Once you have your first travel rewards credit card, a Chase Sapphire Preferred or something similar, the focus typically switches to how to earn more points & miles. Once of the most frequently asked questions we hear is “how do you earn points and miles after you've signed up for all the cards?” Today, we explain the best ways to earn points and miles.
The first way we'll discuss is perhaps the most obvious: credit cards.
Sign Up for Bonuses. You can earn a large sum of points by signing up for a new credit card and meeting the minimum spend requirement. The sign up bonus offers are often the most lucrative way to earn points. With bonuses ranging from 25,000-150,000 on various cards, you accrue points in a hurry. While always remembering each bank's rules, you can implement a plan that allows you to obtain SUBs indefinitely!
Spending on Purchases. Many credit cards offer additional points earning opportunities for purchases made in certain categories. Often cards will earn 1x points on everything, and then have increased earning rates for purchases made in specific categories. Some of the more common bonus categories are travel, dining, groceries or gas. When using your card in these bonus categories you can accumulate points even faster.
Special Promotions. Occasionally credit card issuers, or their partners (in the instance of a co-branded airline or hotel card), will run special promotions where additional points can be earned for spending on a particular card. For example, Chase currently has a targeted promotion where holders of various cards can earn up to 5x points on groceries, gas stations, or drugstores as long as you activate the offer.
Referral Bonuses. Numerous credit cards, including almost all Amex cards, have referral bonuses for referring your friends and family. Referral bonuses range from 5,000-25,000 points per referral and each card has an annual cap (between 25,000 and 80,000 points). In the last few years, Amex and Chase have begun issuing 1099s for referrals, with a 1 cent per point valuation.
Retention Offers. Credit card issuers generally want to retain the business of good customers. Therefore, when you go to close or downgrade a card, the issuer may offer what is known as a retention offer. Sometimes this is an offer to reduce your annual fee if you keep the card open. Other times it is similar to an initial sign up bonus. In that instance, the issuer will offer you the opportunity to earn additional points for meeting a certain spend threshold within a specified time period if you agree to keep the card open. For example: spend $3,000 within 3 months of accepting the offer and earn an additional 10,000 points. We will talk more about evaluating retention offers in more detail in another post.
One of my favorite ways to earn points is through shopping portals, and in most cases, no credit card is required!
Shopping portals track your purchases on the internet and essentially share a portion of the fee they get from the retailer with you, the consumer. There are many kinds of shopping portals – cash back, points earning tied to specific credit card issuers, and airline miles. The best tool for evaluating shopping portal offers is Cashback Monitor. Use a shopping portal for before making any purchase online and watch the points stack up!
Many airlines and hotels have a program that allows you to link your credit card and earn additional points or miles for purchases at restaurants that participate in that program. Note that many of these programs are managed by the same “back-end” administrator and therefore only one will work at a time.
Perhaps surprisingly, flying is not the best or easiest way you can earn miles. Most carriers use a revenue-based mileage earning system. This means that the miles you earn are a function of the amount of money you spent on your ticket.
Like flying, staying in hotels is not the best or easiest way to earn points. But it is an important aspect to gaining status with a hotel brand's loyalty program. Hotel brands tend to offer great incentives to use their co-branded credit card to pay for your stay or for purchases made at that property. For example, Hilton Aspire Card holders can earn up to 14x Hilton points on their stay at Hilton properties.
Remember to refer to a shopping portal before booking – several portals offer additional points for clicking through their site before booking your hotel. Recently Rakuten has been running promotions for 10x cash back on certain hotel bookings.
Often overlooked, booking rental cars is an easy way to earn extra points. Like shopping portals, many airlines offer incentives to book your rental car through the airline's site. We frequently earn extra Southwest Rapid Rewards for booking cars through the Southwest site.
Adding it All Up
There are many ways to earn points and miles depending on your spending habits and travel needs. Come join the discussion in our Facebook group to learn more!