Earn Extra Miles Through Category Bonuses
Episode #10 of the course Travel hacking: Earn frequent flyer miles without flying by Chris Guillebeau
Congratulations, traveler! You did it; you’ve officially made it to the last lesson of the course.
Once you’ve seen the power of how just a few smart credit card acquisitions can help you travel for free, you’ll want to figure out how to get the most from them. If you’re smart about how you spend your money, free flights multiple times each year with nothing but a few strategically-timed purchases are well within your reach.
At the very least, you’ll be earning one mile/point per dollar spent on all your credit card purchases. Add up how much you spend each month (but subtract your rent and mortgage—it doesn’t usually make sense to put that on a credit card) and that’s the minimum you’ll earn each and every month.
Before we get started, you should know that credit cards aren’t for everyone, and you can definitely travel hack without them. But if you’re able to apply and use them, they can easily help you rake in more miles and points. Here’s how:
Signup bonuses: There will never be an offer on your credit cards as good as the sign-up bonus you get when you first get your card. This should be your number one priority. If you have a high minimum spend that you’re not sure you’d meet normally, you’ll want to shift any spending you can to the sign-up promotion period.
Gift cards to stores you already shop at: One way to front-load spending while going after a big sign-up bonus is to buy gift cards to stores you normally shop at anyway. You probably can’t buy three months’ worth of groceries just to meet your minimum spend—they’d spoil—but you could buy a gift card to your grocery store that you spend over time. That way, the transaction happens now, but the goods come later. You can do this with any store you shop at regularly.
Bonus categories: Most credit cards offer bonuses for spending in certain categories like gas stations, grocery stores, and office supply shops. Know the bonus categories for each of your cards so you always use the one that gets the highest bonus.
Manufactured spending: There are also ways to “manufacture spending,” which is a complex way of spending on your credit card without actually spending money. The details for this advanced strategy can change often, but we keep track of all the latest manufactured spending opportunities and best practices in the Travel Hacking Cartel.
Remember, always pay off your credit cards in full each month, and don’t spend more than you normally would just to get points. If you carry a balance, you’ll end up paying more in interest charges than you’ll get from the points, and going on an out-of-control spending spree just to earn miles? Well, you can see how that wouldn’t really be helpful for saving money.
This is what the banks are hoping you’ll do with their credit cards, and like most smart strategies, doing it right means doing what’s best for you, not your bank!
How quickly could you earn a free flight if you started taking advantage of just a fraction of the options here?
You can purchase gift cards for the stores you already shop at and earn more miles than you would merely by shopping. To do this, use a mileage-earning credit card to buy gift cards through a portal merchant, then use those gift cards for your actual shopping. (The miles keep coming and coming—it’s like the movie Inception!)
Once you get the gift card you’ve ordered, you can use it at an actual store, add it to an online or app account balance (this is what some of us do with Amazon.com and Starbucks gift cards), or use it to shop online.
If you’re shopping online with your gift card, be sure to check EVreward to see if the merchant is a member of a shopping portal—you can get even more points when you make the final purchase.
Want more? Join the Travel Hacking Cartel and earn at least 100,000 miles a year—guaranteed. Get two months free when purchasing an annual plan.
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