You all know by now that I am a big fan of the jet-set life and planning regular getaways, and between my recent trip to Australia and the release of our very first collection of luggage tags this month, I’ve had getaways on the brain. But when your routine regularly involves travel like mine does, the expense of flights and hotels can really begin to add up. So, over the years I’ve tried to master the art of accumulating airline miles to put toward my travel, rather than paying out-of-pocket for each flight. While it may seem complicated and time-consuming on the surface, there are a few tried-and-true tricks to rack up those airline miles faster than you think—trust me, you’ll be a pro in no time! And when I say, “rack up airline miles” I don’t just mean through your basic rewards program (although we’ll touch on that soon enough). I’m talking about also earning miles through credit cards, online purchases, hotel bookings, and even dining. These are ways to truly maximize your potential to fly using points earned, and I hope you get as much use out of these tricks as I have. So before I get too far into it, let’s get right to the research and start earning those points…
One of the easiest and most straightforward ways to earn points and frequent-flier miles is by signing up for a free rewards program through your favorite airline. This way, each time you book a flight with that airline, you’ll accumulate points to use in the future. Easy, right? This also applies to hotels—sign up for hotel loyalty programs and each time you book a stay with them, you’ll get miles toward your next trip. If you travel often and haven’t done this yet, you are just wasting potential free flights. So get on it! Bonus: Most loyalty programs are also partnered with Chase, AmEx, or the like, making it possible to transfer points from one source to another so you can get the most out of your miles, and even be a bit more choosey on how to redeem them.
While some may think that all credits cards are created equal, this is where you can really make a huge difference in the benefits you get toward airline miles. A few things to keep in mind before you apply for a card: first, choose a card with big sign up bonuses and benefits when you redeem. Cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Rewards Card offer up to 50,000 points (the equivalent of about $400-$500 in travel) when you spend the required minimum in the first 3 months of use. If you sign up for a credit card that yields travel points, make sure to use it often to keep your points active, but don’t forget to pay off your balance each month to avoid being charged interest. Tip: If a particular vendor charges a service fee (3% for example) simply avoid it and use another payment method—the fee will essentially cancel out any potential points you would be earning.
While shopping at your favorite online retailers seems like something you do on autopilot, if you take one simple extra step before shopping, you can be earning miles with every dollar you spend! Many airlines have online “shop portals” or “mileage malls” that allow you to earn points while you shop. After you’ve signed up for your airline or hotel rewards program, search for which portal is used by your airline, and visit the site. Every time you shop online, begin by going to that portal, then entering your desired retailer’s website THROUGH that portal (instead of going directly to the brand website). Your shopping experience will be exactly the same, except you’ll be accumulating miles with every dollar you spend!
This is one that may be new to most people, but it is incredibly easy. All you have to do is register your credit or debit card with any airline’s dining program, and then you’ll automatically earn points or miles on money spent at participating restaurants. The best part is, this includes your bill, tax, drinks, AND tip! You get miles for every last bit. You can only have one card registered for each dining program, so if you want to earn miles on different airlines, register different cards for each and start racking up the points.
As far as maximizing your airline miles is concerned, gaining elite status isn’t necessary, but definitely has its perks. By signing up with some airline credit cards, miles can be earned and automatically put toward qualifying you for elite status. Earning status can take time, strategy, and money, but once you’re there it will be well worth it. In most cases, status on an airline is earned by flying an indicated number of miles in a year with that airline, so make sure to sign up for a loyalty program ASAP to start earning! A big perk of elite status is access to luxury amenities, like priority boarding, airport lounges, preferred seating choice, express security lines, and free upgrades, to name a few. Then, as you book future flights with your elite status, you’ll often be able to earn bonus miles (that you wouldn’t have earned as a non-elite passenger).
Earning your airline miles is one thing, but keeping them organized and putting them to good use is an entirely different task. One helpful way to stay organized is by using an online mile manager (like this one) to keep your rewards in one place. These services also can alert you when miles are about to expire so you don’t forget to put them to use! (Or even better, do your research to find an airline where your miles never expire.) After all, your efforts to earn those miles are no good if you don’t use them to get away now and then.
Do you have any tips and tricks to maximize your miles in the air?
Good luck! Xx GM
Photos: @graymalinpersonal on Instagram, Gray Malin