How to rack up airline miles

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, flight and other travel costs can begin to add up. Learning the “smart” way to shop and rack up those miles can help save you money in the future.

Couple at airport

Most consumers know that when it comes to booking travel, earning flight miles or points toward a future flight is standard and common practice. If you’re not a frequent business traveler, however, it may take a very long time to accumulate enough miles or points. Luckily, there are many other ways to get those perks and benefit from savvy shopping… and I’m going to break them down for you.


Shop online through the airline’s website

Most airlines have shopping portals called “Mileage Malls.” These portals have links to hundreds of websites, from smaller brands to more recognizable ones like Best Buy and Target. Shoppers can earn one or several miles per dollar spent just by doing their online shopping through the airline’s website. Ryan Lile of Frequent Flyer Academy advises to look for the stores that offer the most miles per dollar spent in order to maximize your mileage earnings.


Get miles from dining out

Rewards Network is a dining loyalty program that has partnerships with the leading airlines. Members can register through their existing rewards programs (United MileagePlus, for example) and use connected credit cards to pay for meals at participating restaurants. Members earn miles for every dollar spent, so it’s a win-win!


Don’t forget about your points

Earning miles is one thing; making sure they don’t expire before you use them is another. Building up a healthy stash takes time, effort and money. Make sure you stay on top of expiration dates, so you don’t lose them. If you need some help, use TripIt‘s pro subscription. Another great (and free) tool is AwardWallet.


Stay on top of airline promotions

Sign yourself, spouse and business up for any current airline promotions. For example, Delta — under American Express — gives 30,000 miles for getting the Delta Gold SkyMiles card. United Airlines gives 30,000 miles for its credit card with no fee for the first year. There are many others to look into as well; check out the website of your preferred airline. Bonus: Most of these airline credit cards give you free baggage check-in and priority boarding!


Open up a bank account

BankDirect, the online division of Capital Bank, pays out American Airlines miles for balances held in its customers’ Mileage Checking accounts. Users can earn up to 21,000 miles just for opening an account and establishing direct deposit, using BankDirect’s bill service and check card. After that, consumers earn 100 AAdvantage miles per month for every $1,000 in their accounts. Look into other banks with similar offers.

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