If you're trying to score a free flight this summer but don't have quite enough frequent flier miles, here a couple special offers that will help you multiply them fast:
United MileagePlus members who live in the U.S. can get 500 bonus miles by signing up to receive text messages from United Airlines through October 21, 2012. After you register a Visa card and mobile phone number, United will starting sending up to 10 MilagePlus offers via text each month. Who knows? There may be an offer that will allow you enough miles to actually book a flight, but you can opt out at any time.
Serious MileagePlus fliers can get an even bigger bonus—15,000 miles—but you have to win this one. The prize will go to 15 MileagePlus members who fly on the most Star Alliance member airlines between now and November 14, 2012.
A more practical way to multiply MileagePlus miles is with the Gift Card Exchange. Buy gift cards for a minimum of $25 each through United's web portal for more than 85 retailers from Ann Taylor to Williams-Sonoma, enter the gift card information and United will convert the value into award miles.
US Airways Dividend Miles members can earn double bonus miles when purchasing miles from the airline through June 30, 2012. This is a nice option if you're looking for a way to top off your miles so you can take that trip to Europe free this summer. It costs $.035 to purchase a mile through United but, this month, members can get double miles on purchases of up to 50,000 miles. That means 10,000 miles will cost the usual $315 (plus 7.5 percent tax), but you'll actually get 20,000 miles, which knocks the total price in half.
Given that you'd be paying the equivalent of a coach seat on a flight from, say, Philadelphia to Chicago ($328), I wouldn't advise doing this to score a domestic flight in economy class. However, if you want a business class seat on that flight ($1,110) or you're 20,000 miles away from a free flight to Hawaii ($1,250 economy) or Seychelles ($4,638) or Bali ($4,751), I'd say this is a good return on investment.
Fodors.com contributor Cathleen McCarthy is the rewards expert for CreditCards.com and covers entertainment and travel deals on her own network, Save on Cities. Her stories have appeared in The Washington Post, WSJ, Amtrak ARRIVE, Town & Country, and inflight magazines.
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