10 Ways to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles Without Boarding a Flight
In the mood to travel? Wait, scratch that—in the mood to travel for free? Boarding a plane and jet setting off to a new country is notoriously expensive, but thanks to the wonder of frequent flyer miles, you can do it for next to nothing. I know what you're thinking: don't you have to fly a lot and buy expensive tickets in order to rack up miles?
This is a guest post by Chris Guillebeau.
Not necessarily. With a few simple travel hacking tips and tricks, you can earn miles without actually buying a ticket. The key? Strategic credit card spending and non-travel promotions. Time to earn and burn!
Airline Dining Programs
Many airlines have programs that give you extra miles if you dine out at their preferred list of restaurants in your area. You simply register for the dining program online and link one of your credit cards to the account. Every time you use that card, you’ll earn 3-5 miles per dollar spent (the more you dine, the more your points will increase). I rack up my dining miles in the American dining program and http://aa.rewardsnetwork.com/.
It's never a good idea to purchase some random product just to get the miles, but many airlines have deals with stores you may already shop at. Target, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and Safeway are just a few of the huge retailers where you can earn miles. Who knew buying toilet paper could pay for your next trip? Nearly all airlines and hotel programs offer a shopping portal. You can find out which program is offering the biggest shopping bonus by checking out http://evreward.com/.
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
Opening credit cards is the fastest and most lucrative way to accrue miles—just make sure to manage your accounts responsibly and obviously don't go into debt. Sign up for credit cards that provide a good mileage bonus (25,000+ upon opening the account), and one mile per dollar at the least. The more credit cards you open, the more miles you'll get—and you can always close them out once the fee kicks in. (Check out this post on my personal blog or a complete listing on CardsforTravel.com for information on specific cards and how to use them.)
Another way to cash in on big miles for shopping is to get a business credit card that gives you 5x points at an office supply card and buy gift cards there for the stores you patronize. I load up the Starbucks app on my phone and my online Amazon account with gift cards that I buy at office stores using my Chase Ink Plus card—this gives me 5x more points than normal for things that I already buy. (You don’t have to have a business to get a business credit card—you just use your Social Security Number instead of an EIN number when you apply.)
If you have a few extra dollars sitting around earning little to no interest, consider banking it in a new account just for the miles. Many financial companies offer miles to get your money into their systems, and you can always close the account once you redeem your rewards. Fidelity accounts require more than pocket change to start out—but they’ll give you up to 50,000 miles for a new account.
Despite the fact that credit cards are the best way to rack up miles, the Delta Suntrust Debit Card offers 1 mile per dollar spent, as well as 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases. The card also has a signup bonus of 5,000 SkyMiles. Not too shabby! The Delta debit card is especially great for paying taxes, since there is only a $3.49 fee instead of the percentage fee you get hit with when using credit cards for taxes.
Got the time to answer a few questions? e-rewards.com and emiles.com are survey websites that will give you miles in exchange for answering questionnaires. The sites deposit the miles into your account every few months, and you can use multiple email addresses to get rewards with more than one partner.
Chances are you already binge-watch television shows and movies on Netflix, but if you don't, signing up for a trial membership automatically gives you 2,000 United miles. If you're already a member, just cancel your membership and sign up again.
Test Drive a Crazy Promotion
Believe it or not, you can earn miles for things like swinging by an Acura lot, hopping into a car, and giving it a test drive. I’ve personally earned miles by testing Bose headphones and visiting a clinic for a hair loss consultation (and I’m not even balding). These deals come and go, so keep your eye out and hop on them whenever you get a chance!
You can easily earn miles on Facebook, and all you have to do is click the "like" button. Many airlines and hotels are willing to dish out many as 500 miles in exchange for a simple "like" on a page or a post which is a great deal.
A few chain hotels allow you to transfer hotel points to partner airlines, and some even let you choose airline miles instead of hotel points when you stay. Better still are the hotels that let you "double dip," meaning you can get both hotel points and miles. Co-branded hotel credit cards also commonly offer bonuses in the way of free nights every year or free elite status. There's nothing better than taking a free flight and having a free place to crash—with lounge access!