The Craziest Things We’ve Done to Earn Miles

I asked readers to share what’s on their mind and one reader mentioned earning miles for a hair loss consultation even though she had a full head of hair.

That’s a famous one. The offer was 20,000 Delta miles for going in to see Bosley, I did it (with more hair then than I have today) and picked up my own miles as well.

I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my life to earn miles. There are things that some people only think are crazy — like buying coins from the US mint with a credit card, depositing those coins in the bank and paying off the credit card; like opening online checking accounts and funding them with a credit card (with banks coding the transactions as purchases) and using the new checks to pay off the credit card; like taking endless surveys or renting and returning cars that you do not need and don’t actually drive.

Then there are things that are actually crazy. Like:

  • A Lasik eye exam for 5000 Delta miles.. I wasn’t the only one who went despite not even wearing glasses.

  • Dumpster diving for Wendys sode cups when those were redeemable for Airtran A+ Rewards credits.

  • Donating blood.

  • Child support payments. Apparently Mastercard and Discover are accepted by Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. (This settles a mystery of ‘what merchants take Mastercard but not Visa..?) Visa and Mastercard are accepted by Arizona, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Surprisingly this revelation didn’t lead to a rash of frequent flyer pregnancies or divorces.

Which ones have you done? What’s the craziest mileage-earning scheme you’ve taken part in?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Nothing so exotic as some here, I’m sure. Years ago United had a promotion in which it offered 50,000 bonus miles for flying six (I believe at the time it might have been all six????) Star Alliance airlines…something like either in a given time period or on a given trip. I happened to have a business trip coming up that involved going around the world, so fit the six airlines into that trip.

  2. I remember various offers to test drive cars, from a Jaguar to a Fiat F500. Thanks to your blog, I’m reminded it was 10K BA points for the Jaguar test drive.

    Our dealer didn’t really want us taking the car out unless we were serious. Instead, we were handed the necessary code in order to get our points. Subsequent offers haven’t been as juicy, but there have been a couple.

    I didn’t do it, but I know someone who got substantial points for going thru the refi process on a house.

  3. I signed up for Sharebuilder and bought 1 share of $1 stock to get 3500 skymiles. It’s worth 39 cents today.

  4. Years ago my mom prepaid her funeral to get the 8000 miles she needed for a trip to Germany.

  5. Certified that I was a Catholic (I’m an atheist) to join a credit union that allowed me to fund $10,000 with a credit card.

  6. @Nathan, Catholicism has never before sounded that interesting. Which credit union?

  7. Back in the days of buying coins with credit cards, I use to buy up thousands at a time and haul them to the banks for deposit.

  8. Haul trunk loads of gold coins and actually having the nerve to hand them over to the tellers. Fun workout though.

  9. My wife and I made twelve one day car rentals with Avis and Budget over a three day period to get 10,000 miles per rental on the last weekend of the promo. We hid it from our friends and family so they wouldn’t think we we’re crazy, but in one awkward moment, had to explain why we had two minivans, a dodge neon and a Mustang convertible in the driveway.

  10. Damnit Bosley, they still mail me stuff! Thankfully, I still have all my hair 🙂

    Northwest had a promotion one summer that it was based on a number of partners used. Idine (Rewards Network I think it is called now) used to count…repeatedly. I zeroed in to a few cafe/deli places in Ann Arbor and bought over 100 small coffees for $1.06 each. I think the haul was 200k miles or so (maybe more, maybe less). Back in those days when you called the Platinum line you ALWAYS got the awards you wanted. Obviously, a little different now with the Skypesos lol.

    The Valumags promo was pretty crazy too. Got an uncle a Field and Stream subscription for several years (not a favorite uncle obviously who reads this stuff!).

