With the holiday season quickly approaching, your thoughts may be turning to finding ways to reduce the amount of money you have to spend on airline tickets to fly and see your family and friends.
To encourage airline loyalty, the major Airlines each have frequent flyer programs which allow you to earn airline free miles towards future flights.
I’ve scoured the interwebs to put together a comprehensive guide on getting free airline miles from these programs to use for your next trip.
I’ll be honest though, there’s a lot of information out there. I couldn’t possibly include it all. But at the end of this article I give you some resources to continue your research.
Get Free Airline Miles by Leveraging Work Travel
Earning miles used to be easy for me. I had a nice corporate gig that required about 25% travel. The company would pay for all of my travel expenses but I would get to use my American Airlines Advantage number.
And I was able to use my own reward credit card to make the non-airfare purchases. In no time I had Platinum status with American. I even took the largely unknown Platinum challenge and succeeded.
If you are lucky enough to be a road warrior like I was, I would encourage you to first sign up with the frequent flyer programs. Just visit the homepage of your most frequented airlines and sign up.
Some may even give you free airline miles for signing up. There are also hotel, car rental, even train travel reward programs that will tie into your frequent flyer program. So be sure to make the most of those.
Joining the Airlines’ Frequent Flyer Programs
Even if you don’t travel with your work, you can sign up for the frequent flyer programs and start earning free miles. You’ll earn miles for your flights, but that’s not exactly free. To find the free, you’ll need to periodically check the airline’s website and sign up for their email list.
They will send you ways to earn free airline miles (i.e. taking a survey, reviewing a product, or completing an offer through a partner (i.e. Netflix subscription)). They key is to tap into their marketing efforts.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to tune into their social media channels as well (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to get the latest on earning free airline miles.
To make the most of your frequent flier program efforts, I recommend you check out a guide by Chris Guillebeau: Frequent Flyer Master. If you get it he guarantees you will get at least 25,000 frequent flier miles, enough for a round trip domestic US ticket.
Credit Card Offers
Probably the easiest and fastest way to earn free airline miles is through a credit card promotion. Here is a list of promotions that I’m aware of that give you the equivalent of a free round trip ticket for signing up and/or making initial purchases on the card:
- Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard® – 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of cardmembership. $95 annual fee is waived the first 12 months.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Visa® – 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after you make $750 in purchases within 4 months and an additional 10,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases during the first 6 months of cardmembership. $75 annual fee is waived the first 12 months.
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – 30,000 SkyMiles bonus points after you spend $500 in the first three months. $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express – 10,000 SkyMiles bonus points after your first purchase. 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent and 2x miles on Delta purchases. $150 annual fee.
- As you can see, it’s pretty easy to get a free flight by signing up for a card. Of course, you have to weigh the many factors when making this decision. For example: do you even need a card? is that particular airline at my local airport? can you afford the small ding to your credit score for the credit inquiry? can you justify the annual fee?
In addition to these question, you should look at the cards themselves from the standpoint as a user. Will it make sense for you to use the card based on their mileage reward system? Only you can sift through the card offers and know what’s right for you.
Credit Card Rewards
In addition to the bonuses themselves, you can earn free airline miles by using a travel rewards credit card. It doesn’t have to be the airline-specific cards like the majority of the cards above.
It can be a simple rewards card that gives you cash back. Then you can take that cash and buy a ticket. Or, you can sometimes transfer your rewards to your frequent flyer miles program.
More Free Airline Miles Programs
If credit cards aren’t your thing, then don’t worry. I’ve got several other ideas for you. Although, I’ve never tested these sites to know how well they work or how long it might take to earn a decent reward.
eRewards – From what I gather, eRewards is an invite-only rewards program that allows you to earn rewards by taking surveys. They rewards can then be redeemed for some free airline miles. A common way to get invited into this program is to join one of the frequent flyer airline programs. Search their website for information or look for notification by email when you join their newsletter.
eMiles – eMiles works similar to eRewards. They work with Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines, US Airways, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier Airlines to give you free airline miles once you complete “marketing offers”.
Club Bing – This is a gaming website where you earn tickets just for playing games. You can then convert those tickets to miles at the following airlines: Alaska, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Midwest, and US Airways. I tried one of the games and it took me a couple of minutes just to earn 2 tickets. 300 tickets will earn 100 airline miles. While it might not be the fastest way to earn miles, if you have kids or really enjoy online games, you could pick up a 100 extra miles in a few weeks time.
MyPoints – If you fly United, the MyPoints rewards shopping program might work for you. You can transfer your points to get United Mileage Plus miles. It looks like the points transfer over 2 to 1. Earning point with MyPoints comes when you do things you might already to online: shopping, reading emails, playing games, searching the web, taking surveys, etc. I’m not sure how lucrative it is. But it’s an option.
Frequent Flyer Inspiration
One of the keys to finding free airline miles is keeping an eye out for deals. The movie Punch-Drunk Love staring Adam Sandler partially features the true story of David Phillips, a man who once accumulated $1.25 Million Free Airline Miles by buying up cases of Health Choice pudding.
The promotion had a bonus that could be exploited. Here’s the scene where the main character figures out he can buy as much pudding as he wants and still make money on the program: Punch-Drunk Love Pudding Scene.
The story of David Phillips is really fascinating. Check out this snopes.com feature on Phillips. If you’re looking for more inspiration from film, check out Up in the Air, which features a man trying to get to a million frequent flyer miles.
Frequent Flyer Forums and Web Resources
No one has time to stay on top of every frequent flyer deal. So I recommend periodically checking in with the folks who obsess over this stuff. The best sites that I could find are Flyertalk.com and FrequentFlier.com.
That’s about all I have. If you have more information about earning free airline miles, I’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments below.
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