A guide to earning frequent flyer miles


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Frequent-flyer miles, usually awarded for spending money with a certain airline or as a welcome bonus with a co-branded credit card, can help you fly for a significant discount or even for free.

These miles, which fall under an airline’s frequent-flyer program, can do more for you than you may think. Depending on the number of miles you have or your status within a frequent-flyer program, you could earn preferred boarding on flights, lounge access, complimentary upgrades and more.

Here are the most common ways⁠ — along with a few lesser-known options ⁠— to earn frequent flyer miles.

Credit cards

With a co-branded airline or travel rewards credit card, you can earn points or miles for your everyday spending or higher-rates of earning on certain category spending. General travel rewards cards require that you transfer your points or miles to airline partners for them to become frequent flyer miles. Some cards offer favorable transfer rates and others, less favorable.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, for example, offers an unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase. Through January 2020, you can also earn 10X miles on hotels purchased through hotels.com/venture.

That means that with the Venture card, you could earn airline miles on every single purchase you make. If you spend $750 a month on the card within the 2X category, for example, you’ll earn 18,000 miles by the end of your first year.

According to The Points Guy, for September 2019, Capital One Rewards are worth $0.014 per mile when transferred to airline partners. That means your 18,000 miles could be worth around $72 more when redeemed for a plane ticket through one of the airline partners.

Welcome bonuses

A common way in which issuers will reward you for signing up for their cards are welcome bonuses. These bonuses can be in the form of a statement credit, cash back, points, miles and more.

In the case of many airline and travel rewards credit cards, a welcome bonus will offer you a cache bonus miles either with the airline or that you can transfer to an airline partner.

For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card offers a welcome bonus of 35,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within the first three months of card membership.

Transferring points to another airline

If you have frequent flyer miles earned through a partner airline, you can transfer miles from your airline card to that program for an added savings on flights.

For example, Capital One offers over 14 airline transfer partner options for Venture and Spark Miles cardholders. To see if your card offers transfer partners, log into your online account and review your card’s list of benefits.

Flying with an airline

By simply signing up for your favorite airline’s frequent-flyer program, you can earn miles for every flight you take with that airline. If you’re already signed up, you may not even realize how many frequent flyer miles you’ve earned.

Signing up for an airline’s frequent flyer program is easy. Normally, all you need to do is input your email and some basic personal information. Then, you can start earning frequent flyer miles on every flight using a unique identifier.

Here are a few of the most popular frequent flyer programs available:

Other ways to earn frequent flyer miles

Many airlines have partnerships with car rental companies that offer their frequent-flyer members discounts on car rentals.

For example, Airlines AAdvantage members can earn 500 miles per car rental at Avis Car Rental (at participating airport rental locations in the U.S. and beyond).

If you’re looking to take a trip with friends in family in the coming months, you can pool your frequent flyer miles with whoever you’re traveling with. Not all airlines offer this option (for example, United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta do not currently offer points and miles pooling) and those that do may have certain restrictions.

Perhaps the easiest way to earn extra frequent flyer miles is through survey programs like e-Rewards. This program awards you with your payment of choice (including airline miles) for taking paid surveys. Unfortunately, this program is invite-only, meaning you must be invited by a partner participating in the program.

The bottom line

By signing up for your favorite airline’s frequent-flyer program, utilizing airline and travel rewards credit cards, pooling your miles and keeping an eye out for extra mile-earning opportunities, you can earn enough frequent flyer miles to get you where you need to go — for less.