10 Ways to Earn Airline Miles: Travel Hacking 101
This post has been long overdue.
We are constantly talking about and using our travel hacking knowledge to earn airline miles for our trips around the world. It is our goal to pay as little as possible for flights and accommodation while traveling.
Through travel hacking, we have learned how to purchase business class tickets for the price of economy, how to buy flights for as little as $1, and how to get free flights around the world.
We’re going to show exactly how we earn hundreds of thousands of airline miles and how you can, too.
How to Earn Airline Miles Without A Credit Card
The most obvious way to earn airline miles is through credit card bonuses. And while we took full advantage of that, we also wanted to find ways to earn airline miles without a credit card.
Here are seven ways to accumulate airline miles without a credit card:
This one surprised me. Did you know you could earn airline miles just from taking a few surveys? I’m bummed out that I didn’t learn about this sooner. If I knew this was an option several years ago, I would be swimming in airline miles by now.
Taking surveys is one of the best ways to earn airline miles without a credit card. All you need to do in order to start taking surveys for airline miles is to have a frequent flyer number with one of the following airlines: Alaska, United, or JetBlue.
If you don’t have a frequent flyer number with any of these airlines, don’t worry! You can actually sign up for free at any of their websites; just click the links above and fill out your basic information.
Next, you’ll navigate to one of the survey sites below. Sign up using your frequent flyer number and start filling out surveys.
Alaska Airlines: The Opinion Terminal
United Airlines: Opinion Miles Club
JetBlue: Points For Surveys
I have earned over 4,000 airline miles just for taking surveys and I haven’t been doing it for very long. That’s almost enough for a one-way ticket!
2. Shopping Portals
Shopping portals are probably the easiest and quickest way to earn airline miles without credit cards.
You may be thinking, isn’t spending money defeating the purpose of collecting airline miles? This means they are no longer free.
Well, not necessarily. Spending is a normal part of life. Everyone has to do it so you might as well earn some airline miles while you’re at it.
How to use shopping portals to earn airline miles
Not only will shopping portals present the best deals on everyday items, but you’ll also earn additional miles toward travel.
As an example, Micheal needed to purchase his outfit for our wedding. We planned to buy it at Macy’s. In the store, we found the outfit that looked and fit the best. After finding it, we went home and bought it through the Alaska Airlines shopping portal.
We spent the same amount on the outfit as we would have in the store (with free shipping), except we earned extra airline miles.
Each store within a shopping portal offers different deals. At the time, Macy’s was offering 3 miles for every $1 you spend. Since the outfit was $120, we got 360 Alaska Airlines miles.
Not only that, but since we used our Alaska Airlines credit card, we earned an extra 1 mile for every dollar we spent.
Math can be difficult so let me break that down:
$120 outfit at Macy’s
$120 x 3 (points per dollar spent through the Alaska Airlines shopping portal) = 360 airline miles
$120 x 1 (using the Alaska Airlines credit card, we get 1 point for every dollar spent) = 120 airline miles
480 total miles earned from that one transaction. If we chose to buy the outfit at the Macy’s store, we would’ve only received 120 miles.
Why do airlines give away miles for using their shopping portals?
This can be confusing for many people. Why do airlines give away points? What do the airlines get out of this deal?
Well, most airlines have partnerships and work as affiliates for HUNDREDS of known stores (Target, Walmart, Best Buy, JC Penney, Overstock, Walgreens, Groupon, Etsy, etc).
When someone purchases something using an airline’s link (from the shopping portal), the stores or brands will give the airlines a small percentage of that at no extra cost to the buyer.
In return, the airline gives away miles to thank the shopper for using their shopping portal and affiliate links.
Airline shopping portals
Next time you go to do your shopping, consider using one of the airline shopping portals below. Those airline miles stack up quickly!
Alaska Airlines Shopping Portal
Delta Airlines SkyMiles Shopping
American Airlines Shopping Portal
United Airlines Shopping Portal
British Airways Shopping Portal
In order to use these shopping portals, you’ll just need to have a frequent flyer number from one of the airlines above. Again, if you don’t have a frequent flyer number, you can sign up at any of the airline websites for free.
Pro-tip: Download and install Alaska Airline’s Chrome Extension button. This button alerts you if you’re on a website where you could earn airline miles from purchases.
3. Sign Up For.. Something!
Many offers will surprisingly come with additional airline rewards if you check.
