How to Earn Miles

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to really fly to accrue airline miles. Nearly all the miles I’ve earned have been from credit cards (bonuses and spending), the MileagePlus X app, shopping portals (such as MileagePlus Shopping), and hotel stays at Marriott properties.

So far, I’m at 3,000,000 miles and counting!

Here are a few links to some cards that I use and recommend:


Chase allows you to book travel directly through their Ultimate Rewards site, but the real bargain is when you convert your Ultimate Rewards points into airline miles at a one-to-one ratio from your Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Preferred cards.

The Freedom Unlimited is a little trickier, as it doesn’t allow direct transfer to airline partners, but you can easily transfer your points from the Freedom to your other card, and then to the airline.

Here’s a list of Chase’s current airline partners.

Chase’s list of travel partners

Apps and Shopping Portals

If you’re just getting into the mileage game or are a seasoned veteran, definitely make sure to check out the various apps and shopping portals that can earn you additional miles.

MileagePlus X

MileagePlus X allows you to use your phone to purchase a gift card for a multitude of restaurants, brick-and-mortar stores, and Amazon. Most places allow you to purchase your gift card in the exact dollar (and cent) amount of your purchase, so you never have to worry about having a gift card with fifty cents left on it that you have to keep track of.

You don’t need any specific credit card to sign up, just a MileagePlus account. You’ll also continue to earn credit card points for your purchases in addition to miles from the app.

I typically pull in about 12,000 miles a year from the app, but if have a large family and eat out a lot, your rate might be a bit higher.

Participating nearby locations as well as Amazon

MileagePlus Shopping

Before I make an online purchase, I always check to see if the retailer is on MileagePlus Shopping. Just by linking through the portal, you can get one or more additional miles for your purchase. I typically earn about 10,000 miles a year on here with some moderate use.

Add some miles to your stash with only a few extra clicks

MileagePlus Dining

Another great place to earn miles is MileagePlus Dining. Although I don’t earn miles from this method too often, I still went ahead and registered all my credit cards there so I can earn a few extra miles a year. Where I live, the restaurant list is rather sparse still, but once in a while, I’ll notice some extra miles in my account from the program. Usually I accrue about 1,000 miles a year from this method.

A screenshot of the MileagePlus Dining site

Marriott & Starwood

I also earn Marriott Rewards points from my Marriott stays, which I then convert to miles, which are typically far more valuable. You can transfer points to United at a rate as low as 2.24 Marriott Points to one United Mile, or another airline at a similar rate. If you’re a diligent saver, you can also purchase a travel package, giving you a combination of  miles and hotel nights, which is an even better deal!

In addition, with the Marriott and Starwood merger, Starwood points can also be converted into Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio.

Hotel + Air package from the Marriott website

Flying with your airline

Needless to say, the original way to earn miles has always been flying. Back in the day, on the U.S. based airlines, your miles were actually earned based on the distance you flew. Nowadays, the three legacy airlines have switched to a revenue-based earning scheme, where your ticket price determines how many miles you earn on a trip.

It’s still definitely worth setting up a frequent flyer account with every airline you fly though. If you fly regularly, it’s also best to stick with a single airline as much as possible to achieve the various levels of frequent flyer status and score some free upgrades.

2632 miles earned on my Norfolk to San Francisco round trip

So there you have it, folks! Despite what you may have heard, it’s easy to rack up massive quantities of miles without even leaving the ground.

Happy travels,