5 Ways to Use Airline Miles Without Flying

by Kay Lynn

photo credit: caribb

Airlines have become stingier with air travel awards in the past year or so now requiring up to 50,000 miles for domestic round-trip ticket.  When I started flying for business the standard was 20 or 25 thousand.  To make it even harder to get a ticket expiration dates were shortened from an average of three years to 18 months by many carriers.

Travelers are challenged to redeem hard-earned miles before they’re gone.  Fortunately, the airlines do offer alternate awards to flights. 


If you’re looking for another way to give converting airline miles to charitable donations is an easy method.  Most major U.S. carriers offer lists of about a dozen charities you can select to donate miles to including the American Red Cross. 

You can select any mileage number you wish.  Never let your miles expire; donate.

Newspapers and Magazines

A few months ago I put expiring miles to work with a year-long subscription to a local newspaper.  This saved $140 on something we would have bought anyway.  Several airlines also offer magazines for miles.  Business Week, Sports Illustrated and Money are just three examples of what’s available for less than 1400 miles.  (Money is a bargain at 800 miles at American Airlines.)


Around the office water cooler coffee pot a co-worker recently mentioned he gotten his latest gadget with miles.  Hmmm. I’m up for online shopping (anything to not go to the mall) and checked it out.  Delta Airlines has a mini mall! 

Most items are overpriced (although the price is in miles).  I don’t think a kitchen essentials tool kit (measuring spoons and cups) is worth 24,000 miles but that’s me.  The cool thing is you can filter it down by mileage ranges. 


Restaurant.com certificates are available for only 1,000 miles at United Airlines.  It’s not necessarily a good value (since you buy these on sale often for $2) it’s a good way to use a small number of miles that you’ll be losing anyway. 

American Airlines participates in Points.com where you can exchange your miles for points and then use them on gift cards which include over 25 restaurants which are mostly national chains (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Black Angus, etc.).

Hotels and Cars

I haven’t had much luck earning free nights with my hotel memberships but here’s another way to get free nights.  If you can’t get the airfare for free exchange miles for hotel stays and car rentals.  A two-day car rental from Avis ranges from 8,500 (weekend) to 12,500 miles.

Hotel awards are variable depending on the dates and hotel. The Hilton New York in Manhattan is 34,100 miles for a one night stay in August.

How have you used airline miles other than flying? 

Content © Bucksomeboomer  2009-2010. All Rights Reserved.

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{ 1 comment }

Revanche January 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm

When I had to use up airline miles, I’ve transferred them to hotel points, and redeemed them for magazines. I wouldn’t do the latter again, it’s just not worth it, but the hotel points may do me good *some* day.

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