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Using points and miles is one of the most affordable ways to travel. So how do you earn miles towards free flights? Well honestly you can earn them by doing things I’m sure you do everyday. Wait, I don’t fly everyday, that’s the best part you don’t have to. Here are 12 ways to earn miles towards free flights.
Open Frequent Flier Accounts
If you don’t have a frequent flier accounts for the airlines you travel with, sign up now! Instead of getting one for every single airline you fly use Airline Alliances to your advantage and have all your points from partner airlines go to the airline you think you will fly most often. For instance, Delta Airlines is a part of SkyTeam and includes 20 other airlines. If Delta is the airline you’d most often fly but happen to be flying one of the other airlines in the Alliance you can have your miles earned from those flights added to your Delta Skymiles account instead of the individual airlines frequent flier program that you don’t fly with as often. There are three major alliances: Star Alliance (27 airlines), Oneworld (15 airlines) and SkyTeam (20 airlines). Here you can find the airlines in each alliance.
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Earn Miles through Travel Credit Cards
There are a few ways to earn miles through credit cards: the sign-up bonuses, making traditional purchases, and shopping online through your credit cards shopping portal.
Using Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses to Travel for Free
Credit Card sign-up bonuses can be huge! The sign up bonus for my Chase Sapphire Reserve was 100,000 points which equals to $1,500 towards travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards. We used this bonus to cover our flights for our trip to Thailand. Sign-up bonuses don’t come without a catch, you have to charge a minimum amount to the card within a specific time frame. For most cards this ranges from $1,000 to $4,000 in the first 90 days.
You can meet the minimum spend by charging all of your normal monthly charges to your credit card and paying it off by your due date. For most families if you add up your monthly expenses for gas, phone, internet, cable, groceries, tolls, car insurance, etc., you can easily charge $1,000/month which would have you meet the minimum charge on most cards.
Another way is to time your application when you know you have a big purchase to make. Need to buy a new laptop, camera, etc., wait to charge it on your new card. Already going on a trip? Pay for your flights, hotel, and tours with your new credit card. If your trip falls within the first 90 days also charge all your expenses while at your destination and come back with enough points to get the flights for your next trip paid for. There is no point in earning all these points if you’re going to end up paying interest so only charge what you can pay in full by your due date.
How Charging Everyday Purchases Allows You to Earn Miles
We literally charge everything we purchase with our credit card. Travel credits cards earn you a minimum 1 mile or point per dollar spent. For many cards you earn 2-3 miles/points per dollar spent on travel and dining and then 1 mile/point on all other purchases. Each year we earn at least one round-trip domestic flight for each member of our family based on things we would buy on a normal basis.
Use Online Shopping Portals to Fly for Free
Most travel credit cards have a shopping portal that allows you to shop online and earn additional points. My Chase Sapphire earns me 1 point per dollar for shopping at Target. However, if I shop at target.com through Chase’s portal I’d earn the 1 point per dollar and an additional point per dollar for doing it through their portal. Other stores offer a lot more points such as Macy’s at 3 points per dollar, Sephora at 5 points per dollar and Buy Buy Baby at 2 points per dollar. Chase alone partners with 285 online stores so there are plenty of opportunities to earn points/miles.
These websites provide great information on various travel credit cards and provide comparison tools to find which card would be best for you.
Shop Online to Earn Miles through Airline Shopping Portals
Credit cards aren’t the only place you can earn miles through online shopping. Many frequent flier programs have their own shopping portal as well. Here are the ones I am familiar with:
- Alaska Airlines- Mileage Plan Shopping
- Jetblue- Shop True
- United- Mileage Plus Shopping
- Southwest- Rapid Rewards Shopping
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Link Your Credit Card to an Airlines Dining Out Program
Not only do airlines offer shopping portals to earn extra mile, many have dining programs. In addition to earning miles from the purchase on your credit card you can earn miles directly with the airline when dining at participating restaurants and having your credit card linked to your frequent flier mileage account. Each card can only be registered for ONE program but you can register multiple cards.
- Alaska- Mileage Plan Dining
- American– The AAdvantage Dining Program by Rewards Network
- Delta– SkyMiles Dining
- Hawaiian– Mogl Dining Rewards
- JetBlue- JetBlue Dining
- Southwes- Rapid Rewards Dining
- Spirit– Free Spirit Dining
- United- MileagePlus Dining
Book Car Rentals/Ride Shares through an Airlines Portal
Many airlines partner with car rental companies or ride shares such as Lyft. If you book a rental car through your frequent flier mileage account you can earn additional miles on that purchase.
- American Airlines Advantage Members can save on car rentals and earn miles.
- British Airways partners with car rental companies.
- Delta Airlines partners with car rental companies and ride shares like Lyft.
- JetBlue offers a special 35% discount by using code AWD # H798506 and 600 bonus TrueBlue points on Avis car rentals of 3 days or more. You can also earn double TrueBlue points on rentals of at least one day at participating Budget locations and earn special discounts by providing your JetBlue TrueBlue/Budget Customer Discount (BCD) number R344900. All you have to do is make your reservation through your TrueBlue account or provide your TrueBlue number at checkout.
- Southwest partners with car rental companies.
- United partners with car rental companies.
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Book Hotels and Airbnb Stays through an Airlines Portal
If you aren’t loyal to any particular hotel chain earning miles through an airlines frequent flier mileage program might be more beneficial. Instead of having your points for staying at any major hotel chain sit and expire have your point turn into miles with your airline.
- American Airlines partners with 21 hotel brands
- Delta Airlines hotel partners.
- JetBlue allows you to link your Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards and IHG Hotel Group awards program and instead have your points automatically sent to your JetBlue account.
