7 Ways to Earn Airline Miles

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I love free things. Especially free travel things. Especially free flights. Airline miles allow me free flights. What a blessing to budget-conscious travel plebeians like myself!

Did you know there are ways to earn miles without actually boarding a plane? I speak truth. I just so happened to earn 700+ American Airline miles as I write this, and not by purchasing a plane ticket.

Here are 7 ways to earn flight miles to get you closer to that ever-coveted flight award.

1. Sign up for the frequent flyer programs for airlines you fly the most.

This one is so obvious that I apologize now for even including it in this list. But you can’t earn airline miles without first being a part of frequent flyer programs. Sign up for the programs of airlines you fly the most. For me, that’s Southwest and American Airlines as they’re usually the cheapest fares out of Nashville. Signing up is easy and free and totally wasteful to not claim those miles for your flights you’re already taking.

This is a helpful article written by The Points Guy (his blog is great!) from Travel + Leisure on how to choose the right frequent flyer program for you.

2. Get a travel credit card.

The biggest delight to my travel-loving heart has been the benefits of owning a travel credit card. Everyone who wants to travel should own one. Unconvinced? Read my post detailing the bountiful blessings that come along with owning a travel credit card.

There are three different types of travel credit cards:

Partner airline cards. These cards are directly tied with a specific airline company, like Southwest or American Airlines. I have the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Card. For every dollar I spend on the card, I receive one American Airlines mile, and I receive two miles for every American Airlines flight I purchase with the card.

General travel cards. There are other cards that either aren’t tied to a specific airline at all or allow you to redeem miles through specific partner airlines. I have a Barclaycard Arrival Card (which is no longer available to apply for); the card allows me to redeem my miles for any travel expense, be it flight, hotel, or car rental. I earn one mile for every dollar I spend, and two miles for every dollar I spend on dining or travel expenses.

Cards that do both. Then there are the credit cards that do it all. My favorite is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card—you can redeem your points by transferring the points to the airline and hotel partners, OR by using the points to book travel direct through Chase's booking portal, OR use redeem the points for statement credits, cash back, or gift cards. The flexibility is DOPE. Learn more here!

Find yourself a travel credit card or two that fit your lifestyle and begin earning miles with every dollar you spend. Of course, be a smart financial cookie and use your credit card wisely to avoid debt.

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3. Research additional credit card offers for earning miles.

Some credit cards offer additional ways to earn miles that go beyond spending money. For instance, my Barclaycard has a travel community forum—I can earn miles simply by sharing my travel stories. If you have a credit card, research its offers thoroughly to see what other charming li’l ways you may be able to earn miles.

4. Take online surveys.

Make your boredom productive; instead of scrolling mindlessly through Twitter or Pinterest in your commute/standing in line/waiting hours at the DMV/what-have-you, you can take e-surveys to earn miles. e-Rewards is one that I’ve signed up for. I can redeem the points I earn from taking surveys for American Airlines or Southwest miles, and I just so happened to redeem 500 American miles before I wrote this sentence.

e-Miles allows you to earn miles simply by watching marketing messages and responding with your opinions. These miles can be redeemed for several airlines: American, United, Frontier, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest.

Put the habit of staring at your phone to use and start earning miles!

5. Dine and online shop through your frequent flyer programs. 

You don’t have to own a travel credit card to earn extra miles through shopping. Most frequent flyer programs offer an online shopping program that offer miles per dollar spent at certain retailers online.

For instance, through American's AAdvantage eShopping Mall, I earned 4 miles for every dollar spent online at Petsmart. I followed the link to the Petsmart website through the eShopping Mall, purchased the pet food I needed for the month, and earned more than 200 miles in the process. This doesn’t include the additional miles earned through using my American Airlines credit card for the purchase (I’m serious when I urge everyone to own a travel credit card! They are a gift from the financial heavens!). There was another offer with Barnes and Noble, so I took care of some Christmas shopping and earned miles in the process.

In all, I earned 427 miles from online shopping by going through the eShopping Mall and using my airline credit card to make the purchases. Miles earned while still in my PJs are the best kind of miles earned.

You can also earn miles by eating food. Through AAdvantage’s dining program, you simply create an account, dine at the more than 11,000 participating restaurants, and earn miles for your money spent. 

The takeaway: research your frequent flyer program to see if these sorts of shopping and dining programs are available.

6. Earn through car and hotel rentals.

Most frequent flyer programs also have hotel and car rental partners. For instance, through my American Airlines program, I can earn 500 miles by renting a car for 3+ days through Avis, and I even happen to get a 35% discount for it, too. DOUBLE WIN.

You can earn Southwest miles through several hotel partners and car rentals as well. Set aside a wee bit of time to do some research to see what your frequent flyer program of choice offers for earning miles through partnerships with other companies.

7. Transfer or purchase miles. 

Did you know you can transfer miles from another frequent flyer account to yours? Find a homebody who just so happens to have some airline miles sitting around (aka my dad) or better yet find a generous jetsetter who has a boatload (planeload?) of miles for the taking and proposition them for their miles. Some airlines charge a fee for this, but if you are just shy of a couple thousand miles to a flight award, that transfer fee could be well worth attaining said flight award. For instance, American Airlines charges tiered fees depending on the amount of miles you’re sharing.

Some airlines also allow you to purchase miles directly; this may be useful for you if you are close to a flight award and purchasing miles would be cheaper than straight-up purchasing the flight without miles.

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As you can see, there are plenty of ways to earn miles simply by living your life as you normally do. Go forth and prosper in your miles-earning quest, my friend!

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