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One of my good friends asked me recently how I am going about earning many of my points these days since some of the old methods used heavily in 2012 and into part of 2013 don’t work quite as well anymore. I’ve always been a little conventional with how I go about earning miles and points, so losing some of the more complex or advanced methods of earning doesn’t impact me as much since I didn’t do most of them in the first place. Frankly, I’m just too busy, and don’t need to earn a jillion points per month (though I would happily accept a jillion if anyone is offering). However, I do need to earn some, so here is what I am doing…which is pretty much the same thing I have been doing for a long time now.
- Obtain and use valuable rewards credit cards. My husband and I both apply for rewards credit cards when the offers are enticing and/or the benefits the cards come with are very useful for us on our travels. We then use the cards for our everyday expenses that can range from dry cleaning to pre-school tuition to insurance bills to gas and groceries. Heck, when we got our last car we even put some of those expenses at the dealership on a credit card. We typically do not charge anything on the cards that requires an extra fee to do so, but we would consider doing that if we needed help hitting a minimum spending requirement. Even if the only thing you are doing is using a valuable rewards credit card, then you are on the right track. I think a couple of the best cards for beginning miles and points collectors to consider are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and/or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. Both offer hefty sign-up bonuses of 40,000 after hitting the spending requirements, and are pretty good for ongoing use. You can read my thoughts on why those are my favorites for beginners here.
- Pay attention to category bonuses. Once you get the hang of using rewards credit cards for everyday purchases (and make sure to pay them off!), then the next step is really maximizing the bonus categories. For example the Chase Freedom® Visa has rotating 5x category bonuses each month that sometimes include things like gas, drug stores, Amazon, restaurants, and more. Other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card, and Ink Bold® Business Card have fixed category bonuses so you can consistently earn 2x, 3x, or even 5x at different types of retailers. This may seem insignificant, but it can really add up over time.
- Use a portal when you shop online…please! I still encounter tons of people who are into miles and points, but don’t take the time to shop online through a shopping portal. Many hotels and airlines have online portals, but my favorite overall is still the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal (read this post for instructions on how to use it). If you don’t yet have a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card, then my second favorite portal is probably the United MileagePlus Shopping portal. Recently we needed to buy a generator and because I bought while Lowe’s was 5x on the Freedom, I earned 5x on Lowe’s purchases going through the Ultimate Rewards portal plus 5x from using the Freedom, I was able to earn 10x Ultimate Rewards points on the purchase. Generators aren’t cheap, so this was thousands of valuable points I earned for a purchase we were going to make anyway. We were also able to pick it up in the store, so there was no delay or shipping charges added.
- Gift cards. I do pick up different types of gift cards from time to time, and I do still utilize the Amex Bluebird to make payments for things like my monthly student loan payment, or to pay people back for things using checks from my Bluebird account. I’m small potatoes in this world, but I do still dabble in it so that I can earn a few points for things that I otherwise wouldn’t. If you really want to dive in deep with this, I would head to this Flyertalk forum for more info. At the very least, I always have Starbucks gift cards on hand that I pick up at office supply stores with my Ink Bold card so I earn 5x Ultimate Reward points.
- Travel. I am doing a pretty hefty amount of travel right now both to visit family and do some things related to this blog, so I am racking up airline and hotel points thanks to those trips. Since I have Platinum elite status with United that gives a 75% bonus on flown miles that adds up quicker than it used to. I also am very careful to make sure I register for all relevant hotel promotions so that my hotel points add up quicker on paid stays. Even if you only have a couple of hotel stays this summer, registering for hotel promos can make a difference in the perks you earn.
- Pay attention to the little stuff. I don’t do every little survey or Facebook contest that comes along offering 100 or 200 points (again, because my kid keeps me kind of busy), but I do still pay attention to the little opportunities here and there that make it easy to pick up some free miles and points along the way. If you pay attention to a few miles and points blogs you will catch at least 90% of that type of stuff without having to look for it.
Thanks to a healthy infusion for credit card sign-ups from time to time, my methods have never left me short on miles and points. Thanks largely to bonus categories and online shopping portals, I am often earning a five digit number of miles and points each month (not counting card sign-ups). When you add it all up, thanks to having a combination of fixed value points plus those that can be used for traditional awards, we are able to usually go wherever we want whenever we want. Granted, that is more often than not a domestic location, but we throw in some far away trips from time to time. I’m very interested in learning how you have adapted to the changing ways of earning miles and points….what is your current strategy? Disclosure: I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links. As always, thanks for your support!