Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Oct 20

Six Ways to Earn Points without Applying for a Credit Card

Reader Question: How can I earn miles if I don’t want to/can’t get a credit card?

While opening a credit card may be the single fastest way to accumulate a lot of points quickly, not everybody is able to do so. Thus, I wanted to provide a list of ways to earn points without having to apply with a bank (although some of these suggestions provide so few miles that you may need to apply yourself to make them worthwhile). This is certainly not a list of every possible program, but it should be a good start.

Here are the ground rules:

  • I’m leaving financial services out of this post entirely. There are a number of financial services providers that will give you points to sign up, and you can see several by clicking on the “Financial Services” category to the right.
  • I’m going for “low-commitment” options that you can do near or from your home. By “low commitment,” I mean that you won’t have to sign any contracts, change your cable provider, etc. These options are generally “one-time use.” I’m also excluding other forms of travel that convert points to miles (hotels, rental cars, etc.)
  • You won’t be applying for any credit cards, but you may need a source to make online payments for some of the activities.

Shopping/Dining

Everyday activities may be the single best way to earn miles. It’s easy and requires no thought. Best of all, you won’t be spending money that you wouldn’t have spent otherwise (You’re not letting the tail wag the dog, right?). And you don’t need a mileage earning credit card to do it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 5.25.01 PMEvery airline has (and many hotel companies) have shopping portals on their site (All the sites can be found through that link.). They’ll give you X miles per dollar that you spend through their link. For example, American Airlines is currently offering three miles per dollar spent at Macy’s, so a $100 purchase would get you 300 American miles credited to your account. The link will take you to the same Macy’s page that you would go to on your own, but the store gives AA a commission for routing you. They share that commission with you in the form of miles. Don’t want miles? You can also get cash rebates for online shopping.

It works slightly different with the Dining for Miles programs. You link your frequent flyer account to one of your credit cards and, each time you eat at a participating restaurant and use that card, you will get miles based on how much you spend. Note: Each card can only be attached to one program, so be sure to keep track of which card goes with which program.

Technically, buying flowers would be a part of shopping, but it really deserves its own category due to its profitability (for you, that is). Online flower companies usually work with local florists, so when you are ordering from 1-800-Flowers, for instance, they are usually conveying your order and taking a (large) commission. Since the orders are so lucrative for them, they’ll make it worth your while,, generally offering 15-25 miles per dollar spent. Bonuses are even higher around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. Each airline has its own links to different flower companies, so check them all. Note: Quality varies, since you are not a particularly profitable customer for the local florist.

Online Activities

You don’t have to leave your home to do these. Heck, if you have a laptop, you don’t even need to leave your bed. You won’t get a ton of points quickly, but you can also do these while watching TV.

I’ve discussed doing surveys for miles before and, frankly, they’re a bit of a pain. They’re generally not very interesting and take a while to add up, but the “mental commitment” aspect is virtually zero, so as long as you’re willing to answer a bunch of odd questions, you should be good. I’m not going to rehash the previous post, but I would say that e-Miles and e-rewards offer the best combination of time and rewards. Each airline will offer different companies at the “Earn Miles” portions of their websites.

Microsoft has been extraordinarily successful with Windows and the Xbox. And outside of those creations, it has been extraordinarily successful at creating lousy products with weird names (Zune, anyone?). Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, falls into that category. It has gained market share mostly by buying it (including a previous program that allowed you to earn prizes by answering questions that required you to search online; the easiest way to do it was to open a second window and use google) or offering prizes to use it. Bing Rewards is one of those. It comes with virtually no instructions, so here’s what you do: Download the toolbar or launch the app and use it to search. You’ll get points for points for each search that you do, up to the daily limit. How such a smart company could make such a user-unfriendly product, however, is beyond me.

Airline-specific Bonuses

Every once in a while, an airline will throw its own promo for a few free points. You’ll have to keep your eye out for them, but they’re always free and easy. For instance, JetBlue offers “badges” which give you bonuses based on everything from the number of flights that you’ve taken to where you’ve visited. But you can also get badges, and free points, for things such as linking your Facebook account or visiting the site a certain number of times. Right now, the big trend seems to be password updates, as hotel companies will give you points to update your password, after having suffered through several hacks over the past year. Starwood is the most recent.

The best of the badges

The best of the badges

Bottom line: There are several ways that you can accumulate points without getting on a plane. Be sure to take advantage of all of them.

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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!

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