The internet is a very, very competitive place. As access to the world grows, companies have to work harder and harder to earn your business. There are the obvious routes- if I have a United card, I may be more likely to fly with them if all else is equal, because they throw in priority boarding and one free checked bag. If I have an SPG card and Hilton has a slightly better price for my vacation, I may still book at the St. Regis so I can cash in some of the perks my card relationship affords me.
However, there are also ways you can earn miles without having an official relationship with an organization. One of my absolute favorites is the JetBlue/Amazon partnership. By stopping at JetBlue’s site first on the way to Amazon, you get an amazing 3 points back per dollar spent at Amazon. Outside of the Chase Amazon Prime Visa, Amazon is a very difficult place to earn any sort of returns.
All you have to do is to create a free JetBlue frequent flyer account, and then replace the bookmark URL you have with this one for Amazon. I think its a universal URL and I get no bonus for sending you there- that’s the one I hijacked from my own browser. That’s it. You sign in with JetBlue from that link and it redirects you immediately to Amazon. The points seem to take exactly a month to post (I just started getting mine) and I have no idea when I’ll use them, but they’re free! Everyone loves free. Do it.
I’ve also started using the MileagePlusX App, where you buy a digital gift card to cover your purchase, and you get a varying amount of points depending on the relationship the company has with United. Around Christmas we got 10X at Old Navy, and it takes about 15 seconds to get the gift card, charging to whatever card you have associated with the account. So for a $100 purchase, we got 1,000 points just for taking 15 seconds to type the total in and show the cashier the digital gift card. I’ve never had a problem processing a transaction, purchasing from Home Depot, Nike, Domino’s Pizza, Marshall’s, and countless others. You just need a United MileagePlus account and a smartphone!
Most airlines and hotels have a shopping portal, and you can also earn points just by starting there when you’re logged into their rewards program. I primarily use my Chase shopping portal (screenshot below), since to me their points are the most valuable, but if you’re loyal to American Airlines and just want to load up there, you can just go to AAdvantage Shopping and shop til you drop. Virtually all major carriers have their own portal, and the bonuses vary among partners, so pick a favorite and have at it. Admittedly, it’s easy to forget to ‘start’ at a different website and you won’t get credit for things already in your cart- so if you have a big purchase and want the points, you’ll have to empty your cart and restart your shopping trip from the portal.
Many air carriers also have dining programs, where you get points for dining with an associated credit card. Your trip at said restaurant is exactly the same as it would be, since it’s linked to your card they’re automatically applied a few days after the visit. I have taken advantage of signup bonuses on both the United and American dining programs, where they give you 1500 points for your first dine over $25 and 500 for the next three (and you only have to spend $1 on those) within the first month of joining the dining program. There aren’t a ton of places to go, but maybe one of them is already a normal spot for you anyway- take the free points! I use it as an excuse to try new spots in my neighborhood when Jennifer and I can’t settle on something.
Social media can also help with a quick boost. If you follow Marriott on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram you can get 500 points for each you link your account. Marriott also ran a promotion on Twitter where they asked NFL trivia questions on Sunday, and if you replied with the correct answer and their hashtag you were awarded 1,000 points. Over the course of the season, I earned enough points for a free Marriott night just for answering these Twitter questions.
If you prefer cashback to points, you can also use websites like Ebates.com to get free cash back just for clicking through their link. There is a Google Chrome add-in you can install to notify you when you’re on a website that is affiliated with Ebates, you just have to click a button to activate it, the page reloads, and you shop the same way you would. You get $10 after spending at least $25 through these affiliate clicks (again, you’re just shopping on the Walmart.com website or whatever as you normally would) if you use that Ebates link above. Gotta keep the lights on, folks.
Yelp and Groupon both have programs where you can link a credit card to their offers (Groupon makes you activate the individual offers) and you get cash back just for visiting, similar to the dining programs mentioned above. With that, you can certainly double- or triple-dip if you find the right place; I went to a restaurant that had both Groupon and Yelp affiliations, and it was one of my 500 point trips for the Aadvantage Dining Program. So for a $12 lunch I paid something like $8 for a solid meal and 500 airline miles. If its money you’re already going to be spending, why not get a little more back?
Along with these, I’ve seen points/miles for switching phone/cable/natural gas providers, flower delivery, refinancing your mortgage, and even credit monitoring. Check the portals (and heck, just google it) before you make a big purchase and you might get a ‘free’ flight to the Caribbean with your next mortgage.
Anything I left out? Please share in the comments.