The most common question I get is “How can I easily earn XXX,000 miles by next week so that I can book a first class trip to YYY? Fortunately, that’s also the easiest question to answer: Sadly, you can’t. While there are numerous alternatives to flying as a way to earn miles, I have yet to find the holy grail of “cheap, easy, lucrative and quick.” Financial services products, such as bank accounts and credit cards, tend to be the closest, but they still require an investment of at least some time. Of course, you could actually earn miles by flying, but who wants to do that (and the irony of earning miles offline because you don’t like to fly for the purpose of, well, flying, is not lost on me)?
Today, I’m going to cover a topic that I’ve touched on in the past: surveys. Doing surveys for points or miles is cheap (It’s actually free.), easy (I do them while watching TV.) and quick (Most are under 20 minutes.). Lucrative, however, they are not. At best, they will give you several hundred miles. At worst, they will drive you crazy. But they do serve a number of purposes:
- Surveys are an excellent way to keep miles from expiring. Most programs require activity every 12-18 months, and completing a quick survey is a good way to extend your miles for another year.
- Surveys allow you to top off an account. Need a few hundred or few thousand points to get a reward? This is one method to do so quickly.
- You can accumulate miles on a program whose currency you would like to have but have trouble obtaining. For instance, I frequently talk about how useful Alaska Airlines miles are, but I don’t always get to fly Alaska or its partners.
- There is next to no effort involved. You can do most of these in your sleep (well, almost).
In any case, there are more than a few options out there for you to choose from and you couldn’t possibly sign up for all of the programs. Here are the best of what I know is out there.
These are programs where you can transfer your points to any number of partners. The links to the companies are bolded.
e-Miles: Earn miles on one of five airline partners, one of two hotel partners or get gift cards for merchants like Amazon or Starbucks. You accumulate points and transfer them at your leisure. This program is one of the most simple. You click on a link they send you, click through the three question survey and earn points. You’ll earn anywhere from 5-25 points per link. Downside: Links don’t come out too frequently, so it’s a slow accumulation.
e-Rewards: If there’s such a thing as a controversial survey program, this one is it. It offers the most partners, both travel and non-travel, and has frequent high-value surveys. But surveys can be maddeningly long, disqualify you halfway through or fail to credit. Its currency is e-Rewards dollars, which are very different from regular dollars.
MyPoints: MyPoints looks like a typical online shopping site, but it comes with a few enhancements. First, it will often enclose offers for cheap or even “negative cost” items (e.g., Buy a particular laundry detergent for $10 and get $20 worth of points; they know that most people will forget to send in the paperwork.). Second, many of their emails will contain links that earn you five points just for clicking on them. It can take a while to accumulate points, but they’ll send you several emails per day, so lots of clicking is available. No miles are currently listed in their rewards, but they do offer a lot of gift cards.
Swagbucks: Along with e-Miles, this is the easiest site to use. Swagbucks is a search engine that offers you points on a random basis after searches. You might earn Swagbucks on every search one day and only on one-tenth of your searches another day. You can set the site to be your default search engine, so any query has a chance of winning you points. The site offers cash, restaurant and travel gift cards and other goodies as prizes. You earn 150 points if you sign up here. This is the only site listed that earns me any sort of referral credit, so it is appreciated if you use my link. I’ve earned just under $200 in cash and Starbucks gift cards on the site.
Airline Specific surveys
Each of the following sites will earn you miles only on a particular airline. Most airlines have proprietary partners, so view these as a sample.
JetBlue’s Points for Surveys will get you 400 TrueBlue points after you complete your first survey and more as you go. Not a bad way to earn some quick points. 400 points is worth ~$6.00.
United’s Opinion Miles Club earns 300 miles as a sign-up bonus after you complete your first survey, or 600 miles if you have elite status or a United credit card. Miles are automatically deposited into your United account.
Bottom Line: You won’t earn a ton of points, but surveys are a good way to accumulate some quick miles, points, gift cards or cash. It costs nothing to sign up.
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