How to Earn Tons of Frequent Flyer Miles Without Flying
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I earned my first airline miles as a teenager by flying on airplanes via purchased tickets. At the time, I assumed that was the only way to earn airline miles. Turns out, that isn't even the main way to earn airline miles. You can earn airline miles doing everything from dining out to shopping online to setting up an investment account. You can then use those miles that you earned in everyday life to fly to places near and far — virtually for free. If that sounds as intriguing to you as it did to me, here are a few simple ways you can rack up enough airlines miles to fly in first class on an award ticket without ever having to step on a plane.
Airline Credit Cards
The easiest and quickest way to rack up a whole bunch of airline miles is via the airlines' co-branded credit cards such as the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard (Editor's note: This offer has expired), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card, or the US Airways Premier World MasterCard. Virtually every major airline has at least one credit card partner, and they often have at least one personal and business credit card available, and sometimes more than that. Make everyday purchases on those credit cards, and watch your miles add up.
The sign-up bonus alone is usually enough to get you a couple of free domestic flights, or a good chunk of the way to a premium international flight. In addition to being a fantastic way to earn airline miles, these co-branded airline cards often give you perks like free checked bags, early boarding, or an annual discounted companion airline ticket. (See also: 5 Great Cards With Companion Tickets)
Some credit cards aren't specifically labeled an airline credit card, but they still earn points that can transfer to airline miles, so don't discount those either. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards)
If you do any of your shopping online, you could be earning major airline miles for those purchases. There are online shopping portals such as United MileagePlus Shopping and American AAdvantage e-Shopping that will pay you airline miles for going to your favorite online retailer websites such as Gap, Home Depot, Apple, Sears, and more via their website. They will track the purchases you make by first going to their site, and then pay you airline miles for each dollar you spend. I have earned as many as 30 extra airline miles per dollar for making online purchases during some lucrative airline shopping portal promotions. In this case, a $100 purchase would earn 3,000 valuable airline miles, so it can really add up quickly. (See also: Guide to Cash Back Shopping)
If you register your credit cards with the Dining Rewards Network via programs like United MileagePlus Dining you can earn up to 5 miles per dollar when you dine at participating restaurants. This is on top of any miles you might earn directly from your credit card for dining purchases. Some areas of the country have more participating restaurants than others, but it is another free and simple way to pick up some extra airline miles. When you sign up, look for new customer promotions such as earning 1,000 United miles for spending $30 at a participating restaurant.
If you need to send flowers to someone, then you can also have a smile put on your face by earning more than 30 miles per dollar for your generous gift! On a $50 flower order this would come to 1,500 airline miles! That is roughly the same as you would usually earn flying from New York City to Austin. The offers change from time to time, but FTD offers points for United MileagePlus, Delta SkyMiles, and American Airlines AAdvantage members.
You can earn airline miles for funding investment accounts. This one may not work for everyone due to the amount of cash involved, but you can get up to 50,000 American, United, or Delta miles for funding a Fidelity non-retirement brokerage account.
Airline frequent flyer programs have become very active on social media in recent years, so from time to time there will be opportunities to earn free miles for participating in promotions, completing surveys, or via contests that they advertise on Twitter or Facebook. I recommend following a few of the major airline programs on your social media accounts so you can stay on the lookout for the free and easy miles they sometimes make available. (See also: This Is How You Win Sweepstakes)
Hotels and Rental Cars
Another way to earn airline miles is to stay on the lookout for bonus miles offers from hotel and rental car chains. You can often choose to earn airline miles instead of rental car or hotel points, and while this doesn't always make sense, occasionally bonuses make the airline miles you earn more valuable than the points you are forgoing.
These are a few of the main ways that you can earn enough airline miles to literally fly around the world without ever having to buy an airline ticket!
Where do you pickup bonus airline miles? Please share some in comments!
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.