First and foremost, always sign up for an air mile plan if you ever are flying. You might not think you will fly them much but you never know and there are lots of ways to build up miles. I have an American Airlines account which changed from US airways which changed from America West I think? I had one or two flights, added in some crazy shopping bonuses, eventually got a small limit credit card from them, and purchased a couple flights for friends using that card. All these years later and I have 21,000 miles sitting in it just waiting to be used. I have more examples like this but let’s get on to the ways to earn without flying.
Credit Cards- This is one of the biggest ways to earn points or miles today. It is so popular and there are some great blogs I suggest reading up on if you want to jump into the mix (The points guy is my favorite). It’s easy but you have to remember some important things about rewards cards. Don’t get a card if you can’t pay off the balance every month. They carry a higher rate so they have to be paid off. Many have a minimum spending for the first 3 months but do include a bunch of bonus points or miles if you get one at the right time. You may score anywhere between 50,000-100,00 just for getting the card. Don’t be scared of this since most of us could pay almost all our bills and meet the requirement. Choose wisely since many carriers are only allowing you 5 cards within 24 months. Some of the big hobbyists were getting new cards every few months so this limits that. Depending on your credit I would suggest easing into the hobby. Do some research on what cards are easier or harder to get. Don’t forget these cards usually carry some kind of an annual fee so do a cost analysis to see if it’s worth it for you. Many times, after the first year where the fee is free you can downgrade to a lower tier card without the fee.
Airline-I started off with an airline card of an airline I knew I would fly and then moved on to another airline. Alaska Airlines is popular here in the Seattle area and usually offer at least 25,000 miles plus they have the companion pass. One funny thing about Alaska through Bank of America is I started off with one like 15 years ago, real basic only a $500 limit card and have never been able to get them to upgrade me to the signature card with bonus miles and companion pass. My wife has one so we use that, but this is why some cards might be harder to get. For some reason, I can get any other card I want with limits that exceed my Bank of America card 10 times over. Do your research and I suggest only one airline card for the average person. There are blogs out there where people post what cards they got with what credit score.
Hotel Cards-These are also a good way to earn free stays and points. As with airlines you have to decide if you will really use that hotel enough but the bonus points alone are nice. I carry the Chase Marriott card which got me 80,000 bonus points for signing up. You get automatic Silver status annually plus one free anniversary night (category 5 or below). You get 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining out, 5 points for Marriott charges, and 1 point for everything else. We found ourselves traveling more even for just a weekend trip or one night trip. I was staying different places and just felt like we could be loyal at times and earn more points for it. We have really enjoyed the Marriott brand hotels we have stayed at. If you travel with friends offer to book under your card and let everyone pitch in while you earn the points. Also, when you are loyal to a brand they have some nice bonus opportunities. Also, when you use points they have a deal where if you use points for 4 nights(consecutive), you get the 5th free. Hilton is another good one, especially if you want to go to somewhere expensive like Hawaii. They have a great deal usually and you can use the free anniversary nights easier from what I have been told. This one is next on my radar.
Cash Back Card-These are becoming very popular again as companies have raised the cash back opportunities. Usually they are 2% but they may offer bonuses or special chances to earn 5%. I have the Citi card cash back but only because they offered to switch me. You get 1% when to spend and 5% for making a payment. It’s worked out nice especially if like me, you had a balance on the card and then paid it off. You get some free money. I honestly prefer the travel cards because we love to travel.
The catch all points cards- That’s my term for these cards. They are cards with great travel benefits where you can use the points for almost anything you want. I carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You earn 2 points for any travel and dining out and 1 point for everything else. You can transfer your points to about 12 different programs or purchase travel through chase which gets you 1.5 times the value. It’s just like buying your own ticket (prices will be same as airline), but you use your points to do it. So the 50,000 points could be used for $750 in travel (50,000=$500 X 1.5=$750) .
Shopping/Dining- Yes you can earn miles just for shopping online or dining out. Depending on your preferences this is an easy to rack up miles for shopping or eating at businesses you already use. With the holidays right around the corner this is a great way to earn. For the shopping, consider loading up on gift cards from one of the stores. For dining consider buying gift cards at that restaurant to earn the miles.
Shopping-Check your individual airline but most have not only an online shopping mall business. You link to a retailer through their site and earn miles for that purchase. These are normal stores like Target, Kohls, Nike, Under Armor, etc. Some might only be one point per dollar where some can go beyond ten points per dollar. You’re spending the money anyway why not earn some miles. Outside of the shopping mall portal usually you can earn by shopping too but through special partners with the airline. Usually florists, wine clubs, mortgage companies, ect. Check your airlines page under “earn miles”. When you are flying, you can also earn points for airport parking and dining at the airport. Check your local airport or parking businesses to see what they offer. Rental cars are another way to earn points or miles.
Dining- Most airlines have a dining out program. You register your credit card with them (any credit card) and then when you dine at select locations, you earn miles. I used to like this but it really depends on what is on the list. I’m not impressed with our area but it’s still an easy way to earn miles especially if one of your favorite restaurants is on there.
Banking- This has been one of my new favorite ones. Banks are increasingly fighting for your business and they want you to open an account with them and will pay you to do it. Last year I did Bank of America and earned 25,000 miles. That’s enough for a roundtrip ticket anywhere domestically. This year I did Chase bank and got $300. You simply sign up, do a direct deposit, and ten after you get your bonus or money you can cancel. Easy and free. All I had to do was fill out a form for my payroll department to change the direct deposit.
Cable TV- I am proactive in this and switch every two years out of contracts. This can easily save you at least $40-50 a month plus you might earn some free bonuses such as pre-paid Visa cards or gift cards. Or if you are up for the challenge you can go cable free all together. I just switched to DirecTV which will save me $430 over the first 12 months, plus I got a $300 Costco cash card. Again, just free money waiting for you. Even if you don’t use it for travel, it’s there.
Contests- So this is an out of the box way to earn and its low costs. You may not even need to win but I label them as contests but might really just be what I call bonus opportunities. Following blogs like the points guy will let you see when programs are having contests or easy ways to earn points and miles. I sent in some 3X5 cards last year to IHG for both myself and my wife. It was time consuming and cost about $90 total but we each earned a ton of hotel points. I think she got about 48,000 points and I got 50,000. We are using her points to get a $345 hotel in San Francisco next summer. That $45 and some of my time turned into a $345 hotel. Not bad. We still have my points to use as well. Using social media is another way to earn points. Many times, a hotel will give you points for tweeting with their hashtag or linking your social media accounts to them. It’s as easy way to earn miles.
So, I really could keep going and thinking up all the ways I have earned miles, but you get the idea. It’s easy and doesn’t take much time at all for most of these. Its money you are already spending so why not earn something for it. Now the fun is trying to decide where to spend all the miles.