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Airline miles are one of the most valuable tools to reduce travel costs. And there are several creative ways you can earn airline miles besides buying plane tickets. You can easily turn your daily purchases into frequent flyer miles. Let’s look at a few examples of the best ways to earn airline miles.

earn airline miles
Naples, Italy, to Munich, Germany, in Lufthansa Business Class (June 29, 2023). Credit: Johnny Jet

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Best Ways to Earn Airline Miles

Here are just a few ways you can earn airline miles that are pretty easy and have a good payoff.

1. Be Loyal To One Airline Alliance

It’s not a secret that airlines give the best rewards to their most loyal passengers. Being able to earn elite status means free checked bags, free space-available upgrades, and more miles on qualifying airline purchases and flights.

2. Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card to Earn Airline Miles

The easiest way to earn travel miles on every purchase is by charging your purchases to a travel credit card (consider one of the best credit cards for travel miles to earn more rewards for your airline purchases). Co-brand airline credit cards earn airline miles on every purchase.

However, if you like to fly multiple airlines, a co-branded airline credit card may be limiting. Instead, consider a flexible rewards credit card that still earns points/miles for your purchases but doesn’t limit your rewards.

You can also earn a one-time signup/welcome bonus that can be enough to book a trip as well. Waiting for the best limited-time bonus offers is a good strategy. As long as you can achieve the minimum spend to earn the bonus miles, you can take advantage of the offers.

3. Use Airline Travel Partners

Travel credit cards aren’t the only way to earn bonus miles on travel purchases.

Many frequent flyer partners award bonus miles when you support their travel and retail partners. For instance, you can earn bonus Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards at most major hotel loyalty programs and rental cars. In addition to earning hotel and rental car loyalty points, you earn airline miles, too. And if you use the best Southwest credit card for you, you’ll earn bonus points redeemable for award flights.

4. Dining

Most frequent flyer programs have a dining rewards program. You can link your credit and debit card to the dining account to earn miles at select restaurant partners. It’s possible to earn bonus miles at restaurants, bars, and clubs. Reviewing restaurants can also earn bonus miles.

These programs usually offer a one-time bonus if you reach certain spending milestones in the first 30 days.

Another way to earn bonus airline miles is by using one of the best credit cards for dining and restaurants. Some of these cards offer cash rewards that defray the cost of plane tickets you pay cash for.

5. Home and Financial Services

Home and financial-related purchases can also earn bonus airline miles. Some examples include buying home security systems, changing home electricity providers, switching insurance providers, and even when making your rent payment.

6. Gas Stations

Some airlines partner with select gas stations. While most won’t earn a ton of points or miles, they are still worthy for an expense that is already going to be made. Anything helps.

Being loyal to a certain gas station brand also means you can get cash discounts on fuel purchases. Use one of the best gas credit cards to pay for your gas and get you closer to your next flight.

7. Online Shopping

Airline and credit card loyalty programs both have online shopping portals. You can earn bonus miles at many online retailers. How much you earn depends on which retailer you shop at.

Consider using one of the best credit cards for online shopping when using an airline shopping portal. By doing so, you’ll maximize the rewards earned on your purchases. Being loyal to one airline or credit card program can be the quickest way to rack up bonus miles.

8. Donate to Charity

You might earn bonus miles by donating cash to charities. If the airline finds a charity you support, this is an option to consider.

9. Business Purchases

Business flyers can also earn airline miles quickly. Not every airline awards bonus miles for business purchases. Most frequent flyer programs don’t have specific business-focused incentives besides bonus miles through the online shopping portal. However, you can apply for a co-brand business airline credit card. Other business credit cards earn bonus points on travel, office supply stores, and shipping purchases.

10. Online Surveys

Are you ready for a way to earn airline miles without spending money? Some online survey networks let you redeem rewards points for airline gift cards. Before scouring the internet for the best online survey site, see if your frequent flyer program has an online survey partner. If so, you instantly earn airline miles for each completed survey.

To be fair, online surveys are not going to be the highest-rewarding option. You still need to spend money to earn the most points. But they are an effortless way to be productive in your free time.

Summary of the Best Ways to Earn Airline Miles

Your two best options to earn more airline miles are looking for retail partners inside the frequent flyer program and using one of the best cards for travel rewards. Booking flights can still be the best way to accrue miles. However, it’s not the only way.

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