How to refer friends and earn points, miles or cash credits
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.
When you think about the ways to earn points and miles, the first things that come to mind are probably hitting sign-up bonuses/welcome offers, doing everyday spending on credit cards or booking travel to earn specific loyalty program points and miles. However, you can also rack up an impressive amount of points and miles each year simply by helping your friends and family get into the points and miles game.
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 such as 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 plus earn miles, points or cash for your accounts at the same time.
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Probably the most popular way to earn referral bonuses is through the credit cards you already have in your wallet. Without hitting spending requirements or doing anything more than sharing a link with friends and family, you could earn hundreds of dollars in referral points each year. 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. Additionally, you can log into your account from Amex’s referral page to see if your card has an eligible referral offer.
Here are a few examples of cards that are eligible for referral bonuses:
- 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
- American Express® Gold Card: 10,000 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
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® 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
In October 2018, Amex expanded its referral program, making it even easier to earn referral bonuses. You can now refer people for any Amex card, even if you don’t have the card yourself. This means that I can refer a friend with a code from my Amex Platinum, and my friend can choose from several Amex and Amex cobranded cards, rather than only being able to apply for the Platinum.
Chase is another issuer that offers a referral bonus across many of its cards. There’s a dedicated refer-a-friend page on the issuer’s website that lists 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 or distribute it via email, Facebook or Twitter.
Here are the Chase cards currently offering referral bonuses:
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: 20,000 points for each referral (up to 100,000 points per year)
- Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card: $150 cash back for each referral (up to $750 cash back per year)
- Chase Freedom: (No longer open to new applicants) $50 cash back for each referral (up to $500 cash back per year)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 15,000 bonus points for each referral (up to 75,000 points per year)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards: 10,000 bonus points for each referral (up to 50,000 points per year)
- IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card: 10,000 bonus points for each referral (up to 50,000 points per year)
- United Explorer Card: 10,000 miles for each referral (up to 50,000 points for each approval)
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: 20,000 points for each referral (up to 100,000 points per year)
- The World of Hyatt Credit Card: 5,000 points per referral (up to 25,000 points per year)
- Disney Premier Visa Card: 100 Disney Rewards Dollars for each approval (up to 500 Disney Rewards Dollars per year)
The information for the Ink Chase Freedom and Disney Premier Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Note, when I visited the refer-a-friend page, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card wasn’t listed. However, the card is available for referrals here.
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 bonuses is through travel loyalty programs, including accommodations and transportation loyalty accounts. These bonuses typically aren’t as lucrative as credit card referrals, but they don’t require a friend or family member to sign up for a card — which could be a selling point for some friends and family who aren’t looking to add a new card to their wallet right now.
When someone signs up for Uber through your referral link, they’ll get their first ride free (although value amounts vary by location) and you’ll get $15 toward your 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.
Lyft also 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
Choice Hotels is one of the few hotel loyalty programs that offer a referral bonus. Each time your referred friends join and complete their first point-eligible stay, you’ll both receive 500 bonus points. Now, I know 500 bonus points aren’t anything to write home about. But if you know a friend who is planning on joining the program or stay for the first time with Choice Hotels on an upcoming trip, why not get some free points while you’re at it?
Simply log into your account, go to the Choice Hotels refer-a-friend page and then you can add five email addresses at a time to send out referral links.
Marriott Bonvoy also offers a referral program. You can invite up to five friends to join the Bonvoy program, and you’ll each earn 2,000 bonus points per stay for their first five stays. With this program, you could potentially earn up to 50,000 bonus points for a stay in a Category 6 hotel (on standard dates) — which is worth $400 according to TPG’s latest valuations.
Head to Marriott’s reward-a-friend landing page, hit “Send Invites,” and fill out the form. You’ll need to give the following information:
- Email addresses of anyone you want to refer
- Your first and last name (that matches your Bonvoy account)
- Your email (that matches your Bonvoy account)
- Your Marriott Bonvoy Member Number
For those who don’t often stay at traditional hotels when they travel, another way to generate referral credit is through a provider that has disrupted the hotel industry: Airbnb. I’ve had some phenomenal experiences with the site when I’ve traveled to off-the-beaten-path destinations like Colmar, France, where there aren’t many chain hotels, 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 using this link. Each one who signs up will get $55 off their first trip. Once they complete their reservation, you’ll get up to $30.
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.
A third way to take advantage of referral bonuses is through select online shopping portals. If you aren’t currently using 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 such as 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.
Related reading: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals
Here are two of my favorite sites with referral programs:
Rakuten (formerly Ebates)
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. The site has been rebranded to Rakuten, but the referral program remains in place. In addition to the normal earning rates you get through shopping, you can also earn referral credit when you invite friends or family members. Unlike some of the others mentioned above, Rakuten regularly changes its referral program, generally every three to six months. Under the current scheme, when you refer someone and they spend at least $25 at a participating merchant, you’ll get $25 and your referral will get $10.
Here’s how to start the referral process:
- Log in to your account (or sign up here if you don’t have one)
- Visit the refer-a-friend page here
- 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).
Mr Rebates is another cash-back site that I always check. 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 will 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.
Many companies 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 regularly, 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.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson
Featured photo Hero Images/Getty Images
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