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I took my first flight as a wheelchair user in 2014 and have since traveled well over a million miles in the air. The majority of those miles have been flown in first or business class, and that’s made flying much more comfortable if not enjoyable.

John wearing a bowler hat and while raising a glass of champagne in the Qatar Airways suite.

Most people assume that I must be a millionaire to fly so often in luxury, but they’ve only got it half right. I am a millionaire, just not in the traditional sense — my millions are counted in points and frequent flyer miles.

How to Earn Airline Miles Without Flying or Spending A Lot of Money

Most of my flights are paid for with frequent flyer miles, something that most travelers believe is out of reach. The most common idea, “I don’t fly enough to earn miles for a free ticket,” is completely wrong! You don’t need to fly at all to earn airline miles.

John pictured seated in business class seat by the window on a Delta aircraft.

The majority of my airline miles and hotel points, the ones that let me fly to Australia in the Delta One Suite and jet off to the Middle East in Qatar Airways Business Class, are earned through credit cards — not by spending a lot of money, but by using the right credit card for purchases I’m already making.

The majority of Americans are familiar with credit card rewards — many have a credit card that offers cash back on purchases, typically in the range of 1% to 2%. By stepping back from those cash back cards and leveling up to one that offers points and miles instead, travelers can extract much more than a percent or two in value from their everyday purchases.

2 Credit Cards You Should Sign Up For Now

If you’ve flown anywhere in the last decade, you’ve likely heard a flight attendant making a credit card pitch. They go something like this: “Sign up for our airline’s credit card, and earn bonus miles for a free flight.” It’s not a joke.

With just one credit card sign-up bonus, you’ll have tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles that can be used to purchase domestic and international flights, including in premium cabins. Your pursuit of miles shouldn’t end with one card — at any given time, I have up to 20 credit cards in my wallet, maximizing earnings and gaining the flexibility to book award flights on multiple airlines.

You may not be ready to open 20 credit cards, but you do need to start somewhere. If you’re new to the points and miles game, these two cards are my picks the best starter credit cards for travelers:

Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months.

$95 annual fee
5x points on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
3x points on dining, including delivery
3x points on select streaming services
3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
2x points on all travel purchases
1x point per dollar on all other purchases
Travel Insurance benefits
No foreign transaction fees

Learn how to apply →

American Airlines Platinum Select Card

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard

For a limited time earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

$0 annual fee for the first year, then $99
2x miles on American Airlines purchases
2x miles at restaurants & gas stations
1x mile per dollar on all other purchases
First checked bag free (domestic flights)
No foreign transaction fees

Learn how to apply →

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a versatile card that offers a strong sign-up bonus and extra points earning in multiple categories, including at restaurants and grocery stores. Best of all, points earned with the Sapphire Preferred card can be transferred to 14 different airline and hotel rewards programs, offering tremendous flexibility in how to redeem your points!

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard should also be in your wallet, even though it’s tied to a single loyalty program. American Airlines offers some of the best deals on award tickets, and the card has no annual fee for the first year. After opening an account and completing the offer terms, you’ll have enough miles to book a business class flight to Europe and many other places around the world. That’s an amazing deal!

Learn how to apply through the links above, and you’ll be well on your way to traveling better for less money!

Final Thoughts

Points and miles democratize travel. They allow everyday people like you and me to travel more and travel better! With points and miles, we can overcome the financial barriers to long-distance and luxury travel, experiencing for a moment the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The opportunity is there for the taking, so get to it — earn miles and dare to travel the way you’ve always wanted to!

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