You have been dreaming about visiting an exotic destination but your travel budget can barely take you on a drive outside your city. As summer approaches, it may increasingly seem that you’re being forced to choose between several terribly boring vacation options that would be a nice fit in the would you rather games.
One way to cut your flight costs and even travel for free is by racking up your air miles. The interesting part is you don’t even need to be inside a plane to accumulate them. There are a number of lesser known ways you can do it with your feet firmly on the ground. We look at some of these below.
1. Online Shopping
Major airlines partner with numerous ecommerce businesses and that often includes some of the largest retailers such as Home Depot and Macy’s. You can earn air miles by shopping on these ecommerce sites. However, this will only happen if you access the retailer’s site via the airline’s shopping portal and not directly.
Make it a habit to shop for your usual household stuff using this method and before long you’ll have enough miles to fly to a place you’ve always dreamed about.
Travel and dining are closely intertwined so it’s no surprise that several airlines have a dining program. Typically, you’ll register a credit card for the program (it can be any credit card, not necessarily the airline’s own card) that you can then use in partner restaurants. You earn miles for every dollar spent (for example, United has pegged it at a lucrative 5 miles for every dollar).
Participating restaurants, pubs and bars are usually in the thousands so you are unlikely to be too far off from one whenever you want to dine out.
Like dining, you cannot separate hotels from air travel. In fact, the bond between hotels and airlines is much stronger since there’s a higher level of interdependence. Most large airlines have long term accommodation arrangements for their staff with major hotel chains around the world. It’s therefore only natural that this partnership does extend to customers.
If you use your airline account to book a stay in a participating hotel, you’ll earn air miles depending on the number of nights you stay and how much you spend. Some airlines such as Delta have even gone one step further by extended this benefit to Airbnb bookings.
4. Car Rental
Car rentals is yet another industry that’s closely aligned to airlines and for good reason. We don’t take our cars with us when we fly to a different city, state or country. Ergo, renting a car on arrival is one thing we are bound to do if local taxi service and public transportation system seem too expensive, inconvenient and impractical.
Just like hotels, book a car rental using your airline account and you’ll earn some valuable air miles that’ll come in handy when you need to travel cheap in future.
5. Financial Services
Banks, insurance companies, bureaus de change and other financial service providers are businesses many of us love to hate. Fortunately, some airlines have given you the opportunity to make your relationship with a lender, insurer or bureau de change that much more tolerable. When you use certain financial services from participating institutions, you earn air miles.
Other than the obvious advantage of earning the air miles themselves, the above techniques also provide an additional benefit especially for people who don’t fly that often. Air miles aren’t indefinitely redeemable. They do have an expiry date that is triggered by an extended period of inactivity.
Even if you do not board a plan for a long time, each of the methods we’ve listed here are recorded as activity in your air miles account. That means you’ll keep resetting the expiry date on your miles and thus avoid losing them.