Airline miles are what I mainly use to fly on long haul business and first class flights internationally at great value. They can be used for many things too, from redeeming flights to buying toasters. Usually the best value is to use your airline miles for flights since you get the most bang for your mile out of it.
Now before we go into how to use airline miles for travel we must first discuss how to earn them. There are many many ways miles can be earned, the three main ways to earn miles is what we will focus on in depth first. Later I’ll post on some ancillary ways to earn miles.
- Credit card spend/bank incentives
This was the original way to earn miles. Fly one mile and earn one mile. The major three legacy carriers in the United States operated this way. However due to cost cutting, they are changing it. Delta and United Airlines have switched to a revenue based system to award miles. Miles are awarded on Delta and United based off of the cost of the ticket and elite status held on the airline. For example a person flying on a United JFK-LAX under the old system would have earned about 2475 miles,the distance flown on a ticket that cost $150. The new system is based off ticket price, meaning a person might earn 10 miles per dollar or some other amount. This varies by airline. The same person might only earn 1500 miles instead of 2475. This change was supposedly made to reward higher spending customers, but overall it will award less miles to most of us.
The only current Big 3 US airline to award one mile per mile flown is American Airlines. This however is changing in the second half of 2016 in which it will switch to revenue based mileage earning just like United and Delta.
2-3. Credit card spend/ bank incentives/promotions
One of the quickest ways to earn miles is through credit cards. Many banks offer significant sign up bonuses for opening new credit cards. Open a United MileagePlus credit card with Chase and get 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in three months. Large sign up bonuses are common and are an excellent way to quickly acquire points. They also award 1 mile for $1 spent, this encourages people to use the credit card for many expenses. Some cards offer up to 1.5 miles per $1 spent.
Once in a blue moon a bank will offer miles if you open up a bank account with them too. Citibank often will have promotions where one can earn American Airlines miles from opening a checking account.
These are some of the biggest ways to easily earn airline miles quickly, especially if you have a dream redemption in mind.