By
updated 12/7/2009 1:17:08 PM ET 2009-12-07T18:17:08

It’s time to address one of the recurring tragedies of the season. (No, not your Aunt Sadie’s annual fruit cake). Today I’d like to address the calamity of those millions of frequent flyer miles that people forgo each year because they forget to buy from their favorite online merchants via links at the airlines’ shopping mall Web sites.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

I’m one of those sad cases. Before I got wise, I would simply go to Apple.com to buy a new $3,000 iMac or a $3,000 sectional from the Design Within Reach Web site. But don’t make my mistake. Right now, if you visit Continental Airline’s shopping site, for example, you can get 4 OnePass miles for each dollar spent at Apple.com (and, of course, an extra mile if you make the purchase with a frequent flyer credit card). So if you shop smart, your $3,000 iMac also comes with 15,000 miles, the equivalent of half a free round-trip domestic flight. A $5,000 purchase would get you enough miles for a free flight.

Is there a catch? No. The price you pay for a new iMac via Apple’s Web site is exactly the same as the price via the airlines’ sites.

Literally hundreds of online merchants participate in these mileage offers. Here are some current deals from various merchants and airlines, all of which are subject to change:

Delta Airlines

  • 2 miles/$1 at Crate and Barrel
  • 2 miles/$1 at the Container Store
  • 3 miles/$1 at Starbucksstore.com
  • 2 miles/$1 at iTunes.com
  • 7 miles/$1 at Drugstore.com plus new customers get $10 off their first purchase of $50 or more
  • 4 miles/$1 at Overstock.com
  • 100 miles for a Costco membership

(Doh! I interrupt this article to shamefacedly confess that, in researching it, I just discovered I could have earned 2 Delta miles for every $1 spent at Finestationery.com, where I recently made a $200 purchase. Grrrr!)

United Airlines

  • 9 miles/$2 at Nordstrom
  • 7 miles/$2 at Sephora
  • 3 miles/$2 at Apple
  • 4 miles/$1 at Avon
  • 3 miles/$1 at Circuit City
  • 9 miles/$2 at Brookstone

American Airlines

  • 4 miles/$1 at Old Navy
  • 2 miles/$1 at Walmart
  • 10 miles/$1 at 800Flowers.com or 11 at FTD
  • 5 miles/$1 at Drugstore.com

Continental Airlines

  • 4 miles/$1 at Apple.com
  • 8 miles/$1 at Target
  • 20 miles/$1 at Godiva
  • 6 miles/$1 at Gap
  • 30 miles/$1 at Magazines.com

Everyday purchases, not just holiday gifts, qualify for miles, too. Do you regularly buy your contacts from 1800Contacts.com? Why not get 10 miles for every dollar spent? Are you a frequent buyer at Drugstore.com? If you buy via their site directly, you get no miles; get there via an airline shopping mall page and you might get as many as 10 miles per $1 spent. Same thing with purchases at Petco.com. And keep in mind that airline mall shopping is a painless way to keep your frequent flyer miles from going stale, since each purchase, even a 99-cent song at iTunes.com, extends your miles’ expiration date.

It's important to shop around, however, because one airline might offer more miles with the same merchant than another airline. For example, currently United is offering 3 miles for every 2 dollars charged at Apple.com whereas Continental is offering 4 miles for every dollar. And offers can change from time to time, so if your purchase can wait, jump when your favorite airline is offering a double miles deal.

For your shopping convenience, you can find links to the airlines’ mall sites all in one place.

Bookmark these sites and before you buy anything online, see if miles are being offered for your purchase.

Have a great time shopping this holiday season, and please be sure to gift yourself a gift, too, in the form of extra frequent flyer miles.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments