TPG Readers’ Best Tips for Maximizing Points and Miles

May 5, 2019

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Update: The Hilton American Express Ascend Card is now the Hilton Surpass® Card from American Express and is offering a bonus of 150,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership plus, a $100 Statement Credit after your first purchase on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 12/31/2019.

TPG reader Adele K. recently asked our TPG Lounge members for some advice about how she could take her points-and-miles game to the next level.

“I get the impression that most people on here travel a lot for work and that’s the secret. What about people who aren’t traveling for work? How do you move beyond just an occasional perk? My family of four travels every month or two — generally on Southwest — and we usually stay in Airbnbs or whatever hotel can offer us a one-bedroom suite for a reasonable price. We have points with Hilton, Marriott, United Airlines and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. What else should we be doing?” — Adele K.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

Take Advantage of Shopping Portals

This isn’t the first time our TPG Lounge members have mentioned their love of shopping portals, and it likely won’t be the last. Here’s how they’re using them to make the most of every online purchase when it comes to earning points and miles.

“My husband travels for work a fair amount, but I definitely supplement our points and miles balances with portals. I buy everything from them and it adds up. I earn about 60,000 points per year with them. One helpful tip is to check different stores for the item you want. For example, I was going to buy UGGs from Macy’s for five miles per dollar but they also sell them at Saks Fifth Avenue for 20 miles per dollar. That makes a $160 purchase go really far, miles-wise. I also order Target pick-up orders through the portals. Get into a few simple habits and you’ll see a measurable balance over time. The hardest part was getting into the habit of going to the portal to link to the shopping site. It’s all very straightforward, just takes a minute of entering the store/website name in the search field.” — Devi L.

“Cashbackmonitor.com is useful for seeing which portal gives what. I often check that if I know I’ll be making a purchase from one of the commonly offered sites, like eBay, eBags or Sak’s Fifth Avenue for that Platinum credit. I believe Ebates is the largest, but TopCashBack and BeFrugal are others that I’ve used as well.” — Kevin L.

“Other options for [earning more points through] Southwest Rapid Rewards are Rapid Rewards Shopping and Rapid Rewards Dining, which give you extra points for going through the portal. We bought some desks from Office Depot and got a lot of points for the purchase. Last year, we added nearly 2,000 points for shopping and from the bonuses Southwest offers several times a year.” — Joy K.H.

Are you a fan of online shopping portals? (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)
Are you a fan of online shopping portals? (Photo by filadendron/Getty Images)

Stick to a Strategy

Several TPG Lounge members wrote in with specific tactics they employ — like using a second cardholder to help make Platinum status and staying loyal to a certain hotel chain — to ensure they score the most points and miles possible every time.

“My Mom is the second cardholder on my Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card so between the two households, we can spend the $40,000 per year to get Diamond status. [The status and card get us] a free weekend night and lots of free breakfasts, among other perks, especially if you can plan a five-night stay to get the fifth night free. It’s at least one good vacation every year for free, which we often take together.” — Lara C.

“I am been travel hacking since I was 15 and have over 25 years of experience. I have never had a job that included a lot of travel. Flexible points programs are going to be your most worthwhile place to focus. Start building a good base of Chase Ultimate Rewards, then move on to Amex Membership Rewards and finally Citi ThankYou points. The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express is a true hero card with two MR points per dollar on everything. It is my main everyday spend card now and the Chase Freedom Unlimited has taken a back seat to it. The Platinum Card® from American Express is good if you get targeted for the 100,000 points [available through the CardMatch Tool. Offer subject to change at anytime].” — Megan H.

“Pick a single hotel chain and stay loyal. Always monitor for deals like double points or certain stay counts for free nights and register them all. There are always other games with credit cards but that one tactic is key.” — Jeff B.

Knowing when to use which credit card can seriously up your game. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
Knowing when to use which card can seriously up your game. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/TPG)

Spend Money Strategically

When it comes to earning points and miles, having a plan is key. Whether it’s automatically billing expenses to certain cards, paying attention to sign-up bonuses or checking airline partner award charts, our TPG Lounge readers have done it all.

“Putting all your spending on The Chase Trifecta [the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and the Chase Freedom Unlimited] should give you enough points and miles to get free vacations every year. Add a nice sign-up bonus here and there and get your spouse cards as well and you should have plenty. Put all your bills on cards, use the shopping portals when it makes sense and sign up for mile bonuses through restaurants.” — Constantin R.

“Don’t forget about ‘spent money.’ That is, make sure you auto-bill any utilities that don’t charge fees, insurance, sports, school stuff, lawn care, car care and other recurring expenses that you are going to spend money on anyway through the cards and get those points.” — Jeremy E.

“I rarely travel for work and hit Delta Platinum Medallion last year. Knowing the rules and using them to your advantage is a big part of it — for example, using Delta’s partner earning chart can be very useful for SkyTeam flyers when traveling internationally. Also, every little bit counts. Cards with no annual fee or whose benefits more than cover the annual fee can be very useful, then you can use their earning multipliers to make the most of each purchase. Shopping portals can be your friend, especially now that you can earn Amex MR points through Ebates. Of course, credit card sign-up bonuses and referral bonuses can be very helpful as well. — Ross B.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.

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