    I also did something for miles in Vegas I am not proud of so it will remain a true secret 🙂

  11. I did that LaQuinta FB thing every day for a month in order to get enough LaQuinta points to transfer to…1200 Rapid Rewards points! Woo companion pass

  12. Filling gas at Esso in $3 increments for Aeroplan Star Challenge 2012, test driving a Volvo for 2500 Aeroplan miles two weeks ago

  13. I bought so much cereal back when Kellogg’s did 100-mile AAdvantage certificates that I had to invent reasons to eat cereal. I came up with a pretty good granola bar recipe that I could make out of Muselix.

  14. In my case, the craziest was in 2003, Starwoods AsiaPac 50,000 SPG Bonus point promo to stay at 5 brands. But back in those days, it was easy to get stays in Bangkok for a Westin, Sheraton (Royal Orchid), and The Luxury Collection, but for a St. Regis, 4 Points, and a W, I had to literally travel to Australia to get two of those three…..AND I didn’t know I had to register for an e-visa!

    Therefore, AAdvantage allowed JAL (which was not part of One World in 2003) to fly NRT-SYD for only 40,000 AA Miles in coach.

    That worked. At the airport, the agent called the Australian and fast-tracked an e-visa for me while I was in the States. Boy was that lucky!

    Stayed in Australia for only 2 days.

    Yes, 50,000 Starwoods points + additional points and subsequent bonuses for the stays bumped my account to 65,000—-20K of which I brought back to my AAdvantage account at 25K Miles.

    Other crazies that I did?

    — Test drive a Jaguar for 10,000 British Airways Miles. I hear some did it with 4 family members and combined accounts.
    — A strange Hilton promo that combined gold accounts to get 50,000 HHonors points
    — Twenty Kelloggs Product 19 and Special K cereals for a total of 2000 AA Miles. (But Pudding Guy for 1 Million with Healthy Choice tops)
    — My Coke Points very first bottle cap promo with Hilton gave 40,000 Hilton HHonors points with a stay.
    — Triple AA Miles + EXP Bonus booking trips in C or using eVIPs. No one remembers that one. 😉
    — A Priority Club error where everyone’s accounts suddenly had 220,000 Points + Platinum/Ambassador status out of nowhere and finding strange ways to keep the elite levels (and some of the points).

    I’m sure there are more great stories out there! Thanks.


  15. In 1999 or 2000 I bought 800 Healthy Choice pudding cups at 25 cents each and earned 40,000 United miles which I used for 2 Business Class upgrades to Paris on United. I was very happy to save almost $5000 on Business Class tickets for a $200 investment. Much later I heard about Pudding Guy.

  16. Back in ’01 (or ’02) I spent a few hours registering 4-digit codes on the USAirways phone line.

    Had no idea what each number entitled, what was stackable, what was cancelable, but easily racked up 15x – 20x miles on flights across various (and unknown) bonuses.

  17. Haven’t done anything crazy for miles/points (yet) but am thoroughly enjoying reading these stories. 🙂

  18. A few years back if drove all over Los Angeles buying up little round cartons of Emmi cheese from Switzerland which supposedly contained AA mileage certs that were unlimited. Problem was that almost half the boxes had no certificates, and when the company woke up to discover a crazed frequent flyer community ordering cases of cheese, they figured out a way to limit the rewards while all he’ll broke loose in blog town. I ended up with only about 5000 miles, but made Christmas baskets of cheese for all my co-workers.

  19. I must drink 10 diet cokes per day. I dutifully entered all the cap numbers for a full year for some promo and never got the reward. Called repeatedly. Nothing.

    Maybe this falls under the category of things done where we DIDN’T get the miles

  20. For Radisson Big night across all 3 brandsabout two years ago, 1. In KC we only have Country Inn, so we stayed 2 nights 15 miles away from my house, my wife had to drive home because they ran out of pack and plays. 2. Radisson, sure we could have stayed with family for free in Chicago, but instead we booked 2 separate rooms for our lay night at an airport hotel; 3. Park brand. I failed to get those points, in spite of offering to friend a night at the Tulsa location, AND offering a British man who is a Facebook friend simply due to three fact that has the same first and last name that I do a night at a Park Inn in Europe. I think he was too confused by why I wanted to book a room got him to accept.

