10 Ways To Earn Miles Without Credit Cards

No plastic? No problem. These 10 techniques let you rack up points without building any debt.

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How can you earn airline miles? If you asked most people that question, they would probably say “go on a lot of flights” or “get an airline card.” Those two techniques may be the most common, but they certainly aren’t the only options available. Let’s take a look at ten ways you can earn miles—no flying or credit card required!

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Airline Debit Cards

Let’s face it, there is no shortage of advertising for airline credit cards. Turn on the TV or walk through an airport and you will be bombarded with them. On the other hand, airline debit cards you rarely hear about, so it comes as no surprise that many people aren’t even aware of their existence! Here are three of the most popular, in no particular order:

1. Alaska Airlines Debit Card

If you have a Bank of America checking account, you can signup for the Alaska Airlines debit card. The cost is $30 per year and for normal purchases, you will earn one mile per $2 spent. That may be only half the rewards offered by their Visa Signature credit card, but then again, that carries an annual fee over two times higher.

2. Delta SkyMiles Debit Cards

There are two versions available, the “Classic” and “World” with fees of $20 and $55, respectively. The latter version gives you the same rewards as the Delta SkyMiles credit cards, which is one point per dollar on regular spending and 2 points per dollar on purchases from Delta Airlines. You can apply for either debit card through SunTrust Bank.

3. American Airlines Debit Card

If you bank with Citi, you can get an American Airlines debit card in either a “Basic” or “Premium” version. At a cost of $25 per year, the entry level version gives one mile per $2 spent. Or you can spring for the “Premium” which doles out the same miles as the $85 Platinum AAdvantage credit card, but fortunately, the debit will cost you $20 less.

Please note, however, that due to the Durbin Amendment some debit card reward programs are being terminated. Most notably, Chase discontinued their United MileagePlus debit card rewards program on July 12.

Frequent Flyer Program Partners

Most frequent flyer programs allow you to earn miles for spending at partner businesses. Best of all, you don’t even need an airline card to participate; typically any debit/credit card can be linked to your frequent flyer account.

4. Restaurants

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Dining program allows you to earn three points for every dollar spent at partner restaurants. If you live in a mid-sized city or above, there’s a good chance you will find participants in your area. For example, there are currently fourteen different restaurants within a ten mile radius of Ann Arbor, MI. Of course, larger cities are likely to have even more.

5. Financial Services

You may be able to earn miles for getting an auto insurance quote, opening a brokerage account, and even getting a mortgage. The Delta SkyMiles program offers opportunities for all of these. My favorites are their offers for Fidelity and Ameritrade—you can receive 15,000 to 50,000 miles for opening and funding a non-retirement account. The only catch is that you need to be making a five-figure deposit to score all those miles.

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6. Rental Cars

Now this category is more well-known, since just about every frequent flyer program has rental car partners. Now there are some, like Virgin America’s Elevate, which only have a couple participants. However most have several different companies in their network, like the United Airlines MileagePlus car/transportation partners, which include Hertz, Avis, National, Budget, Alamo, Thrifty, Dollar, and Sixt.

7. Hotels

This is another common category you will find on most mileage programs. My review of the Southwest card lists the different hotel partners for Rapid Rewards and it’s quite a selection. Without their credit card, you will usually be earning 600 points per qualifying stay.

8. Retail

On a day-to-day basis you probably won’t be using these partners, but when it comes time to order flowers or buy gizmos and gadgets through mail order, there’s a good chance you will find retailers like 1-800-Flowers, Bose, and SkyMall among the participants. Now there are a couple exceptional programs out there, which offer a much larger selection of retailers. Take the United MileagePlus, which allows you to earn miles at dozens of popular online stores.

9. Subscriptions

From newspapers to Netflix, some airlines allow you to earn miles on various new subscriptions you buy through them. With the Continental OnePass Wireless partners you can even score 5,000 miles with the activation of a new rate plan or contract extension.

10. Charities

Giving is great, but giving and receiving is even better! Through AAdvantage, you earn a whopping 10 miles per dollar for donations made to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Foundation For Cancer Research, and USO.

Michael Dolen is the founder of Credit Card Forum, a popular social destination for all things credit card.