Confession time: I love a good deal. When I get a particularly good coupon, I get so excited to save money, I’ll go around to everyone, asking “do you need to send anyone flowers? If so, I found a great coupon you can use!” What can I say? I just love the satisfaction that comes with knowing I got a good deal.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I love travel rewards programs. Beyond getting to buy flights with accumulated miles, I usually get enough miles in a year that I’m a silver or gold medallion member, which means I get free upgrades when they’re available, a dedicated support phone number, and free checked bags.
Rolling in first class for free? Count me in.
To help you get there, I’m sharing my top tips for getting even more out of your airline miles program. While these tips will apply to most of the major airlines, I’ll let you know that I am pretty loyal to the Delta Skymiles program, because I live in Minneapolis, which tends to have a lot of Delta flights. Wondering which rewards program is right for you? Check out my guide to choosing a travel rewards program.
Ready to accumulate those miles? Let’s jump right in!
1. Be Loyal When Picking Flights
This should come as no surprise, but the best way to accumulate miles is to be loyal to one particular airline. This is why I suggest choosing a reward program that has a lot of flights from your home airport, since it will be the most convenient for you.
You also should pay attention to the partner airlines of your favorite airline, too, since not every airline can fly everywhere. The exact partners are probably less important, but be sure you’re picking an airline that has a lot of partners. For instance, with Delta, I can book flights with partners like AirFrance and Virgin and still get Delta miles, as long as I’m booking through their site.
Once you’ve made a smart choice with which airline you want to use, try to be loyal to them. A tiny number of miles at 5 different airlines isn’t going to get you nearly as far as all of those miles on one airline. Sometimes I book through Delta even though it’s a little more expensive than other airlines. At the end of the day, loyalty is how you get miles—it’s the whole reason these programs exist, so it’s what they’re designed to reward.
2. Get the Airline Credit Card
I’m not advocating that you carry a balance or make any major purchases that you can’t actually afford, but getting the airline credit card is a great way to rack up miles.
Check the terms when you sign up—generally, you get a bonus just for signing up, and another bonus if you spend a certain amount within the first few months of having it. If you don’t normally spend very much during the course of a month, try to sign up when you know you have a splurge coming up (new laptop, luggage, flights for a major trip, etc.) so that you can get that spending bonus.
Whatever you do, be sure to pay off your airline credit card every month. The reason they can offer such enticing points systems and bonuses is because the interest rate is very high, so you should never carry a balance on these cards. Still not sure if it’s worth it to get an airline credit card? Here are four questions to help you decide.
3. Online Shopping? Use The Airline Portal
Those first two tips are pretty straightforward. The airline has a monetary interest in your loyalty and in you using their credit card, so it makes sense that they’d be willing to reward you through those programs. This one, I have to admit, doesn’t make any sense to me, but I’m not questioning it. Different credit cards and travel rewards programs offer shopping portals, which allow you to get bonus points for shopping online.
How does it work? Simple: just shop online like you normally would, but if you find something you want, check the rewards portal to see if that store is included in the program. If it is, just click through the shopping portal, complete your purchase, and you could be looking at 2 or 3 miles per dollar spent!
I can’t believe I ever used to shop online without checking Skymiles Shopping first. Be sure to look around to see if your rewards program will give you miles just for shopping online. (Which, if you’re like me, you’re doing plenty of anyway.)
Some of the major airline shopping portals (also check your credit card accounts, a lot of them have shopping portals, too):
4. Join a Dining Club
As you might expect, dining clubs reward you for eating, which I think you were going to do anyway. Just sign up for the program and eat at restaurants in your area that are in the directory (you can look at the options in your area, but the Delta program in Minneapolis has a lot of options that I might eat at anyway).
When you’re eating in-network, you can earn miles for every dollar you spend. The amount varies depending on your status with the dining club and how much you use it, but it can be up to 5 miles per dollar spent. Plus, like the credit cards, the dining clubs often have mileage bonuses if you use them a certain number of times in the first 30 days.
Some of the major airline dining clubs (if you’re a hotel rewards person, Hilton and IHG have similar options.):
5. Read Your Emails
This is a bit of a catch-all, but it’s a good policy to keep in mind when you’re really hoping to get as many miles as you can. When you sign up for a rewards program, they’ll occasionally offer you deals like any other program that gets ahold of your email address.
The emails to really watch for, though are the ones that offer you bonus miles for participating in surveys and similar things. It makes sense—if you travel a lot, you really might have insights that can help the business, and it will probably only take you a few minutes. For bonus miles, you can get me to answer a few survey questions, no problem! Be sure to watch your email and take advantage of these easy miles when you can.
Do you use airline rewards programs? Tell me in the comments how you make sure you get every mile you deserve!