Booking a vacation for free (or nearly free) might sound too good to be true but it’s possible if you rake in enough rewards. You can reach points-and-miles goals effortlessly and without being obligated to take unnecessary flights or accumulating gift cards. Here’s a road map of sorts for maximizing travel rewards with minimal effort.
1. Take advantage of a credit card sign-up bonus
It’s a departure from your standard credit card: Some credit cards offer a significant sign-up bonus and waive the annual fee for the first year. Choose a card that provides miles or points for a specific airline or hotel program, or consider a general travel card with flexible rewards.
2. Add an authorized user
Bring someone along for the ride: Add a family member or trusted partner as an authorized user on your card and you could score quick points. Some travel cards offer bonuses for additional user sign-ups but bear in mind that you’ll still bear responsibility for footing the bill.
3. Put the dinner tab on your card
If you have a card that provides bonus dining rewards, offer to pay when the check comes for dining out — as long as your dining companions pay you back so you don’t end up eating the cost! It’s a win-win: you’re getting the benefit as well as the cash to pay it off.
4. Shop through bonus malls
Online marketplaces offered by issuers, airlines, and hotel chains allow you to earn rewards for free when shopping with certain retailers. Which means you can buy then fly, making shopping its own reward.
5. Make paying with a credit card your first choice
Wherever you’d like to go, get there faster by making your credit card the go-to payment method for shopping, dining, entertainment, or anything else. If you can pay by card without incurring interest or spending beyond your limit, you stand to boost your rewards — even more so if your purchases are aligned with the card’s bonus categories.