Looking to travel for free? You don’t have to set foot in a plane to earn complimentary flights. There are a number of strategies anyone can employ to earn airfare without being a true “frequent flier.” Even if you only fly once a year on your annual family vacation, you can still get free travel perks by using smart spending techniques. Here are the best ways to maximize frequent flier miles without actually flying.
1. Credit card rewards
The easiest and fastest way to earn frequent flier miles is with credit cards. A good travel card can guarantee you 1-2% back on every purchase you make — whether you’re buying paper at Office Max or avocados at Krogers. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, for example, earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, plus a 5% bonus when you redeem miles. If you charge $2,500 a month (on groceries, dining, entertainment, etc.), you’ve earned $600 in travel credit after a year, plus $30 worth of redemption bonuses. Using a general travel card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® as opposed to a specific airline-branded card grants you the flexibility to redeem for flights on any airline. And if you decide to take a driving vacation, you can use miles for hotel stays. Simply moving your day-to-day purchase to a rewards card is a quick and easy way to pick up free travel perks.
2. Signing bonuses
Again, when it comes to earning frequent flier miles, credit cards are the way to go. In order to entice potential cardholders, many travel credit cards come with big signing bonuses worth as much as $500 in airfare. Usually, you will have to spend a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time to qualify for the bonus. The requirement is typically $500-$3,000 in the first few months of opening the account. Right now, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is offering a strong bonus: Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which is famous for offering a big signing bonus, lives up to the hype: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
3. Rewards malls
To boost your miles earnings, take advantage of online rewards malls. By doing your shopping through these sites, you can double or even triple your miles-per-dollar rate. Of course, you don’t want to waste money on overpriced items or subpar products. To make the most of the rewards malls, simply incorporate them into your online shopping strategy. Next time you shop online, see if you can find your desired items by navigating your airline’s or credit card”s website. If the prices are the same, buy it through the rewards mall to accelerate your earnings.
4. Buy miles
This strategy should only be used to if you need a few extra miles and have no other options. You won’t often find a good deal when purchasing airline miles outright. Delta, for example, sells 10,000 miles for $350. The value of 10,000 is only about $100. That’s a pretty raw deal. If you’re part of their frequent flyier program, many airlines will offer a points bonus for purchasing miles, but you’re still technically losing money. Again, this can be a useful strategy if you’re a few thousand miles short of a free flight, but otherwise, don’t waste your money.