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FlyerTalk 101

How to Earn Airline Miles While Sheltering in Place

How to Earn Airline Miles While Sheltering in Place
Taylor Rains

Welcome to FlyerTalk 101, a guide to traveling like an expert from the experts. For more guides like this, check out our FlyerTalk 101 tag or head to the forum links in this article to have any of your questions answered.

Airline reward programs are an attractive perk of flying and offer benefits to members such as complimentary checked luggage, cabin upgrades, and free flights. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has put a major splinter in travel plans, taking away the opportunity to earn frequent flyer miles or status by flying. However, there is still hope as airlines have come up with ways to earn travel rewards without ever leaving your home.

Make Purchases on a Co-Branded Credit Card

The most obvious way to continue earning travel rewards without flying is to make everyday purchases using an airline co-branded credit card, such as the Delta SkyMiles American Express cards or American Airlines Citi AAdvantage cards. Airline credit cards offer extra miles for qualifying purchases (aside from travel), such as 2X miles when used at grocery stores or restaurants, as well as miles for every dollar spent on regular purchases.

Use Airline Online Shopping Portals

For those that prefer to shop online, using an airline shopping portal should be a no-brainer. Dozens of carriers worldwide offer these portals to frequent flyer members as a way to earn extra miles for regular spending habits. Members can earn the extra rewards by signing into their account and then navigating to the retailer’s website via the portal (rather than going directly to the store’s website). Hundreds of retail partners can be accessed, such as Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and airlines typically offer one mile for every dollar spent – and even more if you use the airline’s credit card, although terms vary. If you’re stuck at home right now due to the coronavirus but are still itching to shop, then you might as well earn some extra miles while you’re at it. Here is a list of popular shopping portals offered by airlines worldwide:

Take Opinion Surveys

Several carriers offer bonus miles for taking opinion surveys. One popular one is Opinion Miles Club, which was created for United MilagePlus members to give their two cents on major corporations, brands, and services. For every survey taken, members can earn extra miles that are deposited directly into their MilagePlus account. American Airlines also has its own Miles for Opinions program that offers the same opportunity for its AAdvantage members.

The surveys are free to take, and many carriers even offer bonuses for new members, such as British Airways’ 600 Avios bonus for those who sign up and complete their first survey. Moreover, members can also take advantage of e-rewards, which is a program that converts completed surveys into “e-dollars,” which can then be converted into points for a number of different airlines, including Etihad, Iberia, and United. The surveys can take between 5 and 20 minutes, and although mile earnings can be small, they can add up to a nice amount over time.

Donate to the Coronavirus Crisis

American Airlines has partnered with Red Cross to raise money “to support continued disaster relief and a stable blood supply” during the coronavirus outbreak. The carrier is incentivizing people to donate to the cause by offering ten AAdvantage miles for each dollar donated through April 30th. To be eligible for the miles, members must give a minimum of $25. Miles will be deposited into the member’s account within 30-45 days after the donation.

Sign Up for Airline Dining Programs

Signing up for and making purchases through airline dining programs can earn extra miles. Airlines have partnered with thousands of restaurants, allowing members of the program to earn miles for every dollar spent at the various establishments. You can even earn bonuses when you spend a certain amount of money within the first month of membership, such as Spirit’s 1,000-mile bonus or United’s 3,000-mile bonus. Although most restaurant dining rooms are closed due to the coronavirus, you can still use these programs to pay for takeout. Here is a list of US carrier dining programs:

Buy Miles

Buying miles is not necessarily the most cost-effective way to earn, but it may be a good option under certain circumstances. For instance, you may need to buy miles to keep older ones from expiring, or just want to top off your frequent flyer account. Regardless of the reason, dozens of major airlines worldwide allow travelers to purchase miles.

Have you taken advantage of any of these mile earning options? Do you have any other suggestions for earning miles from home? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (6)


  1. iahphx

    April 2, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Seems like a stupid — albeit predictable — story. Almost everyone who reads Flyertalk would likely know of these strategies. If you happen to be making purchases while “sheltering in place,” you’re probably using the right portals and credit cards — although, honestly, the regular cashback sites tend to be significantly more lucrative than the airline cashback sites. But what you’re most likely doing now is saving money and NOT spending it. This way, hopefully, you’ll have more money that you can spend on travel in the future when you are not stuck at home.

  2. alangore


    April 3, 2020 at 11:37 am

    I’m signed up with Alaska’s points plan. Surveys are one of the many ways of getting points, but why are the surveys so youth-oriented? I gave up the Alaska surveys after having every one of them crap out with “Sorry, our group has been filled” after I answer the age question.

    Why is that? We’re the demographic with all the money, and we still do a fair amount of traveling. Do the marketers want a demographic of millennials struggling to pay off student loans and a cohort of people who, by lying about their ages, yield them phony data?

  3. arollins

    April 6, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    @ alangore, consider yourself lucky that you are getting booted out when entering your age. I personally hate answering a bunch of question, wasting at least 5 minutes, and then getting the boot. Is illogical, almost at 90% completion. But, that it the nature. Sometimes its best to be an unwed mid 30’s female with a child.

  4. Dublin_rfk

    April 7, 2020 at 4:18 am

    Isn’t this under FT101?

  5. KRSW

    April 30, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    I’m not sure about everyone else’s buying habits, but I’ve seen major reductions and flat-out disappearances of stores and vendors on the cash back & portal sites.

  6. aresef

    May 4, 2020 at 8:21 am

    United’s dining option has no palatable restaurants that are relatively close, open and deliver. But what I’ve been doing is using the MileagePlusX app to buy 1 mile/$ Grubhub cards to pay for the copious amounts of ordering out I’ve been doing.

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