10 of the Best Ways to Earn Airline Miles

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Airline miles are one of the most valuable tools to reduce travel costs. There are several creative ways you can earn airline miles besides buying plane tickets. You can easily turn your daily purchases into frequent flyer miles. Let’s look at a few examples.

1. Be Loyal To One Airline Alliance

It’s not a secret that airlines give the best rewards to their most loyal passengers. Being able to earn elite status means free checked bags, free space-available upgrades, and more miles on qualifying airline purchases and flights. For instance, Delta SkyMiles Medallion members can earn up to 11 SkyMiles per $1 spent.

2. Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card

The easiest way to earn travel miles on every purchase is by charging your purchases to a travel credit card (consider one of the best credit cards for travel miles to earn more rewards for your airline purchases). Co-brand airline credit cards earn airline miles on every purchase.

However, if you like to fly multiple airlines, a co-branded airline credit card may be limiting. Instead, consider a flexible rewards credit card that still earns points/miles for your purchases but doesn’t limit your rewards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express are two examples of flexible rewards credit cards. Check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs American Express Platinum review for further details.

You can also earn a one-time signup bonus that can be enough to book a trip as well. Waiting for the best limited-time bonus offers is a good strategy. As long as you can achieve the minimum spend to earn the bonus miles, you can take advantage of the offers.

Tiered Rewards Credit Cards

As mentioned above, if you have a flexible rewards card, it will either be a tiered rewards card that earns bonus points on select purchase categories or flat-rate rewards card. For example, the Platinum Card from American Express earns 5 points per $1 on most plane tickets and hotel bookings. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 point per $1.

You can then redeem your points on AmexTravel for award flights. Another option is transferring them to an airline partner like Delta, Emirates, or British Airways. Most of the American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners let you transfer points on a 1:1 basis. However, the annual fee for this card is $550 (See Rates & Fees). 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. All other purchases earn 1x points per $1 spent. Additionally, cardholders can transfer their Chase Ultimate Rewards points to one of Chase’s travel partners. The annual fee is $95.

Note that both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Platinum Card from American Express are some of the best metal credit cards you can have in your wallet.

Flat Rate Rewards Credit Cards

Other flexible travel credit cards earn the same number of miles on every purchase. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per $1 on every purchase. Your miles are redeemable for travel statement credits or booking flights on the Orbitz-powered travel portal. You can also transfer your miles directly to select airline partners.

3. Use Airline Travel Partners

Travel credit cards aren’t the only way to earn bonus miles on travel purchases.

Many frequent flyer partners award bonus miles when you support their travel and retail partners. For instance, you can earn bonus Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards at most major hotel loyalty programs and rental cars. In addition to earning hotel and rental car loyalty points, you earn airline miles too.

And if you use the best Southwest credit card for you, you’ll earn bonus points redeemable for award flights.

4. Dining

Most frequent flyer programs have a dining rewards program. You can link your credit and debit card to the dining account to earn miles at select restaurant partners. It’s possible to earn bonus miles at restaurants, bars, clubs. Reviewing restaurants can also earn bonus miles.

These programs usually offer a one-time bonus if you reach certain spending milestones in the first 30 days.

Another way to earn bonus airline miles is by using one of the best credit cards for restaurants and dining. Some of these cards offer cash rewards that defray the cost of plane tickets you pay cash for.

5. Home and Financial Services

Home and financial-related purchases can also earn bonus airline miles. Some examples include buying home security systems, changing home electricity providers, switching insurance providers, and apply for a new or refinance home mortgage.

For example, you might be able to earn up to 40,000 bonus United Airlines MileagePlus miles by getting a personal loan through LendingClub. Other airlines partner with student loan refinancing lenders.

6. Gas Stations

Some airlines partner with select gas stations. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members can earn 1 point per gallon of fuel at Marathon stations. This isn’t a lot of points but it can help fill a small points gap to squeeze in one more award flight this holiday season.

Being loyal to a certain gas station brand also means you can get cash discounts on fuel purchases. Once again, you save money in two different ways by using one of the best gas credit cards to pay for your gas.

7. Online Shopping

Airline and credit card loyalty programs both have online shopping portals. You can earn bonus miles at many online retailers. How much you earn depends on which retailer you shop at.

Consider using one of the best credit cards for online shopping when using an airline shopping portal. By doing so, you’ll maximize the rewards earned on your purchases.

Being loyal to one airline or credit card program can be the quickest way to rack up the bonus miles. But if you’re not trying to book an award flight soon, CashBack Monitor shows you the best rates by shopping portal.

8. Donate to Charity

You might earn bonus miles by donating cash to charities. If the airline finds a charity you support, this is an option to consider.

9. Business Purchases

Business flyers can also earn airline miles quickly. Not every airline awards bonus miles on for business purchases. Most frequent flyer programs don’t have specific business-focused incentives besides bonus miles at office supply stores through the online shopping portal.

However, you can apply for a co-brand business airline credit card. One of the best is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. You get 3x Rapid Rewards on Southwest and Rapid Rewards partner purchases. Non-bonus purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.

But the Performance Card earns 2x miles on these business purchases:

Other business credit cards earn bonus points on travel, office supply stores, and shipping purchases.

10. Online Surveys

Are you ready for a way to earn airline miles without spending money? Some online survey networks let you redeem rewards points for airline gift cards. Before scouring the internet for the best online survey site, see if your frequent flyer program has an online survey partner. If so, you instantly earn airline miles for each completed survey.

To be fair, online surveys are not going to be the highest-rewarding option. You still need to spend money to earn the most points. But they are an effortless way to be productive in your free time.

Summary

Your two best options to earn more airline miles are looking for retail partners inside the frequent flyer program and using one of the best credit cards for travel miles. Booking flights can still be the best way to accrue miles. However, it’s not the only way.

Josh Patoka

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

10 of the Best Ways to Earn Airline Miles

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