What's the world's most popular currency? The dollar? The yen? Actually, it may be frequent-flier points. Major airlines are devising more and more ways for you to earn points with them — besides flying on their planes. And there are more and more things to spend miles on — besides air travel. Here is Fast Company's roundup of new, interesting, and downright charitable ways to earn and spend your miles.
|Airline Program||Ways to Earn||Miles of Smiles||First Class|
|United Airlines Mileage Plus||Want to sail the friendly seas? United won't hold it against you. For every fully paid cruise that you take in an ocean-view cabin on Norwegian Cruise Line, United will grant you between 1,000 and 5,000 miles.||Mileage Plus holders can donate air-travel miles to several charities (including the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity) — as long as the donation totals more than 10,000 miles.||For United travelers, expired miles are now a thing of the past. As long as you either earn or redeem miles at least once every three years, you can hang on to all of your miles.|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||Earn 5,000 miles — and perfect your short game — when you enroll in a three-day program at the Nicklaus-Flick Golf School, operated by Jack Nicklaus's Golden Bear Golf Inc.||You can donate miles to Miles For Kids In Need, a program that provides free air transportation to seriously ill children.||Use your miles to contribute to the future: With 2,000 AAdvantage miles, you can open a Kids Own America CashSmart bank or brokerage account for your kids at any partnering institution.|
|Delta Airlines SkyMiles||The Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express lets you garner miles for just about any purchase: One card owner bought an Irish pub for $500,000 — and received roughly 500,000 air miles.||Check out Delta's SkyWish program: Once you've earned 5,000 miles, you can donate extra miles to organizations such as the United Way of America and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.||Why not give the gift of air miles? The SkyRewards program lets you purchase air mileage in units of 500, 1,000, and 5,000 miles. (The minimum order is 60,000 miles.)|
|Continental Airlines OnePass||You can earn up to 125,000 OnePass miles simply by using Prudential Referral Services when you buy or sell a home.||You can donate your miles to one of Delta's preferred charities: Careforce, for example, provides airline tickets for people who are having a medical or personal crisis and can't afford to fly.||One of the many perks of OnePass is a mileage-purchase plan. If you're close to earning a free trip, use this option to buy extra miles. (An increment of 1,000 miles costs $25 plus tax.)|
A version of this article appeared in the November 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.