Over the past year, I've visited 8 different countries, half of which I paid for my flights using airmiles. Here are a few useful tips for building up your air mileage for free.
There are many ways to earn air miles for free, and some of the best ways don’t require you to change your buying habits at all. So let’s start off with the most lucrative option, credit cards.
#1 Airline credit cards
The quickest way to build a massive portfolio of air miles is to open credit cards that offer an airmiles bonus, such as the American Express Gold Card, which gives you 20,000 points when you sign up (enough for 2x return trips from London to Paris or Milan).
When using travel credit cards to gain airmiles, you must be cautious of a few things. The first is annual fees. Most cards offer you one year free of interest and fees, so you can simply open the card, spend the minimum limit and then cancel your card within 12 months of opening it if you want to avoid the fees.
Another consideration is the minimum spend. My favourite card (the AMEX Gold), requires that you spend £2,000 within the first three months.
Finally, you must be aware of your credit score. There will be a slight dip in your score when you first open your account. However, over the long run it can actually increase your score by increasing your available credit, so the decrease is only short term. That said, it’s worth holding off on this if you’re planning on taking out a loan or mortgage in the next few months.
#2 Buying Petrol
In the UK, you can get 10 Avios (British Airways airmiles) for every 20 litres of fuel from Shell petrol stations. There are about 900 Shell stations in the UK, so it shouldn’t be too difficult finding one that adds to your airmiles balance!
Shell also offer 50 Avios points for signing up. To get started, create an account with Shell here.
#3 1,000 Points for Buying Wine
If you needed one more excuse to buy a case of wine here it is. You can earn 1,000 Avios points for ordering your first case of wine from Laithwaites. There’s more information on the Avios website here.
#4 Recycle your old electronics
Have an old Xbox or iPhone that you were going to chuck on eBay? You may want to ship it to Avios Recycling instead, who offer airmiles rewards in exchange for old electronics!
#5 4,500 airmiles for joining the RAC
If you had plans to join the RAC in the near future, Avios are offering up to 4,500 points for joining (almost enough for a short-haul European return flight) and 30% off the joining fee. For more information, see RAC’s Avios deal here.
#6 Online surveys
There are many online surveys, such as E-Rewards that offer airmiles in exchange for filling out surveys. As an incentive, E Rewards are currently offering 750 points for completing your first survey here.
#7 Home improvement
If you spend money in B&Q, you can earn 5 airmiles for every £1 you spend. If you’re renovating a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom, you could easily pay for a return trip holiday in Europe using the miles earned from the amount spent there. Learn more about this at B&Q’s member club.
#8 Online shopping
On top of the amount earned from your airline credit card, you can get up to 12 points per £1 spent online from shops like Tesco, John Lewis, Amazon, and Argos. To claim your miles, you’ll need to go to the Avios store, and click through to the shop through their website.
#9 While booking public transport
Did you know you can earn 2 points per £1 you spend on train fares? Visit the Avios store and under travel & holiday, visit TrainGenius, which will also save you a couple of pounds of train fare in itself.
#10 By flying
Last but not least, fly! A round trip from London to Sydney will earn you 10,000 miles, enough to pay for a trip to Melbourne or Hobart from Sydney. Make sure you’re cashing in your miles from flying to get the most out of your travels!
As you can see, there are many ways to build up your air mileage without changing your buying habits or doing an awful lot of work. As mentioned, airline credit cards are the best bang for your buck, as many offer 10,000-30,000 free miles for simply signing up.
However, it’s not hard to earn 5,000-10,000 miles a month extra by just processing all of your other purchases in a way that benefits your balance. If you have any other good tips for boosting your air miles for free, please post them in the comments below.