3 Ways Your Bank Account Can Boost Your Travel Rewards


The far-reaching airline perks of credit cards are well-documented, but what about those who choose to go the Dave Ramsey route and live credit-free? Good news: it's still possible to rack up rewards the old-fashioned way. Here's how to accumulate the most mileage using your bank account. (See also: Best Sign Up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards)

Fly High With a Miles-Earning Checking Account

Although the number of debit cards that offer airline miles has dwindled due to the Durbin Amendment, there are still some worthwhile offerings to consider. One such card is the UFB Direct Airline Rewards Checking account, which awards one mile for every two dollars spent in point-of-sale debit transactions made with the card. There's also a one-time bonus of 1,000 miles after making a direct deposit of $1,000. Currently, the only airline affiliated with the program is American Airlines, but UFB Direct says they may be adding more airlines in the future.

BankDirect is another online bank that offers perks with American Airlines. For opening a Mileage Checking with Interest account, you'll receive 1,000 AAdvantage miles; once it's open, you can keep earning miles with recurring direct deposits (six consecutive monthly deposits of $2,000+ must be made to earn 10,000 miles). Pay at least three bills online each month (totaling $500 or more), and you'll score another 5,000 AAdvantage Miles. Plus, you'll also receive up to 100 miles per every $1,000 stored in your account based on the average monthly balance. The caveat? You'll pay a $12 monthly fee, and the "interest" paid is just .01%.

Craving savings the "Mahalo" way? Sign up for the Bankoh Hawaiian Airlines Visa Check Card, available only to Bank of Hawaii checking account holders. You'll earn one mile for every two dollars spent on qualifying purchases; plus, you can get up to 10 more HawaiianMiles for every dollar spent at participating "Cardholder Exclusive" partners (most of which are Hawaii-based businesses, but there are also a few national companies like Hartmann and 1-800-Flowers). FYI: cardholders can only earn a maximum of 1,000 miles every month, and there's also a $3 monthly fee to consider.

Here's an ongoing promotion to keep a hawkeye out for: The Citibank airline bonuses offered about once a year. (Tip: set a Google alert so you don't miss out on the special promotion code!) In the past, this promotion has awarded 30,000 AAdvantage miles for Citigold accounts; 15,000 AAdvantage miles for Citibank accounts; and 5,000 AAdvantage miles for basic banking accounts. Typically, to snag the bonus, one must open one of these accounts and then make a minimum debit card purchase of $125–$750, as well as set up at least one online bill payment for two months in a row.

Earn Airline ROI With a Miles-Earning CD or Money Market Account

Along with the checking account mentioned above, BankDirect also offers American Airlines rewards for those who purchase a Mileage Certificate of Deposit. The longer the term, the better — since the two-year CD awards up to 1,000 AAdvantage miles for every $1,000 invested, while the one-year and six-month CDs offer 500 and 250 miles for each $1,000 invested, respectively. A few things to know: there's a minimum opening balance of $10,000, and the interest rate is .10% on all three offers.

They also offer a Mileage Money Market Account, on which the interest rate is .05% for accounts of more than $500. Account holders can snag 50 AAdvantage miles for every $1,000 of their average daily balance each month; once your account hits $50,000, you'll get 25 AAdvantage miles with the same setup. You'll also get a bonus of 1,000 miles just for opening the account.

Invest Your Way Into the Friendly Skies

Planning on making a somewhat sizable investment? You might want to consider signing up with Fidelity Investments — or simply adding to your existing Fidelity account — to get more bang for your hard-earned bucks. Here's how to earn miles with United MileagePlus, Delta SkyMiles, or American Airlines AAdvantage with a non-retirement brokerage account (either new or existing): add at least $25,000 and you'll get 15,000 miles; $50,000+ and get 25,000 miles; or $100,000+ and get 50,000 miles. Be aware that the money must stay in your account for at least six months, or the mileage bonus may be withdrawn. Also, all money must be deposited within 60 days of signing up for the promotion.

And, as always, it's important to weigh your objectives before signing up for any of these offers. After all, if you'd rather earn ample interest than rack up airline miles, it might be wiser to shop around for snazzier rates with accounts that don't offer flight incentives. But for those already considering one of these bank accounts and/or are trying to milk miles the credit-free way, these options just might be the (round-trip) ticket.

Are you earning airline miles from your checking account?

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