What do I mean by this? Well, if you are planning to sign up for something or use a specific service like Hulu, DirectTV, BlueApron, Norton Antivirus, a new cell phone provider, etc. you may earn airline miles if you sign up through an airline.
Again, the prices will be the same, but you’ll see your airline miles increase, so why not?
For example, Micheal and I were really eager to watch a show on Hulu. After checking the Alaska Airlines shopping portal, we saw that you can sign up using their link and receive 1100 airline miles. For something, we were already going to sign-up for? Sweet!
The point is if you’re looking to purchase or sign up for a service, always check airlines for deals first.
In order to find these deals, go to Google and type in your desired service followed by “sign up airlines bonus”.
Hulu sign up airlines bonus
DirectTV sign up airlines bonus
As you can see, the first two results are airlines that offer additional miles if you sign up through them.
Another place to find these deals is within the airlines’ shopping portals. Scan the offers and see if any apply to your future purchases.
Not every service will offer bonus miles, but a lot do so be sure to check!
4. Book Airbnbs
As a full-time traveler, I am constantly booking Airbnbs. But for the past four years that I have used Airbnb, I didn’t know about this super cool offer.
Book an Airbnb, get airline miles. Ugh. It’s so simple, yet HARDLY ANYONE KNOWS ABOUT IT. This could potentially be the best way to earn airline miles without a credit card.
In order to do this, you’ll need a Delta Airlines frequent flyer number. If you don’t have one, sign up here: Join SkyMiles.
Next, sign up for Airbnb using this link. Psst! If you use that link, you’ll also get $40 off your first stay!
Then, navigate to the Delta Airbnb page here: AirBnB. FInd. the button that says Book Your Airbnb. After clicking on this button, you’ll need to fill out your SkyMiles number before you can continue to the Airbnb site.
As you book an Airbnb, your Delta miles will increase.
Again, this does NOT cost you more. They are the same prices, the same website, simple as that.
Pro-tip: double-dip by booking your Airbnb with an airline credit card. You will receive Delta miles for booking your Airbnb through their portal and you will get points for every dollar you spend with your travel credit card.
5. Book Hotels
Another one of the fastest ways to earn airline miles is by booking hotels through airline portals.
If you’re planning to stay at a hotel, you are probably eligible for additional miles if you book that hotel through an airline portal. Some airlines offer up to 10,000 miles per night for staying at certain hotels.
Keep in mind, these hotels are offered at the same prices as other booking sites, so why not earn yourself some miles by doing it this way?
In order to book your hotels through an airline, you’ll need a frequent flyer number from any airline. Next, go to the corresponding airline site below OR a really neat site called Rocket Miles.
Rocket Miles: Rocket Miles has every airline reward system in one place, therefore, I recommend using this website. Use our link above and you’ll get an extra 1,000 miles with your first booking.
American Airlines Hotel Search
6. Rent a Car
Another way to earn airline miles without a credit card is by renting a car.
Book your rental car through an airline’s affiliate link and you’ll earn 500+ miles per rental day. Again, these will be the same prices (no added fees), you’re just booking it through an affiliate link.
Here are a few quick links for renting a car through an airline:
Alaska Airlines Rental Car Partners
American Airlines Rental Car Partners
7. Book a Vacation or Cruise
Again, if you’re planning a vacation or a family cruise, I highly recommend booking through an airline.
The miles awarded for booking a cruise or family vacation through an airline are hefty, so don’t miss your opportunity. You might even earn enough miles to cover the cost of an airline ticket down to the cruise port.
American Airlines Cruise Partners
Best Ways to Earn Airline Miles With A Credit Card
The fastest way to earn thousands of airline miles is through credit cards. This is what you need to know about earning points through credit cards:
8. Sign Up Bonus
Sign up bonuses are GOLD and the best part? It requires very little effort.
When we sign up for credit cards, we do so strategically. In order to get the best deal and the most rewarding airline miles for our upcoming flights, this is what we do:
First, I think about where we might want to travel within the next year. For example, in 2018 we were planning our honeymoon to Kauai. Our goal was to get free flights to Hawaii.
Next, I research the credit cards offered by the airlines that service the places we will travel to. In the example above, we were looking into airlines that service Hawaii.
One major airline came to mind: Alaska Airlines. We checked into their current sign up bonus and saw that they were offering 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
We both applied for this credit card, put all of our bills on the cards, and quickly earned 60,000 airline miles with Alaska Airlines. Hello free flights to Kauai!
