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Points, Miles & Credit Cards

How to Earn Points and Miles Without Opening a New Card

Kurt Adams

Kurt Adams

May 10, 2024

4 min read

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. Some of all of the card offers that appear on this page are from advertisers; compensation may affect how and where the cards appear on the site; and Going does not include all card companies are all available card offers.

Table of Contents

The easiest way to earn a lot of points and miles quickly is to open a new card and earn its signup bonus, but what about other ways to earn? 

Here are some other strategies that you can adopt to rack up more points and miles faster.

Referring others for cards

One of the most lucrative ways to earn more points is by referring others for cards. You get bonus points for making the referral, and your friend gets to open a card and earn the points from its welcome offer. 

Referring someone for a card is the points and miles equivalent of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’

I’ve done this several times with my favorite travel credit card, the card_name.

  • How much you can earn: 5K-15K points, depending on the issuer and card.
  • How to do it: Log in to your credit card account and find the “Refer a Friend” section. You’ll see a unique referral link. Share that link with your friend. After they open a card, you’ll receive bonus points for referring them. 
  • What it can get you: Depending on your search, 5K to 15K points could get you a one-way economy seat on a domestic flight. Better yet, use these points to top up and get closer to roundtrip flight. 

Referral rules depend on the specific card issuer: some let you only refer to the precise card you have, while others may permit you to refer to a wider range of cards, including some that you may not personally hold. 

Card issuers may restrict the number of times per year you can earn a referral bonus, so check your card issuer’s terms and conditions. 

This strategy is great when you might already be an existing cardholder, but that card is offering an elevated offer for a limited time. It’s also a great strategy for couples trying to maximize their points and miles together.

Add an authorized user

Instead of referring someone to open your card, you might be able to earn 5K-10K points by adding a spouse, family member, or even a child 13 or older to be an authorized user on your account. The amount of points you’d earn varies by card and authorized user spending requirements. 

The authorized user would have their own physical card, but their purchases would appear on your account. This means that you’ll earn rewards on their purchases, but your account management may affect the authorized user’s credit. 

Depending on the card and the perks it offers, authorized users may be charged an annual fee. Also, be aware that authorized users don’t get the full range of card benefits: for example, authorized users on one of the

For example, an authorized user version of card_name is known as a "Companion Platinum Card" and gets a very slimmed-down version of perks.

Adding children as authorized users

To the parents out there reading this, adding a child as an authorized user to your account could be a great way to help establish a strong credit history for your kids. 

Use merchant category codes to your advantage

Everyone in the points and miles world will tell you, “Maximize your card’s spending category bonuses.” 

And yes, while this is fundamentally true, it is also somewhat common sense: If you have a card that rewards you 3X points per dollar on dining, such as the card_name card, don’t use a card that earns only 1X points per dollar on your next coffee.

Let’s pause for a second to explain how your card “knows” that a certain purchase is eligible to earn points in a bonus category, like dining. It all comes down to merchant category codes. 

Merchant category codes (MCC) are assigned to a business by the credit card payment company (like Visa or Discover), and it is the language that your credit card uses to decide if a specific purchase you made is eligible for the card’s bonus rate. 

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you had a travel credit card that earns 5X points on pet stores (Visa MCC 5995). Buy cat litter there using that card, and you'd earn 5X points per dollar. 

Imagine that the pet store sold candy bars for humans, too. If you bought that candy bar at the pet store using the same card, that candy bar purchase would also earn 5X points per dollar. 

Why? Because the candy bar was still bought at a pet store. Therefore, the purchase would be coded as MCC 5995, even though that specific purchase is for humans and not pets.

