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Pick up phone partners and earn up to 10,000 miles

SmarterTravel

Is your cell phone constantly glued to your ear, or do you make the occasional long-distance phone call from the land line in your house? No matter what your preferred style of phone use, you can earn thousands of frequent flyer miles for local, long-distance, or cellular service. Once you’re earning miles for all your talk time, you can gab for hours guilt-free, knowing that you’re racking up miles toward a free flight.

Local and long distance service

Your home phone can earn miles if you choose AT&T, MCI, or Sprint as your carrier. If you’re a Continental or Delta frequent flyer, you can earn 5,000 miles when you switch to AT&T long-distance service, and an additional 5,000 miles when you add AT&T local service to your AT&T long-distance service. Or, if you belong to American’s loyalty program, you can earn 5,000 miles when you sign up for AT&T residential local and long-distance service. Plus, everyone earns five miles for every dollar spent on qualifying charges.

While MCI and Southwest have just terminated their partnership, Northwest frequent flyers can earn 2,000 miles for signing up for new MCI long distance service. WorldPerks members can also earn 2,000 miles when they sign up for unlimited local and long-distance phone service through The Neighborhood by MCI. Either service also offers five miles per dollar spent on qualifying charges.

Or, if you fly with America West, Midwest, United, or US Airways, you can earn miles for signing up for Sprint service. Earn 6,000 miles when you combine your Sprint local and long distance service with Sprint Complete Sense Unlimited, or earn 5,000 miles when you sign up for Sprint long distance. You’ll earn an additional 1,000 miles for signing up online. Plus, earn five miles per dollar spent on qualifying Sprint charges. Alaska and Sprint have recently cut ties, so Mileage Plan members can no longer earn miles.

Cellular service

Thinking of switching your cellular service provider? You might want to find out if your new service entitles you to bonus miles for signing up and for charges. Cingular Wireless, Nextel, Sprint PCS, and T-Mobile all have mileage promotions with various airlines.

You can earn 5,000 to 10,000 Continental miles when you sign up for new service with Cingular Wireless. Nextel has the most affiliates: Delta, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways. You can earn 5,000 miles for each Nextel digital phone you purchase and activate, up to five phones. Set up a new Sprint PCS line of service, and you can earn 5,000 America West, United, or US Airways miles per account. You can also pick up 5,000 miles from Continental or Northwest when you activate a new T-Mobile account and sign up for a monthly cellular plan.

AT&T Wireless seems to be getting out of the mileage game. American members can no longer earn miles for new service, and Alaska frequent flyers only have until September 30 to earn up to 10,000 miles for signing up for AT&T Wireless plans.

Whether you’re looking for a new home- or cell-phone plan, be sure to check your preferred airline’s list of mileage promotions. Phone companies sometimes offer even more miles for limited periods.

Be a smart talker

Smart flyers (and talkers) know to read the fine print before they agree to any deal. The terms of these promotions can tell you whether these offers are right for you. The majority of these deals are for new customers only, so you’ll have to switch your phone company loyalty or add a new service in order to take advantage of these bonus miles. Plus, signup bonuses often take several months to post to your account, so only sign a contract if you know you’ll be a customer for at least five or six months. While you may want to switch your loyalty every year or so to get as many signup bonuses as you can, you can’t switch every month and expect to earn miles.

Also, don’t be bewitched by bonus miles. Choose the phone company or service that best suits your budget and talk-time needs, and then check to see whether you can earn miles for your new program. Or, use mileage earning as a tie-breaker when deciding between two companies. Don’t overpay or accept mediocre service just to earn a handful of miles. In the long run, you’ll probably spend more time on the phone than you will on an airplane.

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