5 Overlooked Ways to Earn Airline Miles

Don’t ignore less obvious ways to collect airline miles. In some cases, they cost you little more than a bit of time.


Summer is the season of travel. Earlier this year, the trade association Airlines for America projected an average of 2.51 million daily plane trips throughout the 2016 season. That is an all-time high.

But every jet-setter knows that all those plane trips can take a toll on your savings. The best way to cut those costs is to earn enough airline miles to land free flights.

There are many ways to earn airline miles. Flying is the most obvious. You can also open a credit card account with an airline. Doing so will often net you at least one free round-trip flight soon after the card is issued.

However, there are several other overlooked ways to earn miles. In some cases, the only cost of accumulating miles is a little bit of your time. In other cases, you can collect miles while you make other purchases.

Following are five ways you can earn airline miles without having to fly.

1. Answer surveys and view ads

Online surveyRasulov / Shutterstock.com

Several sites will allow you to answer surveys and earn miles. These surveys are on a range of topics — for example, answering questions about grocery shopping habits, or sharing your opinions about advertisements.

Surveys can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour to complete. Typically, the longer and more involved the survey, the more points you earn.

Join e-Rewards, and you can earn miles to fly on Southwest. Earn $15 in rewards currency, and you’ll net 300 Rapid Rewards points. Earn $100, and you’ll net a whopping 2,400 points.

Meanwhile, earning points at Swagbucks can score you Southwest gift cards. And if you read and respond to marketing messages on e-Miles, you can rack up air miles on Southwest and four other airlines — American Airlines, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

2. Dine out in the right restaurants

Restaurant mealApelavi / Shutterstock.com

Many airlines allow you to earn miles in exchange for going out to dinner. When you enroll in the program, you link your credit card to the airline’s program. Then, every time you visit a participating restaurant and pay for the meal with that card, you’ll earn miles.

For example, American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program allows you to earn up to five miles for every $1 you spend. Sign up at Delta, and you’ll accumulate 3,000 bonus miles after your first three meals within the first 30 days of registering.

Southwest and United also have similar programs. Good food and free plane fare — talk about a win-win!

3. Shop till you drop

ShoppingSyda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Shopping and travel can be a winning combination when you frequent stores that offer airline miles with every purchase.

One of the easiest ways to earn miles is to shop through an airline’s shopping portal. Most major airlines have web pages that serve as virtual “shopping malls.” Simply find the retailer of your choice on these pages, click on its name and you’ll be whisked away to the store’s website.

At that point, any purchases you make will earn you miles. Typically, you’ll earn a specific number of miles for every dollar you spend. For example, let’s say you are planning to make $100 in purchases at Walmart.com. If you stop at an airline portal first, you will earn 100 miles or points at these airlines:

  • Alaska
  • American
  • Delta
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • United
  • Virgin

You will do even better at Spirit — $100 in Walmart purchases nets you 200 miles at that airline!

4. Sign up for satellite TV service

Satellite TVwindu / Shutterstock.com

The next time you switch TV providers — whether it’s because you are moving, or you just want a better deal — make sure to ask about airline miles.

For example, you might be able to collect 25,000 American Airlines miles simply for providing your AAdvantage number when you sign up with DirectTV. United Airlines offers a similar deal.

But you’ll have to hurry — both offers expire June 30, although they might be renewed.

5. Invest with Fidelity

Investingcreate jobs 51 / Shutterstock.com

If you have a Fidelity account — and a lot of money sitting around — you may be able to use that cash to generate some miles.

Fund a nonretirement account with $25,000, and you will earn 15,000 miles with Delta Air Lines. Bump that up to $50,000, and you will earn 25,000 miles. At $100,000, you earn 50,000 miles.

If Delta is not your airline of choice, don’t fret. Other airlines that can land you miles at Fidelity include American and United.

Do you know of other tricks for collecting airline miles? Let us know why by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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