There are dozens of ways to earn miles and/or points for travel. Some of which - you've probably never heard of. Many are extremely lucrative when it comes to points.
Dining Rewards Network
The Dining Rewards Network is a completely free way to earn additional points for rewards accounts you may already have. All you have to do is sign up and register your cards. You can register each and every card (debit or credit) you have. The "catch"? You can't register the same card for more than one rewards account. Anyway, after you register your cards - all you have to do is dine at one of the thousands of restaurants on the list - you get points or miles! Simple as that. No need to tell the restaurant. No coupons to print out. Nothing. The miles/points automatically post to your account within a couple of days. The current list of Dining Rewards programs that I can find is this:
-American Airlines: With AAdvantage - you can earn up to 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar while dining at one of the participating restaurants or bars on the list. I have signed up for this one.
-Southwest: They have Rapid Rewards Dining. According to the website - you get 3 points per dollar you spend. I am not a member of this network - though I'm thinking about it.
-United: Their dining program is called Mileage Plus Dining. According to their homepage - you can get 5 points per dollar. I am not a member of this network. I don't fly United much.
-US Airways: Right now - US Airways has one - though I suspect with the merger with American - this one will soon go away. If you have points with this program - they'll turn into AAdvantage miles.
-Delta: You can dine out and enjoy extra miles with SkyMiles Dining. I'm not a member of this one either - but if you are or want to be - you can earn up to 5 miles for every dollar you spend at a qualifying restaurant.
Alaska Airlines: This is the last airline Dining Rewards program I found. This one will also earn you - at the most - 5 miles per dollar.
A couple of hotels also have dining rewards:
-IHG: This hotel - which owns several brands you're probably familiar with including Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, and the luxurious InterContinental...just to name a few. I am a member of this dining program - and I get 5 points per dollar spent at any of the restaurants on the list.
-Hilton: Hilton also has a dining rewards program. With it - you can earn up to 8 HHonors Bonus points per dollar spent. That may sound like a lot - but HHonors points aren't worth very much.
You can use pretty much any credit card with these too (for instance, it doesn't need to be an AAdvantage card to use the AAdvantage mall). I'll give you an example of how lucrative these can be: when I was buying Christmas presents - I'd look for them on stores I knew were in the Chase's Ultimate Rewards mall. On top of that - on some purchases - I used my Chase Freedom card - which gets me 5% cash back on Amazon.com and many department stores. One purchase through the mall got me 10% cash back (5% through the mall + 5% though my card)! Score!
Here are links to several shopping portals:
-Chase Ultimate Rewards
There are more out there - these are just some of them.
Possibly - the easiest way to earn travel points is through credit cards and their sign-up bonuses. There are dozens of credit card offers out there. One of my first questions was "does this negatively affect my credit score?" The short answer is, "no." The only impact it'll have is immediately after you apply. That's because the bank that issues the card and approves your application will look up your credit. For some reason - this has a temporary negative affect on your score. After about 3 months - it's gone.
The cards that I have:
-Chase Freedom: My first card. I've had it for years. No annual fee. It has 5% bonus categories that rotate throughout the year.
-Chase Sapphire Preferred: I got this last summer. $95 annual fee, waived the first year. 2% on restaurants and travel. 1% on everything else.
-Barclaycard Arrival Plus: Got this one in October. $89 annual fee, waived the first year. 2% cash back on everything.
-Hyatt Visa: It is in the mail. $75 annual fee, waived the first year. The bonus is 2 free nights at a Hyatt - anywhere in the world. I get one free night annually - which is worth the $75 annual fee.
There are people out there that have a dozen credit cards or more. I mentioned those crazies in a previous blog. For me four is a lot! I'm sweating right now just thinking about it.
Even when using these techniques - remember - even though the points are nice - it's not worth spending more than your budget can handle. Going into debt to get points or miles is not worth it. Be smart - and this is most certainly worth it.