If you have a budget when you travel, you already know that airfare can eat up more than its fair share of your funds. This is especially true when you have a family to buy flights for. After all, it’s easy to spend $400 or more per person on airfare — even for domestic flights.
The high cost of airfare is just one of the reasons many families pursue airline miles. Not only can airline miles help you travel the world for free, but you can use them for better seats and upgraded cabins that make flying more of an experience.
And, why not earn miles that can help you save on travel? Doing so can help you save big on airfare, which could leave you with more cash to spend on other aspects of your trip.
Use These Tips to Earn Airline Miles Without Paying an Annual Fee
Unfortunately, pursuing airline miles isn’t always free since most airline credit cards charge an annual fee the first year or after 12 months. For that reason, many families shy away from airline miles and look for airfare sales instead. Some even pick vacation destinations within driving distance so they can avoid the cost of airfare altogether.
But, what if we told you that you can earn airline miles without paying an annual fee — and without even carrying a credit card? Here are a few of the easiest ways to earn miles without paying for the privilege.
Pick Up a No-Fee Airline Credit Card
If you are open to having an airline credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee, the first thing to keep in mind is that a handful of airline and travel credit cards are actually fee-free. These cards typically offer smaller signup bonuses and fewer perks, but they still dole out airline miles for each dollar you spend.
The American AAdvantage MileUp Card and the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express are solid examples of airline cards that don’t charge an annual fee, so make sure to keep them in mind.
Join an Airline Dining Club
If you are against getting an airline credit card altogether but still want to earn airline miles, make sure to check out the dining club offered by your favorite airline. These programs allow you to earn bonus miles just for dining out at participating restaurants, and some offer bonus points just for signing up and completing one meal with a minimum spending requirement within the first 30 days.
Popular airline dining programs include:
Use Shopping Portals
Another easy way to earn airline miles without an annual fee is by using shopping portals whenever you buy something online. Most of the major airlines offer a shopping portal that lets you earn bonus miles, and some flexible rewards programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards let you earn bonus points for clicking through their portal before you shop.
Remember that using a portal doesn’t change your shopping experience at all, nor does it make your purchases cost more. Simply log into your account and click through to an online store before you shop, and you could earn up to 20 additional miles per $1 you spend at participating stores.
Here are a few shopping portals to explore:
Open a Bank Account
Some bank accounts offer bonus miles when you open an account and meet minimum deposit requirements. Chase Sapphire Banking, for example, is offering some targeted customers 65,000 points for opening a new account and keeping at least $75,000 on deposit for three to six months.
While Chase Ultimate Rewards points are flexible points and not airline miles, you can use them to book travel directly through the Chase portal or transfer them 1:1 to popular airlines like Southwest, United, British Airways, Air France/Flying Blue, and JetBlue.
You can also earn miles when you book car rentals through many airline’s own portals. The miles you’ll earn will vary depending on the airline and their specific offer, so make sure to check the airlines you use and compare.
With the American AAdvantage program, for example, customers can earn a minimum of 500 additional American AAdvantage miles per rental.
Just like you can book car rentals through an airline portal to earn miles, you can also book hotels. Most major airlines like American, United, and Delta offer this option on hotels and airfare + hotel travel packages.
You can also use websites like PointsHound.com or RocketMiles.com to earn airline miles for each hotel you book. Both offer up to 10,000 miles per night at tens of thousands of hotels worldwide.
Book a Cruise
Finally, you can earn a ton of airline miles any time you book a cruise. Most major airlines offer this option along with their own cruise booking portal you can use.
As an example, the American Airlines AAdvantage program has a cruising portal that frequently doles out 50,000 miles or more during special promotions. On a regular basis, you can usually earn 1 mile per $1 you spend on participating cruises with a limit of 10,000 miles.
The Bottom Line
While airline credit cards can offer enormous value, most do charge an annual fee after the first year. While you can get an airline credit card in order to score a big signup bonus then cancel before the annual fee hits, many people don’t want to deal with the hassle of having to remember or keep track.
The strategies above can help you earn airline miles without an annual fee and without even flying. Try a few or try them all, and you’re bound to rack up a ton of airline miles over time.
Where will you go? That’s up to you to decide.
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