People in the UK and Europe will have the biggest challenge of getting to the exotic birding destinations in South/Central America, Australia and Asia due to the vast distances involved. It is unlikely you will be able to get a free trip JUST from getting your local credit cards. Unfortunately, most other countries don’t have the lucrative free miles and points opportunities the USA has but here is a very basic reference guide. Most countries will have various versions of American Express which can have pretty good signup bonuses so check them out too. Also remember that for BIS miles (butt in seat) you are usually better off crediting to American Airlines for One World partners and United Airlines or US Airways for Star Alliance partners because of better redemption levels. The main reasons to join your country’s frequent flier program is to take advantage of your local credit cards and any “everyday life” mileage earning opportunities such as shopping, phone, internet, petrol, etc. If you are a business traveler, you may want to consider elite benefits but that’s better covered by business travel blogs.
Before the explosion of credit card signup bonuses and other partners, most people did it the old fashioned way. Fly, accrue your miles to your preferred mileage program and pick up a few extra miles from hotels and rental cars. I used to average one free trip for every 3 or 4 which these days isn’t great but better than nothing!
I recently discovered there is a blog called Head For Points written by Raffles who specializes in British Airways Avios program and credit cards targeted to folks in the UK, so I will refer you to him for further information. The top 15 UK loyalty credit card sign-up deals by £ value
American Airlines has a British credit card but not a great signup bonus.
For British eco-tourists, I would recommend signing up for British Airways Avios for the credit cards and shopping deals, also sign up for the programs I blogged about here. Don’t bother with the Aussie programs, use your Avios for those flights.
There probably are blogs written in the respective languages that specialize in each country’s credit cards so all I can do is let you know which airlines have affiliated credit cards and send you to Google to see if there is a blog in your language that covers them. The airline websites will tell you which cards they partner with.
Iberia Avios (can be transferred to and from British Airways Avios)
Aegean (Greece) Miles and Bonus – no credit cards yet but watch this page
I think I got most of the UK and European based airline credit cards. If you find any more, please add them in the comments section.