Best Ways to Earn Travel Points

There are tons of ways to earn points and miles, from getting the right credit cards to tweeting an airline or hotel -- The Points Guy's shares his top tips.
Top ways to earn miles and points, tips from The Points Guy, Brian Kelly

Top ways to earn miles and points, tips from The Points Guy, Brian Kelly

Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

It’s been a long time since the most lucrative ways to earn travel points and miles was through flying and staying in hotels. In fact, I fly close to 200,000 miles a year and spend well over 100 nights in hotels, but the majority of my points and miles come from non-travel sources. The same can be true for any budget-conscious traveler, and it’s easier than you may think. There are myriad ways to earn points and miles these days, from getting the right credit cards to tweeting an airline or hotel -- here are some of the best ways you can easily start to accrue miles and points and miles yourself. 

1. Get the Right Credit Cards. 
Credit cards are the single most lucrative source of points and miles out there. Credit cards are offering huge signup bonuses of up to 100,000 points or miles, just as the Amex Platinum Card or the British Airways Visa have done in the past year. 

Many credit cards also offer great ways to rack up bonus points with your everyday spending by creating bonus spending categories where you can earn multiple points per dollar, such as the 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn per dollar at office stores and on phone, cable and internet bills with the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, or 2 points per dollar on dining and travel with the Sapphire Preferred

Some credit cards also offer calendar year spending bonuses, such as the Amex Premier Rewards Gold, which gives you a 15,000-point bonus when you spend $30,000 or more in a calendar year, essentially giving you a 50% points boost. Bottom-line: When it comes to credit cards, it really pays to know where the spending power and benefits of yours lie. 

2. When Shopping, Skip the Cash. 
The way I see it, every time you pay for something in cash, you are throwing away points. If you are financially responsible, you should be charging every single dollar of your normal expenses possible on a points-earning credit card, and these days, you can put almost everything on a credit card, including your phone, utilities, gas, groceries, dining and sometimes even rent, though, in this last case, watch out for processing fees. 

Apart from bills, many airlines and hotels, such as American, Delta and Southwest, also offer online shopping portals with bonus offers at various merchants where you can earn multiple points or miles per $1 you spend there. Simply click through to the retailer of your choice -- everything from Target to Nordstrom -- and make your purchase from that retailer’s website as usual. 

3. Dine Out for Big Rewards. 
Several airlines, including United and US Airways, also have dining rewards networks that you sign up for online and register a credit card with so that every time you use it at a participating restaurant (and there are hundreds in most big cities) you will earn anywhere from 2 to 5 miles per dollar depending on how often you dine. Those thousands of dollars you spend each month will add up to a trip faster than you think. 

4. Tweet Your Way to a Trip. 
Some of the most enthusiastic adopters of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the airlines and hotels themselves. There are always bonuses and promotions being offered through these media -- anywhere from earning a few extra miles for liking a Facebook post, to entering contests with prizes of thousands of points on Instagram, and everything in between. 

Not only that, but airlines such as American and Southwest, regularly offer thousands of bonus miles for signing up for their various newsletters (a few annoying emails is worth it, in my opinion!), and from time to time, airlines like Delta and hotels like Starwood offer travelers who download their Smartphone apps thousands of extra points for using them to do anything from check in for a flight like Delta has, to tagging their location on Foursquare during their stay, like Starwood offered last year. 

Everywhere you look, there are bonus miles and points just waiting to be earned, whether it’s by going about your everyday shopping or simply reading an email. Once you start to take advantage of them, you’ll be earning the points you need to get where you want in no time.

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