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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Travel isn’t cheap. Even when you’re visiting one of the best budget destinations in the world, your lodging, airfare, and daily expenses add up. So I know you want to know how to earn points and miles to travel the world for free.

One of the best ways to make travel more affordable is to use travel reward credit cards. Since I started traveling the world full-time, I’ve earned points and miles that have let me stay in some of the world’s best hotels, buy round trip flights, and upgrade to business and first-class for free.

But there are A LOT of travel credit cards out there, and there are even more strategies on how to earn and redeem your points and miles.

Here’s how to earn points and miles to travel the world for free!

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Airline Loyalty Programs

When deciding which travel reward credit cards to get, start with the airlines you already use. If you use one airline more than the others, then research credit cards through this airline. In addition to regular miles, airline credit cards often come with perks like free checked bags, exclusive access to airport lounges, and point bonuses. 

The great thing about airline loyalty programs is that you don’t have to have a credit card to earn points. So if you don’t have enough loyalty to one airline to benefit from an airline credit card, then make sure you still sign up for airline loyalty programs to earn standard miles. 

If you don’t want to stay loyal to one airline, you should stay loyal to one airline alliance. There are three airline alliances – Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance. These alliances group many different airlines under one “umbrella” that lets you earn and redeem miles from any of the alliance’s airlines.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Hotel Loyalty Programs

When deciding on a travel reward credit card, start with the hotels you already stay at. If you stay at one hotel brand more than others, then research credit cards through this hotel chain. In addition to regular points, hotel credit cards often come with perks like status upgrades, bonus point earnings, free nights, early check-in, and late check-out.

If you stay in a lot of hotels, but you’ve never paid much attention to the hotel brand, then you need to start! Choosing a couple of hotel brands to stay loyal to is one of the easiest and fastest ways to earn points you can use for free accommodation.

I am a Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, and Marriott Bonvoy member. So when I book a hotel, I make sure it belongs to (or partners with) one of these hotel brands.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Earn Points on Everyday Purchases

Make sure you choose a credit card that lets you earn points on everyday purchases. Look for cards that get you points for things you’re already buying. This is one of the fastest ways you can rack up points.

For example, if you drive a lot, choose a credit card that gives you extra points for buying gas. The best travel reward credit cards are the ones that let you earn points on every single thing you buy.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Wait for Sign-Up Bonuses

Travel reward credit cards always offer sign-up bonuses. This could be point bonuses when you spend a minimum amount in the first few months, a hotel status upgrade, or a statement credit on your first bill.

But before you apply for a credit card, you want to make sure you’re getting a good sign-up bonus. The Points Guy always has the best analysis of how good a sign-up bonus is. So when you’re considering a credit card, search this phrase in Google “the points guy [name of the credit card you’re considering].”

If a credit card’s sign-up bonus is at a historical low, then wait to apply for this card until you get a better welcome bonus.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Shopping and Dining Portals

Most airline and hotel loyalty programs have dining and shopping portals. These portals let you earn extra rewards for your online shopping. A portal takes you to the same website you’d otherwise reach directly, but as long as you click through the portal from your loyalty program account, you get bonus points or miles.

For example, if you’re going through the Chase shopping portal to earn 4x Ultimate Rewards points at Amazon, you’ll log into your Chase account, click through to the retailer through the Chase portal and pay for your purchase with your Chase card just like you normally would.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Choose the Right Credit Card

Here are the travel reward credit cards I use:

Capital One Venture. This is a great all-around travel card that lets me easily transfer my points to airlines and hotels. You can earn miles from ANY purchase, and there’s no limit on how many miles you can accumulate in a year.

Hilton Honors American Express. Hilton has some of the best hotels in the world and one of the best point reward systems of any hotel loyalty program. So this credit card can get your accommodation paid for quickly and often.

Hyatt Visa. Hyatt isn’t the largest hotel chain, but its Small Luxury Hotels of the World, participating Exhale locations, and eligible Lindblad Expeditions take Hyatt over-the-top for me. This card also lets you earn and redeem points with American Airlines.

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How To Earn Points and Miles To Travel the World for Free

Redeem Wisely

Now that you know how to earn points, it’s time to learn how best to redeem them. Every rewards program has its own ins and outs for redeeming points and miles. So you’ll need to research these options to get the most value out of your travel points and miles.