What to do and what NOT to do with credit cards
I want to make something very clear in this post. I am not telling you to open a bunch of credit cards, buy loads of things you don’t need, and go into debt. That would defeat the purpose.
But I am telling you to open a credit card and move all of your NECESSARY spending onto this card. This includes rent, car payments, student loan payments, groceries, insurance, etc.
With this tactic, you’ll be able to meet the sign-up bonus goal and accumulate thousands of free airline miles.
Keeping credit cards or downgrading
Once you’ve hit your sign-up bonus, it’s time to decide if keeping the card will be beneficial or not.
Something to consider is that the majority of credit cards have an annual fee. If the benefits of the card do not outweigh the annual fee, I would recommend either closing the card OR downgrading the card to a lighter one that doesn’t have an annual fee.
Note: Canceling your credit card will affect your credit score, but only temporarily. Downgrading your credit card will not affect your credit score.
How do I pay bills with a credit card if the company doesn’t accept credit card payments?
This problem really bothered me because I felt like I was using my debit card for our really big expenses and not earning any rewards for it.
Unfortunately, many companies require a check or debit card payment. This is true for rent, mortgage payments, student loans, etc. So how do we combat this in order to use our credit card for these major purchases?
Plastiq is a way to pay bills with a credit card if the company doesn’t accept credit card payments. For example, we cannot pay for our fifth wheel using a credit card, therefore, we use Plastiq in order to use our credit card and earn airline miles.
It’s important to know that this method does take a 2.5% (sometimes less) transaction fee, so be aware of that additional cost. For us, the extra 2.5% is worth it when we are trying to reach our spending goal for a credit card. However, we do not use Plastiq if we aren’t trying to meet a spending goal.
Which credit card should you get?
This is a very important question and for someone who has never had a credit card before or who isn’t an expert on travel credit cards, this can be a very hard question to answer.
But don’t worry! We can help you! Send us an e-mail at email@example.com and we will give you the best advice on which credit card will work for you.
I also recommend taking a peek at this post by Money.com that outlines the Best Travel Credit Cards of 2020.
Does having a bunch of credit cards ruin my credit score?
It is absolutely true that when you apply for a new credit card, the company will do a credit check. A credit check WILL lower your credit score, however, it only lowers your credit score temporarily.
Credit scores are resilient. With a few on-time payments, your score will be back to normal after a month or two.
You should be aware, though, that applying for too many cards in a short period of time could have a significantly negative impact on your credit score.
Therefore, if you plan to earn airline miles through credit cards, it is important to leave a 3-month gap in between credit card applications.
Having multiple credit cards is actually a good thing. As long as you are keeping up with your payments, this shows lenders that you have several lines of credit and that you can manage your finances.
Never had a credit card before?
Before you apply for a credit card, you need to ask yourself, “am I getting a credit card because I can’t afford something that I really want?” If the answer is yes, DO NOT GET A CREDIT CARD.
The point of this post is to show you how to use credit cards to your advantage and travel for free. If you aren’t able to pay your bills, I suggest that you wait to apply for a credit card.
9. Refer Friends to Your Credit Card Company
Already have a travel credit card that you love? Awesome! Tell your friends and family about it and the benefits it provides.
Almost all travel credit cards award a bonus if your referral signs up for the credit card using your refer-a-friend link. This can be found by searching Google for: the credit card name (ex. Delta Gold) + refer a friend bonus.
Most airlines offer a generous amount of miles for getting friends to sign up, so I highly recommend taking advantage of this.
10. Add an Authorized User to Your Credit Card
Did you know that most credit card companies will give you a bonus if you add an authorized user to your existing credit card?
This is an especially amazing deal for couples. For example, I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. I quickly added Mike as an authorized user to my account so that he could make purchases AND so we would get a hefty amount of airline miles.
If you already have a travel credit card that you love, I advise adding a trusted authorized user to your account.
Note: the keyword here is TRUSTED. Remember, you are responsible for any of the purchases made by the authorized user.
The Wrap-Up: Earn Airline Miles for Free Flights
So there you have it. Earning free flights with airline miles is possible with or without a credit card. Follow the tips above and watch your airline miles account increase drastically. Soon you will have enough to purchase that roundtrip ticket to Bora Bora!
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