How We’re Earning Miles and Points These Days

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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!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. If you have the grandfathered-in version of the Chase Exclusives (1%+10% dividend + 10 pts/swipe), AND if you’re only buying a regular coffee (i.e. under $2 a cup) at Starbucks, then the Freedom is actually a better deal than buying Starbucks GCs with Ink. Just an FYI to save unnecessary trips to office supply stores.

  2. I do all of the above currently, except m/s and flying. No m/s , partially because we live in a rural area with limited options for this activity and because I am too lazy to mess with it. No mileage earning through flying, because we travel occasionally and I currently have enough for few years worth of vacations, while steadily replenishing through new credit card sign ups. I think your suggestion on CSP or Barclay’s Arrival for beginners is spot on. Those are the ones, I recommend as well. I would have to give a slight edge to Arrival, because it’s a limited offer, assuming the person will get another card later. Otherwise, CSP is superior. One thing is clear: the glory days of 2011 and 100000 miles offers are gone, probably for good.

  3. Some of us actually go after jillions of miles. After using the globe as my own personal checker board for 129 countries I now outsource and send groups of scouts in my place which requires 8-10 times the miles intake as before. My SO also is a member of the world travel of the month club so our inventory is constantly having to be replenished. There are all kinds of levels to playing this crazy game.

  4. @Ben L – Chase Exclusives program has changed. No longer 10 points per swipe, its 10% of points earned. Even if you were grandfathered in before, it has changed for everyone now.

  5. @MP, you can easily buy Starbucks gift cards on Ebay for around 15-20% off, bundle that with Ebay gift cards from grocery stores or office supply stores and you can do pretty well.

  6. Shopping portals are OK as long as you dont miss some coupons out there. These airline portals restrict usage of common coupons ( Say Sierra Trading Post ). What I do is check if the coupon is allowed and if not, then calculate my savings using other websites vs points earned.

  7. Are you using Bluebird to pay car or mortgage? I’ve been reluctant to give it a whirl but it sure would help with the minimum spends in my world.

    • LMo, I do use it for my student loan and a few other bills per month, but reloads w cc’s are quite scarce around here, so I just don’t have the time to do too much MS.

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