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To maximize your travel, it’s important to squeeze all the rewards you can out of each opportunity. In this post, TPG Senior Point & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains some strategies for boosting your loyalty account balances by earning from more than one source at a time.
Through flights, hotel stays, credit card sign-up bonuses and everyday purchases, you can easily earn enough points and miles for free travel. However, sometimes you can collect two different types of rewards for a single activity, and taking advantage of these “double-dips” is one of the best ways to boost your earnings. Today, I’ll take you through my top 10 double-dips that you can (and should!) use on a regular basis.
1. Shopping portals
The first double-dip method, the use of online shopping portals, appeals to anyone who makes online purchases. These third-party sites partner with a variety of retailers to give you points, miles or cash back when you click through their links. This is in addition to the “regular” points and miles you earn from the actual transaction, so you earn one bonus from the portal and another from your credit card.
There are a variety of options out there, including shopping portals connected to airlines or hotels, those affiliated with specific credit card programs and ones offering cash back. You can even use a site such as EVReward or Cashback Monitor to compare earning rates across numerous portals. Note that these portals typically offer a variety of limited-time promotions, like the recent American Airlines bonus or holiday specials for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Just be sure to read the rules and restrictions for each portal to make sure that your purchase is eligible for the bonus.
Dining out can be a lucrative activity by itself, with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige Card offering double points on restaurant purchases. Even better, you can double-dip on these meals in a few ways. First, look for a restaurant on OpenTable. This site gives you 100 points for every reservation you make (or 1,000 points at select restaurants and times), and you can redeem points for dining checks (2,000 points = $20). As a result, each reservation is basically $1 off a future meal.
Make sure to have your credit cards registered with your preferred loyalty program in the dining rewards network. These restaurants award you points or miles automatically when you pay for a meal with a linked credit card, and again these earnings are in addition to the ones you earn just for making the purchase. Each one of your credit cards can only be registered for one program, so you can’t earn through both the American Airlines and Delta Air Lines dining programs for a single purchase.
Finally, you can use sites such as Groupon, Living Social and Restaurant.com to purchase a voucher or certificate that offers discounts on meals at certain restaurants. As always, be sure to read the fine print, as many of these specials limit the days, times and meals at which you can redeem them.
3. Crossover Rewards
Back in 2013, Delta and Starwood Preferred Guest launched the Crossover Rewards program. Through this partnership, if you have elite status with one (or both) of the programs, you can double-dip to earn Starpoints and SkyMiles for every paid SPG stay and for every paid Delta flight. Just remember to link your accounts to take advantage of it.
This benefit goes beyond earning points: Delta Medallion members can enjoy elite check-in lines, upgrades to enhanced rooms and a late checkout during stays at SPG properties. Meanwhile, Starwood Elite members can utilize priority check-in and boarding, complimentary upgrades (though they’ll be at the bottom of the priority list) and one free checked bag.
Not to be outdone, shortly after the announcement of the Crossover Rewards program, Marriott and United teamed up and announced their own partnership: RewardsPlus. Though somewhat similar to Crossover Rewards, the RewardsPlus program is less about earning and more about benefits. Premier Gold members (and higher) on United will enjoy automatic Gold Elite status in the Marriott Rewards program, while Marriott Platinum members will be granted automatic MileagePlus Premier Silver status.
Again, you’ll need to register to begin utilizing these reciprocal benefits.
5. Hyatt and M life
Sticking with hotel programs, another interesting double-dip opportunity can be found in Las Vegas. Back in 2013, Hyatt and MGM resorts in Las Vegas partnered up to create an easy way to earn (and redeem) points at luxurious properties on The Strip. Through this partnership, Hyatt Gold Passport members can earn points (and elite credits) for stays at participating MGM properties, including Mandalay Bay, Bellagio and Vdara. You can also earn M life tier credits for these stays.
Platinum and Diamond Hyatt members can opt in for reciprocal status in the M life program, while M life elite members can do the same for status in the Gold Passport program. You can still earn both points and tier credits for your stay; however, you’ll also have access to on-property benefits courtesy of your matched M life status, including room upgrades, priority check-in and VIP line access to nightclubs and pool areas. Not a bad way to enjoy Vegas!
6. Starwood Preferred Guest and Caesars
Later in 2013, Starwood Preferred Guest and Caesars Entertainment launched a similar program that allows SPG members to earn and redeem Starpoints at participating hotels in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe, Reno, and New Orleans. You can also earn points in Caesars’ loyalty program (Total Rewards) at the same time. These points can then be redeemed for meals, shows, gaming and other hotel purchases.
In addition, SPG just announced that you can save 40% when you redeem Starpoints at these participating Caesars properties. You’ll just need to book by June 14th (for stays through February 28, 2016). This may not get you the maximum value out of your SPG points, but if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and would rather save your cash for the slot machines, this can be a nice way to do it.
7. Hilton HHonors
When it comes to hotel loyalty programs, Hilton HHonors is unique in that it allows you to double-dip as a standard earning style. Regular members earn 10 points per dollar spent, but you can also choose from one of the following options:
- An additional 5 Hilton HHonors bonus points per dollar
- 1 airline mile per dollar spent (the option to earn fixed miles per stay was unfortunately discontinued in early 2014)
In other words, for a $500 hotel stay you could earn either 7,500 Hilton points or 5,000 Hilton points + 500 airline miles (check the complete list of partners to see if your airline participates). You can choose by setting your earning style in your Hilton HHonors profile. This is notably different from other programs, which offer zero hotel points if you select airline miles as your desired earning currency.
8. Retail loyalty programs
While they won’t get you first class tickets or luxurious hotel stays, many sports retailers, restaurants, office supply stores and pet supply stores offer loyalty programs that you can utilize when making purchases. Most of these programs give you rewards in the form of future discounts (e.g., spend $100 and get a $5 coupon). However, some programs offer you additional benefits, such as everyday free shipping for all Staples Rewards members. All of these perks are in addition to the standard earnings you get from using your credit card. I always recommend checking to see if a retailer has a loyalty program, as you never know when it might come in handy!
9. American Fine Hotels & Resorts, FoundersCard and other luxury hotel programs
Our final double-dip strategy applies to most luxury hotel programs out there (including American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts for American Express Platinum cardholders, the FoundersCard and hotels booked through the fourth night free benefit on Citi Prestige). These programs typically allow you to book rooms at a variety of high-end chains as well as boutique and unaffiliated properties around the world. You’ll also receive several benefits during your stay, which might include free breakfast, complimentary internet, early check-in/late checkout or a welcome amenity.
In addition to these on-property benefits, you should also earn points and receive elite credits for these stays, as TPG did when he stayed at the St. Regis Bali last year. Getting luxurious amenities (that can be worth hundreds of dollars during a stay) plus a further “rebate” by earning points is a powerful double-dip!
While double-dipping can be a lucrative way to increase your earning potential for travel and everyday purchases, there are many ways to take this even further and triple-dip or even quadruple-dip! Some examples include:
- Retailer loyalty program + online shopping portal + credit card rewards
- Luxury hotel program + hotel loyalty program + credit card rewards
- OpenTable + Restaurant.com/Groupon/other discount + Dining Rewards Network + credit card rewards (one of my favorite ways to quadruple-dip)
Any of these strategies can help bump up your account balances and put you even closer to your next vacation.
What are your favorite double-dip opportunities?
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