I’m often asked how I manage to collect enough travel reward points to fly a family of 4, for next to nothing, on a regular basis. It’s no secret that I have been collecting travel reward points strategically for more than 10 years. Over that period of time, a lot has changed when it comes to collecting and managing travel reward points.
Gone are the days where you could sign up for a rewards credit card, collect the reward points, and then cancel the card, wait a week or two and repeat the process all over again. Credit card companies and loyalty reward programs have wised up to these (totally legal) travel hacks.
Collecting enough points to trade them in for a few airline tickets seems like some fancy unicorn magic. However, there are still some great ways to boost your collection efforts using a little strategy.
I’ve picked up a few tips for collecting travel reward points over the years and I’m sharing them with you right here. Anybody who is serious about collecting travel rewards will tell you, there’s a method to the obsession.
When it comes to maximizing points earned, I must confess, I have tried several different methods. Some were a goldmine of points and others were not. Here are my top 5 strategic tips for collecting travel reward points.
Do you have any great strategies for collecting travel reward miles?
Please leave a comment below and share your secret!
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1. Sign-up for a rewards credit card that works well with any existing loyalty program you may already be enrolled in.
Using both a rewards card together with a credit card from the same loyalty program will provide one of the fastest ways to accumulate points in a short period of time. When used together, the points add up very quickly. Often the credit card will reward on the dollar amount spent. While the points card will reward you for purchasing through one of their partners. I will often visit vendors who accept the Airmiles loyalty card and pay for my transaction with an Airmiles American Express credit card. This is one of my favorite ways to rack up the points and start exploring sooner.
2. Subscribe to your loyalty program's newsletter.
Every rewards program will have a website or app. that you can use. Find out what it is and create a profile and user account. Sign up for alerts via email or text, whatever your preference is. This will ensure you receive any special offers as soon as they are available.
Once you have created a profile and set your preferences, you can begin to receive special reward offers. In most cases, the more active you are with the program, the more reward opportunities you will receive. Be aware that you are sacrificing some of your spending privacy here. To be very blunt, they will be tracking your spending habits. This can work in your favour. Many bonuses will be tailored to your spending habits and if you manipulate them correctly, you will benefit by collecting extra points.
3. Use your rewards credit card to pay for every possible thing you can get away with.
Be vigilant and use your rewards card at every opportunity. The best way to accumulate points is to use your card to pay for everyday purchases like groceries and gas. Often the rewards programs will run campaigns with their retail partners. These campaigns can net you additional points that aren’t always available to everyone else.
4. If your loyalty card offers it, utilize their online shopping portal at every opportunity.
Utilizing the loyalty reward’s online shopping portal will often snag you additional points and special discounts. Over the course of a 3-week Christmas shopping season, I accumulated over 3,000 airmiles points! It is well worth the additional work to sign in to their portal and shop. In many cases you will have to sign in through the points portal, then sign in to the retailer. Make sure you read the fine print. If you close a browser and reopen it without going through all the proper log-in steps, your purchase may not be eligible for points.
5. The biggest travel reward points almost always come in the form of credit card sign up bonuses.
In Canada, we don’t get quite the same offers as our American neighbours, but we do have access to some great credit card sign-up bonuses. It is very important to read, understand and follow the rules laid out by the credit card company to get your bonus points.
In many cases, you will be required to fulfill a minimum spending requirement, within a time frame before points are awarded. If you follow tip #3 above, you shouldn’t have any problem reaching the minimum threshold. It is very important to always pay your credit card purchases off, each and every month. I can not stress this enough. Carrying a balance negates the purpose of collecting points. If you are not able to pay your monthly balance in full, it is not worthwhile to use credit cards to earn points.
Serious point collectors will apply for and utilize several credit cards, just to get the sign-up bonus. I have done it myself and it does work well. It’s not for everyone though and you need to consider a few things, most importantly your credit rating. Every time you apply for a credit card, an inquiry is placed on your credit status. Having too many inquiries at once will send red flags and you could get denied, so use caution. I apply for one card at a time with a 2-3 week wait period in between credit card applications.
It is important to keep track of and regularly check your credit status. Use a free site like Credit Karma and find out where your credit stands.
Once you fulfill the requirements and collect your points, get strategic about when you will cancel you card. Do not cancel all of the cards at once. It’s better to keep at least half of them active. Your goal is to increase your credit status, this is done over time. Once you have a credit card and you pay it on time, your credit rating will increase, showing that you are a responsible card holder.