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Lyn writes about how to fly nearly free on her GotoTravelGal.com blog and has also developed an online course that teaches you the simplest ways to earn free flights in the US. I’ve asked her to share tips on how you can earn enough miles to get a free round-trip within the US without signing-up for a credit card or ever stepping on a plane.
Lyn: When it comes to flying almost free, I like to focus on the simplest and easiest techniques. Sometimes people are intimidated about collecting enough miles to pay for an award flight, but it’s my goal to show you how easy it can be.
While credit card sign-up bonuses definitely make the process shorter and simpler, you can earn enough miles to fly nearly free without signing up for a credit card OR flying. Let me show you how.
7 Steps to Earn a Free US Round-Trip on American Airlines Without Credit Cards or Paid Flights
To fly within the mainland United States, you need 12,500 American miles each way for destinations over 500 miles apart, or 25,000 miles total for a round-trip. Of course, you will still have to pay the mandatory government security fee of ~$6 each way.
The good news is American Airlines offers lots of ways to earn miles outside of credit card sign-ups. It will take you a little longer, but it’s possible – and easy!
Step 1. Book a Hotel
American Airlines recently launched a hotel booking site that lets you to earn up to 10,000 miles per night when booking more than a million properties around the world. When searching on the site, look for the American Airlines logo, which shows the total number of miles you can earn.
For example, for a 3-night October stay in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, you can earn 14,000 American miles.
Be sure to enter your American Airlines loyalty number when checking out to ensure your miles are credited to your account after your stay.
We’re going to assume you can earn at least 10,000 miles for 1 hotel stay.
TOTAL EARNED = 10,000 miles
Step 2. Go Shopping!
Who doesn’t love this step?! Now, I don’t want you to go and buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need, but you can earn miles for buying everyday items you’d be purchasing anyway.
By starting your stopping at the AAdvantage eShopping Mall, you can earn between 1 and 25 miles per dollar you spend. There are more than 850 stores in American Airlines’ online mall so there are a LOT to choose from! Popular retailers include:
- Best Buy
- Home Depot
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Dick’s Sporting Good
Of course, the holidays are a good time to take advantage of the portal when buying gifts, but you can still earn miles on regular purchases like groceries. If you shop at Target or Walmart, why not purchase your groceries ahead online and then pick them up at the store? Not only will you earn free miles, but it saves you time, too!
Watch out for bonuses! American Airlines had a recent deal where you could earn an extra 2,000 miles through their Back to School bonus. There are often special deals like this throughout the year, like Valentine’s or the holidays, so keep an eye out.
To earn your miles, visit AAdvantageShopping.com, search for your store and then click through to begin your shopping. Your miles will appear in your account within 4 to 8 weeks of purchase. It’s a good idea to keep track of your shopping so you can check in after 8 weeks if your miles are not credited. I offer a handy tool to help you do this in my online Frugal Flyer course.
Assuming you can earn a 2,000-mile bonus, at least through grocery and other everyday spending at Target or Walmart, you should have 2,500 miles (2,000 bonus miles + 1 mile per dollar for $500 spent).
TOTAL EARNED = 2,500 miles
Step 3. Read for Cheap
Also within the AAdvantage eShopping Mall are offers to subscribe to various publications for cheap and earn a heap of miles. Here are your current options.
Note: These are limited-time offers that may change.
Barron’s – 1,000 miles
When you subscribe for $12 for 12 weeks, you can earn 1,000 miles so long as your subscription is active for at least 45 days.
Wall Street Journal – 1,000 miles
The Wall Street Journal offers the same deal: $12 for 12 weeks. Get your 1,000 miles as long as your subscription is active for 30 days.
New York Times – 1,000 miles
Get 1,000 miles for subscribing to the New York Times for 90 days for $7.50 per month (total $22.50). You can cancel after 90 days.
Texture – 1,500 miles
Texture is an app that gives you access to digital subscriptions to hundreds of popular magazines. Get 3 months for $10 and leave your account active for 90 days to earn your miles. Only 1 subscription per household.
Simply search for each offer within the AAdvantage eShopping Mall, and then click through to place your order and earn your miles.
TOTAL EARNED = 4,500 miles
Step 4. Dine out!
AAdvantage Dining is a program that lets you earn miles for eating at your favorite restaurants. You simply register any card – credit or debit – that you would use to pay for your meal and dine at a participating restaurant (they tend to be locally-owned versus chains) to earn up to 5 miles per dollar.
If you are new to the program, you can earn a bonus 3,000 miles in the first 30 days. You’ll get 1,500 miles by eating at your first participating restaurant and spending at least $25 in the first 30 days. Then, you can earn another 500 miles for each of your next 3 visits if completed within the first 30 days. You must spend at least $1 at each establishment and only 1 restaurant visit per day.
TOTAL EARNED: 3,000 bonus miles + 100 miles ($25 each at 4 restaurants) = 3,100 miles
Step 5. Order Flowers
I bet there are a few people in your life who would love to receive flowers! Spend at least $50 on 2 flower arrangements from FTD.com and score 20 miles for every $1 you spend. To shop online, start at this link or order by phone by calling 800-SEND-FTD and mention promotion code “29697″. You’ll also need your American Airlines number to receive your miles.
TOTAL EARNED: $100 x 20 miles = 2,000 miles
Step 6. Make a Donation!
Donate to Susan G. Komen, Stand up to Cancer, or the National Foundation for Cancer Research and earn 10 miles for every dollar you contribute.
Start here to make your donation and earn your miles.
TOTAL EARNED: $100 donation x 10 miles = 1,000 miles
Step 7. Buy Restaurant Gift Certificates
Restaurant.com is a service that lets you buy discounted restaurant gift certificates that never expire. For example, you can purchase $25 gift certificates for $10. Starting your purchase at the AAdvantage eShopping Mall and search for “Restaurants.com“.
When you click through the link, you earn 12 miles per $1 spent. Purchase $175 in gift certificates to restaurants you regularly visit, which saves you $105, to earn 2,100 miles! Be sure not to use outside discount codes or you may not get your miles.
TOTAL EARNED: $175 x 12 miles = 2,100 miles
In 7 steps, we’ve reached our goal of 25,000 American miles, which you can redeem for 1 free roundtrip ticket in the US! Where will you go?
While it requires a little more time and effort, it’s certainly possible to rack up 25,000+ American Airlines miles to redeem for 1 round-trip ticket within the US.
To get step-by-step instruction – and tons of helpful tracking tools – for flying almost free around the U.S. on major airlines like Delta, Southwest, United and American, check out my Frugal Flyer course.