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Through flights, hotel stays, credit card welcome bonuses and everyday spending, 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 and push you closer to your dream award trip. Today, I’ll take you through my list of top double-dips that you can (and should!) use on a regular basis. Some of these programs might even provide an opportunity for triple dipping if you stack them carefully.
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 (like Ultimate Rewards) and ones offering cash back (like Ebates). In fact, it can get downright overwhelming if you try to decide which one is best. My recommendation? Use a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor to compare earning rates across numerous portals for a given retailer. Then simply choose the one that’s most valuable to you.
Note that these portals typically offer a variety of limited-time promotions, like the recent elevated earning rates at Apple across a number of shopping portals or up to 30x miles per dollar for select purchases over 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. While it might be tempting to click through multiple shopping portals to earn more miles, you can only earn from one portal at a time. Make sure you pick whichever one is offering the highest rate, and only click through it when you’re ready to shop.
Dining out can be a lucrative activity by itself, with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve offering triple 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 future dining at participating restaurants. While these rewards are variable depending on the restaurant and time you select, each completed reservation is basically a discount off a future meal.
A second way to double-dip on restaurant purchases is to join the dining rewards network of your favorite airline or hotel program. Participating 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 (so be sure to use a good one for restaurant purchases). And many are currently offering welcome bonuses for new members:
- Alaska Mileage Plan Dining: Earn up to 1,000 bonus miles.
- American AAdvantage Dining: Earn up to 1,000 bonus miles.
- Delta SkyMiles Dining: Earn up to 3,000 bonus miles.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining: Earn up to 1,000 bonus points.
- United MileagePlus Dining: Earn up to 2,500 bonus miles.
- Hilton Honors Dining: Earn up to 1,000 bonus points.
Just bear in mind that 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. And if you register with your email address to boost your earning rate, be sure to actually open and read the emails you get so you don’t lose your “status” by accident.
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. American Airlines + Hyatt Partnership
Earlier this month, American Airlines and Hyatt launched a partnership offering reciprocal points earning and a fast track to elite status for select members as well. Hyatt elites can earn 1 bonus point per $1 spent on on qualifying American Airlines flights, while AA elites can earn 1 bonus point per $1 spent on qualifying Hyatt stays. These bonuses are in addition to the regular Hyatt points you’d earn on stays or American miles you’d earn on flights, and it happens automatically once you link your accounts. And since you can get World of Hyatt elite status simply by opening The World of Hyatt Credit Card, there’s really no reason to not participate in this partnership.
In addition, both programs are offering elite status fast-track opportunities, though they vary from one member to the next. On the Hyatt side, they are only available to Explorist or Globalist elites, while on the AA side they are limited to AAdvantage Platinum members or above. However, if you hold AA’s exclusive, invite-only Concierge Key status, you’ll automatically receive top-tier Hyatt Globalist status.
Long before Hyatt and American joined forces, United and Marriott had been partnering to offer their members elevated benefits and bonus points through the RewardsPlus program. This program underwent some changes when Marriott rebranded, and you can check out our updated guide to it here.
With this program, United Gold elites (or higher) automatically receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status, while Marriott Titanium and Ambassador elites automatically receive United Premier Silver status. Given how easy it is for anyone to get Marriott Gold status (simply by opening up The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card), it’s clear that top-tier Marriott elites got the better end of this deal.
In addition to the reciprocal elite benefits, all members — regardless of status — will enjoy a 10% bonus when transferring Marriott points to United. This is on top of the standard 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred, so if you’re transferring in 60,000-point increments, this brings your ratio up to 3:1.35 which is a nice bonus to have.
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, World of Hyatt 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.
All members can opt in to an elite status match using the following chart:
|World of Hyatt Status||M life Rewards Tier|
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 Sin City.
6. 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.
If you aren’t familiar with these programs, you can check out our list of the 9 most underrated loyalty programs.
7. Amex Offers
I’d generally classify the Amex Offers program as one of the most underrated and rewarding things about being an American Express cardholder. These offers generally come in one of three forms:
- Spend $X, get Y number of bonus points
- Spend $X, get $Y back
- Get X additional points for each dollar you spend at a select merchant
If you take advantage of one or two of these deals each year, you can easily recoup the annual fees on most of your Amex cards. You can also stack these with many of the other “dips” on this list to create a double dip or triple dip. For example, stack an Amex Offer at a nearby restaurant with a dining rewards program or an offer at Marriott with the RewardsPlus program.
For more information on how to load these offers to your card and redeem them correctly, you can check out this guide.
8. American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and Other Luxury Hotel Programs
Our final double-dip strategy applies when you’re booking luxury hotels around the world. Many of these high-end resorts partner with a booking platform to offer you added perks during your stay. One of the best options is American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts for holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express. This allows you to book rooms at a variety of luxurious chain hotels as well as numerous boutique and unaffiliated properties around the world. By booking with Amex instead of directly with the hotel, you’ll receive several benefits during your stay, which might include a room upgrade, free breakfast, property credits, early check-in/late checkout or a welcome amenity. All of this would be in addition to the points you’d earn — which can be 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on prepaid stays.
In addition to these on-property benefits and base earning rates, booking a chain hotel with Amex FHR should still allow you to earn points and receive elite credits and perks for these stays, though reports indicate that Marriott-branded properties count these reservations as third-party stays and thus exclude them from earning points. 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.
Featured photo by Busakorn Pongparnit/Getty Images
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