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9 Easy Ways to Earn Travel Rewards You’ll Actually Use

By: The NerdWallet Staff
Est. reading time: 4 min

You could book that next vacation with points and miles. The crucial first step: raking in rewards. It might sound tedious, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s completely possible to reach your points-and-miles goals without taking unnecessary flights or stocking up on gift cards. Read on to learn more, then browse our top travel credit card picks to start jet-setting in no time.

Can't wait to start racking up rewards?

Check out one of our top travel credit card picks, boasting a huge intro offer and a substantial rewards rate.

1. Create an account with your favorite travel provider

Have a favorite airline or hotel chain? Go online and set up a rewards program account with that company for free. This gets you a membership ID that can be used to earn rewards for future flights or stays.

2. Earn a credit card sign-up bonus

Next, look for a solid travel credit card — preferably, one that offers a big intro offer and waives the annual fee for the first year. You can choose one that offers points or miles for a certain airline or hotel program, or a general travel card with more flexible rewards.

🤓 Nerdy Tip

To get the most out of your intro offer, apply for a card at least five months before booking your trip so you have time to earn and receive the intro offer.

3. Add an authorized user

Adding a trusted partner or family member as an authorized user on your new card might be the easiest way to score some quick points. Many travel cards offer bonuses for this, often worth about $50. Just keep in mind that, as the primary cardholder, you’ll still be liable for footing the bill.

4. Pay for business travel and get reimbursed

To earn more rewards, try to get as many points and miles from business travel as possible, if your company policy allows it, by paying for travel expenses with your personal rewards card and get reimbursed later. You can then use the points you rack up for personal use.

5. Pick up the dinner tab and ask for cash

Footing the bill for a night out can fetch plenty of rewards, as long as your friends pay you back. If your card offers bonus dining rewards, you’ll walk away with even more.

6. Always pay with a credit card

If you can pay by credit card without overspending or incurring interest charges or convenience fees, whip out that plastic more often. It’s a simple way to boost your rewards — especially when purchases fall within your card’s bonus categories, potentially more than doubling your earnings.

7. Shop through bonus malls

Bonus malls are online marketplaces offered by issuers, airlines and hotel chains that allow you to earn rewards for free by shopping with certain retailers. For example, an airline bonus mall might offer 2 points per dollar spent at a specific store. By following that link and completing the purchase on the merchant’s website, you’ll earn those points.

8. Participate in dining programs

Most major airlines also offer dining programs you can join for free. Sign up, and you’ll earn bonus rewards through local eateries when paying with the debit or credit card linked to the account.

9. Watch for limited-time offers

Leverage opportunities like holiday shopping and bonuses that might be offered over holidays like Christmas, Black Friday, and back-to-school sales to maximize your earnings.

Ready to start earning your way to your next vacation?
Check out the options below, choose the one that best fits your needs, and apply today to start racking up points and miles asap.