How I'm Earning Thousands of American Airlines Miles Without Credit Cards or Flying

Bask Bank makes it easy to earn AA miles without extra effort. And that’s not the only way you can earn points and miles without actually traveling.
Last updated Sep 21, 2020 | By Ben Luthi
How I'm Earning Thousands of American Airlines Miles Without Credit Cards or Flying

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I’ve earned hundreds of thousands of American Airlines AAdvantage miles over the years, mostly through credit card sign-up bonuses but also from flying with the airline.

But as I’ve considered my points-and-miles strategy, and tried to cut back on new credit card sign-ups and focus on other ways to gain value from credit card rewards, I’ve found excellent opportunities to earn more miles without a lot of effort.

One of those ways is signing up for a savings account — that’s right, it’s possible to earn American Airlines miles from a savings account. Here’s what you need to know.

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How I’m earning thousands of American Airlines miles without flying

There aren’t many opportunities out there to earn travel rewards without putting in consistent effort. Whether it’s taking the time to compare credit cards and sign up for new ones or shopping online through travel portals or booking flights, you have to be actively involved in the process. But I found one way to rack up tens of thousands of American Airlines miles every year without doing much at all.

Bask Bank, as with many other digital banks, offers what you might call a high-yield savings account. Instead of paying you interest on your deposits, however, the bank offers you American Airlines AAdvantage miles.

Here’s how it works: for every dollar you save, you’ll earn one mile annually. You’ll also get 1,000 bonus miles if you deposit $5,000 or more into your account within 120 days of opening it and hold it there for 90 consecutive days.

To give you an idea of how much value you’d get from the account, you have to look at how much credit card points are worth. American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth roughly 1.4 cents apiece, on average. That gives you an effective 1.4% return each year on your deposits. As of September 2020, some of the best high-yield savings accounts on the market are offering less than 1.00% APYs.

What’s more, most high-yield savings accounts change their interest rates regularly with market rates. With AAdvantage miles, the value of your rewards can change over time, but it’s not nearly as volatile.

Finally, although the average value of an AAdvantage mile is 1.4 cents, it’s possible to squeeze even more value out of your rewards through international first- and business-class flights and the airline’s economy web specials.

As a result of all of this, I moved the majority of my emergency fund from Discover, where I was earning a .80% APY, over to Bask Bank.

How to sign up for a Bask Bank account?

If you’re considering a Bask Bank savings account, head to the bank’s website to learn about how the account works and start the application process. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Email address and phone number
  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Address

You’ll also need to share how you plan to fund the account. Options include transferring money from another account, using a wire transfer, and depositing a check via the bank’s mobile app. In some cases, Bask Bank may ask for additional information, including questions to verify your identity.

After I signed up for an account, the bank transfer I arranged completed within a few days and I started the process of earning my miles.

Other unconventional ways to earn AA miles

Bask Bank provides an easy way to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on a passive level. Simply open the account, make your deposit, and you’ll start earning. Over time, I’ve added more to the account so I can maximize my annual miles haul.

However, Bask Bank isn’t the only way to earn AAdvantage miles without flying or using one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards. Here are some other options to consider.

AAdvantage Dining

The AAdvantage Dining program makes it possible for you to earn American Airlines miles at your favorite restaurants. To start earning, just sign up for an account, input your AAdvantage number, and link a credit card or debit card — it doesn’t even have to be an American Airlines card. Then, you can search for restaurants, bars, and clubs in your area that participate in the program and earn miles when you eat there.

When you first register, you’ll earn 1,000 bonus miles when you spend $25 at a participating restaurant in the first 30 days. Ongoing earnings are based on three tiers:

  • Basic members earn 1 mile per dollar spent.
  • Select members who opt-in to email communications from AAdvantage Dining earn 3 miles per dollar.
  • VIP members who opt-in to email communications and have completed 11 qualified transactions in the calendar year earn 5 miles per dollar.

You’ll also earn bonus miles when you write a review of your experience with a restaurant in the program.

AAdvantage Dining can be a great way to rack up extra miles with American Airlines. However, I’ve noticed the program’s list of restaurants can be limited in some areas. Also, it will require some extra research to find the right places to eat so you can earn rewards.

SimplyMiles

The American Airlines SimplyMiles program is relatively new. You’ll sign up for the program using your AAdvantage number and password, link a Mastercard credit card, and then look for offers.

Here are a few examples of offers I’ve found in my SimplyMiles account:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent at Under Armour Brand House stores.
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar on a purchase of $10 or more at ExxonMobil.
  • Receive 1,000 miles on a purchase of $30 or more at Winc Wine Club.
  • Get 650 miles on a purchase of $50 or more at Teleflora.

You won’t earn a ton of miles with each offer. But with consistent use, several small offers can add up to a lot. The nice thing is that there are offers for both online and in-store shopping, giving you some flexibility.

And remember, the miles you earn from the SimplyMiles program are in addition to the rewards you get from your credit card.

AAdvantage eShopping

The American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping program is an online shopping portal, similar to websites like Rakuten and TopCashback.

To get started, you’ll sign up with your name, AAdvantage number, and zip code. Then you can start searching for online retailers among a list of more than 950 participating merchants. Once you find the one you’re looking for, you just click through to the retailer’s website and make your purchase as usual. The program will use cookies to track your purchases and make sure you get the miles you’ve earned on the transaction.

If you don’t want to visit the shopping portal website first every time — or you’re prone to forget about it — you can add the AAdvantage eShopping Button to your Google Chrome browser. When you visit a participating online retailer, you’ll get a reminder to activate the offer to earn bonus miles. You’ll also get access to coupon codes, which the extension will apply automatically, and you’ll get notifications if there’s a better price somewhere else.

Rewards rates can vary, depending on the retailer and the date, but some of the offers I found using the portal include:

  • Earn 7 miles per dollar on Nike purchases
  • Earn 2,200 miles on a Verizon Fios purchase
  • Earn 7 miles per dollar on Macy’s purchases
  • Earn 5 miles per dollar on Under Armour purchases

Again, you’re not going to earn a ton of miles each time you shop. But if you shop online a lot and use AAdvantage eShopping regularly, you could rack up a lot of miles over time.

Bottom line

There are many different ways to earn miles with American Airlines, and there are many other airline and hotel loyalty programs that offer similar options.

Whether you want to go all-in on one program or spread your rewards-earning efforts across multiple programs, it’s important to understand your options for earning rewards and how to maximize your earning based on your effort.

For many years, I focused solely on credit card sign-up bonuses to rack up rewards. But the practice is becoming increasingly unsustainable, making it essential to look for other ways to earn your points and miles. Bask Bank has become the primary way for me to earn AAdvantage miles right now, but it’s important to look at all the options and choose the best fit for you.

While you’re at it, take some time to ensure you have the right credit card based on your spending and goals. The best travel credit cards and best airline credit cards offer the chance to rack up a lot of points or miles with your favorite programs, but they’re each unique in how they do that. Choose a card that fits your travel goals and also offers the most bang for your buck based on your spending habits and the card’s rewards program.

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