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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – View the current offers here Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Whenever I explain to my friends and family members how I travel so much (almost) for free, their eyes typically start to glaze over. It doesn’t help that I start using terms like award chart sweet spots and transferable point currencies, but it can all be overwhelming to those just getting started in the hobby. However, there are many ways for you to ease your loved ones into the points and miles game and get a little bonus for yourself at the same time. Today I want to go through my favorite ways to refer your friends and family members to various products and services and earn miles, points or cash for your accounts at the same time.
A quick note before getting into the list: All of the suggestions that follow are open to anyone who has an active account with the applicable website, issuer or travel provider. We don’t have access to any unique offers or get any special treatment because we’re The Points Guy. If you have (or open) an account, you’ll unlock the ability to refer anyone within the publicly published limitations of the offer, of course. Note: These offers are subject to change at anytime.
That being said, what are some ways you can earn a referral bonus? Here’s my list, broken down by category:
The first method involves the credit cards that you currently carry in your wallet. A couple of the major issuers make it very easy for you to refer friends or family members for select cards:
Several of American Express’ most popular cards allow current account holders to earn bonus points. To see if your cards are eligible, log in to your online account, select a card and scroll down past the account summary. If that particular card offers a referral credit, you should see a bar with an offer.
I currently have five American Express cards, and I have offers on all of them:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 15,000 Membership Rewards points for each approved referral — up to 55,000 Membership Rewards points per calendar year
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Card from American Express: 10,000 Membership Rewards points for each approved referral — up to 55,000 Membership Rewards points per calendar year
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express: 7,500 Starpoints for each approved referral — up to 55,000 Starpoints per calendar year
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card: 20,000 Hilton Honors points for each approved referral — up to 80,000 bonus points per calendar year
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: 15,000 Hilton Honors points for each approved referral — up to 80,000 bonus points per calendar year
Here’s a sample of what this looks like:
To initiate the referral process, simply click on the “Refer Now” icon. You can either send your friends or family members email invitations or use your personalized referral link to earn the bonus.
One interesting note…the above bar with the referral offer doesn’t appear 100% of the time. I frequently see an advertisement for the issuer’s Shop Small initiative where the referral details typically appear:
If you see this, try flipping to another card in your account and then back (or log out and then back in).
Chase handles referrals in a slightly different fashion. Instead of going through your online account, there’s actually a dedicated refer-a-friend page on the issuer’s website that lists out the cards that offer referral bonuses. If you currently carry any of the applicable cards in your wallet, simply click on the “Invite friends now” icon, enter your last name, ZIP code and last four digits of your card. You can then share your personalized link of distribute it via email, Facebook or Twitter.
Here are the nine Chase cards currently offering referral bonuses:
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: $100 cash back for each approval (up to $500 per year)
- Chase Freedom: $100 cash back for each approval (up to $500 per year)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 10,000 bonus points for each approval (up to 50,000 points per year)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card : 10,000 bonus points for each approval (up to 50,000 points per year)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: 10,000 bonus points for each approval (up to 50,000 points per year)
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: 10,000 bonus points for each approval (up to 50,000 points per year)
- Disney Visa Card: 100 Disney Dollars for each approval (up to 500 Disney Rewards Dollars per year)
Any of these would be a nice little bonus, just for turning your friends and family members onto cards that you know and love.
Another way to earn referral credit involves transportation, specifically with two companies that offer ride-sharing services in numerous cities around the world. I’m talking (of course) about Uber and Lyft. Here’s how to refer your loved ones for each of these services:
When someone signs up for Uber through your referral link, they’ll get their first ride free (though value amounts vary by location) and you’ll get $15 toward you next ride. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this:
Via the Uber app:
- Launch the app
- Tap the three bars at the top left
- Select Free Rides
- Tap Invite Friends
- Tap Connect Contacts
- Select your contacts you want to invite, then click Invite Friends
Via Uber’s website:
- Log in to your account at www.uber.com
- Select Free Rides at the left
- Click on Get Your Invite Link
- Copy your link, then email it or post it to your social media accounts
Keep in mind that your $15 credit only appears once your referral takes his/her first ride, and the credit will only be valid in your country of residence. In addition, any discounts will expire 60 days from their issue date, so if you get one, you’ll have a limited window in which to use it!
