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Any travel hacker knows that the fastest way to rack up on miles and points is through credit card sign-up bonuses. However, there are many people who either can’t or simply don’t want to sign up for a new card. Here are nine ways anyone can earn miles and points without applying for credit cards:
1. Eat Out
Most airlines and hotels participate in dining rewards programs where members can earn miles dining within their network of restaurants. This is probably the easiest way to earn miles without much time and effort.
By becoming an "online member" of the American Airlines dining program (which is as simple as signing up for the program and connecting a credit card) you automatically earn 3 AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent at participating restaurants. So, if you were to spend $50 at a participating restaurant you could earn an easy 150 miles just by signing up. Note, each credit can only be registered to one airline’s program.
Here are links to the three major airlines’ programs:
2. Shop Online
As with dining rewards programs, most airlines have shopping portals where you can earn miles by shopping online at select retails. While this is not as seamless as the dining rewards programs, the process of shopping through portals is quite easy. After signing up, all you need to do is search for a store…
...click “Shop now” to be directed to the store…
… and voila, as long as you complete the transaction from the page that opens, you will earn miles for your purchase. Every store has different earning rates and often times, there are promotion periods where earning rates are increased. For instance, if I were to place a $50 order from Macy’s through American’s portal with the promotion being offered at time of writing, I would earn 300 miles. If you're strategic about your purchases, these bonuses can really add up. In the two years I’ve been a member of American’s shopping program, I’ve earned enough miles to redeem towards a free domestic flight.
Here are links to the three major airlines’ programs:
3. Sign Up for Promotions
Airline and hotel reward programs often have promotions where you can earn bonus miles or points by completing certain tasks. Sometimes tasks are as easy as completing one flight or hotel stay at any destination while other times they can be more onerous. Among the promotions currently being offered are ones which don’t even require you to travel — Alaska Airlines has one where you can earn 3,000 miles just by participating in its dining program, shopping portal and Opinion Terminal.
Here are links to a few promotions currently being offered:
- Alaska Airlines: Take the Dash for Miles Challenge
- IHG: Accelerate Promotion
- JetBlue: Bonuses & Badges
4. Stay Up-To-Date on Social Media
Besides the general promotions airline and hotel reward programs typically offer, many also run special promotions exclusively via social media. For instance, Marriott will now give you up to 45,000 points per year by interacting with them on social media. You’ll earn 750 rewards points just by connecting your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
If you earn the full 45,000 points, you would have enough points for three free nights at a Category 3 hotel such as the JW Marriott Hotel Chengdu or one night at a Category 9 (the highest category) hotel such as the JW Marriott Essex House New York. The best way to find out about promotions like this is to follow airlines and hotels on all social media platforms.
Here is the link to register for Marriott’s promotion:
- Marriott: #RewardsPoints
5. Use Lyft to Get Around
Delta has partnered up with Lyft allowing you to earn miles on every ride you take. All you have to do is link your SkyMiles and Lyft accounts and then you will automatically earn 3 miles per dollar on airport rides and 1 mile per dollar on all other rides. Depending on how much you spend on Lyft rides, this can significantly bump your mileage balance.
JetBlue also has a partnership with Lyft, but you can only earn miles on airport rides and it is limited to just 30 TrueBlue points.
You can only connect your Lyft account to one program so unless you’re really loyal to JetBlue, it would make more sense for you to connect your account with Delta. Also, if you’re new to Lyft, you can get $5 off your first ride by signing up here.
Here are the links you need to start earning miles on Lyft rides:
6. Rent Cars
Just about every major airline and hotel rewards program offer partnerships with car rental agencies.
Opting in to earn miles through car rentals is pretty easy — all you need to fill in your rewards preferences on your profile. For this example we looked at Avis, but typically you can always find this form by the “My Profile” page. You can earn anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand award miles through car rentals — American Airlines AAdvantage members earn a flat 500 miles for every Avis rental.
7. Complete Surveys
If you’ve got some spare time, you can earn miles by sharing your opinions in online surveys. I’ve completed one survey through the Alaska Airlines Opinion Terminal since they offer a 400 mile bonus after completing your first survey and an additional 1,000 miles as a part of the Take the Dash for Miles Challenge previously discussed, but don’t see myself using this method again — unless there is another promotion being offered. Personally, I value the effort needed to complete the surveys more than the amount of miles you can earn, but it could make more sense for you if you are short a couple miles needed for an award and don’t want to spend anything out of pocket.
Here are links to several sites which award miles for completing surveys:
8. Make Donations
Another easy way of earning miles is by donating to charity. American Airlines will give you a generous 10 AAdvantage miles for every $1 you donate to any of its partners. Regardless how much you choose to give back, it will be a win-win!
Here are links to donate to the charities partnered with American:
9. Pay for Travel
The final and hopefully most obvious way of earning miles is through paid travel. Regardless how short or how cheap your flight is, you should never complete a booking without putting in your frequent traveler number. Be sure to check out last week’s post on mileage runs to learn how you can maximize your earnings through paid travel.
There are many ways to easily earn miles and points without signing up for credit cards. Keep in mind, you should try your best to avoid buying miles and points. Although airlines and hotels frequently offer sales and bonuses for buying them, more often than not, it’s not worth it. Only use this as a last resort when your account is just short for a redemption.
Do you have a different method of earning miles? Share your tips in the comments below!