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  • Writer's pictureJules Fortlage


No credit card? No problem. How to still earn airline award miles by purchasing everyday items on your debit card.

Flying into Jackson, WY over the Grand Tetons

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 go skiing 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 pair of shoes anyways, why not earn miles for it? With just a little extra time and energy, you could be taking a dream vacation before you know it.

Sunset over the Greek Isles from Santorini

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

Don't forget to follow me on instagram as I travel hack my way through life.


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