For decades now, it has been common wisdom that you earned your airline miles by joining a frequent flyer program, getting the credit card that rewarded you with miles for each trip you made, and then booking your holiday when the miles had added up.
That was all well and fine, but what about the growing number of consumers not all that enthusiastic about credit card companies and the world of finance in general? What about those among us who dislike credit card programs with lots of blackout dates or trickily worded and organized rewards options?
Must we all have miles earning credit cards if we want to grab the highest number of frequent flier miles?
In a word: No
Today, we’ll look at a handful of alternatives that let you discover how to earn airline miles quickly, and all without forcing you to pile up debt or make trips and/or hotel stays you don’t want or need just to get the miles.
#1 Join the Programs!
Talk about stating the obvious, but it is important that you consider the right programs for you. While we did say you didn’t have to take the credit cards, you do have to be part of your chosen rewards and travel programs. Otherwise, your efforts go nowhere.
Take time to figure out the airline that is the most rewarding for your kinds of travel. Most of the big names have their rewards programs, and a very helpful article at U.S. News and World Report lists them from best to worst.
As an example, let’s look at their top choice for the year – Alaska Airlines. They have a program that lets you earn miles with them and 18 other airlines. They let you earn points in retail purchases, car rentals and hotel stays. You have flexibility with redemption and because you can earn them with partners like 1800Flowers.com and Vinesse Wine Clubs, it means you can earn even more points if you also make all of your purchases using a miles earning debit card.
“Just a second,” you might be saying, “There are options for a miles earning debit card?”
Yes, and that’s our second way to skip the credit card issue and earn miles quickly.
#2 Get a Miles Earning Debit Card
There are a lot of people who focus quite heavily on piling up their miles as quickly as they can. Because of that, they might use a credit card for all of their day to day expenses and then have to go and pay the balance a few times a month. Why bother if you can use a miles earning debit card?
There are currently only a few options. Among the best is the UFB‘s Direct Airline Rewards Debit Card. With it, you can earn up to 120,000 miles per year, you don’t have to maintain a minimum balance and you also get cash back and free purchase rewards. The miles pile up quickly as you get one mile for every $3 in POS transaction. They also have a checking account option that directs your rewards towards airline miles. At this time, it is linked only to the American Airlines program, but it anticipates adding more as time passes.
The fact that you can use it to make everyday purchases and build up points is really appealing, but that is not the only way your cash or debit card transactions can show you how to earn airline miles quickly.
#3 Just Shop!
The third way that you can use your debit cards that earn miles or discover how to earn airline miles quickly is to look for shopping portals that partner up with your chosen frequent flyer program.
This is one of the most commonly ignored paths to high mileage and you start simply by paying a visit to your preferred airline. Look for their shopping portal, and if they have one, create a profile and just login whenever you need to get your shop on. By shopping through the portal, you can earn miles with each transaction.
As an example, there is the American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping portal with more than 950 stores that provide special deals and the ability to rack up miles with each dollar spent.
Most are not just a set of random websites that you are unlikely to patronize, though. We’ve all seen those sites with their oddball gift sites and random specialty shops that might not ever get your attention.
Instead, at airline portals you will find most of the big box stores, including Overstock, Macy’s and Target through them. Just login and get spending. If you use the American Airlines option AND have their debit card, you really boost the earnings fast.
If you want to make the very most out of your shopping, though, use helpful tools such as the website known as ev’reward. It lets you enter where you are going to be shopping and finds the highest rewards.
As an example, you might head there and indicate that you are going to look for a product you wanted from Target. The search engine will show you how much in cash back rewards you would get from Citi Bonus Cash or from Ebates, but it also shows you how many Plenti points you would earn or how many miles from Alaska Airlines, Amtrak, Hilton HHonors, Virgin and more. You then just click through to the deal you want to use.
You can even find special offers from credit cards and loyalty programs, such as $5 off for the use of a specific credit card.
And if you are worried about pricing strategies, know that the prices are not boosted when shopping via a portal, whether ev’reward or the airline portal, and you can start amping up your miles with every purchase made.
As a simple example, if you spent $50 at Target and sent the points into your Spirit Airlines account, you’d have earned yourself a tidy 100 miles!
