There is the traditional and “formal” way for racking up those much coveted and valuable reward points from the various travel service providers. For your travel, that often involves spending a fortune on the premium cabin seats and flying more frequently. However, that is not always possible for every traveller.
You don’t have to spend upwards of $20,000 per year on air tickets in order to collect a reasonable amount of miles. In this article, we will reveal some of the more creative and ingenuous smart spending habits that can help you accrue a lot of miles even if you are not flying Business Class or First Class every month.
There is a good incentive to be creative and savvy about your rewards programs. Most airlines, for example, are awarding fewer and fewer points on your flight bookings so it will take a lot of travel time before you can collect some serious miles. The rewards program are consolidating thanks to mergers and alliances and a lot of airlines put in place ever shifting redemption policies that make it difficult for you to redeem your miles easily and quickly. With these challenges, you need to develop strategic spending habits that will help you make the most of these reward programs. Here some smart shopping habits that you can use in 2017 to collect as many miles as possible even if you are not a road warrior hopping from airport to airport on Business Class:-
#1 Buy Gift Cards
There are various merchants that are partners with loyalty programs such as Air Miles with whom you can rack up your miles. These are mainly the drug stores and grocery stores. Examples of these include Boston Pizza, Home Depot, McDonalds, Lotto, Old Navy, Best Buy and many others. When you shop directly with any of these retailers, you will earn generous Air Miles, typically 1 mile for every dollar spent. With some credit cards such as the AMEX Gold Rewards, you will also be able to boost your earning power with these programs.
#2 Make the Most of Double Dipping or Triple Dipping
Savvy travellers and mile collectors generally double dip or triple dip so as to maximize on their rewards. Double dipping or triple dipping simply means earning your Air Miles twice or thrice from a single purchase. This will involve a little juggling of credit cards and choosing the right portals to do your shopping. You will do this by making purchases with merchants that offer you miles in addition to the miles you earn from your credit card provider from every purchase.
Triple dipping will mostly apply when you are travelling. A typical example is booking your hotel stay via an Air Canada website which will entitle you to the miles on your credit card, bonus Air Canada miles as well as the points that you earn from your hotel at the end of your stay.
#3 Book Your Hotels via Rocketmiles and Earn Frequent Flyer Miles
Rocketmiles is a hotel booking platform where you will earn miles or points for every booking. It is ideal for those hotels that do not have a frequent flyer programs as you can still spend your money in these hotels and earn rewards which are transferable. There are bonus miles for first time sign ups as well as numerous other rewards that you can take advantage of when they appear. However, Rocketmiles might not be the best option for those hotels that already have a loyalty program such as the international hotel chains. For these, you could easily book directly via the hotel website and earn plenty of miles or book via an airline booking platform and triple dip on your travel.
#4 Micro-lend your money
Want to hit your minimum balance on your credit card without throwing away your money? Join microlending mechanisms such as Kiva.org that enable you to lend money, hit your spending limits and earn bonus miles without losing the money. Many of the microlending schemes have an incredible repayment rate so you will get your money back after a certain period of time. However, when going the microlending route, make sure that repayment period will be within the minimum time period allotted you. Generally, microlending schemes have a 90% repayment rate so you can spread some good around the world while also benefiting in the process.
#5 Use Credit Cards
Not many Canadians like using credit cards but they offer you the best path through which you can accrue plenty of miles and bonuses on purchases. As long as you are able to keep track of your spending, meet your spending limits and manage your fees and repayments, credit cards can be some of the most lucrative ways through which you can accrue miles. Just make sure you have a good credit card spending strategy that will not hurt you financially and pick the right cards for your needs. When picking a credit card or a credit card strategy, go for something that is within reach and which will meet your individual needs and leave you comfortable.
#6 Trade your loyalty points for cash backs
Cash always offers greater flexibility more than reward points or miles so if you value that, you can trade your rewards for cash back cards that offers offer you greater value per dollar spent. An example of such card is the Citi Double Cash Card where you will earn 2% in cash backs for all your regular purchases. Another lucrative card is the Rewards Visa Signature Card that also issues 2% in cash backs for all purchases. Both of these cards do not require any annual fees. You also don’t have to worry about any caps on your points accrual. If you prefer, you can automatically re-invest your cash backs in a qualifying Fidelity account.
#7 Maximize on the Sign-Up Bonuses from Credit Card Companies
Credit card sign up bonuses offer some of the most effective and lucrative ways of accruing on your points and miles. The rates vary from one credit card company to another but you will generally more significant miles when you take advantage of the sign up bonuses. However, these sign up bonuses can be a double edged sword. You will be required to meet certain spending limits and there are also the card fees to grapple with. Some credit cards also have annual fees.
Some avid points collectors engage in practice called churning that involves opening and closing credit card accounts so as to maximize on the sign up bonuses. Once you have collected you sign up bonus, you can close the account and reapply for the same card after the waiting period has elapsed. However, this is generally a short term strategy as some credit card companies will limit the second or even third time sign ups. In many cases, the sign up bonus is only likely to apply for first time applicants. Look for language such as “lifetime bonuses” to determine if the credit company puts some limits on “churning”. The waiting period before you can reapply for the same card can vary from one year to two years depending on the card company.
#8 Eat Out More Often
If you have been reading lots of personal finance blogs lately, they have probably been advising you to eat out less often. Well scrimping and miles accrual do not go in hand. There are lots of airlines that offer lucrative dining rewards that you can collect while enjoying a quality dining experience around town. Just check out the airline’s preferred network of restaurants in your town and use your co-branded credit card to pay for meals. You can do this easily by signing up online and linking your credit card to your loyalty program. Every time you pay restaurant bills using this card, you will earn loyalty points. This can vary from one restaurant to another so it is always advisable to carry out a comparison and see where you can get the best value.
Some of the popular programs that offer dining rewards include the following:-
- US Airways offers the Dividend Miles Dining program
- Delta Airlines offers the SkyMiles Dining program
- Alaska Airlines offers the Mileage Plan Dining
- Southwest offers the Rapid Rewards Dining
- American Airlines offers the AAdvantage Dining Program by Rewards Network
- Hawaiian Airlines offers the Mogl Dining Rewards
Earning dining rewards is generally a straightforward affair. Once you have signed up and linked your card to your loyalty program, you will automatically earn rewards every time you pay with your linked credit card.
#9 Use Online Rewards Comparison Tools Before Shopping
If you are determined to hack your loyalty points with every purchase, then you will want to derive maximum value every time you swipe your card. One way of doing that is by using the various miles or points comparison tools so as to determine the retailers that offer you the best rates per dollar spent. Two of the most commonly used tools are EV Reward www.evreward.com and Points Buddy. Both of these websites will evaluate and recommend the retailers that offer you the best value for every dollar spent.
#10 Subscribe to Airline and Hotel Promotions
Airlines and hotels generally run promos almost throughout the year. You can sign up for the airline newsletter and grab the latest deals when they appear. You can also follow the airlines and hotels’ social media accounts where they will occasionally post the latest promos and deals that you can use to amass lots of miles or points. Some airlines such as Southwest even offer free points when you subscribe to their newsletters.
These are some of the smart shopping tips that you can use to get the edge in the miles and points game. The world of loyalty programs is a very dynamic ones and only savvy travelers who are always on the lookout for the latest developments get to maximize on the opportunities that they present.