How can you earn frequent flier miles?
Let us count the ways ...
By Stephanie Oswald
Editor's note: This is the first in a five-part series for National Tourism Week
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Buy a bag of groceries, earn frequent flier miles. Test drive a car, earn frequent flier miles. Make phone calls, earn frequent flier miles.
There are now almost 100 ways to accrue frequent flier miles, and most of them don't require boarding a plane. About 40 percent of all frequent flier miles are earned on the ground, according to InsideFlyer magazine.
Safeway, for example, is one of the grocery store chains in the United States where airline passengers can rack up miles by shopping. It has a partnership with United Airlines.
"The Mileage Plus member simply goes to Safeway, fills out an application with their Safeway program card as well as their Mileage Plus number, and from then on miles are automatically applied to their Mileage Plus account every time they shop," United's Jean Patterson explains.
You don't even need to leave your house to get points. Just log on the Internet. Some Web sites require purchases, while others simply require taking a survey or signing up online.
Participants in American Airlines AAdvantage program can earn miles when mortgaging a home, eating at specific restaurants or using a Citibank credit card.
US Airways customers can add to their Dividend Accounts by sailing on Renaissance Cruise Lines or staying in a partner hotel.
American Express has a membership rewards program that allows card users to earn miles on their choice of the major airlines.
If that choice is Delta Air Lines, there's an American Express card specifically designed to build up SkyMiles. Making long-distance calls with MCI Worldcom also will bring you closer to a free Delta ticket.
There are 61 million members of frequent flier programs in the U.S, according to airlines. Last year, carriers handed out 13 million award tickets.
But many people who've spent time and money become upset when the airline can't use their miles to book the specific flight they want to take. That's to be expected, says Chris McGinnis Chris McGinnis, an industry analyst and manager of travelskills.com.
"What's happening, is people are getting these huge banks of frequent flier miles, and all of a sudden they're going to try to redeem them," he says. "The airlines are probably not going to release as many seats as there are miles out there."
Other experts say putting those miles to use depends on how accommodating you are.
"You've got to be more flexible, and you can certainly not have your itinerary in stone," says Bob Jones, a columnist for 1travel.com. "You've got to be able to work with them."
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