My sweet husband racks up his frequent flier miles the old fashioned way…with his back side in an airplane seat. In October, he spent 4 – 24 hour days on planes, not counting layovers traveling to Cambodia and India. No thank you.
Most people think you have to spend money on travel to get free travel. Not true. I’ve been to Europe 5 times, the 6th trip is already booked, and I’ve never paid for my ticket (other than taxes and fees). How is this possible?
How do us average joes who have full-time jobs which require our physical attendance in an office earn frequent flier miles? I routinely earn enough miles for at least one round trip international ticket every year.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
- Focus all of your mile earnings with one airline. For me, this is American. They have the most flights out of my area airport and are the easiest for me to redeem my miles. For you, it might be Delta or United. Do your homework on who flies to your desired destination from your local airport. Join their rewards program and start earning!
- Look for credit card offers linked to your desired rewards program. Citi Aadvantage is my card of choice for miles. The sign up bonus when I got the card 3 years ago was 50,000 miles and this offer is still widely available. That was enough to get me to Italy and back, for FREE.
- Now that you have a rewards account and a credit card linked to that rewards program, sign up for emails so that you don’t miss any earnings bonus opportunities. Recently, Citi offered 3 miles per dollar spent on dining which coincided with a family trip to Florida. All of our meal purchases went on this card and I earned over 3,500 miles in one week. I also sent flowers to someone last week and earned 1,750 miles with the promotion of 25 miles per dollar spent on FTD.
- Shop Online. Most rewards programs have an online shopping portal. (See links below.) Every time I’m going to make a purchase, I go to the home page of the AAdvantage shopping portal, enter the item I’m looking for or the store I want and link through the portal. There is no difference from going directly to the desired site other than I earn miles for my purchases.
I often shop at Nordstrom since they offer free shipping and free returns. AAdvantage recently offered 10x the miles for purchases at Nordstrom so I earned 1000 miles for purchasing $100 of clothing. (A word of caution: don’t let the pursuit of miles tempt you to make purchases you wouldn’t normally make. This totally wipes out any savings you accomplish by accumulating the miles.)
You can also double-dip. You’ll earn miles from the shopping portal no matter what payment method you choose. But, pay with your cobranded credit card and you’ll earn another set of miles for the dollar amount purchased with the card.
- Eat out. Aadvantage also has a dining rewards program. Spend $30 or more at one of the participating restaurants and you’ll earn 1000 miles within the first 30 days of signing up; leave a review on the website and you earn another 1000. In my area, I’m a little limited on the restaurants linked to this service but if you’re in a larger city, you can really rack up the miles by doing something you’re going to do anyway: eat!
- American has several partnerships with financial institutions where you can earn miles for banking accounts, mortgages, or retirement accounts.
- Check your rewards site often for special promotions, as it seems they are always changing. Be mindful of program dates and the fine print so you don’t miss out on miles.
By using these strategies, I easily earn enough miles for an international ticket (40,000 miles for round trip to Europe in non-peak season) each year. And my husband earns enough with his travel so we get to enjoy an amazing trip together for little money!
Know of other interesting ways to earn miles without leaving home? Leave a comment and share the wealth.
Disclaimer: Reward programs change often so be sure to rely on the information on the program site for current rules and offers.
Shopping Portal Links:
*This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the main US airlines that most of you would use.