Easy ways to score free plane tickets

May 29, 2011: 7:18 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Air fares are on the rise. But why pay exorbitant prices when you can score a flight for nothing?

While credit card rewards programs will slowly earn you one mile at a time for everyday purchases, you might have to charge up tens of thousands of dollars before you have enough miles for a flight. But there are other ways to get your hands on a free ticket faster.

Some lenders are awarding lump sums of miles to consumers for taking out a home loan, funding a bank account, opening a credit card or even shopping at certain retailers.

While the offers might not steer you into products you don't need, they could sway you to choose one company over another, said Ken Lin, CEO of credit management website Credit Karma.

"You don't buy a home because you want 25,000 miles, but if you're buying a home anyway, you should look for one of these offers because it translates into a major discount on a flight," said Lin.

Mortgages: If you take out a home loan with certain lenders, you could be eligible for free plane tickets on many of the major airlines.

Lending Tree, a network of lenders, gives customers 25,000 miles -- the minimum amount most airlines require for domestic flights -- for financing a $200,000 home loan. And get two tickets -- or double the miles -- for a $400,000 loan. The points can be used on flights with American Airlines, Continental, Delta, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.

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Another lender, Home Loan Center, gives borrowers who refinance a $142,857 home loan 25,000 miles on Delta.

And Chase Home Mortgages grants customers 25,000 miles when they take out a $185,185 mortgage.

Brokerage & savings accounts: Consumers who open and add money to a TDAmeritrade account by June 30, 2011 are eligible for free miles on most of the major airlines. To get the typical 25,000 miles needed for an airline ticket, you would need to deposit $50,000.

Opening a savings account with Fidelity Investments can land you 25,000 miles when you deposit $50,000, as long as it's not a retirement account. You can even earn free miles by simply adding money to an existing account.

Lin said these offers typically come and go as promotions end, and other financial service companies are likely to jump on the bandwagon and try to attract more affluent customers.

Credit cards: Of course, you can always shop around for a credit card with a good airlines rewards program, but many offer sign-up bonuses that are often enough for an immediate flight.

You can get 25,000 bonus miles on Alaska Airlines just for being approved for the Alaska Airlines Signature card. And you can earn 20,000 bonus points after making your first purchase with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card (with a $100 flight costing around 6,000 points).

The Mileage Plus Club Visa card let consumers earn 30,000 miles on United Airlines by making $250 in purchases. After passing the $250 threshold, customers can earn double miles on all United Airline tickets and one mile for every dollar spent elsewhere. But the card comes at a price. The Mileage Plus card carries a hefty annual fee of $375.

With Citi's Platinum Select and AAdvantage Visa Signature cards, consumers can earn 30,000 miles on American Airlines after making $750 in purchases within the first four months of having the card. After that, they can earn one mile for every dollar spent on purchases.

Shopping: Though rewards cards will usually earn you airline miles with purchases, shopping at certain retailers will help you rack up miles much faster

For example, eco-friendly retailer Organic Lifestyle is bringing free miles into the shopping arena. The company gives customers 10 miles on Delta for every dollar they spend, meaning you would need to spend $2,500 to get 25,000 miles.

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Buying flowers for your loved one will also earn you miles at most of the major airlines. US Airways, for example, gives consumers 10 miles for every dollar they spend at 1-800-Flowers, and 15 miles for every $1 spent at Florist.com or FTD.

SpaFinder, a network of thousands of spas around the world, gives customers five Delta miles for each dollar they spend on gift certificates and spa gift sets -- so $5,000 worth of items to get your hands on a free plane ticket.

The same goes for Java City, where customers also earn five Delta miles for every dollar spent.

Nutrisystem gives health-conscious customers 3,000 miles on Delta for purchasing a meal program for the first time -- and 1,000 miles for each automatic meal delivery after that. Meal programs are 28 days and cost around $300.

You can even get free miles for using Netflix. When you become a paying member of the online video rental service, you earn 1,500 miles on most major airlines, including Delta and US Airways. To top of page

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