You never want to redeem your miles or points for cash (or as a statement credit on your monthly bill). You’ll lose out this way. It’s always better to book a hotel or flight with points and miles.

An easy way to figure out the value of your points and miles is to divide the price of a hotel or flight by the number of points or miles you’d need to redeem for it. The higher the value, the better the deal you’re getting.

You’ll also need to consider if you want to use your points to stay in one six-star resort or two three-star resorts? Will you use your points to buy one first-class plane ticket or three trips in coach?

Most loyalty programs have expiration dates for points and miles, so don’t wait too long to book that free flight or hotel!

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Do you have more ways you can earn points and miles? If so, share with us in the comments!

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Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you maximize miles and points?

    Make sure you choose a credit card that lets you earn points on everyday purchases. Look for cards that get you points for things you’re already buying. This is one of the fastest ways you can rack up points.

    Travel reward credit cards always offer sign-up bonuses. This could be point bonuses when you spend a minimum amount in the first few months, a hotel status upgrade, or a statement credit on your first bill.

    But before you apply for a credit card, you want to make sure you’re getting a good sign-up bonus.

  • What does it mean to earn miles?

    Airline and credit card miles are a type of loyalty benefit that certain credit cards and airlines give to customers as a reward for their spending.

    When deciding which travel reward credit cards to get, start with the airlines you already use. If you use one airline more than the others, then research credit cards through this airline. In addition to regular miles, airline credit cards often come with perks like free checked bags, exclusive access to airport lounges, and point bonuses. 

    The great thing about airline loyalty programs is that you don’t have to have a credit card to earn points. So if you don’t have enough loyalty to one airline to benefit from an airline credit card, then make sure you still sign up for airline loyalty programs to earn standard miles. 

  • How much is 1000 points worth?

    The depends on what type of points you’ve earned. 1000 Hilton Honors points have a different value than 1000 Chase credit card points. You’ll need to research the average value of your specific points.

    An easy way to figure out the value of your points and miles is to divide the price of a hotel or flight by the number of points or miles you’d need to redeem for it. The higher the value, the better the deal you’re getting.

  • How much is 50000 points worth?

    The depends on what type of points you’ve earned. 1000 Hilton Honors points have a different value than 1000 Chase credit card points. You’ll need to research the average value of your specific points.

    An easy way to figure out the value of your points and miles is to divide the price of a hotel or flight by the number of points or miles you’d need to redeem for it. The higher the value, the better the deal you’re getting.

  • How can I earn more points?

    Ways to earn more points and miles:

    1. Join hotel and airline loyalty programs.

    2. Choose a credit card that lets you earn points on everyday purchases.

    3. Wait for a great credit card sign-up bonus.

    4. Choose the best travel reward credit cards for your spending and travel preferences.

  • How do you earn reward points?

    Ways to earn more points and miles:

    1. Join hotel and airline loyalty programs.

    2. Choose a credit card that lets you earn points on everyday purchases.

    3. Wait for a great credit card sign-up bonus.

    4. Choose the best travel reward credit cards for your spending and travel preferences.

  • Can I earn rewards for paying bills?

    Yes, you can pay most bills with a credit card for points and many credit cards will earn you rewards for doing so.
  • How do I convert miles to cash?

    Every rewards program has its own ins and outs for redeeming points and miles. So you’ll need to research these options to get the most value out of your travel points and miles.

    You never want to redeem your miles or points for cash (or as a statement credit on your monthly bill). You’ll lose out this way. It’s always better to book a hotel or flight with points and miles.

    An easy way to figure out the value of your points and miles is to divide the price of a hotel or flight by the number of points or miles you’d need to redeem for it. The higher the value, the better the deal you’re getting.

    You’ll also need to consider if you want to use your points to stay in one six-star resort or two three-star resorts? Will you use your points to buy one first-class plane ticket or three trips in coach?

    Most loyalty programs have expiration dates for points and miles, so don’t wait too long to book that free flight or hotel!

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This is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article about ways to earn points and miles are entirely my own. Some of the links in this article about ways to earn points and miles are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

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