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  • Writer's pictureJules Fortlage


Updated: Jun 29, 2018

Nothing says YOLO like a spur-of-the-moment trip to one of the most amazing ski resorts in the world. How I was able to afford a last minute trip to Whistler by using airline miles, that weren't acquired by flying... or using a credit card.

Walking along the train tracks in Function Junction

Okay, so my bad skin didn’t directly help me get to Whistler...but trying to find a skincare regimen did.

It's an odd thought, isn't it? How does solving a skin care issue have anything to do with getting pitted in the Canadian back country? Well, it has a lot to do with it when you realize the majority of your airline award miles were earned by shopping at one particular skin care store. I knew I was accruing miles with every purchase, but what I didn’t realize was that without my struggle to have flawless skin, I wouldn’t have had enough miles to go explore Whistler's epic terrain. Talk about a silver lining!

Those additional miles were able to get me a last-minute, non-stop, round-trip ticket from SFO to YVR just in time for the storm. If you want the freshest powder, sometimes you have to wait until the very last minute to see where the best conditions are. Weather is too unpredictable to be able to plan that far in advance - airline miles are the best way to get yourself where you want to go at the last minute.

I know what you are thinking: "She must have a credit card that earns airline miles with every purchase". While that is correct, that is not what I am referring to. Yes - the most well-known way to earn airline miles (outside of actually flying) is by having an airline mileage rewards credit card that gives you miles for every dollar spent. However, not everyone is able to open multiple credit cards or travel on their company’s dime to accrue miles. Luckily, there are a couple additional ways to earn award miles that don’t require you to travel or put a dent in your credit.


The best way to get the most out of your frequent flier program is by shopping through the airline companies. Heavy hitters like United, Alaska, and Southwest all have affiliate programs that allow you to earn miles for purchases made through a store link on their website. I earned over 60,000 award miles on United just by paying attention to what stores offered the most amount of miles/$, and strategically purchasing everyday items at certain promotional times. Everything I purchased I would have bought anyways, so why not get the most out of it??

HERE’S THE CATCH - there is no catch! There are no product markups or hidden fees, it’s completely free for you. It doesn’t even require you to use a mileage rewards credit card to earn the miles, you check-out on the store’s website just like you would normally do.

All it takes is some mental effort and a frequent flier number (free to sign up) and you can start earning miles from your everyday purchases. It really is that simple. Heck, you could have never stepped foot on an airplane and still earn enough miles to get steep and deep in the French Alps! Although, if you have never flown before...maybe start with a less aggressive flight option.

That being said, there ARE certain guidelines. Not all stores are listed as preferred vendors and some stores will restrict the items that are eligible for miles (i.e. gift cards). Make sure to read the Pro Tips and Tricks at the bottom of the page for some insider knowledge on what to watch out for to maximize the benefits of the reward program.

Most airlines have the exact same affiliate system, some offering a dollar more for one store but less for another. I have found that United has the best rewards program for accruing miles and tend to give you more miles/$ for certain stores. I highly suggest sticking to one airline so you can use them quicker than if they were spread across multiple platforms. If you don’t fly often enough to have miles on any airline, consider an airline that has a hub at your local airport or the airline that is the most popular departure for a certain destination you want to travel to.

Simply put: login --> click --> shop --> EARN!

Here's a list of the most common airline reward programs:


It can seem overwhelming at first, so don't stress yourself out trying to figure it all out right this moment. It took me about a year to master. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned to get the most bang for your buck.

  1. Seek and you shall find. If you are shopping for a specific item (i.e. a GoPro), you can use the search function to find out what stores stock the item. It will give you a list of all the stores and how many miles they offer. Yes, free 2-day shipping from Best Buy is wonderful, but another company like might offer 3 additional miles per $.

  2. Who said gift cards make for terrible gifts? Not all stores are on the affiliate program (Amazon, REI, Uber) but there are some ways to still shop and earn miles. For example, REI is not listed on any rewards program shopping list. However, United just added them in their gift card section! Add whatever items you want to your cart and write down the total. Then, purchase an e-gift card worth a similar amount to use as your payment method when you check out. THIS IS AN AMAZING GIFT IDEA AS WELL! I gave my grandparents a gift card to Texas Roadhouse for Christmas and earned 5 miles/$. Merry Christmas to me too!

  3. There's an app for that. United has an app (MileagePlus X) that you can use to shop in-store now. In fact, some stores give you more miles/$ if you buy on the app. Similar to purchasing a gift card, you put in the amount you want to spend and it will generate a bar code for you - hand your phone with the bar code to the cashier at checkout. No joke, I have literally stood in line at Sephora and added up the total of my items, then purchased the gift card on my phone just before walking up to the register. The app also has specific restaurants and additional stores that may not be listed on their shopping website (REI, Nordstrom, Air BnB).

  4. Wait for it.... Stores will occasionally have a promotion where they offer additional miles/$. If you don't need something right away, or are getting a jump start on your Christmas shopping, wait for stores to offer additional miles. You can add stores to your favorites and be notified when those stores are offering extra miles. On the website, just click the heart symbol next to the store name to add to favorites.

  5. Stop and smell the roses. Most stores offer between 1-5 miles/$ which is decent if you are purchasing everyday items, but it can take a while to earn enough miles for that Croatian sailing trip you have been dying to go on. The stores offering the highest amount of miles/$ are generally for magazines or flowers (average of 20 miles/$). While having a magazine on the plane to read is great, you can only subscribe to so many before you start to look like a hoarder. Flowers, on the other hand, can be purchased multiple times, for multiple people, on multiple events... Birthdays, Mother's Day, I-deserve-flowers-so-imma-buy-some-days. Colleague at work just had a baby? Send them flowers! Want to be like Oprah? Give people flowers... YOU get a flower. YOU get a flower. YOU get a flower!

The bottom line is, you can't go wrong when spending mindfully. Sure, you don't lose anything by not shopping through the airlines, but you can get so much more if you do! You were going to buy that new set of skis anyways, why not earn miles for it? With just a little extra time and energy, you could be apres-ing in St.Anton before you know it.

Share the love --> Leave a comment letting me know where you were able to travel to, with the help of airline miles!

Instagram --> @j_does_epic

Happy shredding!


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