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21 Ways to Earn Airline Miles that You Might Not Know About

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One of my first bits of advice to award travel novices is to take advantage of the earning opportunities in front of you. Many people never even sign up for loyalty programs, or insist on using cash for purchases that could earn them a solid return with a credit card. A big part of maximizing your award travel is learning how to pick the low-hanging fruit; so today, TPG Senior Points and Miles Correspondent Jason Steele shakes a few branches you may not have noticed before.

Most people associate earning travel rewards with actually traveling, while points and miles enthusiasts often earn rewards additionally through credit card sign-ups bonuses and spending. Yet there are other ways you can earn award travel without applying for credit cards or even leaving your home. All it takes is a little time and effort, and you can earn toward your next award trip in many smaller steps.

For your consideration, here are 21 ways to earn points and miles without traveling or applying for a credit card:

Credit card sign-up bonuses are great, but there are plenty of other ways to earn award travel.

1. Buy web services: Network Solutions is a big name when it comes to Internet domain name registration, so you might already be doing business with them already.

2. Buy, sell, or refinance a property: These offers used to be much more common, but right now American Airlines seems to have all of them. Miles are also awarded for referrals for moving and refinancing, the total of which can add up to hundreds of thousands of miles.

3. Investing: Three major airlines have agreements with Fidelity:

US Airways dish network tv promotion
You can earn bonus miles for satellite TV service from DirectTV or Dish Network.

4. Sign up for satellite television: Several major domestic airlines offer miles through either DirectTV or Dish Network.

5. Pay your utility bills, or get solar power: These offers only work for those in certain states.

SpaFinder can locate spas close to your home, and they also have their own loyalty program.
SpaFinder can locate spas close to your home, and has its own loyalty program in addition to airline partners.

6. Visit a spa: Spa Finder has three airline partners. For more ways to save with Spa Finder, check out Nick Ewen’s post on maximizing points and miles on spa visits.

7. Online shopping malls: Most airlines offer an online shopping mall or portal, and it can really pay to use their links to make big ticket purchases online. For example, you can currently earn 3 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent at JC Penney or Walgreen’s through the Southwest portal, or 8 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent at through the United portal. I’ve provided links to several portals below, but check out this post from TPG for more.

You can earn bonus miles with minimal effort via programs like MileagePlus dining.

8. Dining rewards: These programs are a particularly easy way to earn bonus points, since all you have to do is sign up, and you’ll automatically receive rewards when you use your registered credit card at eligible restaurants. Check out this post from TPG for more information.

You’ll pay more online than at the local florist, but you can earn a lot of miles buying flowers online.

9. Flowers: This is a high margin purchase that has always been popular with loyalty programs. Certainly, flowers can be purchased locally for much less money, but if you’re ordering flowers remotely, you’ll probably get more miles per dollar than with almost any other purchase.

10. Donate to charity: I was surprised I didn’t see any offers other than these three from American Airlines. Nevertheless, if you’re going to make a donation, it’s nice to earn some miles while doing so.

11. You can trade or exchange points and miles through The exchange rate for these transactions is generally terrible, so this isn’t a good option for transferring large balances between programs. However, it’s a great way to liquidate orphan balances from programs that no longer have any value to you or are about to expire.

Survey websites offer points and miles for sharing your shopping preferences.

12. Take surveys: This can be a great option for those who have extra time on their hands and don’t mind disclosing their shopping habits.

13. Attend events: These offers grant miles to those who purchase sports and entertainment tickets through airline partners.

Softcard is offering United miles for trying the new payment system.

14. Try a new payment system.

  • United is offering up to 4,000 miles to those who connect their United MileagePlus Chase card to the new Softcard wireless payment system (formerly called ISIS).

15. Get a quote or purchase auto insurance.


16. Get a home security system.

17. Be evaluated for LASIK eye surgery.

  • US Airways is offering 1,000 miles for a free evaluation, and another 24,000 to those who get a procedure through LasikPlus.

18. Subscribe to promotional emails.

19. Subscribe to eBooks.

20. Sign up for Zipcar.

21. Online searches.

United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

Apply Now
  • Start with 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Check your first bag for free - save up to $100 per roundtrip
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Your miles don't expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit