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7 Ways to Accrue Airline Miles Without Flying

Updated on May 23, 2016

I’ve always wanted to fly international first class.

Maybe it was that Sex and the City movie where they flew first class and had these amazing private cabins and an open bar. Or maybe when I realized how outrageously expensive an international first class ticket was it held a different cache like a Birkin Bag that was intriguing.

Since I cannot justify spending 5 figures on a plane ticket (even with a bed and open bar) I resolved to earn it by accruing enough frequent flier miles.

At this point in time unless you fly for work it’s very hard to accrue miles just by flying. Originally frequent flier programs were geared for business travelers so they would stay loyal to one airline. Through the years it’s evolved considerably and there are many ways to gain miles without even entering a plane.

I’ve gotten quite good at accruing extra miles on my quest for an international first class ticket and have found these methods the best ways to accrue miles on United without flying.


Airline Credit Card

Think of how much you spend per year on credit cards just on gas, groceries, insurance, and utilities. Now you can turn those dollars for essential expenses into miles.

There are an overwhelming amount of credit cards available that can accrue miles. Some cards are for certain airlines only while others accrue points that are able to be redeemed on travel sites like Orbitz.

Most cards earn 1 mile per dollar and have a sign up bonus of 25,000 to 50,000 miles. It takes 25,000 miles for a domestic ticket so basically for just signing up for a credit card you earned a free trip. Usually you must spend a certain amount of money within 3 months to receive the bonus so as with any credit card read the fine print carefully.

I’d highly suggest putting everything you purchase on your credit card including insurance and household bills then paying it off weekly or monthly. It is entirely counterproductive to not pay off the balance each month for these cards because the APRs on airline cards are usually much higher than normal credit cards. If used correctly, you are accruing tens of thousands of miles while spending the same amount of money you did on your original debit card/credit card.

Mileage Mall

Shopping online has become more the norm as people work longer and longer hours and just don’t have time for regular shopping anymore. Before buying anything online again check and see if the store is in the online mileage mall.

The major 3 airline alliances (Star Alliance, One World, Sky Team) all offer Mileage Mall for gaining points. What is great about Mileage Mall is that it includes tons of stores in every category from electronics, to clothes, to home goods and chances are you’ve shopped at these stores anyway.

Mileage Mall enables you to accrue 1-20 miles per dollar spent for online purchases at select stores with the average being around 3 miles per dollar.

The best ways to utilize the Mileage Mall:


Drugstores

How many times do you go to the drugstore to buy one or two items and end up spending $50 on other things? Buying online alleviates this because it’s much easier to stay in your budget as you add items. No one wants to be that person in the store adding things up with the calculator to figure out costs, trust me it’s 10 times easier this way. Buying online from the drugstore helps you keep within your budget and keep track of past purchases.

It’s also more convenient because you don’t have to deal with lines, traffic, or parking issues. Buying drugstore items online vs going into the store is like using your debit card vs writing checks. Once you start doing it you don’t want to go back to the old fashioned way.

Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, and Target are all on Mileage Mall. All four drugstores give around 3 miles per dollar but it seems like every other week one of them will do a promotional rate of 5 miles per dollar so I usually buy with whomever is offering the most miles that week. All of them offer free shipping with a minimum purchase of $50 with the exception of Walgreens at $25.

So if you spend $50 at the drugstore per month (at 3 miles per dollar) that’s 150 miles which amounts to 1,800 miles per year earned for buying stuff you’d already buy in the first place.

In addition, if that was put on your mileage credit card (at 1 mile per dollar) that would give you an extra 600 miles per year so ultimately this works out to be 2,400 miles per year for just going to the drugstore.


Clothing

Most of the major clothing brands and department stores are included on the Mileage Mall. The good thing about clothing is that it is a higher ticket item so it’s more money spent meaning more miles gained.

Clothing stores are on average 3 miles per dollar but like drugstores there is usually always some promotion going on of up to 10 miles per dollar.

EBay

EBay is only 1 mile per dollar but as long as you are using it anyway it’s good to make sure you are getting miles for it.

Buying online is only beneficial to you if you work someplace where you are allowed to get packages delivered or live in a building where it’s safe to leave the package at the front door if you aren’t there.

Flowers

What a good way to surprise your mom on Mother’s Day than to have flowers delivered by a florist. Mileage Mall uses FTD which in addition to flowers has a really vast catalog of products selling beauty, cookie/candy arrangements as well as jewelry and stuffed animals.

Flowers have one of the highest miles per dollar rate on United at 25 miles per dollar spent. Those arrangements aren’t cheap either, it starts at around $29 per dollar for the smallest least impressive arrangement and goes up from there so you’ll accrue hundreds if not thousands of miles on this one.

Surveys

There is a slew of opportunities to earn miles by just giving opinions!

United works with survey companies E-miles, E-rewards, United Opinions, and My Points. Most of them offer some sort of bonus just for registering and from there you can sign up for different market research surveys.

Each of these companies has their good and bad points so try them all out to see which fits best. I would suggest to use a different email address for these if you do not want to be bombarded with emails about new surveys available.

Wine club

For those that like wine United works with Vinesse Wine Club.

There is a signup bonus of 5,000 for the first 6 bottles ordered at a discounted rate. After that 6 bottles are mailed per month at the rate of $12-$15 per bottle. You get 5 miles per dollar spent which can really add up.

This would work perfect for a couple that likes to drink wine and hold dinner parties but might not work so well for a single person unless they wanted to start a slight alcohol dependence.

Dining

Get miles while you dine. Through the dining program you register your credit card and anytime you use that credit card at restaurants affiliated with the program you accrue miles. Dines are 3 miles per dollar and after 10 dines you can accrue 5 miles per dollar. This can be a lucrative offer especially if you buy food for the office and are reimbursed.

Dining works well if you go to those establishments anyway, if not then it gives you an excuse to try someplace new.

Score Big

If you ever buy concert tickets use Score Big to accrue miles which is basically the same things as Ticketmaster. The number varies but it’s usually an average of 25 miles per dollar which can be thousands of miles accrued if you are buying tickets for friends who are going to reimburse you.

It might take a while but accruing enough miles to fly first class is within reach with patience and resourcefulness. Mileage accrual can be fun and stimulating but my rule of thumb is not to spend money that I wouldn’t have anyway.

With due diligence I finally earned enough miles for an international first class ticket.

Finding availability for that international first class ticket on United is a different story.

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    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 

      2 years ago from Singapore

      I do it by CC only, and it actually works quite well. Over the years, my CC company progressively reduced the giveout, but it's still enough for me to get a pair of decent biz tickets every other year. (I can probably go every year, if I trade for coach). The only tradeoff is the annual membership fee which is around USD 150 for me, but I figured, that's a small price for what I'm getting. And yes! I put everything on that card. Electricity, groceries, phone, even movie tixs. LOL.

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