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Not everyone can travel frequently enough to rack up healthy balances in their frequent flyer accounts. Luckily, though, there are lots of other ways to earn miles — and TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen will walk you through them below.
One of the most common refrains I hear from friends and family members hesitant to get into the points and miles hobby is something like this: “Oh, I don’t travel nearly as much as you, so I could never earn enough points or miles to do anything worthwhile with them.” This actually prevents them from even signing up for hotel and airline loyalty programs! It’s no surprise, then, that this earned the top spot in my list of 7 points and miles mistakes.
It’s true that traveling for business can be a big boost to your account balances, but last November I took a job that has me traveling just a handful of times every year. Even without extensive travel for work, I still manage to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles every year, as does my wife. Today I’ll kick off a new series that examines the myriad ways to earn miles without actually hitting the road, and my first subject is the American AAdvantage program.
The first (and most lucrative) way to earn AAdvantage miles without flying is through credit cards. American currently has four credit cards accepting applications, and each offers a relatively large pop of miles as a sign-up bonus:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
- Citi / AAdvantage Gold MasterCard: Earn 25,000 bonus miles after making $750 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
In addition to these four cards from Citi, American also has four different Aviator cards from Barclaycard. However, these were issued to replace the US Airways MasterCard once the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs were combined and thus aren’t open to new applicants.
All of these cards offer a variety of benefits beyond the sign-up bonuses, such as double miles on American and US Airways purchases, discounts on in-flight purchases and waived check bag fees. Even the standard earning rate of 1 mile per dollar spent can be relatively lucrative. In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs American miles at 1.7 cents apiece, so getting a return of 1.7% on every purchase you make is pretty solid.
For more information on these credit cards, check out the following posts:
- How to Use 82,500 Miles from the Citi Executive Card
- Citi AAdvantage Offers to Consider Post US Airways/AA Merger
- Reduced Mileage Awards for Citi AAdvantage Cardholders
Online Shopping Portals
Another easy way to earn American miles without flying is through the AAdvantage eShopping site. Airline shopping portals allow you to earn miles with a specific carrier when you make online purchases with hundreds of retailers. These miles are in addition to the points or miles you’d earn on the credit card for making the purchase, and you can use any card you want for the transaction!
For example, at the time of writing, Staples was offering 2 miles per dollar spent through the AAdvantage eShopping site:
By clicking the Shop Now link and completing a purchase, I’d earn 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. Of course, I love using my Ink Plus Business Card for purchases at office supply stores to take advantage of the 5x Ultimate Rewards points it offers, so if I spend a total of $100, I’d earn the following:
- 500 Ultimate Rewards points (valued at $10.50)
- 200 AAdvantage miles (valued at $3.40)
I’ve thus boosted my overall return by 3.4% (to a total of 13.9%), just by clicking through the shopping portal!
Keep in mind that there are several restrictions for earning miles through these portals. You typically can’t use coupon codes that aren’t listed on AAdvantage eShopping, and your shopping cart must be empty before accessing the retailer’s site. In addition, you generally can’t earn bonus miles for purchasing gift cards through the portal. However, I’ve been able to earn bonus miles with all of these activities in the past, so you never know!
Another easy way to earn bonus American miles is by signing up for the AAdvantage Dining Program. This site partners with over 11,000 restaurants, bars and clubs and allows you to earn AAdvantage miles every time you dine at one of these locations. All you have to do is set up an account, add your credit card(s) and then make a purchase with a registered credit card at a participating establishment.
The standard earning rate is 1 mile per dollar spent, but if you subscribe to emails from the site, that jumps to 3 miles per dollar. Once you’ve dined 12 times in a year, you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar spent. I occasionally get emails out of the blue notifying me that I earned miles at a new restaurant that I didn’t even know was on the site.
Just as with the AAdvantage eShopping site, you can use any credit card to pay for the actual bill; these miles would be in addition to the rewards you earn on the card. I personally love to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when dining out, and it’s a TPG favorite as well. Earning 2x Ultimate Rewards points plus a bunch of American miles is a win in my book.
