Six Ways to Earn Travel Points (Without Opening a New Credit Card)

Six Ways to Earn Travel Points (Without Opening a New Credit Card)

You’re probably familiar with two of the most common ways to earn travel rewards: take a flight to accrue miles, or open a credit card—ideally one with a generous welcome bonus—that gives you points for purchases. But if you aren’t a frequent flyer, don’t want to open a bunch of travel card accounts (or can’t, thanks either to your own credit or rules aimed at reducing churning), or aren’t able to spend a ton of extra cash, there are other ways to rack up points and miles for your next vacation.

Maximize your existing card benefits

If you already have a card that earns you points and miles, you can leverage several strategies to rewards more quickly than you would just by swiping your card for everyday purchases. One obvious approach is to spend smarter by buying certain items at merchants that qualify for category bonuses (such as cleaning supplies at the grocery store).

Collect referral bonuses

Some issuers offer referral bonuses (typically 5,000 to 15,000 points) if someone signs up for a new card using your unique link. If you have a spouse or partner to refer, they could earn a sign-up bonus while you get the referral bonus, maximizing the points you can redeem together. You can also add an authorized user, which can help a family member build credit while you earn extra miles.

Link to other loyalty programs

You can also link your credit cards to other loyalty programs to earn bonus airline miles on unrelated spending (such as on dining or other travel). For example, connecting your Lyft account can net you extra Delta SkyMiles, Alaska Mileage Plan, Hilton Honors points, or Bilt Rewards points.

Shop via online portals

To earn even more—anywhere from 2X to 5X points—on top of your standard credit card rewards accrual, try using a shopping portal to make purchases with participating retailers you would shop directly with anyway. Some airlines also have their own shopping portals that link with your membership number to earn miles that go into your loyalty account.

If you have a handful of loyalty programs you could earn points with, consider using a tool like Cashback Monitor or add the Chrome extensions for several shopping portals to compare where you get the most bang for your buck. Note that the bonuses may be even greater around big shopping holidays.

Sign up for dining rewards

Most major airlines and some hotel chains also have dining rewards programs, including Delta SkyMiles Dining, American Airlines AAdvantage Dining, Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining, and United MileagePlus Dining. All you have to do is connect your credit card and use it when you dine at or get takeout from participating restaurants. You may even be eligible to earn bonus miles in the first month after you sign up. It doesn’t hurt to register and simply earn bonuses in the background, and you can register multiple cards even if they’re not travel rewards cards specifically.

Complete opinion surveys

Filling out surveys doesn’t have the greatest ROI in terms of time vs. points earned, but it is another way to add to your mileage account without spending any money. The following airlines will award you small bonuses for completing opinion surveys:

Keep an eye out for targeted offers

Both banks and airlines have been known to offer points and miles bonuses as incentives to sign up or retain customers, so don’t just toss mailed offers or delete emails without reading them.

For example, American Express and Chase have awarded points to anyone who enrolls in (free) features like mobile wallets and pay over time. Similarly, opening a new checking or savings account can earn you travel rewards. Bask Bank offers 2.5 AAdvantage miles (instead of interest) for every dollar saved, with points awarded monthly. Citibank also occasionally runs promotions with AAdvantage miles and ThankYou points. (Be sure to research interest rates and fees before deciding to open new accounts.)

Book a rental car with an airline promo code

Major rental car companies, including Avis, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, and National, will award airline miles (and/or hotel points) if you book with a promotion code. You typically need to be a member of the rental company’s loyalty program and enter your frequent flyer information when making your reservation. However, note that you may pay a surcharge to receive airline or hotel credits, so it may not be worthwhile depending on how many points you are earning.

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