Tag Archives: credit cards

Earning Points Without Flying

5 Jun

In my quest for more and more miles (I’ll talk about why another time), I’ve had to find ways to accrue them other than flying. We’ve had one trip this year, and the tickets we’re a gift from my in-laws and not on United. No complaints from me, it was an awesome vacation!

In addition to my United MileagePlus Visa Signature, I’ve signed up for some other programs that will help dump more points into my account. None of these programs contribute to status, which is not a goal for me, personally. I’ve seen the forums at FlyerTalk roll their eyes and grumble about it, but the credit card gives me enough perks to make flying bearable for me: a free checked bag and Group 2 boarding. So here’s a rundown of some of the programs I’ve tried:

+ Hotel loyalty/rewards programs: Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors

I spoke about this in [yesterday’s post](https://courtneyhoyt.com/2013/06/04/obsessed-with-travel-the-beginning/). When I first started actively trying to gain points, one of my first big accruals came from converting points earned through the Marriott Rewards program. Marriott features an [Airline Miles Program](http://www.marriott.com/rewards/earn-points/miles.mi) which gives 2 miles per dollar on most stays. Some of the lower-end properties give 1 mile per dollar. I also signed up for Hilton HHonors to provide another option. Hilton allows you to earn a combination of points and miles, depending on what your goal is. I’ve chosen to earn through the [Points & Fixed Miles](http://hhonors3.hilton.com/en/earn-use-points/hotel/earning/index.html) method, with 10 Hilton points + 500 miles per eligible stay. Another option is Points + Variable Miles, which seems to benefit you if you are paying more than $500 per stay, as it gives 10 points plus 1 mile per $1 spent. I rarely spend that much on a weekend stay in a hotel.](link)

+ MileagePlus Dining Program

I joined this through an email bonus offer to join and use by the end of December for a 1500 mile bonus. The way it works is you sign up and use your United Mileage Plus Visa at a participating restaurant. They will see it on the statement, and you earn 3 miles per $1 for the total bill. Unfortunately, the restaurant we went to to fulfill the bonus terms must not have shown up correctly, because the bonus never came. I called, and they requested I send the itemized receipt. I just couldn’t be bothered at the time, so I let it go. Now every so often I see a restaurant x3 reward pop up on my MileagePlus account, it’s always a welcome surprise! I haven’t been actively seeking these miles out as we’ve been eating at home much more.

+ ERewards.com

I found this opportunity through the MileagePlus website, and have tried it out. I don’t think it will earn me miles too quickly, but it’s free. It’s market research and you fill out targeted surveys. For every completed survey, you receive $0.25 up to $5, maybe more. Once you reach $25, you can redeem for 500 miles to MileagePlus (or other loyalty programs.) I received a 250 mile bonus for signing up thought my MileagePlus account, so there is that! I’ve done about 4 surveys and now have $5.10. Not my favorite thing to do, but if I remember to keep doing it, why not?

+ PointsHound

I’m really excited about this one. PointsHound is a 3rd party website to book hotel rooms. Unlike Priceline, rather than deep discounts, they offer mileage bonuses. In addition, you can “Double Up” and earn points and status through certain hotel loyalty programs! The prices are the same as those posted on the hotels’ websites (from what I’ve seen), and cancellation policies vary, so be sure to check before you purchase! Here’s what a search looks like:

Note the Marriott Rewards and Hilton HHonors rates available on some of the listings. Apparently you receive slightly fewer miles for those rooms, but you may value them more. It seems to me, based on the rate I earn through the hotel programs, that Doubling Up is a better return than through PointsHound alone, so I’ll take the slightly lower bonus. I also like the way they post the TripAdvisor score and link right at the top of each hotel listing – helps with the obsessive research! I’ve booked a stay in July through PointsHound, so I’ll report back if I’m satisfied.

There are different levels, and I am currently at Level 2, which increase the miles earned to 5-8 per dollar. If you join through this referral link –> [PointsHound.com](https://PointsHound.com/rvjicz) < — you will earn an additional 250 miles upon your first booking. Full disclosure: I will also earn 250 points at that time.

+ Rocketmiles

Like PointsHound, this is a 3rd party hotel booking site. The major differences are they give many, many more miles per booking and they limit the search to just a few options per location. While PointsHound may offer 150 options in a big city, RocketMiles may offer 6 (they call it a "curated" search.) They offer miles in the thousands for each booking, however. Here's what a search looks like:

(There’s a double miles promotion now, hence the crazy high mileage returns!) For comparison, this search for a random weekend in Denver provided 7 (seemingly good) choices, while PointsHound offered hundreds. However – wow, look at the miles!!