- Southwest hotel partners
- United hotel hotel partners
Delta Airlines also has an exclusive partnership with Airbnb and you can earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all Airbnb stays when booking through www.deltaairbnb.com. Don’t already use Airbnb? Sign-up here and get a $40 credit towards your first stay. Nervous about staying in an Airbnb, read this: 8 Tips to Guarantee a Great Airbnb Experience.
Book Cruises Through Your Airline
Going on a cruise? We had the best time cruising on Royal Caribbean going to their Perfect Day at Cococay. Instead of booking directly with the cruise line or a traditional 3rd party company book through your most used frequent flier mileage programs Cruise Portal. JetBlue, Delta, American Airlines, and United all have one. Remember the extra miles you earn through booking through their websites are in addition to the miles you would earn if also booking with a travel credit card. They will typically match any other promotion you find online and a quick “I’ll just book directly with the cruise line will surely have them waive whatever minimal fee (typically $25) they charge to book with them.
Sign Up for JetBlue Badges
JetBlue is our go-to airline for domestic and Caribbean travel. In addition to earning traditional miles by flying, JetBlue has a badges program where you can earn extra miles for your loyalty. For instance by flying to any one airport 3 times you can earn a bonus of 100 miles with additional mile bonuses at 6 (500 miles) and 10 (1,000 miles) flight milestones. These are all in addition to the miles you would already earn on the flight. There are various ways you can earn badges and they are vary in miles earned. I’ve earned 5,550 miles through the badges program, which is enough for a one-way ticket.
Pool Your Airline Miles
One of the most annoying things about frequent flier mileage programs is many don’t allow you to combine miles with cash. This means when you’re short a mere 100 miles to earn a free flight your only choice is to buy miles, which can be extremely expensive and not worth it and you end up just paying for the ticket in cash.
There are a few frequent flier accounts that let you pool points with your family, earning you free flights faster. When we fly somewhere on one of the airlines below all of our earned miles go to my account and then I can book for anyone using those miles. Airlines that offer family pooling include:
ANA Asiana Airlines British Airways EGYPTAIR
Emirates Etihad Hawaiian Airlines JAL
JetBlue Korean Airlines Qantas Virgin Australia
For details on the program from each airline check out this post by rewardsexpert.
Share Your Travel Stories to Earn Miles
The Barclay Travel Community allows you to earn miles by writing stories about the destinations you’ve been. You can write up to 5 stories per city earning 150 miles for 100 words and at least one picture. You will earn 10 extra miles for each detail you add or for any likes you receive on the post. If you have a Barclay Arrival MasterCard you can link your online credit card account for your miles to go directly there. If you don’t, you can redeem your miles earned for Amazon gift cards. People write about anything here, you can literally take a picture of your local grocery store and write your experience shopping there and earn 150 miles.
Take Surveys to Earn Miles
While tedious, taking surveys online is another way to earn miles without flying. The below airlines all have ways you can do so. Most surveys earn anywhere from 10-100 miles and take 5-30 minutes to complete. I’ve done some surveys while binge watching Netflix when I’m only a few miles short of hitting an award flight.
- Frontier offers miles through e-Rewards.
- Jetblue offers points through Points For Surveys.
- Southwest is partnered with e-Rewards and Valued Opinions.
- Spirit has Miles for Thoughts.
- United offers miles for taking surveys through its Opinion Miles Club, e-Rewards, and My Points partners.
- US Airways offers miles through e-Rewards.
- Virgin America is partnered with e-Rewards.
There are so many ways to make travel more affordable. From only buying flight deals like our $200 flights to Amsterdam or making small sacrifices to me able to afford to travel frequently. Did you find this article helpful? Please share it to help a fellow traveler!
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Anecia O. says
I will look into all of this whenever I start traveling.
April Kitchens says
Why have I not gotten a flyer mile credit card?! Partially because I’m scared of the debt, but If I pay the card off every month, there won’t be debt! I’m always living through your IG though!
I definitely didn’t know about the last two! I’m definitely going to look into the surveys option, especially since it doesn’t require a credit card
Very insightful! I needed the tips especially in this summer season haha. xx
This is a great post! Very detailed and helpful. I was not aware of the Barclay Travel Community. I’ll be looking into that ASAP.
This is a great list! I definitely plan to utilize the credit card shopping portal. Thanks for sharing!
Vanessa Grover says
Thank you SO much for this helpful information. I now have a family of 4 and was wonderfing how can we travel more without paying an arm and a leg for tickets
You are welcome Vanessa, there are so many tricks to making travel affordable. I literally never go to Target anyone and buy everything online so I get the points on my CC plus the extra miles by shopping through the portal. Better yet I never buy more than I plan to since I’m not walking down the aisles browsing, I swear Target gets you every time!
Thank you very much for all the awesome tips you provided!! We are a family of 4 as well, we want to travel but just taking a look at tickets give us headache! But I’m sure we’ll be traveling more often with this amazing tips ❤️ Thank you!!!!!!!!!
You’re welcome, yes so many ways to make it more affordable. Flight deals will be your savior as a family of 4, we never pay “retail” price for flights with a little flexibility.
So much great info. My husband gets a lot of miles from his work travel. Our bigger issue is the cost of hotels. I like using Airbnb also. But like the convenience of having the amenities that a hotel offers. Like a restaurant downstairs for odd hour meals with the kids. Or a provisions for quick coffee and snacks, and a shuttle service. Do you have any tricks and tips on finding great deals on hotels? Thanks for such an awesome blog. My kids are the same age as yours, and I find it so inspiring!
Since we mostly use Airbnb I don’t have many tips except signing up for hotels frequent visitor rewards or getting a hotel branded credit card. When we do book hotels I use hotels.com and momando.com to see if they have any special rate offers. There are definitely amenities you give up when staying in an Airbnb. Thank you so much for reading, glad you found it helpful!!