You simply register your credit card with the program, and dine out at one of the participating restaurants. The airline miles are automatically awarded to your mileage account!

Alaska Airlines

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent without subscribing to emails
  • 3 miles per dollar spent if you subscribe to emails
  • 5 airline miles per dollar spent when you subscribe to emails and have 12 valid transactions in a calendar year
  • Bonus 1,000 miles when you spend $30 within 30 days of enrolling

American Airlines

  • Earn 1 mile per dollar spent without subscribing to emails
  • 3 airline miles per dollar spent if you subscribe to emails
  • 5 miles per dollar spent when you subscribe to emails and have 12 valid transactions in a calendar year
  • Bonus 1,500 miles when you spend $25 at your first restaurant
  • Bonus 500 miles on each of your next purchases- up to 3 times
  • That’s up to 3,000 bonus miles you could earn

Delta Airlines

  • Earn 1 mile per 2 dollars spent without subscribing to emails
  • 3 miles per dollar spent if you subscribe to emails
  • 5 miles per dollar spent when you subscribe to emails and have 12 valid transactions in a calendar year
  • 500 bonus miles when you spend $30 or more at your first restaurant
  • 1000 bonus miles when you spend $30 or more at your second restaurant
  • 1,500 bonus miles when you spend $30 or more at your third restaurant
  • To earn bonus miles, you must complete an online review of each restaurant

Southwest Airlines

  • Earn 1 mile per 2 dollars spent without subscribing to emails
  • 3 miles per dollar spent if you subscribe to emails
  • Up to 1,000 rapid rewards points when you spend $25 at 3 separate restaurants the first 30 days of your membership

United Airlines

  • Earn 1 mile per 2 dollars spent without subscribing to emails
  • 3 miles per dollar spent if you subscribe to emails
  • 5 miles per dollar spent when you subscribe to emails and have 12 valid transactions in a calendar year
  • Up to 4,000 bonus miles when you spend $25 or more at your first 6 restaurants within 30 days of sign up
  • Frequent updates of restaurants offering double miles- that means you could 10 miles per dollar spent while eating out!

3. Shopping Online

Airline shopping portals (offered for every major airline) allow you to earn airline miles for purchases you would have otherwise made. Even better, it’s a great way to double-dip on your miles earned- especially if you use the right credit card. You have the opportunity to earn miles/dollar on both your credit card and via the shopping portal. If you belong to multiple airline loyalty programs, you can compare reward opportunities at multiple websites such as EV Reward, Ebates, and Ultimate Rewards.

4. Plan a Vacation

Everyone knows that the fastest way to earn airline miles is by physically flying in an airplane, but did you know you can earn miles by staying in hotels and planning your vacation through an airline vacation portal? Matt and I recently booked a cruise through United Cruises, and not only did we get a better rate than we saw advertised on the cruise line website, but we got on board spending and earned a couple thousand miles simply for taking a vacation that we would have taken otherwise. Combine this with a travel rewards credit card, and you’re double dipping miles again!

5. Paying Your Energy Bill

Depending on your location, you may have the opportunity to earn airline miles for doing nothing other than paying your energy bill. This offer is only available in certain states, but it’s worth checking out- especially since you have the opportunity to earn up to 15,000 miles simply for enrolling!

6. Credit Card Bonuses

Last but not least, credit card bonuses are the most lucrative way to earn mass amounts of airline miles with sign up bonuses. I only recommend this method if you are able to spend the minimum to qualify for the bonus without carrying a balance over. This is only a good method for earning airline miles if you pay your balance as you spend it, as paying interest on a credit card eliminates the benefit of earning miles as you spend. There are literally hundreds of credit cards that offer sign up bonuses, but these are my favorites (note: I love to travel internationally, so trust that all of these cards have no foreign transaction fees).

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card not only offers a lucrative 50,000 point sign up bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first 90 days, but offers TONS of other perks including a priority pass membership granting access to over 1,000 airport lounges, paid TSA precheck and global entry, and $300 in travel credit annually. For a $450 annual fee, you really get your money’s worth, and you get 50% more in travel redemption when you book your travel through the Chase portal.

If you get the card and later decide the annual fee is too much for you, you can always ask to move your line of credit to one of Chase’s more affordable cards. Chase’s Sapphire Premium card is also a great travel rewards card and only has a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.

2. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card

This is a great starter card, especially since there is no annual fee. You get 20,000 online bonus points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days (only if you apply online) and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, and pay yourself back with points.

I love cards where you pay yourself back with points as opposed to earning miles directly with the airline, because your rewards flights still earn you premier qualifying miles. In contrast, you sometimes spend more on your flights (example: on United using exclusively United miles, I can book a RT ticket from Nashville to Peru for 40,000 miles, vs having to spend upwards of 60,000 BOA points to purchase a similar ticket). This is where you just have to be strategic with which miles/points you use and when.

3. Barclay Arrival Plus Card

This card offers 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days, 2x miles earned on all purchases (not just travel like most other cards), and 5% miles back every time you redeem miles. There are no foreign transaction fees, and your miles never expire! The $89 annual fee is waived the first year, so if you decide you don’t like the card after the first year, you can always move your line of credit to a card without an annual fee.

So those are some of my secrets to how I’ve managed to travel the world by redeeming miles and points! Do you have any lucrative ways you’ve earned miles to share? Let me know how you earn and redeem your airline miles and points in the comments!

Danielle Farideh Guy

 

About the author

Danielle

I’m Danielle. I’m a 23 year old ICU nurse that thoroughly enjoys travel, writing, and photography. Though Nashville is my home, most of my free time is either spent traveling or planning my next trip. I enjoy connecting with people of all backgrounds and cultures. It’s my hope that my journey will inspire you to plan one of your own!

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2 Comments on "Creative Ways to Earn Airline Miles and Points"

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Jena Mae Nacar
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Thanks for this! Quite informative for someone like me just starting out on my own. 🙂

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