  21. Booked my wife into a Laquinta in Springfield Missouri to satisfy a “hit” in the US Airways Grand Slam.

    Dumpster diving and recycle center diving for coke boxes to get reward points to turn into IHG points.

    Multiple Hertz 1 day rentals for US Airways Grandslam “Hits”. Opening up multiple stock accounts for points.

  22. Did the same as Miketown. US Airways was pretty loose with their promo codes years ago, each region of the country had a different promo code. The codes were stackable and gave 2x miles. They had an automated phone line where you could enter as many codes as you’d like but you had to listen to a US Airways spiel before punching away. It took forever on the phone but was worth it. I went from a few thousand to millions of miles in no time. I remember being bummed one Saturday when only three of the four of us were upgraded on a flight into SFO. We didn’t factor in the World Series being played there. Otherwise we were upgraded every flight. When I tried to turn family/friends on to the deal almost everyone thought I was crazy. The ones that got on board became millionaires too. We sure Got Out More.

  23. I have done lots of different methods, including the Wendy’s dumpster diving, US mints coins, open checking accounts, and churning CCs. I never have traveled for business or own a real business, but have accumulated over 13 million points and miles in 9 years!

  24. BTW, the best redemption was an amazing 7 1st class seats on Delta, ATL to HNL on same flight for family (5 kids)!

  25. Actually sitting down to calculate the exchange rate of MCR points to airline miles. If anyone cares, during the last MCR HHonors redemption, one bottle cap ultimately converted to one airline mile.

    Also, doing a crapload of E rewards surveys for miles.

  26. I discovered the paypal cc reader around the same time Chase was about to change the Freedom UR benefits. I used that to pay a friend $1.00 each time (I set the rule of $1 to avoid being flagged if I were to keep paying with “pennies” to avoid a smaller fee) with my chase freedom and he would just write me a check. With old UR program with Chase Exclusives, you get additional 10 UR pts per transaction, essentially 11 UR pts each time I swiped the card. The cost for using the reader was 2.7% each time so 3 cents per swipe (they rounded up). I would spend 20-30min (swiped 100+ times)a day just sitting there and swiping (paying my friend) for a little over 3 months (then got the letter from Chase saying my program was going to be changed). Got 130K UR pts out of this 3 month activity, cost me $300-$400 in paypal transaction fees which was well worth it given I was able to xfer to Hyatt and redeemed 4 suite nights in PHV (pre devaluation 33K/night) where the park suite was going for $1500/night. So $400 in paypal fees for $6000 in hotel costs? Sure is tough nowadays to find these “arbitrages”.

  27. Two mileage runs within one week: IAD-DEN-SAN-LAX-SFO-LAX-SAN-IAD. Flying back from Amsterdam to DC with this itinerary: AMS-IAD-LAX-ORD-DCA (it took a while to explain to baggage folks at UA why I wanted to collect my bags and give them to a friend who waited for me at IAD, and then finish the run without my bags “chasing me”).

  28. Never done anything remotely this crazy — which probably explains why I can never figure out how other people have so many miles!

  29. Booked 10 stay night every weekend, 8 night on my name 2 on wife’s name, for mattress run that gave 5 free night on Marriott mega bonus, also signed up for Marriott gold challenge, to get gold, paid with Marriott gift card bought from eBay at 20% off. Room rate $50, used the free earned night for 5 night vacation in Puerto Rico rate 200/night. Used the earned Marriott point to top off Marriott reward, that I used to book hotel for 10 night in Sao Paulo, for Fifa world cup rate $650/night. Got 2 night free, by doing 4 night stay 1 night free.

  30. The Priority Club contest to identify the location places they pictured was a lot of fun and got us a few points.

    When I chose a contractor to build my house, after he bid, but before I accepted him, I got him to agree to my buying his materials for him with my credit card. Lots of miles there. Got me a few round trips in business class to interesting places in the world.

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