We love credit card points and miles! Without them we wouldn’t be staying at fancy hotels in Maui, flying business class to Greece, or going on nearly free vacations to Thailand. Before you can redeem your points for free flights and hotel nights, you have to earn them. Today we are going to talk all about how to earn travel points!
The best way to quickly earn a big chunk of travel points is through credit card signup bonuses. This is what a signup bonus could look like, open a credit card and spend $3,000 in 3 months and the issuer will give you 50,000 points. Those 50,000 points are the signup bonus. A signup bonus is a way for credit card companies to reel you in and incentivize you to try their cards. Their hope is that you’ll open one of their cards, put a lot of spending on it, and not make your monthly payments. But, that’s not gonna happen!
Periodically, credit card issues will increase the bonus on their card for a limited time. When possible, we like to take advantage of those limited-time bonuses. We keep a list of all the current limited-time bonuses.
Another way you can earn travel points is by using shopping portals when you shop online. A shopping portal is a site that awards you points (or cashback) for clicking through their site when shopping online vs starting directly at the merchant.
Most US Airlines have their own shopping portal that will earn you miles when you shop through them. They all work basically the same way. You’ll need to have a loyalty number with the airline to get started. The Southwest Airlines shopping portal is nice because the points you earn will go towards earning you the Southwest Companion Pass. When it comes to hotels, most do not have shopping portals. The only ones that do are Wyndham and Choice Privileges. With these portals, you don’t need to have or use an airline credit card, you can use whatever card you’d like.
If you want to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, then you’ll want to check out their shopping portal. To access it, you’ll log into your account and select earn bonus points from the main menu. From there, you can search for your store. In the terms and conditions, Chase says your need to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards card to get the shopping portal bonus points.
If you are after American Express Membership Rewards, you’ll want to check out Rakuten. Rakuten is a cashback portal but you can link your Amex account and earn membership rewards instead! Rakuten and the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal are my go-to’s.
There are many others as well but those are the most common. I like to check Cash Back Monitor to see what portals are offering the best bonus when I’m ready to purchase.
How else can you earn travel points? You can refer your friends and family to the cards you already have! Not only will you earn referral points, but they’ll earn a signup bonus as well! Already, referred your partner? Tell your family and friends all about travel hacking and ask them to use your links! Referral links will usually earn you between 5,000-20,000 points, depending on the card. This is a great way to give yourself a points boost.
This is the old-school way to earn travel points. It can take a long time to earn enough points for free hotel nights and flights but each little bit counts! You won’t earn points on stays or flights that you use miles on but you do on cash-paid flights and nights. If you travel a lot for work, all that business travel can really add up a lot quicker!
Using your travel reward credit card is another way to earn more points. I never use cash. Each dollar spent on a credit card adds up!
You can earn more points on your credit card by knowing what the bonus categories are on your cards and using the right cards for the right purchase. For example, the Amex Gold Card earns 4x the points at restaurants and grocery stores so I would use that card for those purchases instead of a card that just earns 1x the points.
Another card I love, the Cash Ink Business Cash, earns 5x the points at office supply stores. I like to use this card to buy gift cards to places I normally shop at, like Amazon, and get 5x the points!
Another card I love is the Chase Freedom Flex. This card earns 5x the points in categories that rotate each quarter. This quarter the bonus categories are home improvement stores and gas stations. I will make sure I use this card for gas or have any home improvement purchases! The 5x points are good on the first $1,500 so if I max this out I will earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards this quarter. Remember, you have to log into your Chase account each quarter and activate this offer.
Not sure which card is best for each purchase? Check out the Card Pointers app. All you do is load your cards, select what category you are shopping in, and it will tell you what your best card is for that category.
Airlines and hotels offer lots of promos during the year. Hyatt does what they call World of Hyatt Bonus Journeys. The current promo is that you can earn 2,000 points for every 2 nights you stay at Hyatt. What’s great is that you can earn these points even on award stays. After 10 nights, you’ll earn a Hyatt free night certificate at a Hyatt category 1-4 property. Another great thing about this promo is they don’t have to be consecutive nights.
Sometimes promos and offers are targeted, meaning they aren’t open for everyone. For example, right now many of the Chase co-branded credit cards like Hyatt, Southwest, IHG, and Marriott cards are offering bonus points on spending for the next quarter. You may get targeted for 5x on grocery and restaurants, or 5x on all purchases, or you may not even have an offer. Check out this post for more info.
Last year there was a promo on my Amex Marriott card for 10x the points at gas stations. These promos come and go and oftentimes (but not always) you will get an email from the credit card issuer letting you know about the promo.
You can sometimes earn travel points through retention offers. A retention offer is when the card issuer waives, or reduces your annual fee or gives you points in order to get you to reconsider canceling your credit card and to retain you as their customer. Recently, my mom went to cancel her Delta Amex Platinum card and was offered a discount on her annual fee, plus a stash of Delta Skymiles in order to keep it for another year. Retention offers aren’t always given out but they are worth checking out before you cancel a card.
Buying groups are not only a great way to hit the minimum spend, they are also a nice way to earn some extra points. A buying group works by asking people to buy hot ticket items and shipping the item to them. After receiving the item, the buying group will pay you back. They then resell it for a profit. Sometimes they’ll even pay you more than the retail price so you come out ahead. This can be even better if you are able to shop through a shopping portal. This is a benefit to the points and miles community because it allows you to spend some money and earn some points but not really having to pay for it.
Buying groups aren’t for everyone. If you are going to get into this then make sure you are organized, buy from the right store, double-check that the payout isn’t less than what the item is retailing for, and double-check everything so you don’t make a costly error. I’ve found Buy For Me Retail to be a good buying group to start with.
While credit card signup bonuses are the easiest and quickest way to earn a stash of points, there are a lot of other great ways to earn points. Not all of these things will resonate with everyone but hopefully, there is a little something in there to help you increase your points balance a little quicker. When it comes down to it though, don’t stress. Some points are better than no points! You can exhaust yourself chasing after every single point. Get what you can and then enjoy them!
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