Uber’s main competitor is Lyft, and it too offers a referral program. You’ll earn $20 in ride credit when your friends or family members take their first ride, and they’ll earn up to $15. Like Uber, you can accomplish this in two ways:
Via the Lyft app:
- Launch the app
- Tap your profile picture or avatar at the top left
- Select Free rides
- Connect your contacts
- Select the applicable contacts you want to invite, then tap Send invites
Via Lyft’s website:
- Log in to your account at www.lyft.com
- Click on Passenger Referrals (if you aren’t directed there automatically)
- Enter a code, then click Create
- Click the paper clip icon next to your newly created code, which should launch the referral link in a new tab
- Copy the link and email to friends and family members or post to your social media accounts
A third way to take advantage of referral bonuses is through select online shopping portals. If you aren’t currently utilizing these when you make purchases online, you’re missing out on bonus points or even cash back in your pocket. Before I go to a merchant’s website to shop online, I always start at an aggregator like CashBackMonitor.com and evaluate which shopping portal has the best earning rate. I’ll then log in to the site, click on the merchant and I’m off to earn extra points, miles or cash back.
Here are two of my favorite sites with referral programs:
My wife first introduced me to Ebates several years ago, and I’ve since earned hundreds of dollars through my normal online shopping by starting at the site. In addition to the normal earning rates through shopping, you can also earn referral credit when you invite friends or family members. Unlike some of the others mentioned above, Ebates actually regularly changes its referral program, generally every 3-6 months. Under the current scheme, when you refer someone and he/she spends at least $25 at a participating merchant, you’ll get $25 and your referral will get $10. Sign me up!
Here’s how to start the referral process:
- Log in to your account at www.ebates.com (or sign up here if you don’t have one)
- Click on Refer & Earn at the top right
- Invite your friends by email or copy your link to be sent manually or posted to your social media account
This referral page also allows you to track the status of your referrals, including those you’ve invited (but haven’t signed up), those who have signed up (but haven’t made a purchase), and those who have signed up, made a purchase and qualified for a referral credit.
The cash-back you earn through the site, both on purchases and referrals, will be mailed to you every quarter (though you can also request to have it sent via PayPal).
Another cash-back site that I always check is Mr Rebates. The site works just like Ebates in that you’ll earn cash back on online purchases at hundreds of merchants. However, the referral program is a bit different. When a friend or family member signs up for the site, they’ll get $5 and then you will get a bonus equal to 20% of their rebate every time they use the site. While this may not seem like much, every little bit helps!
Here’s how to complete the referral process:
- Log in to your account at www.mrrebates.com (or sign-up here if you don’t have one)
- Hover over My Account at the top, then select Refer Friends
- Choose how you want to send the referral: email, links/banners, Facebook or Twitter
Any cash back you earn through the site will remain in Pending status for three months, at which point it will automatically convert to Available. As a result, you’d need to manually request a check from Mr. Rebates when you’re ready to redeem, though you must have at least $10 to do so.
A final way to generate referral credit is through a provider that has disrupted the hotel industry: Airbnb. If you’re not familiar, Airbnb allows you to rent rooms, houses or apartments in cities around the world. I’ve had some phenomenal experiences with the site when I’ve traveled to off-the-beaten-path destinations like Colmar, France, where chain hotels aren’t very prevalent, and it’s also great when you’re traveling as a larger group or family and need additional space beyond a traditional hotel room.
If you’re a current member of Airbnb, you can refer your friends and family members to join. Each one who signs up will get $40 in travel credit, and then you’ll get $20 in travel credit once a referral completes his/her first trip of $75 or more.
Here’s how to invite loved ones to join:
- Log in to your account at www.airbnb.com (or sign up here if you don’t have one)
- Click on your profile pic at the top right, then select Travel Credit
- Select the invitation method you want to use: email, referral link, Messenger or Facebook
This page will also show you your referral credit activity, including those who have completed their first trip (and thus earned you a credit) as well as those who have signed up but haven’t taken a trip.
There are many companies that offer you referral credits for bringing in additional customers, and the ones highlighted above are just a snapshot of some of the more popular ones. I’ve found that less is more when it comes to newbies in the hobby, and by referring your friends or family members to specific sites that you use on a regular basis, you’re helping them get their feet wet. After all, something as simple as clicking through an online shopping portal or opening and then using a single new travel rewards credit card can unlock an array of valuable rewards and help your loved ones get a taste of what you can do.
Featured photo Hero Images/Getty Images
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