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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:
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.
- American Airlines offers 1,000 miles to those who buy a variety of web services from Network Solutions, starting at just $20.
- US Airways has a similar offer.
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.
- American offers miles to those who sell or purchase a home using an agent referred by SIRVA, a relocation services company. American also has a similar offer through Miles from Home Realty Services, and through Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
3. Investing: Three major airlines have agreements with Fidelity:
- American offers up to 50,000 miles to those who open a non-retirement Fidelity brokerage account.
- United Airlines features a similar offer from Fidelity.
- Delta Air Lines also has a similar offer from Fidelity.
4. Sign up for satellite television: Several major domestic airlines offer miles through either DirectTV or Dish Network.
- American offers up to 25,000 AAdvantage miles when you sign up for new DirectTV service.
- United also offers miles for new DirectTV customers.
- US Airways offers miles for when you sign up for Dish Network.
- Southwest Airlines offers Rapid Rewards points when you sign up for Dish Network.
5. Pay your utility bills, or get solar power: These offers only work for those in certain states.
- American: In some states, you can earn two AAdvantage miles per dollar when you use Energy Plus to pay your gas and electric bills. In Texas, you have your choice of offers from Everything Energy, Gexa Energy, and Reliant.
- Delta offers SkyMiles to those who switch to Georgia Natural Gas and Ohio Natural Gas, and is partnered with Energy Plus in CT, IL, MD, NJ, NY, MA, PA and TX.
- Jetblue is partnered with Energy Plus, as well as Sunpower solar systems.
- Southwest is partnered with Energy Plus, Everything Energy, and Reliant.
- United is also partnered with Energy Plus, Everything Energy, and Reliant.
- US Airways is partnered with Energy Plus.
- Virgin America is partnered with Energy Plus.
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.
- American offers three miles per dollar spent when you purchase spa services through Spa Finder.
- Jetblue has a similar offer.
- US Airways also has a similar offer.
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 Shoes.com through the United portal. I’ve provided links to several portals below, but check out this post from TPG for more.
- Alaska Airlines offers Mileage Plan Shopping.
- Jetblue offers points though Shop True and the Thanks Again network.
- United offers Mileage Plus Shopping, as well as certain retailers that are part of the Thanks Again network.
- US Airways offers the Dividend Miles StoreFront.
- Southwest has Rapid Rewards Shopping.
- Virgin America has the Elevate Fly Store.
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.
- Alaska offers their Mileage Plan Dining.
- American offers the The AAdvantage Dining Program by Rewards Network.
- Delta offers SkyMiles Dining program.
- Hawaiian offers Mogl Dining Rewards.
- Southwest has Rapid Rewards Dining.
- Spirit has Free Spirit Dining.
- United offers MileagePlus Dining program.
- US Airways Dividend Miles Dining.
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.
- Alaska is partnered with 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora.
- American offers plenty of miles per dollar from FTD, Teleflora, and 1-800-Flowers.com.
- Delta currently offers 35 miles per dollar from FTD.
- Frontier is partnered with Teleflora.
- Hawaiian offers miles through 1-800-Flowers, FTD, Hana Flower Company, and Teleflora.
- United offers 30 miles per dollar spent at FTD.
- US Airways has offers from 1-800-Flowers.com, Florist.com, FTD, and Teleflora.
- Southwest has offers from 1-800-Flowers.
- Virgin America has offers from Teleflora.
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.
- American offers 10 miles per dollar donated to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the Susan G. Komen foundation, and the USO.
11. Points.com. You can trade or exchange points and miles through Points.com. 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.
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.
- Frontier offers miles through e-Miles and e-Rewards.
- Jetblue offers points through Points For Surveys.
- Southwest is partnered with e-Rewards, e-Miles, and Valued Opinions.
- Spirit has Miles for Thoughts.
- United offers miles for taking surveys through its Opinion Miles Club, e-Miles, e-Rewards, and My Points partners.
- US Airways offers miles through e-Miles and e-Rewards.
- Virgin America is partnered with e-Rewards.
13. Attend events: These offers grant miles to those who purchase sports and entertainment tickets through airline partners.
- United is partnered with Score Big and Audience Rewards.
- US Airways offers miles though Audience Rewards.
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.
- US Airways offers miles for quotes and policies with 21st Century Auto Insurance.
16. Get a home security system.
- US Airways offers miles for signing up for monitoring with ADT.
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.
- Southwest currently offers 500 points to those who subscribe to their email list.
19. Subscribe to eBooks.
- Jetblue offers miles to members of the Entitle eBook subscription service.
20. Sign up for Zipcar.
- Jetblue offers points for new memberships.
21. Online searches.
- Hawaiian offers miles to those who install their MileFinder searchbar.
The standard sign-up offer for these co-branded cards is 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, so the current bonus is a significant step up. TPG values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so this 50,000-mile sign-up bonus gets you $750 in value.
- Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
- Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
- Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent 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-operated flight at the MileagePlus Standard Award level
- $95 annual fee