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Another great reader question this week comes from a reader named Jesse, who asks:
“I would like you to give a strategy on how to keep earning big miles and points consistently each year. Most of your talks are for the first year of credit card application to make the sign-up point bonus. After the first year, how do you still earn big points?”
Credit card sign-up bonuses are currently the best way to rack up points quickly. However, many people who find a card they like want to stick with it…and in many cases, this can still be a great way to earn a lot of points beyond those big sign-up bonuses by spending smartly. For some ideas about how to keep the points rolling in beyond the first year, check out this video I made while riding from Kowloon to Central aboard the Star Ferry in Hong Kong.
As I mention in the video, there are a few things to keep in mind as you devise a strategy about your spending to make sure that you are earning the most points possible for your money.
-Spend category bonuses: like 3 x points on travel and 2 x on gas and groceries using the Amex Premier Rewards Gold, 2 x points on travel and dining with Chase Sapphire Preferred, and 5 x points on quarterly categories on the Chase Freedom card, for example.
-Annual spend thresholds: Many credit cards offer to earn still more bonuses such as the Premier Rewards Gold card’s 15,000-point bonus when you spend $30,000 on it annually, or earning bonus Delta MQM’s when you hit a certain level of spend on the various Delta Amex cards.
-Earn points on every dollar: Think creatively about how you spend your money so that you devise a strategy where you’re sure to earn points for every single dollar you spend by doing simple things like shopping through various airline and credit card shopping portals where you get spending bonuses, putting all your expenses on a card even for things like car and mortgage payments using payment services like ChargeSmart or WilliamPaid, and using payment services like Amazon Payments, and paying your taxes with a credit card.
-Shopping portals: Most of the major airlines such as Delta, American, Southwest, US Airways, and United (and some credit cards like Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Sapphire Preferred) have online shopping malls where you can earn tons of bonus points, especially over the heavy holiday shopping period. In fact, with certain merchants, you can earn up to 10 points per dollar.
-Dining rewards programs: Many of the major airlines including Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest and United, and a few hotels like Hilton and Priority Club have dining reward programs where you link your credit card to your loyalty club number and earn bonus points when you dine at participating restaurants. This is a great, hassle-free way to earn bonus points without even trying as you go about your daily life and dine out.
-Elite status: If you attain elite status with an airline, you can potentially rake in huge amounts of bonus miles, especially in the higher tiers where you can earn up to 125% bonus miles while flying on Delta, and 100% on the other US legacy carriers. Check out a few of my posts on the basics of elite status to find out more about the lucrative miles hauls you can achieve. There are even cards that let you spend your way to elite status, or at least that will get you part-way there.
-Maximizing promotions: For instance, the current Starwood promotion that earns SPG members 1,000 bonus points per stay at certain newly renovated properties, or Hyatt’s Q1 promotion that earns you bonuses based on the nights you stay. We’re not talking a huge amount of extra points, but still something, and there are sure to be better promos coming.
-Transfer bonuses: Such as Amex’s current transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. These are a good way to stretch the points you already earn even further, though you should always have a specific goal in mind with these that ensures the transfer bonus is worth it for your circumstances.