5 Easy Ways to Maximize Your Points, Miles & Cashback
Getting into miles and points can be extremely overwhelming. But if you’re new to this world, there are a few easy habits that will help you build your miles and points and even get cashback without requiring you to take mileage runs, spend hours researching, or signing up for dozens of credit cards.
1. Sign up for every loyalty program.
Even if you’re only staying at a chain or flying an airline once, it’s worth it to sign up for their free loyalty program. It only takes a few minutes and you never know when you’ll be back, as I discovered on a recent stay at the Omni Amelia Island and when considering the Best Western in Napa. If you’re worried about how to keep track of them all, there’s some great free sites that help you easily manage all that information (see #4).
2. Sign up for every free rewards program on travel sites. (And when prices are equal, book through them rather than the airline or a site without the loyalty program.)
Getting 1% back (or less) may not seem like a lot, but it all adds up! I’ve now had several free hotel stays through Orbitz rewards and one discounted stay through the gutted Expedia rewards program, both of which I prefer to Travelocity which has no program.
And for non-chain stays, sites like Hotels.com and Venere.com offer cashback or points towards free nights when booking through their sites.
3. Pick a few cashback portals and check them before any online purchase.
Jeanne has written in more detail about how this works but basically, if you’re making a purchase online, chances are you can be getting cashback or miles just by going through a shopping portal first.
Tip: Don’t overwhelm yourself by signing up for all the cashback sites — just pick a few that have good returns on your favorite sites. I tend to use Ebates, Mr. Rebates, and TopCashback.com the most often, though I also use FatWallet and BeFrugal for a few stores. (Disclaimer: I might receive referral credit if you sign up using my links above.)
There are many portal comparison sites to choose from and Frequent Miler does a good job of running through the pros and cons of each.
4. Enter your info into a tracking site that lets you manage all your accounts from one location.
Award Wallet and Using Miles allow you to store all your frequent flyer and loyalty program in one location, making it easy to look up your membership number, see when points are expiring, etc. I find this invaluable, particularly for those obscure award programs I signed up for years ago and can’t remember if I have an account.
They’ll even prompt you to register for hotel and airline promos. Best of all, both offer free basic membership.
5. Whenever it’s feasible use a points/miles/cashback earning card — debit or credit — instead of cash.
Using your credit card for a $1 purchase at McDonald’s might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up. Say you make 200 such purchases in a year, you’re now 200 or more miles/points/cents richer. And many cards offer bonuses for purchases within specific categories, like travel, grocery, or gas.
Note: This is useful only if you do not carry a credit card balance.
I think the most useful advice I can offer is not to overwhelm yourself or turn this into a chore. If doing all five is overwhelming, just pick a few or even just one! Just make sure you’re doing something to capitalize on all the free points and cashback out there. 🙂
Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!