The program is currently offering a bonus of 1,000 AAdvantage miles to new members after you spend $30 in your first 30 days, so if you haven’t signed up, now is a great time to do so! Unlike with shopping portals, you can utilize other discounts and bonuses at these restaurants, so be sure to check out my post on quadruple-dipping at restaurants for more information.
If earning miles for doing business with financial partners is more of your cup of tea, the AAdvantage program has you covered. One of the more unique partnerships is with BankDirect, a division of Texas Capital Bank. This allows you to earn bonus AAdvantage miles on a variety of accounts, including checking, money market and certificates of deposit (CDs). My wife actually has a checking account with BankDirect and earned 1,000 miles for opening the account plus 100 per month for every $1,000 of her account balance (up to $50,000):
She’s paying a $12 monthly fee on the account, but the 5,000 bonus miles she earns per month (worth $85) more than cover that fee. We’ll take this over the minuscule interest rates that banks are currently offering on most checking accounts!
There are several other financial partners that allow you to earn AAdvantage miles:
- American HomeMiles: Earn miles for buying or selling your home or moving state-to-state with specific moving companies.
- Fidelity: Earn up to 50,000 miles for opening and funding a non-retirement brokerage account (TPG recently earned another 50,000 AAdvantage miles through this offer).
- Wells Fargo Home Mortgage: Earn miles when you finance a new home, refinance and existing mortgage or open a home equity line of credit.
Going through online shopping portals is one way to earn bonus AAdvantage miles with retailers; another is by taking advantage of various partners that offer bonus miles for purchases. Here’s a sample of how you can earn additional miles with these retailers:
- Flowers: American partners with FTD, Teleflora and 1-800-FLOWERS, giving you a number of ways to earn miles for Valentine’s Day purchases (or to get out of the doghouse!).
- Wine: Another American partner is Vinesse, which allows you to earn 2,500 on your first shipment of wine from the company’s American Cellars Wine Club (plus 5 miles per dollar spent on all future wines).
- Broadway: You can also earn AAdvantage miles for Broadway tickets through the Audience Rewards program.
American also partners with a wide variety of transportation partners, including numerous rental car companies and airport transfer providers. Some notable ways to earn miles include:
- Avis and Budget: Earn at least 500 miles per rental, though you can earn even more by holding a Citi / AAdvantage credit card or AAdvantage elite status.
- Alamo, National and Dollar: Earn 50 miles per rental day.
- SuperShuttle: Earn 50 miles for each one-way trip you book.
Remember that you can pay for these options with any credit card, including those that offer primary rental car coverage. I’m also a big fan of the FrequentFlyerBonuses site, as it will capture any limited-time offers for the major rental companies. Be sure to check the AAdvantage page of the site for current deals.
Another option for earning bonus AAdvantage miles is when you’re planning your next vacation. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by booking a combination of flight, hotel and/or car reservations through American Airlines Vacations. In addition to earning the miles you normally would on flights and gaining access to discounted, unpublished rates, you’ll also earn an additional 250 miles for every package booked through the site.
If your vacation plans take you out to sea, consider booking a cruise through American Airlines Cruises. You can currently earn up to 20,000 AAdvantage miles for booking a balcony or suite stateroom on cruises that depart through the end of 2016. You’ll also see exclusive offers like upgrades, included drinks or special discounts on certain cruise lines.
One final way to earn bonus miles is through charitable donations. American currently partners with three different organizations that offer you 10 miles for every dollar you donate:
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to boost your AAdvantage account balance without even setting foot on an American plane. I’ve (personally) earned over 150,000 American miles in 2015 alone, and only 7,752 of them came from actual flying. You don’t need to be traveling every week (or even every month) to take advantage of valuable rewards. You just need the knowledge to make the most of every mileage earning opportunity!
What are your favorite ways to earn AAdvantage miles without flying?