People may think I’m crazy for my obsession with collecting miles and points, but the hobby I’ve developed has allowed us to travel to many places that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. I am not as dedicated as many of the miles and points enthusiasts, and don’t take advantage of as many opportunities to earn miles as I would like to, but none the less, the miles I have collected have allowed for some amazing experiences.
The easiest way to earn miles is by opening an airline/hotel/etc. branded credit card with a sign on bonus. There are so many cards to choose from and so many different promotions going on at any given time, that it can be hard to keep track of them all, so I follow a few different bloggers to get the latest news. My favorites are Million Mile Secrets, Mommy Points and The Points Guy–check them out to see the many ways to earn miles and points and be on your way to your next vacation in no time!
Despite what many people think, opening numerous credit cards does not have to hurt your credit. If you pay attention to your credit score, open cards strategically, and pay off your balances in full each month, you can make out quite nicely with some free/very cheap travel. Like I said before, check out the blogs I referenced above to find out more details about the best way to do this. Even if you don’t want to or can’t open credit cards, there are some great point earning opportunities that you can still take advantage of. People always ask us how we are able to travel as much as we do–if you plan strategically and think about the purchases you make, you can boost your mileage balances easier and quicker than you think. Here are some of the ways we have earned our miles recently:
- 1 Free Night at Marriott 1-4 Category Hotel: 2012 Summer Promotion Free Night – Category 1-4 hotels: After every 2 paid stays during a specified time this summer, you received one free night in a category 1-4 hotel. I stayed at the Renaissance Orlando Sea World when I went to Orlando to meet a friend from back home. The other stay we completed was at the Courtyard Minneapolis St. Paul/Roseville in MN. We went back to MN, as Micah and I were both in our close friend’s wedding–this promo work out well because our friends had reserved a block of rooms at a Marriott brand hotel that was participating in the promotion. Because of these two stays, we earned one free night!
- 51,000 Club Carlson Points Each = 102,000 Total: BOGO Promotion Radisson Hotels: This summer, Club Carlson was offering a great BOGO promo offer–basically, what this entailed was registering for the promotion online and completing one stay before the promo end date. Once you completed your stay, you received enough points in your account for a free night at a Club Carlson property, and depending on the property, you could make the points stretch out for multiple nights–this promotion was valid for Radisson, Country Inn and Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza, but each required a separate registration. A stay at a Radisson branded hotel earned you 50,000 points, plus an extra 1,000 points for booking through the clubcarlson.com website. This summer Micah and I spent a weekend in Orlando and stayed at the Radisson Hotel Orlando – Lake Buena Vista. We booked a total of 2 nights, one night under each of our names because the promotion was only valid for the first night stay under each Club Carlson account.
- 45,000 Club Carlson Points Each = 90,000 Total: BOGO Promotion Country Inn and Suites Hotels: The Country Inn and Suites branded hotels earned you 44,000 points for your stay, plus an additional 1,00o for booking online. We also went to St. Augustine this summer (read about our 36 hours in the oldest city in America). One of our nights there was spent at the Country Inn & Suites, St. Augustine Downtown Historic District hotel. The other night was spent when Micah had to drive back to MN this summer to photograph a couple of weddings–he stayed at a Country Inn and Suites in Dalton, GA.
- 51,000 Club Carlson Points: BOGO Promotion Park Plaza Hotels: When this part of the promotion was announced a month or so after the other hotel brands, I was pretty excited to learn that one of the few Park Plaza hotels in the US was in Bloomington, MN, and the promotion was actually valid during our trip back to MN. So, the last stay we completed towards the Club Carlson promotion was at the Park Plaza Bloomington when we were in MN for our friends wedding. We figured we might as well stay in two different hotels so we could take advantage of both the Club Carlson and the Marriott promotions. Because of all these points, we have a few fun trips in the works!
- 4,000 Club Carlson Points Each = 8,000 Total: Club Carlson Global Getaway Promotion: This is another Club Carlson promotion we took advantage of recently. Again, you had to register for the promotion, but no stays were required and you didn’t have to spend any money. This promotion consisted of logging into your account on the Global Getaway website and flipping through a look-book. The promotion ran for 42 days, and every day you needed to flip through the book; by doing this you would earn 100 points. Even though I missed a couple of days, we still ended up earning a total of 8,000 points. It did get a little annoying logging into the site every day for over a month, but it seriously took less than two minutes to flip through the books under both of our accounts, and I was not going to pass up this opportunity, as free nights at Club Carlson properties start at 9,000 points.
