Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, Citibank and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Million Mile secrets reader, Amol, emailed:
I am an occasional business traveler. I have yet to collect enough points to redeem for award travel. Do you need to travel more frequently to make use of award miles?
And reader Marie, commented:
Do you have tips for someone wanting to book award travel, but doesn’t have credit cards that earn miles? I travel internationally at least 3 to 5 times a year in addition to domestic travel.
The easiest and fastest way to get enough frequent flyer miles for award travel is to sign-up for credit cards with big bonuses.
But some folks like to get their feet wet with award travel before jumping into collecting credit card miles & points.
If you’re like readers Amol and Marie, you might have a few miles saved up from paid travel, but not enough to book your next trip. Although it helps, you don’t have to fly more frequently or get new credit cards to collect enough miles for an award flight.
I’ll share 5 ways you can collect miles other than sign-up bonuses!
Earn Miles for an Award Flight
If you’re an occasional flyer, here are a few ideas and strategies besides credit card sign-up bonuses that can help you get your next award flight!
1. Paid Travel
Readers Amol and Marie mentioned they travel a few times each year, both domestically and internationally.
To make the most of occasional paid flights, I always recommend folks credit the miles to their favorite frequent flyer program.
You’d be surprised how only 1 or 2 paid flights on an airline might earn you enough miles for an award flight on a partner airline.
For example, Million Mile Secrets team member Keith booked a paid Emirates flight, but credited the miles to his JetBlue account. This earned him almost 6,000 JetBlue points, which is enough for a short award flight!
2. Shopping Portals
Before you make your next online purchase, consider using an airline shopping portal! This is a good way to earn extra miles on a purchase you were planning anyway!
Team member Harlan recently earned 500 Alaska Airlines miles this way. It’s not a ton of miles, but it can add up throughout the year. Especially if it’s a supplement to miles you earned with the airline through paid travel.
If you want to earn extra United Airlines miles, the United MileagePlus X is an app for Apple and Android devices that offers electronic gift cards for dozens of merchants, including physical and online retailers, restaurants, and services. You can purchase these gift cards while you’re checking out at a store or online so you know the specific amount you need.
Sometimes you can earn up to 5 United Airlines miles per $1 you spend!
3. Dining Programs
Link: Rewards Network
If you love food like I do, you might find yourself dining out a lot. And this is an easy way to earn lots of extra miles!
Just register your credit cards with dining rewards programs and you’ll automatically get miles in your frequent flyer account when you use your card at their 11,000+ restaurants, bars, and clubs.
4. Hotel Stays
And you have a selection of different frequent flyer programs to choose from when booking. For example, if you’re just shy of the number of points required for a United Airlines award flight, using Rocketmiles to book a hotel stay might help top off your account.
But always shop around to make sure you’re getting the best hotel prices. While it’s nice to earn airline miles, it won’t be worth paying a lot extra for a hotel stay just to get them.
5. Buy Points
Many airlines sell miles directly on their websites. Typically, it’s NOT a good deal to purchase airline miles. Because you can accumulate airline miles other ways without the out-of-pocket expense.
But sometimes airlines offer promotions that make purchasing miles worthwhile. For example, last month United Airlines had a targeted offer to earn up to a 100% bonus on mileage purchases.
Depending on the promotion, purchasing miles could be cheaper than paying cash for a flight. Or sometimes you just need to buy a few miles to top-up your account and have enough miles for an award flight.
Quickly Earn Lots of Miles With Sign-Up Bonuses
If you have an award travel goal in mind, the quickest way to boost your miles balance is by signing-up for credit cards with big bonuses.
For example, you can earn 50,000 American Airlines miles with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard after meeting spending requirements. That’s more than enough for a round-trip coach award flight to Hawaii!
Or get the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card and earn 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles and a $100 statement credit after meeting spending requirements. You could use the miles for a one-way coach award flight to Asia.
Lots of folks have misconceptions about credit cards. I’d recommend reading my post about several credit card myths that might be holding you back from Big Travel!
You don’t have to be an everyday business flyer to earn enough miles for award travel. And there are ways to collect miles without credit card sign-up bonuses.
But signing-up for credit cards with big bonuses is the easiest and quickest way to get enough miles for a trip. Just 1 bonus can get you Big Travel, like a round-trip flight to Hawaii or a one-way flight to Asia.
What are your favorite ways to earn airline miles besides credit card sign-up bonuses?