Travel Hacks to Earn More Airline Miles

Recently an article on NPR.com titled “How Frequent Fliers Exploit A Government Program To Get Free Trips” explained how travel hackers were buying thousands of dollars worth of coins (with free shipping) on their credit cards, then immediately depositing those coins into their bank accounts to pay off the credit card – the end result was they were just buying free money, with free shipping, but everything was processed through their credit card of choice so they could rack up miles/points/cash back rewards.

Since this hack became exploited, the government has limited you to buying $1,000 worth of coins every 10 days – which you can do here. It includes free shipping, so at the very least, you can buy $3,000 worth of coins per month, which can translate into frequent flier miles or hotel rewards depending on the travel credit card you put it on.

This all got me thinking – what are other hacks or workarounds to buy things simply for the benefit of earning miles? I polled some co-workers who are either very financially savvy, such as my friend Jed who runs the blog Moneywinks, or travel a lot, such as my friend Eric who runs a travel gadget blog, to see if they had any additional ideas.

Here is what we came up with to maximize the credit card points you can earn through a variety of hacks & every day tips:

  1. Buy Coins from the Government – you can order $1,000 worth of coins every 10 days, so that’s (on average), $3,000 worth of free airline miles or credit card rewards each month
  2. Monthly Bills – obviously, any monthly bills you can pay by credit card (rent, cable, electricity, water), you should just to earn the points
  3. Discover Cash Over – with Discover’s Cash Over program, you can basically use your credit card like an ATM machine, getting cash back with your purchases. It all shows as one purchase, so if you bought $40 with of groceries and got $40 cash back, it will show as one $80 charge. You can then deposit the $40 back in your account to pay off the bill, racking up Discover points pretty quickly.
  4. Offer to Pay the Bill for the Group – if on business travel, offer to pick up the bill for the entire group if it is reimbursable – you then get reimbursed by your company for the group and get much more miles/reward points for it. This also works in casual/social gatherings, where your friends would pay normally pay cash – take the cash and then charge the entire thing on your card for the points.
  5. Buy EVERYTHING on your Credit Card – charge everything you can, the dollars all add up!
  6. Pay via Credit Card on PayPal – another easy one, but when buying something through PayPal, change the funding source to your credit card so you earn the points. Never use your PayPal balance, instead withdraw any balance to your bank account to use to pay off credit cards.
  7. Take Advantage of Mail In Rebates: anything with a mail in rebate is a great way to earn extra points – you pay the money up front, then the manufacturer sends you a check for the rebate. Often times you can find things for free or close to it with a mail in rebate, allowing you to rack up points while getting reimbursed. Mail In Rebates are great for earning credit card points.
  8. Gift Cards or Membership Cards: if a place offers a promotion for gift cards (e.g. buy a $40 gift card, get an extra $10), go for it! Buy the gift card on your credit card, and you’re essentially getting free money. This is especially great for places that would otherwise only take cash, such public transit cards/buss passes, or at vendors where you were planning on making a purchase anyway.
  9. Buy Things Online versus In Stores: with sites such as Amazon.com that offer free shipping, or even Amazon Prime with free two day shipping, means that (1) you can make your money go further since you don’t pay tax on purchases and (2) you can buy things on your credit card that normally you’d pay cash for.
Those are the ones we could come up with – do you have any other hacks to earn more credit card points or miles?

One Response to “Travel Hacks to Earn More Airline Miles”

  1. Jay Kane January 16, 2012

    HereStay is another great travel hack…each time you book a vacation home rental through them, you’ll earn HereStay rewards that you can redeem for domestic or international air fare.

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