Rack Up Travel Rewards Without Going Crazy With Credit Cards

Everyone who signs up for airlines’ frequent flyer programs dreams of cashing in their miles for amazing vacations. Credit card companies are counting on you being so enamored with that vision that you’ll relax your spending discipline in pursuit of the goal.

Carrie at Careful Cents explains her common-sense methods for earning hotel rewards and frequent flyer miles without participating in credit cards’ reindeer games.

She recommends finding a discount travel site with a free program that lets you earn rewards by booking your flights and rooms through it. In order to avoid overpaying, it’s best to use alternatives to research prices before you commit.

She also advises using airlines’ own rewards programs and sticking with them to build up your miles. Sometimes airlines will make deals with travel sites that let you double up on rewards if you buy your flights through the sites.

Earn Travel Rewards and Points Without a Credit Card [Careful Cents]

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  1. rlmiller007 says:

    My Bof A DEBIT card gives me miles. Yes, DEBIT. Not a credit card and “no” I don’t have a credit card with them.

    • pop top says:

      What kind of card is it again?

    • Cat says:

      But, then I would have to do business with BofA…

    • kayfouroh says:

      I just closed my BoA checking account last weekend — my debit card of 5+ years never gave me any miles. Which account was this?

    • LSGator says:

      I’m surprised that hasn’t been taken away. I have banked with Citibank for nearly 10 years, getting AAdvantage miles from my debit card purchases. Because of the legislated limit on debit card transaction fees, that sadly went away at the beginning of December.

  2. Dryfus Ranon says:

    Running all my recurring charges thru Airline CC and am getting close to 1 round trip ticket per month.

  3. John says:

    American Dining (formerly iDine) is wonderful. If you randomly happen to eat at one of their participating restaurants, you get miles. Even if you don’t get a lot (although I got 4000 this year), it keeps your American miles alive because that is considered ‘account activity’. And its free.

  4. arsenicookie says:

    I just started the “put everything on my credit card and pay it off at the end of the month” thing. So far so good :)

  5. VA_White says:

    USAA rescinded their debit rewards program so we’ve swapped to using USAA credit card for everything we used to swipe debit for. I manage the debt aspect by transferring money to the credit card every few days, as soon as my card shows a balance due. We’ve been doing this since the end of debit rewards and it’s working quite well. But I don’t use our credit card to buy things I wouldn’t otherwise have bought with debit card. I don’t like to carry debt.

  6. livingthedreamrtw says:

    I bought a ticket once for a pretty long flight (~12,000 miles total roundtrip). My points were doubled from a promotion that was running. A short flight flight later and I had a frequent flier reward ticket. The ticket I got for free was $670 and the price of my tickets I spent to get that was around $1400. Nearly 50% return. Woo!

  7. sirwired says:

    I’m a little fuzzy as to why people go crazy over airline miles cards. The miles are rarely worth over once cent, which is the CASH back you can get with any number of rewards cards.

  8. moniker says:

    Also please remember that reward cards are the worst possible way to pay for something. The rewards are not free and in the long run these cards raise the price of goods for everyone.

    Merchant fees on reward cards are significantly higher than non reward cards. That’s how they pay for the rewards. This increases the merchant’s cost and thus the customer’s price on everything. For everyone.

    The “free” rewards are the trick they use to get you to use the card.

    • frank64 says:

      You are right, the rewards game is us getting a cut for sticking it to the merchants, and indirectly consumers. Not a good game, but we are forced to play it, so I use rewards. Otherwise the higher prices we have to pay will only benefit the ones who use reward cards. Might as well not pay more and get nothing.

      The rewards should be paid for by the banks, or an opt in for merchants that offers rewards in exchange for higher fees if they want to use it as marketing.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Yes, but you are going to pay the higher prices anyways so you might as well get the rewards.