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While earning points and miles is one of the best ways to enjoy free travel, leveraging referral programs can help too. Below, TPG Contributor Ryan Martin walks you through four of the top options and shows you how they can get you closer to your next vacation.
While most opportunities to earn points and miles involve purchasing flights and hotel stays or spending money with travel rewards credit cards, referral bonuses offer a great way to work toward a free trip without spending a dime. By simply talking to friends and family about your award travel experiences and providing referral sign-up links to various rewards programs and credit cards, you can boost your award balances while spreading the gift of affordable travel.
While many loyalty program and credit card referral bonuses are linked with targeted or temporary promotions, the following four referral bonuses are more permanent, meaning you can use them over time to fund your next getaway.
1. Chase Refer-A-Friend
If you’re a holder of a Chase credit card, you can use the Chase Refer-A-Friend program to find and send numerous card-specific referral bonuses. To use this program, simply go to the Chase Refer-A-Friend website and enter your last name, zip code and last four digits of your card to look up the current referral bonus. Then, enter the name and email of your friends or family. A nice perk of the Chase referral program is that you can also submit your referral link directly to Facebook and Twitter to maximize your exposure and opportunity to obtain sign-ups. Note, however, that you should only invite people who do not already have your specific Chase card in order to obtain the bonus.
My favorite currently available referral bonus is for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Right now, you can invite up to five friends to apply for the card, and for each friend who is approved and uses the card, you will receive 10,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the potential to receive a maximum bonus of 50,000 points. As these points are worth 2.1 cents apiece based on TPG’s current valuations, each successful referral is valued at $210. Moreover, if you’re able to obtain all five referrals, you can use the 50,000 points for a myriad of travel options, including two domestic round-trip economy flights or even round-trip economy flights to Hawaii. When you’re making travel plans, keep in mind that the referral bonus is predicated on your friend or family member being approved for and using the card, so it can take upward of two billing cycles for your bonus points to post to your account.
2. American Express Refer a Friend
American Express also offers an online Refer a Friend program to holders of American Express Credit Cards and co-branded cards. To use this program, simply go to the American Express Refer a Friend website where you can either enter your online American Express login information or enter your card information to see what referral bonuses are available for your specific cards. Then, just enter the name and email address of the people you wish to refer. Note, however, that like with the Chase referral program, you can only refer people who do not currently have your specific American Express card.
Currently, if you have an American Express card, you can earn 5,000 Membership Rewards points for each approved referral up to 55,000 points per calendar year. However, my favorite currently available referral bonus through the American Express Refer a Friend program is the referral bonus for the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex Card. This offer provides the opportunity to earn 5,000 Starpoints for each approved referral up to 55,000 Starpoints per year. As Starpoints are currently worth 2.5 cents apiece based upon TPG’s Current Valuations, each successful referral is worth $125 with the potential to earn up to $1,375 in Starpoints per year. Considering Starpoints are not only extremely lucrative given the variety of Starpoint redemption options but also one of the more challenging award currencies to obtain, this referral bonus offers an easy way to maximize your Starpoints account in order to fund your next getaway.
3. Marriott Rewards Refer a Friend
While most hotel loyalty programs have moved away from referral bonuses or only offer them for limited periods of time, Marriott Rewards offers a valuable, more permanent referral bonus system if you have friends or family who you know will be traveling and using Marriott hotels in the near future. If you’re currently a Marriott Rewards member, you can sign on to the Marriott Rewards Refer a Friend program where you can invite five new members per calendar year to join Marriott Rewards. You will earn 2,000 Marriott Rewards points per stay that your referral makes up to five stays, or 10,000 rewards points per referral. In total, this bonus provides the opportunity to earn up to 50,000 points per calendar year.
Those 50,000 points are enough for two nights in a Category 4 or 5 hotel, or even one night in a Category 9 hotel, such as the beautiful Paris Marriott Champs-Elysees, which can run you upwards of $500 per night. Couple this referral bonus with the 80,000 points you can earn as a sign-up bonus though the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, and you could potentially earn 130,000 Marriott Rewards Points before the end of the year!
4. Airbnb Invites
Airbnb offers one of my favorite referral bonuses given the lack of current hotel loyalty referral bonuses, the high maximum bonus and the versatility of marketing your personal referral link across all of social media. Once you open an Airbnb account, you can invite friends and family to join Airbnb by sending email invites. You can also post a referral link to your Facebook page or copy and paste the referral link to your other social media accounts. For each referral who stays at an Airbnb property, you receive $30 in travel coupons to redeem for future Airbnb stays. If a referral hosts an Airbnb guest, you receive $75 in travel coupons.
A single user can earn a maximum of $5,000 in Airbnb travel coupons through this referral program. While the referral travel coupons are limited to Airbnb redemptions, these rewards add up quickly. For example, by posting my referral link to my social media accounts in March, I have already gained more than $300 in travel coupons with little to no effort that I plan to use for accommodations on an upcoming getaway to Denver. If you’re looking for a referral link, check out TPG’s here.
While using credit card sign-up bonuses and various loyalty program promotions can still provide the fastest means to increasing the balances in your various rewards accounts, using referral bonus programs like the ones discussed here can help you reach your travel goals faster or even solely fund a quick getaway without ever having to reach for your wallet. With this in mind, I recommend keeping your friends close and their email addresses closer when planning your next travel escape.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
What’s your favorite travel rewards referral program?
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards