Many people know about getting miles from credit cards and of course from actually flying but there are other ways to get miles for free as well.
One of the most common is through online shopping. Many airlines have online shopping malls where you enter in your flyer number and use their special link in order to earn miles per $ you spend. For example you can earn 2 miles per $ you spend at Walmart.com if you do it through the AAdvantage e shopping link. Air Canada, Continental, USAir, United, Delta, Cathay Pacific and many others also have shopping portals like this. The miles are essentially free (assuming you were going to spend the money on the stuff you order anyway)
So far, AA and US have released toolbars to download which offer miles for using their search feature. For every 3 searches you earn 1 mile up to a maximum of 100 miles per month. The two toolbars mentioned here (also linked on this page) also help with online shopping so that you do not always have to use a link but the toolbar itself will help you get mileage credit. Not every merchant allows this though, so sometimes you must still use the links. In addition to the airline toolbars, the Bing Rewards toolbar gives Bing points for searches and various other things. While these do not help with earning miles for shopping, the points can be exchanged for American miles at present. For all of you thinking that you can just get the toolbar and make 300 searches in about an hour to get all the miles… think again, the toolbar uses some formula to determine if you are actually using it for searching or trying to game the system. It will not award miles if you have an irregular search pattern.
Club Bing is a game website which awards tickets for playing various games. The whole thing seems to be a huge excuse for Microsoft to increase its search traffic because you must search in order to complete many of the games but the games can be quite fun and the tickets can be exchanged for miles on American, Delta, USAir, Alaska Airlines, Frontier and Hawaiian. You can earn a maximum of 11,100 miles this way to be all on one airline or split up between them in various denominations. If you are really obsessed you could play the games and get the required tickets in about a month but for the rest of us it will take a while. If you search on the internet there are various ways to cheat and bot the website but I cannot recommend this because if Microsoft figures this out you will never get the prizes you redeem the tickets for. In addition to miles, the tickets can be used for all sorts of things such as books, jackets, digital cameras and netbooks.
This has had various names over time including Rewards Network and iDine. I not think the name matters much but the programme itself is quite useful. After registering your credit or debit card you will earn miles (or points, or cash back or various things) for every dollar you spend at participating restaurants. This is offered by AA, USAir, Delta, Alaska, United and Southwest. You can also earn PC or Hilton Points if you wish or even college loan savings contributions. They all work on the same basic system, you sign up, register the card(s) and earn 3 miles per $ for the first 10 dines and then 5 miles per $ after. From time to time they have bonuses as well which help miles rack up.
Thanks Again is a bit like the dining programme but it works with dry cleaning, golfing and a few other places as well as an online shopping mall like the airlines have. This is available for United, Delta, USAir, Continental and Alaska Airlines. Instead of miles you can also decide to earn American Express gift cards. For a while, if you “like” them in Facebook you would get 100 miles for free. I am not sure if this is still happening though.
For those interested in American AAdvantage miles, Opinion Place allows you to earn between 50 and 150 miles for surveys. Qualifying is not always easy so you could go months without getting anything but you never know. If you have too many miles you can also opt for Paypal credits or AOL credits.
This is somewhat like Opinion Place except you must be invited to participate. Getting an E-Rewards invite is not terribly difficult if you are signed up for one of the participating programmes. After getting invited you answer a bunch of questions about your preferences and such so it can find surveys to match your interests. Unlike Opinion Place, if you do not qualify you still get some bit of reward, it is not huge but it is nice. I will not list them all here but some of the partners include Priority Club, USAir, Hilton, Continental, La Quinta and Virgin Atlantic.
E-Miles is sort of a survey site but also gives miles for buying or doing certain things. For example you may answer some questions for how soon you plan to buy a car for 5 miles but if you buy something from company A or donate to charity B you can earn extra miles. I suppose if you are really into it you could earn quite a few miles but for the totally free ones you will probably get about 1,000 miles per year. It is available for Frontier, USAir, Continental, Delta, Hilton, AirTran and Alaska Airlines. You can sign up for multiple programmes if you use a different email address for each one.
This is all for the intro for now. As I find other ways I will add some new descriptions