So you want to spend more time traveling and less time stuck behind a desk working to pay for it? You’re not alone. Fortunately, with points and miles, that’s entirely possible. There’s nothing like booking a flight to a dream destination and paying no more than a few dollars in taxes and fees. But how do you make that dream become a reality? There are many ways to earn points and miles to put toward award travel. If you’re new to the game, here’s a beginner’s guide to help you collect points and miles for free travel.
1. Join airline reward programs
The first step, if you haven’t done it already, is to join various frequent flyer programs. You should never buy an airline ticket without also providing a frequent flyer number and getting rewarded for your travel. Join as many as you like as almost all of them are free. Start with airlines that offer flights to your preferred destinations, whether they be domestic or international. Also, keep alliances in mind when joining. There are several in which partnering airlines allow you to earn miles from travel on multiple airlines with one frequent traveler account number. The Oneworld Alliance, for example, includes American Airlines, Quantas, and British Airways. Star Alliance includes Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines.
You can sign up for as many as you like, just make sure that every time you travel you’re getting awarded on one airline or another. Travel on the same airline or alliance every time you travel and you’ll collect points and miles even faster.
2. Sign up for a new travel credit card
This is the fastest and most efficient way to collect points and miles. Many travel rewards credit cards offer impressive sign-up bonuses after you spend a specified sum in a set amount of time.
The popular Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card awards new cardholders with 25,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 in the first three months.
Higher bonuses often mean the card comes with an annual fee, but this is frequently waived the first year. Cards without annual fees and high initial spend requirements are available, too. The Capital One VentureOne, for example, has no annual fee and you need only spend $1,000 in the first 3 months for the 20,000 bonus points, but its perks don’t compare to the Capital One Venture.
In addition to sign-on bonuses, using a travel rewards card for everyday spending will help you collect points and miles one purchase at a time. Look for a card with higher point values per dollar spent for the best return on your spending. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points per dollar across the board. The Capital One Venture card also offers 2x points. Other cards, like the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, offer varying point values depending on the spending category.
Full disclosure: for most cards that offer the best sign-up bonuses, your credit will have to be fairly good. Check it on a free site like creditkarma.com to ensure that you might be eligible before filling out applications. It’s important to pick the card that’s best for you and use it for as much everyday spending as possible to collect points and miles.
3. Earn points and miles for dining out
After you’ve signed up for a few frequent traveler accounts, start earning when you’re not traveling. Most airlines offer bonuses for registering a travel credit card and then using it when you eat out at participating restaurants. A list of eateries near you should be searchable on the program website. And if you are away from home, you can type in a new zip code and collect points and miles as you dine at restaurants worldwide.
Just make sure you always use the credit card associated with your reward account to get the benefits. Register your travel credit card and get double the points (on your credit card and your frequent traveler account). You can only register a card with one frequent traveler program, though, so pick your favorite or register using multiple credit cards if you have them.
4. Get rewarded for shopping
The same portals that allow you to collect points and miles for dining also offer points and miles for shopping. Each program will have different stores and websites it partners with. Points awarded per dollar spent fluctuate, but you can often earn up to 10x the points per dollar by ordering clothes and products online instead of in store.
For example, instead of going to Lowe’s to buy a new washing machine, order it online and opt to pick it up at your local store. Instead of earning the 500 points you might have received by purchasing it in store with your travel credit card, you’ll earn that plus an additional 1,000 or more. Those points will be added directly to your frequent traveler account. Websites like Groupon, Macy’s and Target can often be found on the list of participating retailers. Before making purchases online, check the list on your preferred frequent traveler account website and shop through the provided link instead.
5. Use your spare time to take surveys
Several airlines partner with survey sites to help members collect points and miles faster. Sites like e-Rewards offer an opportunity to answer questions about shopping and business in exchange for monetary values that can be redeemed for miles with participating frequent traveler programs. Opinion Miles Club and e-Miles are a couple of the other options. These offer a set number of points per survey completed. Links to these sites can often be found on airline websites. It’s a simple way to collect points and miles without spending a dime.
6. Pay your bills
Some airlines allow you to collect points and miles by paying your utility bills through their portals. Energy Plus, Everything Energy, and Reliant Energy are a few of the more popular companies among airlines.
If you live in a state that allows you to choose your energy supply company, you can sign up, search your options, and opt to switch providers and pay your bills, all while earning more miles with your favorite airline. Some airlines offer a sign-up bonus and then a set number of rewards for every month you pay. Others reward you with points per dollar spent, so your rewards will depend on your total bill. Just make sure when you sign up that you won’t be paying significantly more for your gas or electric just to collect points and miles.
Put these tips to use to collect miles and points when you’re not traveling and reach your reward travel goals faster.
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