How to start the New Year off points rich

Oct 14, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is quickly coming to an end. With just three short months left, frequent travelers are scurrying to requalify for elite status while points and miles newbies are trying to figure out how and where to begin. The good news for those who are new to the game is that now is the absolute perfect time to get started, here’s how you can start your new year off points rich.

Related: The beginners guide to points, miles, airlines and credit cards

Welcome bonuses

Your number one key to success in becoming points rich is to take advantage of credit card welcome bonuses. The reason why now is such a prime time to apply is because most credit card bonuses require you to reach your minimum spend in a three-month span, which just so happens to be how far we are from 2020. With the busy holiday season and the shopping craziness that is Black Friday around the corner, you’re also more likely to be able to hit the minimum spend much faster than in other parts of the year.

Here’s a few credit cards you may want to consider:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The CSP is currently offering 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. TPG values that bonus alone at $2,000. As for earning, you can expect 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out, 3x points on select streaming services, 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2x points on all other travel, 1x point on all other purchases. This is a great card for those just getting into travel rewards as the bonus offer is generous and there are 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners to chose from, making it all the more valuable.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 

TPG values the current 50,000 bonus miles at $700* (after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months), which can easily be applied to various travel expenses charged on the card. Those miles can also be be transferred to several loyalty travel partners. The Venture card is great for those who don’t want to think too hard about what they should and shouldn’t be using their card for because it earns a flat 2x miles on everything.

*Bonus value based on TPG valuation and not provided by issuer

The Platinum Card® from American Express 

The Platinum card is geared more toward those with a longer credit history and more rewards experience, but it’s worth mentioning that its generous 60,000 welcome bonus points (after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months) are valued by TPG at $1,200. Beyond the points, this card also offers a whole lot of perks such as Centurion and Delta Sky Club lounge access, up to $200 airline credit, Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit (up to $100) and complimentary Hilton and Marriott Gold status, just to name a few.

If you’re looking for a card that earns points in specific categories or you’re not sure which card is best for your age, check out some of these helpful guides we’ve put together:

Shopping Portals

I am a shopping portal fiend. I can’t stress enough just how many extra points you can rack up by shopping online and simply activating the portal of your choice. You can also double your earnings by double dipping with a points-earning credit card and voila! You just earned points via a portal and a credit card. A lot of stores often run bonus points/miles promos around the holidays, which can also help you come out on top in the new year. Ultimately, your holiday shopping could help your land your next vacation via points.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals, Maximizing online shopping portals

Link your cards to loyalty programs

Another effortless way to earn points and miles without putting any thought into it is by linking your credit card to dining and ride share loyalty programs.

When it comes to dining loyalty programs, you can’t link your card to multiple ones. Instead, you’ll have to pick one and stick with that. These programs are available across all the major airline and hotel chains, and the sign-up process is super simple. Once you’ve signed up, all you have to do to earn points is use your card at participating restaurants.

As for ride share program, Lyft currently has partnerships with Delta and Hilton. The difference with this program is that you can simultaneously earn points for both partners on all rides. To incentivize users to link their Hilton and Lyft accounts, Hilton is currently offering 1,000 bonus Hilton Honors points for users who sign-up and book a ride from now until Nov. 15.

Related: Maximizing dining rewards programs, Maximizing points and miles with Lyft partnerships 

Gift cards

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

You’ll hear this recommendation from points-and-miles veterans time and time again and there’s a reason it’s a fan favorite — bonus points. Many issuers have cracked down on gift card spend in bulk, but if you’re reasonable with your gift card purchases then this could be a lucrative tactic. The way this works is you usually have to be targeted for a special offer, like this 2,500 bonus Membership Rewards when you spend $100 or more at Staples. You may not have not have a need for $100 worth of office supplies, but do you know what else they sell at Staples? That’s right, gift cards.

Gift cards can make for great gifts to employees, bosses or even family. They can also help you reach your minimum spend much faster while also earning bonus points.

Sign up for Rocketmiles

If you don’t stay in hotels often enough to really rack up your points or if you prefer home share services like Airbnb, consider using Rocketmiles for when you do stay in a hotel. This service allows infrequent hotel visitors to credit their stays to their airline of choice instead of with a hotel brand they may not frequent again in future. TPG Reporter Katherine Fan used this service to help her re-qualify for her coveted Companion Pass last year.

Depending on where you’re trying to earn your loyalty, this could be a helpful tool in earning you more airline points when you may not have otherwise.

Related: Last-minute ways to renew your Companion Pass, Using Rocketmiles to earn points and miles on hotel stays

Q4 bonus categories

For those who have or plan to get a card with rotating bonus categories, Q4 is an awesome time to do it as card issuers typically focus the bonus categories around the holidays towards gift shoppers. Here are all the cards you can earn 5% cash back on your shopping:

Chase Freedom: (No longer open to new applicants) You can earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate at numerous department stores or by using ChasePay or PayPal.

Discover it Cash Back: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year (like Amazon, Walmart and Target the current Q4 2019 quarter bonus categories).

Citi Dividend: You can earn 5% back on up to $2,000 at Best Buy and select department stores.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card: You can earn 5% back on up to $2,000 on a pre-selected category ranging from TV, Internet and streaming services, utilities, select clothing stores, cell phone providers, gyms, fast food, ground transport, sporting goods, department stores, furniture stores and movie theaters.

Related: Activate your Q4 categories to earn 5% cash back on upcoming holiday shopping

Bottom line

As you can see, there’s plenty of ways you can get started on earning points and miles so that you enter the year points rich. If you follow these tactics, we’re confident you can reach whatever points goal you set your mind to. So go forth and collect those points!

(Featured photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
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