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Extra credit: Earn bonus miles by using your charge card

SmarterTravel

You can always raise your mileage balance by shopping with airline-affiliated credit cards, but now you can earn extra miles faster with limited-time credit-card bonus offers.

Two kinds of bonuses regularly appear: miles for signing up for a credit card, and miles for using the card to purchase specific items, such as plane tickets. Take advantage of these bonus offers to earn a free ticket without having to become a road warrior.

Click on the links below for more information about these bonus mile offers:
Sign-up bonuses | Purchase bonuses

Credit card series

If you’re trying to choose the credit card that’s right for you, read the first three installments of Tim Winship?s series:

Part one: Airline cards

Part two: Hotel cards

Part three: Multi-program charge cards

Bank cards and series summary

Sign-up bonuses

All airline-affiliated credit cards offer sign-up bonuses, ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 miles, depending on the type of card. These bonuses are a perfect way to bump up your mileage balance when you need a few thousand extra miles, though often the miles don’t appear in your account until six to eight weeks after your first purchase, or after you’ve paid the annual fee.

The following chart lists the major U.S. airlines and the normal range of bonus miles you’ll receive for applying for their affiliated credit card.

Airline Sign-up bonus miles
Alaska 3,000-5,000
America West 3,000-7,000
American 7,500-10,000
Continental 6,000-10,000
Delta 5,000-15,000
Northwest 2,000-4,000
Southwest 4 credits
United 5,000-15,000
US Airways 3,000-15,000

Purchase bonuses

Many airline-affiliated credit cards always offer more than the usual mileage earnings for special purchases, such as plane tickets or groceries. Others promote special bonuses on select purchases for a limited time. You can check the SmarterTravel.com Mile Finder for the most recent bonus offers.

For instance, you can earn 250 Northwest bonus miles when you rent a car from Dollar using your WorldPerks Visa card through May 31. For more information or to register for this promotion, visit Northwest’s website.

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