If you haven’t already heard about frequent flyer programs, let me first explain what they are, then we’ll get into some creative ways to use them to earn free flights!
Can I use frequent flyer programs even if I don’t fly frequently?
Most people I talk to nowadays have heard of frequent flyer mile programs, but the vast majority of those people think that they are useless if you don’t fly frequently. The myth is that the only people who benefit from frequent flyer mile programs are… you guessed it… people who fly often!
Frequent flyer mile programs are airline loyalty programs. Virtually every airline has a frequent flyer program you can sign up for, and they’re free, so I recommend starting one with every airline you fly on.
Here are the seven most popular frequent flyer programs:
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Delta SkyMiles
- United Airlines MileagePlus
- U.S. Airways Dividend Miles
How these programs work is: every time you take a flight using that particular airline, the number of miles you flew is added to your mileage balance. After you have accumulated enough miles in your account, you can cash those miles in for free flights or upgrades to business class and even first class! Frequent flyer mile programs sound great if you do a lot of traveling for business or travel a lot in general, but what about for the people who only fly occasionally like me?
Fortunately, there ARE ways to gain frequent flyer miles WITHOUT flying!
How Can I Gain Miles If I Don’t Fly A Lot??
Method 1: Frequent Flyer Credit Cards
The easiest and by far the fastest way to gain miles WITHOUT flying is by opening a credit card through your frequent flyer account. Nearly every frequent flyer program comes with an optional credit card incentive program. For those of you turned off by the idea of opening a credit card, hear me out…
Most, if not all, frequent flyer credit card incentive programs come with mileage bonuses, and basically how they work is: Spend X dollar amount, say… $3,000, within the first 3-6 months of opening the credit card, and the airline will automatically give you 30,000-100,000 miles FREE! To put that in perspective, you can buy a domestic one-way ticket with American Airlines for 12,500 miles or less! Just by opening the credit card and using it, you’ve earned yourself a free round trip domestic ticket.
I know what you might be thinking…. It’s not REALLY free… You had to spend money to earn that “free” flight. You’re right, you did. BUT, here’s what I do and what I encourage all of my students to do: Open a frequent flyer credit card, and put all of your bills on it. Phone bill? On the card. Electric bill? On the card. Rent/Mortgage? If they’ll let you, it goes on the card too! All those bills that you are going to pay anyway put them on your frequent flyer credit card! Then at the end of the month, pay the card off ultimately. And voila! You’ve just added hundreds or maybe thousands of frequent flyer miles to your account! Do that every single month, and over time, you’ll build up a HUGE mileage balance!
I started doing this when I was in my early 20’s, and it has enabled me to travel all around the world for FREE by purchasing my plane tickets with my miles instead of my dollars!
Method 2: Shopping Portals & Surveys
Once you are a member of an airline’s frequent flyer program, you will begin receiving emails from them with links for surveys and other purchasing incentive programs. One example of this would be for FTD Flowers around Valentine’s Day. Every year when V-Day rolls around, I get an email from American Airlines saying if I purchase flowers through the link in their email, I’ll receive a discount on the flowers, and I will earn 300-1,000 free miles! Another incentive purchase I’ve made in the past is for Lifelock… (If you haven’t heard about Lifelock, I recommend looking into it). When I purchased a membership with Lifelock through the email link I received from my airline, I received 10% off, and I earned myself 10,000 free miles!
In addition to these emails, most frequent flyer programs now have E-shopping malls, which function in pretty much the same way as the email links I just described. What you do is, anytime you want to do some shopping online… Say at bestbuy.com or any number of other online retailers. You simply go their VIA the airline’s E-Shopping Mall, and every time you do that, and you make a purchase, you’ll earn yourself miles! Here’s a look at some examples:
- BestBuy.com: Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent
- Overstock.com: Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent
- Groupon.com: Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent
- Gap.com: Earn 4 miles for every $1 spent
There are hundreds of qualifying stores in this e-shopping mall portals, and they are an excellent way for an online shopper to increase their frequent flyer balance without taking flights!
Method 3: Hotels, Rental Cars, Vacations, and More!
In the same way that you can earn miles by shopping online through e-shopping mall portals, you can earn miles by renting cars and booking hotels, vacations, and cruises through your airline’s frequent flyer program. All of the various airlines have partnerships with travel-related companies such as hotel chains, rental car companies, and cruise lines, so when you decide to book your rental car through your airline’s program, you can earn hundreds of bonus miles! I took advantage of this during my last trip to Las Vegas… I drove there from San Diego, so I didn’t earn miles from a rental car, but when I booked my stay at the Bellagio Hotel, I earned 5,000 bonus miles! And to top it off, the price was the same as it was on Priceline! So not only did I get the same rate I would’ve had I booked through Priceline, but I also earned myself 5,000 bonus miles!
As you can see, you do not have to be a constant traveler to take advantage of the benefits of a frequent flyer membership. With the methods I’ve mentioned, you can start building up your mileage balance and earning yourself free flights around the world! Just imagine all of the extra activities that you can do with all the money you saved on airfare!