I’m trying them out on a one night stay booked in September, so I will fill you in on how it worked for me. For that booking, PointsHound offered a price of $199 and 300 miles, while Rocketmiles offered $199 and 2,000 miles, both for the same property. On the hotel’s website, the same room was listed for $199. I went with Rocketmiles in this case because they happened to have the specific hotel I wanted – just a lucky coincidence. This is not for the super-researchers who need to know every available hotel option at their destination. Also, I may miss out on earning points + miles (it’s a Hilton property), but I’m still going to ask when I check in if they will give me credit. Even if I don’t, though, I’m earning 2,000 miles on my stay!

To sign up and try Rocketmiles, you can earn 1,000 miles on your first booking by signing up here –> [Rocketmiles.com](https://www.rocketmiles.com/refer/COURTNEYMHURST) <– Full disclosure: I will also earn 1,000 miles.

**POINTS IN MY ACCOUNT:**
From 1/1/13 to 3/1/13

Beginning Balance as of 01/01/2013: 88,253

Airline Activity: 1,091 (CLE-IAH)

Non Airline Activity: 15,343

– Chase enrollment bonus for adding AU: 5,000

– CC Spend: 10,204

– MileagePlus Dining: 139

Ending Balance as of 03/31/2013: 104,687

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Obsessed With Travel – The Beginning

4 Jun

Maybe it’s withdrawal from wedding planning. Or perhaps a way to avoid planning for babies (I am newly married – don’t want babies yet!). Whatever the reason, I’ve become preoccupied with planning as many vacations and trips as possible. So far we’ve got 8 separate itineraries set up; some as short as one overnight stay in a nearby city for a wedding, all the way up to a two week trip to Europe.

It all started when I realized that I had built up an impressive (for me) number of points in my United MileagePlus account. I signed up for the United Mileage Plus card on a whim after the wedding last November. My husband has one, and he likes it. I received a targeted offer for 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user. I’ve been using that card for pretty much everything, including final wedding expenses, automatic payments, and regular monthly spending. I even gave one couple a United gift card as a wedding gift (don’t worry, they registered for it!) With purchases at United garnering x2 points, I’ve been booking all my travel with the card as well.

The other thing that happened is I took a trip for work in November, and I learned that I had something to gain from hotel loyalty programs. I don’t travel for work very often; maybe once a year at most. This was an awesome trip – a conference at the Gaylord in National Harbor, Maryland (just south of DC). The conference was Monday to Wednesday, so Andrew and I went together Saturday morning. We packed four Smithsonian museums into Saturday afternoon and Sunday all day.

We also had drinks at [Smith Commons](http://www.smithcommonsdc.com/) (good drinks, friendly bartender) and dinner at [Granville Moore’s](http://granvillemoores.com/) (Belgian, mussels and frites, delicious, looooong wait.)

We stayed in the [Marriott Crystal City at Reagan National Airport](lhttp://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wascc-crystal-city-marriott-at-reagan-national-airport/) on Saturday night, which was great for taking the Metro from the airport (one or two stops) to literally drop our bags, then to catch it again to head for the Mall. I chose this property for the price and proximity to the subway, airport, and the Gaylord. The next morning, we packed up early, then took a cab to the [Gaylord](http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasgn-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center/). They were fantastic, and allowed us an early check-in so we could again toss our luggage and head back out to museums. One disappointment – the next shuttle into town was at noon, so we had to cool our heels a bit. Sidenote – there are several restaurants in the Gaylord, but we particularly enjoyed the sports bar! We sat at the bar and ate dinner, then found a quiet corner with a golf screen simulator. Normally, they charge to use it, but we were able to play for free. Fun! I am moderately bad on the green and terrible in the simulator, Andrew is great on both!

After returning home from my trip, I received an email from the Gaylord touting the Marriott Rewards program. I hadn’t really thought about how the Gaylord was owned by Marriott. When I looked into the program, I realized that with the Saturday night stay plus the 3 nights at the Gaylord I could earn significant points. Even better, Marriott Rewards has an [airline miles program](http://www.marriott.com/rewards/earn-points/miles.mi) where you can earn miles rather than accrue points. For someone like me who is trying to collect as many miles as possible and doesn’t care about earning hotel points, this is awesome! I earned double miles on each dollar spent for a total of 1,961 miles. For my IAH-DCA, DCA-IAH flights, I earned 2,416 miles. If only I’d had the United card already, I could have really racked them up!

beginning MileagePlus balance: 29,362

MileagePlus balance 12/2/12: 33,739
– doesn’t include United MileagePlus credit card bonus or spending

MileagePlus balance 12/31/12:

Airline Activity: 1,091 (IAH-CLE)
Non Airline Activity: 53,423 (CC bonus 50k + $3,423 spend)
Ending Balance: 88,253

Honestly, this miles and points race reminds me of playing a video game. We manipulate our spending and our travel patterns to earn points, which can be redeemed in creative but restricted ways. I bet there are fascinating graduate dissertations on that topic.

There are so many interesting companies and blogs in this “travel game” world – and I’m a total novice. Here’s to learning how to play the game!