TO YOUR CREDIT
Earning enough rewards points to actually score a free trip can be an incredibly lengthy process, sometimes taking years. However, by following a few insider tips, you can dramatically speed up the timeline. Here are some of the top points and mileage hacks, including insights from RewardExpert, a site created to help travelers maximize what they earn every day.
SIGN UP FOR TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
Sure, you can accumulate miles through airline frequent flyer programs, but one of the quickest ways to score a significant amount of points is through credit cards, many of which offer lucrative sign-up bonuses in the form of points. Some of the top-rated cards for earning travel points are Chase Sapphire Preferred Card; Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card; and Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. And don't forget that hotel brands offer their own rewards credit cards as well, among them Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and also the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GIFT CARDS
If you have a credit card that earns points for purchases at specific types of retailers, such as grocery stores or office-supply stores, consider using it at those locations to buy yourself gift cards. The gift cards can then be used to pay for purchases at places where you don't earn rewards. In other words, you're maximizing your credit card spending at the store where you earn rewards and more quickly increasing your points balance.
SHOP THROUGH YOUR CARD'S ONLINE REWARDS MALL
With all the shopping that happens online already, don't forget about your credit card's rewards mall where you can shop and earn points in the process. In fact, all the major frequent traveler programs have mileage malls. According to RewardExpert, it is possible to earn anywhere from 2 to 15 times the points per dollar when shopping at popular online retailers simply by logging into your credit card's rewards mall first.
EAT OUT AND EARN MILES
Few people realize that their airline frequent-flyer program lets members earn miles simply by eating at their favorite restaurants. For example, by signing up for United's MileagePlus Dining and registering your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can earn three points per dollar on dining through Chase, and then additional miles on top of that through United's MileagePlus Dining points program — a great opportunity to double-up on rewards.
CHARGE ITEMS TO YOUR HOTEL ROOM
Planning on grabbing dinner at the hotel restaurant? Rather than paying with cash, charge your hotel meals and excursions to your room to earn additional hotel rewards points. And be sure to take advantage of hotel credit card bonus opportunities.
PUBLICLY VOICE YOUR COMPLAINTS
If there's a problem with your room or overall experience at a hotel or on a flight, Tweet at the company's customer service, or speak to a flight attendant directly, to potentially receive points for the inconvenience as compensation.
OFFER UP YOUR SEAT ON A FLIGHT
It's hardly a secret that airlines often overbook flights. And when that happens, they often ask for volunteers to give up their seats. If you're not in a rush to get to where you're going, offer your seat in exchange for airline miles that can be applied toward your next award flight.
AVOID STEEP AIRPORT PARKING FEES AND EARN HOTEL POINTS IN THE PROCESS
Instead of using airport parking on your next trip, book one hotel night near the airport. Many hotels will let you keep your car in their lot for free or at a rate that's far cheaper than traditional airport parking. In addition to saving money on parking, you can earn hotel rewards points. This strategy is particularly useful if you have an early morning departure or late night arrival. Check out ParkSleepFly.com to better understand the strategy.
OPEN A BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
Do you tutor piano? Sell handmade goods on Etsy? Are you a freelance photographer, writer, or video editor? In many instances, your side gig is enough to qualify you for a business credit card, which may offer lucrative signup bonuses in the form of points as well as providing points or airline miles on every purchase or dollar spent by you or your employees. The points can usually be redeemed for flights, cruises, hotel stays, and more. Among the top cards for this are Capital One Spark Miles for Business; and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard.
ASK ABOUT RETENTION OFFERS
Credit card issuers make the most money off of long-term customers, and they can take steps to retain your business. Before you renew your credit card and pay another annual fee, ask for a retention offer, RewardExpert suggests. Many will waive or discount the annual fee to keep your business. If they won't change the fee, they may offer additional rewards for spending on the card.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR SPECIAL PROMOTIONS
There are often special promotions throughout various industries that include travel rewards in exchange for your business. Need a personal loan? Earn up to 80,000 MileagePlus miles if you sign up with LendingClub. Looking for a new energy provider? You could earn 15,000 AAdvantage bonus miles by switching to Reliant. Keep an eye out for offers like these to help boost your rewards balance, says RewardExpert.
GET THE MOST VALUE OUT OF YOUR POINTS
If you own an elite travel card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, in addition to another points-earning card from Chase, such as the Freedom Unlimited cash-back card, you should be sure to transfer all your points to the card with the most generous rewards program. By transferring points from other Chase cards to your elite card, the value of your points is increased by 50 percent, RewardExpert says.
SIGN UP FOR ALL THE FREQUENT FLYER AND REWARDS PROGRAMS
It doesn't matter how infrequently you fly on a given airline, sign up for all of the frequent flyer programs. It doesn't cost anything, and you don't know where your future travels will take you or what airline they will be on. The same goes for hotel rewards programs and car rentals. The biggest mistake you can make is not signing up for the rewards programs.