- 500 United Mileage Plus Miles Each = 1,000 Total: Mileage Plus Mobile Offer: This promotion requires you to register your phone to receive text messages targeting you with offers based on your spending. I don’t like giving out my phone number for texts like this, but you can cancel and stop receiving the messages after the points post, in approximately 6-8 weeks. There is still some time left to register for this promotion as it ends on October 21, 2012–The Points Guy does a good job of explaining this promotion here if you want to take a look.
- 750 United Mileage Plus Miles: MyPoints Registration Bonus: This offer is just for signing up for a My Points account and keeping an active membership for 30 days. Here is the link if you want to register.
- 1,000 United Mileage Plus Miles Each = 2,000 Total: Mileage Plus Dining Rewards: By signing up for a rewards dining program, you can earn a decent amount of miles for just going out to dinner. In our area, it can be a challenge to find participating restaurants that we like to eat at, but there are some good choices. We wouldn’t go out of our way to eat at a specific restaurant just to earn the regular dining miles, but we do make an effort to find a restaurant we like out of the group to go for the registration bonus. You have to register a credit or debit card with your account, dine at a participating restaurant (usually within 30 days) and then write a review of the restaurant. There are many airlines that participate in their own version of this type of program and they almost always offer a registration bonus. We have participated in the American Airlines and Delta versions in the past, but you can only have a card registered in one program at a time. One of my favorite things about this promotion is it is nice to see bonus miles post when you go to a restaurant that you didn’t realize was a partner of the program.
- 550,000 + Airline Miles Combined and 1 Marriott Free Night Certificate: Credit Card Sign On Bonuses: For the past couple years we have been churning credit cards (it’s not bad like it sounds, I promise!) for sign on bonus miles, but the 550,000 miles is a combination of the total miles we received in the last year or so. We don’t sign up for as many cards as real churning enthusiasts do, but 2-3 times per year we have been signing up for 1-3 cards at a time. Currently, we have taken a break from churning cards as we are thinking about possibly buying a house in the next 1-2 years, so we want to make sure there aren’t too many credit inquiries on our credit reports. It is better to be safe than sorry when thinking about applying for a large loan, but if you don’t have any large purchases coming up, churning really doesn’t affect your credit score if you pay attention to what you are doing and pay off your balances in full every month. We may jump back into the game soon, we may not–once we figure out a tentative plan for the future we will have a better idea if we can start churning cards again. There are already many on my list that I want to apply for…it’s so hard to resist! But because we already have more than enough miles to carry us through all of next year’s travels, and then some, it’s a good time for us to take a break.
- Regular Credit Card Spending and Category Bonuses: By using your credit cards, you can earn so many miles, especially if you plan it out to fall in line with category bonuses. Some cards will offer 5x points for grocery store, entertainment or gas purchases, but the list is long and varies between different cards. If you plan which cards you are going to use for which purchase (you are already going to make anyways), you can really boost your mile balances. Another example of this is when using a branded credit card for a purchase at that specific brand–you usually get an extra bonus, so it is worth it to use that card. Recently, I have done this at Marriott and not only earned regular miles (10 points per $1) for my stay and credit towards my promotion for a free night, I also received an extra 5 points per $1 that I spent at any Marriott property, meaning I essentially earned 15 points for every $1 spent on hotel rooms–not bad.
- Airline Shopping Portals: Shopping portals offer promotions similar to a credit card bonus, such as 10 points per $1, or 5 points per $1 spent on specific online purchases. The only requirement is that you click into a website through the link provided on the portal website. For example, if you were going to buy a Groupon, instead of going to Groupon.com, go to Mileageplusshopping.com and click through to the Groupon website. It is one quick extra step for you, but you will earn extra miles just by doing this. It can all add up pretty fast! We have earned many miles by using specific credit cards and by utilizing shopping portals.
My point is that it is fairly easy to earn miles that can be used for free or very cheap travel. I hope to share with you our experiences earning and redeeming miles so you can all see how easy and attainable it is. We have some exciting trips planned for the near future. Stay tuned next week for some ways we are putting these miles to use!