You could apply this same strategy with real travel credit cards. Some examples you could consider based on actual cards:

card_name: bonus_miles_full
  • Points-earning superpower: 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on purchases at office supply stores and on cable, internet, and phone services
  • Ideas to use it: Buy cleaning supplies and toiletries there
card_name: bonus_miles_full
  • Points-earning superpower: 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases)
  • Ideas to use it: Buy greeting cards for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduations there. Maybe even a gift, too.
card_name: bonus_miles_full
  • Points-earning superpower: 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • Ideas to use it: Buy greeting cards, toiletries 

Points-earning powerhouse cards

card_name
card_name
card_name
card_name
card_name
card_name
Annual fee
annual_fees
annual_fees
(See Rates and Fees)
annual_fees
Earning rate
  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on purchases at office supply stores and on cable, internet, and phone services
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). 
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Terms apply.

For the first year of card membership or first $20,000 spent:

  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel
  • 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).

After your first year or $20,000 spent:

  •  5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


 

Welcome offer
bonus_miles_full
bonus_miles_full
bonus_miles_full
Our take

This card's points-earning sweet spot is in the office supply stores category.

This card's points-earning superpower is at US supermarkets, earning 4X points on up to $25,000 in purchases, annually.

This card's points-earning strength is at drugstores. 

Shop through airline portals

Many airlines, credit card issuers, and even hotels have online shopping portals that allow you to earn additional points per dollar spent if you click through to the merchant’s site. The portal rewards you with additional airline miles or points in exchange for using the portal’s referral link.

The rate of points or miles you’ll earn depends on the merchant, what you’re buying, and even the day. It’s fairly common to earn 2X, 3X, or 5X miles (or points) per dollar spent through a shopping portal.

I put this under one bucket because they all involve you linking your card or airline loyalty account to another program in order to earn more points or miles per dollar. This comes in several flavors.

Here are a few options:

  • Dining rewards programs: Many major US airlines and hotel chains have dining programs that let you earn more points when dining out. You sign up by linking your airline loyalty membership number to one of your credit cards. Then, when you eat at participating restaurants in the rewards program and pay with the card you enrolled in, you’ll earn points or miles with that brand.
  • Earn points through Lyft rideshares: You can link your Lyft account to earn bonus miles or points with Delta SkyMiles, Alaska Mileage Plan, Hilton Honors points, or Bilt Rewards points.
  • Earn airline miles with rental car reservations: When renting a car, you can opt to earn airline miles instead of points with the rental car company. Depending on the car rental company, this may be a flat number of airline miles per day or miles per dollar spent. Just be aware that rental car companies may charge you a fee for opting to earn airline miles, so read the fine print first.

To maximize your points-earning activities, it might be best to target one airline that you want to earn on. 

Check out more ideas in our beginner’s guide to points and miles

What about travel portals?

Before we wrap up, you might be wondering about travel portals. Nearly every credit card issuer loves to market the chance to earn 5X or 10X points per dollar when you pay with your credit card through their travel portal. 

Just proceed with caution. Double-check that the price you’re seeing for a ticket, hotel stay, or rental car matches the price you’d find if you booked directly through the airline, hotel, or rental car company. 

If the price is comparable, then go for it! Just be aware that if you need to make any changes or cancellations to your reservation, you’ll likely have to go through the travel portal first, adding an extra layer of bureaucracy.

Reasons why you may not want to open a new credit card now

As fun as a new travel credit card can be, timing may not always be right to open one. Some common reasons why now may not be the right time: 

  • You don’t want to pay another annual fee.
  • You don't want to keep track of another card’s statement due date.
  • You’ve opened five cards in the past 24 months (what we call “5/24 status” in points and miles lingo), and don’t have space for a new card application right now. 
  • You don’t want a hard inquiry to appear on your credit report.
  • You're worried a new credit card application would make your credit score dip. (This is only temporary.)

The last two may apply if you’re looking to buy a home soon and don’t want a hard inquiry from opening a new credit card to appear on your credit report just months before applying for a mortgage. 

Going has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Going and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. Some of all of the card offers that appear on this page are from advertisers; compensation may affect how and where the cards appear on the site; and Going does not include all card companies are all available card offers.

Kurt Adams

Kurt Adams

Marketing


Published May 10, 2024

Last updated May 21, 2024

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