#4 Join Dining Programs
If you are a fan of the famous website ThePointsGuy, you know that he is happy to provide eager travelers with an endless array of techniques to pile on the miles. However, he is heavily invested in the credit card path because it can be a good answer to how to earn airline miles quickly. Yet, if you get one of the debit cards that earn miles, you might find ways to really bolster the results.
While you will usually have to register a single credit or debit card to a program, if you have two members of the household, it is technically possible to leverage your bonus rewards. For example, let’s say you use the UFB card to stack up the miles on your American Airlines account. If you also dine out through the AAdvantage Dining program, you get a huge number of miles.
Yet, there are many other programs with major airlines, including Southwest, Delta and United, among many others. Alaska Airlines actually has five points per dollar spent, and JetBlue gives you a one to one ratio.
Don’t overlook the OpenTable reward system that grants around 100 points through their reservation system.
As one expert says, “Dining rewards programs are a great way to passively earn points and miles for your rewards accounts. Combined with rewards credit cards that offer bonus earning on dining, you can earn quite a bit extra just by having the right strategy in place before spending. ”
In fact, you can really stack up the miles if you use that card for every dining experience, work lunches and more.
#5 Turn to Technology
This is a unique way to start maximizing your miles and involves a few different tactics. The first is to use social media to follow your preferred airlines and simply share or like items they post. Why do this? In many instances, if you do so, they will reward your registered account with points or miles. One example of this was when British Airways rewarded Facebook Likes with 500 points for their frequent flyer members.
Don’t stick with Facebook alone. In fact, that is sure to make you miss out because several airlines really prefer Twitter and announce all of their deals and points opportunities with tweets rather than Facebook posts. Simply use half an hour at the end of each day to look at your favorite airline’s posts or offers and take action as needed. You can even cue alerts or push notifications on a mobile device should certain terms or options appear.
This takes us to another way to turn to technology to discover how to earn airline miles quickly and without a credit card. How? Just use the best apps for tracking miles, points and other communications from airlines. As one travel expert advises, “One of the first things you need to do when you start collecting points and miles is get the right app to keep track of your accounts. You’ll never have to worry about points expiring, forgetting passwords or losing account numbers again, and you’ll always know how many points and miles you have.”
This is important, but rather than using an assortment of apps that you will have to manage or monitor, we recommend you lean more towards a sort of universal tracking app, such as the popular Tripit. This is a fee-based app, but if you are serious about organizing accounts, getting the most out of your different non-credit card oriented actions and maximizing your miles, this is the one.
It is also great as a travel companion since it can even track your bookings and itineraries on or offline! Just think, you can get real time flight information, notifications about seats you want as they become open, and even alerts to cheaper sites. Talk about maximizing your freebie flight options and even boosting them!
Of course, many people prefer the famous AwardWallet. It has been around for more than a decade and it is automatically loaded with the top airline rewards programs. In fact, it has more than 600 at this time. There is a free version that lets you monitor account details, including that of your family, but if you upgrade, you get a lot more actionable features and monitoring.
Of course, not all apps are related directly to keeping track of your miles. There are options like ExpertFlyer that let you look for seats that are specifically available to you using your awards, and which can be upgraded. It also lets you choose a seat you really want on a specific flight and alerts you if it is open.
Last but not least is the Award Mapper app that shows you the hotels in your area and which rewards programs they offer or belong to. While not specifically related to piling up miles fast, it is a great tool for ensuring you get the rewards you want for every single dollar you spend during travel.
So, there you have five answers to the question of “how to earn airline miles quickly” and without a credit card. Yet, there are a few additional tips we must pass on. As an example, you can always look for brokers who sell airline miles for cash and use those to boost your levels. While selling frequent flyer miles is a bit of a slippery slope in terms of legality, it can work in your favor. There are also ways to do surveys for airline miles. You won’t pile up the credits quickly, but if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs for a half hour, why not also nab a few frequent flyer miles while doing it?
Then, of course, there is always one tried and true way to stack up frequent flyer miles without a credit card, and that is to just get out and travel. If you join your preferred airlines program, use every opportunity as you stay at hotels, dine out, rent cars and go shopping, but also just book flights and take trips! Not only is this a good way to get miles, but it’s a great way to enjoy the process.