While it is true that credit card bonuses, credit card spend, making use of card bonus spending categories and all of those crazy things in between are the backbone of my awards earnings, let me take you outside the world of plastic money, to a world that provides travel points for things you do everyday and never knew you could be rewarded for.
Every airline under the sun seems to have one of these set up, as does Amtrak if you travel on the train. A shopping portal is someplace, lets take American Airlines AAdvantage shopping portal for example, that you can click links to normal shopping websites and earn points. For instance, do you do a lot of shopping online at a favorite clothing store? Well chances are you could be getting rewarded for those purchases.
A shopping portal gives you a log in to a website that lists all of their partners. Search through and see if you find a store you normally shop at… lets take for instance an online flower delivery service. I chose flowers because they have a large margin and as such tend to give the best rewards out there. In this case, your mother’s birthday may be coming up and you wanted to send her flowers. Using the shopping portal you can earn around 15 points for every dollar spent on flowers, at no additional cost. If you spend $50 at the store, you’ve got 750 miles coming your way.
This is a great way to earn miles, you don’t spend any additional money, just get rewarded for using a referral service. Don’t go out of your way to purposefully buy things because you get points, use it on things you were already going to buy. That way you get something back in return for using the service. Also keep in mind that if you do use a rewards credit card, you are double dipping on this, points for the money spent with the card, and points for spending money through the portal… win, win, win.
Like the shopping portals, almost every major airline has a dining portal of sorts. These work slightly differently but with the same idea. These dining portals have partnered with local restaurants to reward users for eating at these places. You pick the airline portal you wish to use and register your credit cards with them. If you ever use your credit card at any participating restaurant, then you get points back. Simple, and may be a fun way to try out a new restaurant.
This is one I bring up only because you should be aware it exists, this is not usually a good idea to use unless you have a specific travel plan you are are buying for. Like the case where you have found business class to Europe and back on American Airlines award booking site, but you are 5,000 miles short. In this case, the expenditure of money to buy those miles may be worth it instead of buying an economy ticket flat out.
Be aware though, that even when airlines and companies offer bonuses to these purchases, they aren’t usually worth it to go hog wild on points thinking that you may one day use them. Points devalue over time, hanging on to them isn’t usually an ideal plan, 2 weeks from that speculative purchase, you may find that the airline has devalued your points and you bought a bunch of points that aren’t worth as much anymore. Watch out for the devalue over time, Delta has become infamous for devaluations, so much so that people in the points game have nicknamed their SkyMiles program to Sky Pesos… not a great sign for a company that may be undermining its most loyal customers.
Keep an eye out for offers all over the place. Airlines offer different bonuses all the time. There are flight bonuses that allow you to get lots of points for flying multiple times to an area, or flying in business class or first class. There are bonuses for going with different electric companies. There are even bonuses for joining online wine clubs. There are opportunities all over the place, just make sure they are worth the expenditure, and don’t buy into something that you wouldn’t normally go for if it didn’t have a bonus. In my mind, I’m looking to maintain my normal spending behavior and getting someone to reward me for it. Getting paid to buy things I need… can’t complain to much about that.