This is part 2 in our series on how to earn travel points for free travel. You can learn more by reading Part 1.
Hopefully by now you have signed up for a few loyalty/rewards programs and are working on meeting the spend for the bonus on your new travel credit card that I taught you about in Part 1. There are plenty of more ways you can earn travel points so that you can travel on a budget. So let’s get started with the rest of the steps.
Step 4-Sign up for Dining Programs
Travel rewards dining programs are free so why not sign up? Just like with the shopping programs many of the programs offer a sign up bonus. Once you sign up and link your credit cards (hopefully it is travel points earning card), you will automatically earn miles/points every time you use your linked credit cards at participating restaurants. From what I can tell there is one company who runs this program but you an sign up through different brands (Delta, American Airlines etc). This company is Rewards Network. Once registered they will automatically give you miles and points every time you spend money at a participating restaurant. Registration is free so what are you waiting for?
The participating airlines are: American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest, United, and US Airways. The general earning is 3 miles per dollar spent, but once you hit 10 dines you get VIP status where you earn 5 miles per dollar. And of course, you should use a mileage/point earning credit card so you get the double dip – miles from the dining program plus the miles earned on your credit card.
Learn more here.
Step 5 – Use Social Media
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.
I have earned numerous points by participating in social media campaigns from both Marriott and Club Carlson. So go like and follow those brands whose loyalty cards you signed up for in Part 1. And if you are have a particular destination I would suggest like some hotels in that area. If you get lucky you just might win some free nights like I did.
Step 6 -Travel
This one seems like a no brainier but before I was playing the points game I had no loyalty to any brand and would just stay where the best deal was. Now I will find the best deal among the brands that I am currently working to earn points with. I also find that usually one of them is offerings some sort of bonus by either booking during a certain period or even booking via their app which I factor in as value when deciding where to stay.
So how well has this worked for me? I started working to earn points about 2 years ago. I started with the Delta Amex and quickly followed that up with the Club Carlson Visa. About a year later I added the Starwood/SPG Amex. (My favorite points earning travel credit card-learn why here.) I have used these cards and these 3 cards only for the last 2 years. When I flew (3 or 4 times in 2 years) I used Delta and my Delta Amex for extra points. When I stayed somewhere it was at a Club Carlson or Starwood property. We did go on a quite a few collage visits so I did earn some travel points this way. I also signed up and got both the shopping and dining bonuses mentioned in Part 1 and did most of my Christmas shopping the last 2 years via points earning shopping sites. I also won some points for posting a photo to the Club Carlson Instagram. I other words I just lived my life and when I could I tried to earn points and stay loyal to these brands.
These efforts have enabled me to plan a dream trip for my daughters graduation. This June we will fly round trip from Knoxville, TN to Paris and visit London and Amsterdam. I was able to get this flight for a couple of hundred dollars in taxes thanks to the travel points/miles I earned with Delta. Thanks to all of the points I earned with Club Carlson and because I have their credit card I was able to stretch those points to cover 6 nights. Learn how I did so here. However, this deal is ending soon, details here. I was able to use my SPG/Starwood travel points to stay an additional night. For a total of 7 nights and airfare for $200 in taxes. The value of the items I have gotten for free for this trip is $5,688. The plane tickets alone are currently selling for $3,428.
I hope that you now see that if I can do it so can you. Sure it took 2 years but I think it is worth it as otherwise I would not be able to afford to take my daughter on this trip. Now that I have used these brands to their max with my credit card sign up bonus and the other travel point earning methods I have mentioned I am turning my focus to American Airlines and Hilton. I hope to have enough points to take another almost free trip in one year.
If you follow these steps and make an effort to be aware of when you can earn more travel points (I will even do the work for us, just like us on Facebook to keep up to date.) you too can be a master of travel points and traveling on a budget.
The Penny Pinching Globetrotter