7 Easy Ways Even Travel Novices Can Earn Miles and Points Fast

You don't have to be an insider to rack up big points that translate to free flights and upgrades.

Even if you’re not a road warrior living out of a suitcase half the year, you can still rack up airline miles and hotel points faster than you think. Flying a particular airline and its partners, staying within a specific group of hotels, and putting everyday spending on a points-earning credit card are all great ways to boost your points balances. However, there are a few other simple things you can do to earn points even faster so they get you where you need to go in 2017.

When you first get started, the points and miles game can be a bit of a rabbit hole. You could literally spend all day looking for promotions and bonuses where you earn a few hundred points here or a few hundred miles there. But don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t overdo it. Concentrate on a few habit-forming strategies that will earn you the most points for the least amount of work. Here are the most tried and true of them.

1.  Credit cards

The easiest and fastest way to earn points and miles is to use a credit card that’s associated with your airline mileage or hotel points program of choice. These cards often come with bonanza sign-up bonuses that can range up to 100,000 points or miles. They also earn you miles on everyday purchases. Spend a dollar, earn a mile. It’s as easy as that. Just make sure you do so responsibly and pay your statement off every month so you don’t incur huge interest charges.

2.  Category spending bonuses

Many travel rewards credit cards earn multiple points per dollar when you use them to make purchases at specific kinds of merchants, such as restaurants or grocery stores. For instance, the Hyatt Visa from Chase earns two points per dollar on dining, airfare, and car rentals; while the JetBlue Plus Card from Barclaycard earns two points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores. Find a card that offers bonus points at the kinds of stores where you tend to make a lot of purchases so that you’re maximizing your earning just by going about your everyday business.

3.  Online shopping bonuses

Speaking of earning bonus miles, would you rather earn just one mile per dollar by going into a store and buying something… or up to 30 miles per dollar by shopping through a specific website? It’s a no-brainer, but consumers tend to forget that most of the major U.S. airlines as well as many hotel loyalty programs and even points programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards (whose points you can transfer to a number of airlines and hotels) all field what are called online shopping portals. They’re sort of like online malls with links to hundreds of retailers like Target, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Sephora, and more.

To take advantage of them, you sign in through your loyalty account to see which merchants are offering bonus points on purchases. Then just click through to the retailer you want and shop normally. Not only do you earn multiple points or miles per dollar you spend by doing so, but you’ll also earn any points or miles you would regularly by using a points-earning credit card for your purchase, essentially double-dipping on your points earning. You can even comparison shop beforehand by checking EVReward.com to see which online shopping portals are offering the most bonus points at any given time at specific retailers.

4.  Dining rewards network

Sort of like online shopping portals, several major airlines and hotel programs also partner with the Dining Rewards Network to offer loyalty-program members multiple points or miles per dollar they spend at affiliated restaurants and bars. To participate, you sign up for Dining Rewards Network through your specific airline or hotel loyalty program’s partner web page and link a credit card to your account. Then when you use that credit card to pay for meals at affiliated restaurants, you can earn between three and five miles per dollar you spend on top of any points or miles you earn just by using the credit card itself.

5.  Special promotions

Airlines offer bonus miles regularly for various activities such as signing up for email newsletters, flying on a new route, or even just participating in online sweepstakes. Hotel programs tend to offer not only quarterly bonus promotions where you can usually earn thousands of extra points for doing things like staying at specific brands or in specific cities, but also one-off promos for things like making a booking through their app or completing a weekend stay. When we all seem to get about 100 emails a day from various programs, it can be hard to stay on top of these, but just sign up for the offers you receive so that if you do end up completing any qualifying activity, you’re automatically registered to receive the bonus. And if you’re planning to travel anyway, do a quick Google search for any current promotions that you might be able to maximize.

6.  Banking offers

Although you may not want to pay your rent or mortgage every month with a points-earning card since many lenders levy service charges for such transactions, there are still a couple of great ways your banking and investment activity can net you tens of thousands of bonus miles. Fidelity offers new brokerage account investors bonuses of up to 50,000 American, Delta or United miles depending on how much they deposit. BankDirect, meanwhile, offers customers thousands of bonus American AAdvantage mileage bonuses for everyday banking activities like using direct deposit or online bill pay service.

7.  Keep track

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your points accounts with various airlines and hotels and to make sure they’re not going to expire anytime soon. To do so, the easiest thing is to sign up for a program like AwardWallet that tracks your various points accounts and sends you alerts when your account requires attention.

Even if you don’t travel extensively, you can still earn tens thousands of airline miles and hotel points every year just based on your everyday activities if you put together a basic points strategy and stick to it.

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