Travel Tips

In Search of Miles

United Mileage Plus

Frequent Flyer Miles aren’t just about flying anymore! If you can never rack up enough miles for a free ticket because your miles keep expiring, read on! Many airline mileage programs will let you keep your miles if theres some sort of activity on your account, but that doesn’t have to be flying!

While many airline mileage programs are structured similarly, my expeirence is primarily with United’s Mileage Plus program as that is my program of choice. By following the steps outlined below, I’ve successfully received over 2,000 non-flight miles by just changing my daily routines a bit.

Flying on your airline of choice and their partners is certainly a good way to rack up miles (but beware as how many miles you’ll receive), but nowadays, many airlines include a myriad of ways in which to earn miles in your daily life! Here are a few of the basics!

Dining Programs

United, as well as several other airlines, has paired with Rewards Network for their Mileage Plus Dining Program. To participate you simply sign up for free and then register up to 5 different credit card numbers with them. Then, when you go out to eat, simply use one of your registered cards at one of their participating restaurants and you earn mileage for each dollar spent, including tax and tip. You start out earning 1 mile, but go up to 3 simply by completing your profile. If you hit a dozen dines in a calendar year, you move to “VIP Status” and get 5 miles per dollar. The program runs plenty of specials, allowing you to rack up extra bonus miles too! It’s really quite simple, and they have a handy website and iPhone app with a directory of all participating eateries, as well as customer reviews, pricing info, etc.

Retail Programs

Most airline mileage programs have an online mall, where you earn miles for every dollar spent at a participating online retailer. To take advantage of this service, you must first sign in to your program’s online mall and from there, click onto your website of choice (this allows the mileage program to track your spending using cookies). Plenty of stores you probably already buy from online participate in these “malls.” United’s program includes such venerable favorites as REI, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, The Apple Store (including iTunes), and many more!

Grocery Miles

United’s mileage program has banded together with Safeway and their associated stores (like Vons or Dominicks), allowing you to use your pre-existing club card to rack up miles. You rceive 125 miles any time you spend a cumulative $250. No change in your shopping habits required!

Credit Cards

Credit cards have a bad rap, and if you’re not good at managing your finances, they probably aren’t for you. But every single airline mileage program has at least one credit card associated with it. They tend to include an annual fee and a hefty APR, but in return, you get a generous signing bonus (usually enough miles for a free flight), miles for every dollar you spend, and other perk’s depending on your choice of card and mileage programs. Continental’s card will even waive your checked baggage fees!

If you’re willing to pay an even higher fee, you can earn multiple miles on certain purchases, upgrade cerificates, lounge access, discounts, or even the elusive Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), miles used to determine your status in the program that can normally only be acheived by flying.

Other Options

Many plans allow you to earn a significant mileage bump when you sign up for a new cell plan and buy a phone, all through their website. You can also get miles for rental cars, home loans, dealing with certain investment firms, and and various other financial services.

It all varies by your program of choice. To learn more, explore the websites of the airlines you fly with. Under their mileage program, they will surely tell you all the countless ways to earn miles!

Now, redeeming those miles? That’s tough to say and much has been written lately about cutbacks in capacity leading to fewer and fewer award seats available. As always, plan early and if all else fails, the airlines offer equally as many ways for you to redeem your miles, on everything from gifts to hotel stays!

So, enioy, and keep flying!


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

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