Ask Gadling: How do I get more miles for an airline ticket?

You’re almost there. Seventeen years of flying from Orlando to Detroit in an aluminum tube with no legroom, incessant fees, unruly flight attendants and sky high fares and you’ve finally reached 24,4486 miles. You’ve only got 514 left to go before you reach Eden -that holy, hallowed ground where you turn in those miles for a free ticket to anywhere the airline flies. Oh, the possibilities that await.

But wait! The next flight that you have isn’t scheduled for another three months out and you really want to use those hot fresh miles in your account! Fear not, brave traveler, for there are plenty of ways to earn miles without setting a foot near an airport or even thinking about air travel. We’re talking, of course, about partner mileage credit, the commercial transactions you do in everyday life that can potentially earn you bucketsfull of miles.

Lets start at the top, though. The easiest way to earn a few extra miles is obviously to buy them. Any carrier looking to make a few extra dollars hosts the option to simply buy a few extra miles to top off your account. They’re not cheap, mind you (Delta currently sells 2,000 miles for $56 before fees and taxes), but if you need them in a pinch, they’re available.

Really though, who wants to buy miles when you can earn them by buying something else? Many airlines partner with numerous online retailers who will reward you with miles for purchasing the same old things that you’d normally buy. Netflix, for example, will give you 1500 miles on some carriers for simply joining their service.

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The most lucrative vendors are among the flower industry, where sites like 1800flowers will reward you with 20 or even 30 miles per dollar spent on flowers. Send your loved ones a $40 bouquet and you’ve got yourself 1200 miles in the bank.

And don’t forget vendors in the travel industry such as hotels or car rental companies, each of which will give you piles of miles per reservation (Hint: look for partner redemptions when you sign up for their loyalty programs).

We should also take a moment to mention mileage credit cards. Most airlines and banks offer credit cards that return one or two miles for every dollar you spend. Depending on your credit and the economy they’ll often offer hefty incentives for enrolling, sometimes up to 100,000 miles per card. Bear in mind, however, that many of these cards come with an annual fee and that interest can quickly offset any miles earned.

All too much investment for a few measly miles? Then check out e-rewards, and myriad other points sites where taking numerous surveys, filling out questionnaires and participating in consumer panels can earn you virtual points good for redemption towards frequent flyer miles. Just make sure that you know how many points you need before you sign up, some of the surveys can be a time consuming endeavor.

And if that’s not enough, keep your eyes on the points hoarding blogs out on the web. Two of my favorites are The Points Guy and View From the Wing where a long lunch session of reading and arm-gnawing will get you a few free miles (and info on how to finagle a few free more). With enough patience, the miles will be flowing in before you know it.

[flickr photo via garybembridge]