9 Unsung Ways to Earn Airline Miles for Free

Gregory KarpJun 21, 2018

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

For those with caviar travel aspirations and a fishsticks budget, jetting to exotic destinations may be possible only by accumulating airline miles rather than laying out cash. But you can pad your frequent flyer account with your feet on the ground and no extra spending — sometimes in unusual ways.

All you need to get started is a frequent flyer account with your favorite airline, which is free.

» MORE: 

Aside from flying the airline and spending big bucks on premium seats, the most obvious way to painlessly add miles to your account is to use a travel credit card, whether a specific or a that allows you to transfer points to airline mile programs.

Spend enough to earn the sign-up bonus — which will typically buy a free domestic flight — and then use the card for everyday spending, earning miles along the way. American Airlines and United Airlines recently added bonus categories that make a couple of their co-branded cards more attractive for everyday spending, offering double points on certain categories, such as restaurants. Be aware that travel cards might have an annual fee and could require excellent credit for approval.


Aside from credit cards, log on to your preferred airline’s website and note all the different ways you can earn miles, typically through partnership deals with other retailers and travel vendors. Here is a sampling of methods to add miles to your frequent flyer account.

Using these ideas has a potentially huge side benefit for preserving your hard-earned miles: It likely counts as activity in your frequent flyer account. That means it resets the clock on your miles expiring because of inactivity. Check with your airline to make sure.

On a similar note...
Dive even deeper in Travel