How to earn and multiply your miles—even when you’re on the ground
Padding your frequent flier mileage and hotel points program accounts can be easier than it seems. Despite changes to earning patterns that have seen most loyalty programs switch to accrual based upon how much you spend (Alaska remains the lone holdout), these seven mileage- and point-earning tips could help to perk up your account balances in 2017.
1. Pray for a bag delay
Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer a unique value proposition for those checking bags. Both carriers promise that your bag will arrive on the carousel within 20 minutes of the door opening. If not, the airlines will reward you with bonus miles or a travel credit. Alaska offers travelers that wait for a bag for longer than 20 minutes the option between 2,500 miles or a $25 voucher.
The process is simple for Delta fliers because the airline’s app easily tracks your bags from the moment you check them in, to when they are unloaded from the plane (including at connecting airports), to when they are finally scanned to the bag carousel. If it takes more than 20 minutes, travelers can complete a simple form online to receive 2,500 miles instantly. The offer even works on award tickets, but be sure to put your SkyMiles number in the reservation. It’s amazing how many people do not take advantage of this offer.
2. Go mobile
In an effort to get more people to use smartphone apps, brands are offering special bonuses. For example, Hilton HHonors members who book through the app are eligible for a couple of bonuses this month. One offers triple points for reservations made via the app; the other provides a 5,000-point bonus for those who use the app and pay for part of the reservation with a Visa credit card. The latter even works for award redemption reservations using a mix of cash and points, as long as part of the booking is paid for with a Visa card.
United offers online shoppers the chance to buy credits via its Mileage Plus X app for bonus miles. The credits are then used at dozens of online retailers like cash.
3. Dine out at your favorite restaurant
In addition to any credit card bonuses you might earn for using cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, for example, there are also airline miles waiting for you. Programs such as Rewards Network provide as many as 10 airline miles per dollar spent at participating restaurants and retailers. You need to sign up for the airline program that you prefer and register your credit card so that it can track your spending. This is a hugely lucrative offer that can earn miles without ever leaving the ground.
4. Fly and stay with friendly partners
Airlines and hotel companies have long had mileage earning partnerships, but the past few years have seen some deeper links emerge. Among the first were Starwood and Delta to create a program called Crossover Rewards that gives benefits to elite members in each other’s programs, including priority boarding, late checkout, free in-room Internet, and even upgrades to first class. In addition, SkyMiles members earn miles for staying with Starwood while Starwood Preferred Guest members earn points for flying Delta. It’s an easy way to double-dip, but not everyone knows to take advantage of it. Marriott and United are partners giving each other’s elites extra perks, but that pairing does not offer free miles or points. International travelers will be pleased to know that Starwood has created similar programs with China Eastern and Emirates.
5. Drive smart
Rental car companies award fliers miles for driving with them, and many like Hertz provide bonus miles for some airlines’ elite members, including Delta and United. But even if you don’t do the driving, you can still score miles. Starwood and Uber have a program that gives bonus Starwood Preferred Guest points for riding with Uber (one point per dollar spent) as long as travelers have one qualifying stay with Starwood per year. Want to share a ride? Super Shuttle will offer a fixed number of miles for a ride, too.
6. Get miles for a home stay
Even if you don’t stay with a traditional hotel company, there are miles to be had. Both Delta and Virgin America offer miles for staying with Airbnb. Virgin America’s Elevate program will soon merge with Alaska Mileage Plan, and the continuation of the Airbnb partnership is unclear so rack up those miles while you can!
7. Share your opinion or travel advice
Many airlines and hotel companies participate with Opinion Miles to offer mileage bonuses for responding to occasional surveys. Barclaycard, well known for its hefty bonus on the Arrival Plus World Elite credit card, has an online travel community that rewards card members with 150 miles for posting 100-word travel stories with a photo. Non–card members can post too and are rewarded with electronic Amazon.com gift cards for participating. You also earn miles for creating a profile and earning accolades from fellow members for content.