This is the 4th post on how to accumulate and spend miles and points effectively. See previous posts for more info:Step 1: Acquiring Points and Miles – Laying the Foundation Step 2: Acquiring Points and Miles – Setting Up Step 3: Acquiring Points and Miles – Staying Organized Step 4: Acquiring Points and Miles – Accumulating
Up until now, we have seen how to setup and stay organized. Now comes the good part! How do you accumulate enough for free travel? The obvious fact is to fly on the airline. However, unless you’re a frequent business traveler, gain top tier status and/or fly premium cabins this is probably just a drop in the bucket. Hotel stays are the same. Accumulating points by following this method normally only provides free hotel stays after a high number of stays or spend. So what’s left? A lot!
Here are a number of ways to accumulate points quickly:
1. Credit Cards
Getting the right credit cards from the airline or hotel alliance (or those who transfer from other programs to them) will help boost your mileage/point balance. Normally they come with sign-up bonuses. If company policy allows you to use your credit card for expenses and reimburses you, maximize that perk! Put all of your personal expenses on your credit cards (unless there’s a transaction fee associated with it) and pay them off each month. Avoid using cash unless you have to.
A few caveats:
1) Always pay your credit cards in full to avoid interest charges which would void the benefit of the accumulated points and miles
2) Your credit is very important so protect it by applying and only charging what you can afford
3) We have to differentiate and say that readers in the US are spoiled with the amount of bonuses and credit cards they have the opportunity to get. For the rest of the world, there are slimmer pickings. However, we will analyze these options more in detail in future posts.
2. Online Shopping Portals
Many programs (airline, hotel and credit cards) have Online Shopping Portals that allow you to multiply the amount of miles/points (can be as little as 2x and up to 35x or more per dollar spent) for spending at the exact same online stores you would normally go to anyway. Plus if you use an airline or reward credit card you can double dip and get additional miles/points for your purchase. Although these are more US oriented, many items can be purchased internationally and some have international portals. Some popular portals:
Air Canada Aeroplan Store: https://www3.aeroplan.com/estore/
American Aadvantage Eshopping: https://www.aadvantageeshopping.com/
Delta Skymiles Shopping: http://www.skymilesshopping.com/
Hawaiian Airlines EMarket: http://emarket.hawaiianair.com/
Hilton HHonors Shop To Earn: http://shoptoearn.hhonors.com/loyrewards/earnmall/us/earnmallhome
United MileagePlus Shopping: https://www.mileageplusshopping.com/
US Airways Dividend Miles Storefront: https://www.dividendmilesstorefront.com/
3. Airline and Hotel Newsletters
Many of the emails that are sent out contain bonus offers for flying certain routes or staying a number of times, etc. Signing up for these bonuses and others can make a huge difference.
Here’s an example: I stayed 4 nights in the Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium last July for 4 nights and spent $762.60. They are part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).
If I had signed up for the IHG program and stayed, I would have only received 7,626 points (10x/$ basic membership).
By spending 5 minutes, registering for a few bonus opportunities and being platinum elite, my total haul was 29,565 points. On top of that, I paid with my IHG Rewards credit card giving me another 3,813 points (5x/$) for a total of 33,378 points for one 4 night stay.
What can I get for 33,378 IHG points? IHG puts out a points break list every 60 days that has worldwide properties at 5,000 points per night. At times there are hotels that cost $300+ per night (Fiji was one of them recently) so I could potentially redeem those 33,378 points for almost 7 nights – saving about $3,500!
4. Travel Blogs and Forums
There are many blogs (GlobetrotterHQ.com of course!) and forums like Milepoint.com and Flyertalk.com that have a wealth of knowledge and tips. Sign up to my twitter feed and rss feed to stay up to date with any breaking deals that happen.
5. Attain Elite Status
By reaching mid or top tier status in programs, your miles and points begin to multiply as you stay loyal to those programs. For example, as a United Premier 1K, I earn double miles on all United flights and qualifying flights on partner airlines. You can also get better customer service and possible upgrades. One additional benefit is that you can then leverage it to match your status to other chains or airlines.
If you are a US resident, you should sign up for a participating program in the Rewards Network. It is a free program that allows you to add 1000’s of miles and points by eating out at restaurants. There are normally anywhere from 500 to 3000 miles just for signing up and dining once or twice. http://www.rewardsnetwork.com/
7. Airline/Hotel Website – Earn Miles/Points Section
Most airline and hotel websites will have a section dedicated to partners that help you earn miles. You should browse through that section and see if purchasing any product or service makes sense or is something you need and can take advantage of while the promotion is ongoing. Many partner with financial, insurance, hotel/car, telecom, shopping and lifestyle companies.
8. Mileage runs
Put simply, taking a flight for the sole purpose of earning miles… It sounds crazy but there are situations where this makes sense. We will cover this more in detail in a future post. Mattress run is the same but for hotels and will be explained.
These are some of the most common ways to earn miles and points but is not exhaustive by any means. Do you have any methods you use to quickly accumulate miles and points? Let me know in the comments section below.
Thanks for the overview of the accumulating miles/points. I am new to the whole miles/points world, but I have been trying hard to utilize all the options you have listed. One way, though not ‘recommended’ per se, that I can think of to maximize miles/points accumulation is to know your rights when something goes bad with your travel plans. It seems that if you complain about legitimate service issues, airlines/hotels will compensate you for your time. Recently, Delta did not correctly post EQMs for my flights, despite me sending them photocopies of the tickets and multiple email/phone exchanges. After 3 weeks and literally hours wasted over the phone/email talking to the agents to correct the issue, I contacted Delta CS, and they offered me 5000 miles for my time. The conversation with the CS was surprisingly pleasant and easy – I just told them my experience with incorrect EQM posting, and without even asking, they offered me the bonus miles. 🙂
There is nothing wrong with contacting the airline, hotel or car rental CS as long as it is a legitimate complain. I’ve found that explaining the situation in a calm manner as you did seems to work and at times you get compensated for the problems or issues. Although I also make it a point to give praise when it is due. Nobody likes a constant complainer 🙂