4 Sweet Ways to Earn Rewards on Every Dollar You Spend
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The following is a contribution from Geoff at Noob Traveler. If you’re interested in contributing to Frugal Rules, please see our guidelines and contact us.
Over at my blog, Noob Traveler, I educate my readers on how to travel the world for next to nothing by maximizing loyalty programs and rewards credit cards. It’s a beautiful thing. But this rewards reaping lifestyle isn’t just for the wanderlust. If traveling isn’t your thing, you can still rake in rewards for whatever your thing is.
So whether you want to earn rewards for travel or cashback, or even merchandise, rewards credit cards will play a HUGE role in achieving your goals. This is because of the points (or miles) you’ll earn just by signing up for the cards and meeting their minimum spending requirements, as well as from maximizing each of their spending bonus categories.
This post will focus on the latter of the two. I’ll be going over some slick techniques that will help you earn rewards on every dollar you spend.
Heads up: This isn’t intended to encourage extra spending, but only to maximize what you would already spend anyway.
Alright, let’s dive in to ways you can earn rewards on every dollar you spend.
There’s only so much you can pay for with a credit card. For instance, you can’t make your mortgage payment with a credit card. That’s unfortunate, because that’s a nice sized payment that would earn you some nice rewards! But thankfully, there’s a way around this, and that’s where Bluebird comes in.
Bluebird is an online checking account from Chase and American Express. With Bluebird, you can pay your bills online like any regular checking account. I have used Bluebird to pay my mortgage, auto loan, utilities, credit card bills, and more. You can even send the funds to your other bank account, or withdraw funds ($400 daily limit) from an ATM. Bluebird is sweet.
But how does it help you earn rewards? Well, the way that you earn miles, points, or cashback is in the method of funding your Bluebird account. You can’t use a rewards credit card to fund Bluebird directly, but you can:
1. Buy Vanilla Reload cards at a store that allows you to purchase them with a credit card. This is becoming increasingly harder to do as of late.
2. Buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards that have pins. This is my primary way to fund Bluebird now. I go to a grocery store or drugstore (CVS/Walgreens) and buy (2) $500 gift cards with pins. I then head to Wal-Mart, where I load the gift cards to my Bluebird account at their Money Center, or a register.
Then from my funded Bluebird account, I make my payments. By doing this, I’ve earned a minimum of 1,000 extra points or $10 cash back. This could be more if the card you use to purchase the gift cards has a spending bonus for grocery stores or drug stores.
2. Shopping Portals Help You Earn Rewards on Every Dollar You Spend
Shopping portals are a glorious thing. I tend to shop online anyway, because of the convenience and since I can often find cheaper prices. So since I’m already shopping online, I maximize my spending by going through shopping portals.
If you participate in a loyalty program, either through a bank or travel partner, then you can get more back for your online shopping by utilizing their shopping portal. They all have shopping portals that act as a middle man between you and the store where you want to shop, and offer you extra rewards for going through them. You simply find your store of choice at the shopping portal, click through, and start your shopping. The only difference is, you’ll now earn more rewards than if you hadn’t gone through the portal.
For example, I buy my Keurig coffee online every month through Kohls and the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. I do this because the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal offers 10-15x points per $1 just for going through their portal. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of a bonus like that? It’s a great example of an easy way to earn rewards on every dollar you spend.
Shopping portals will often change their bonuses and stores, so a handy site to go to first to make sure you’re getting the most back is EV Reward.
3. Dining Programs
Most airline loyalty programs have dining programs. Signing up for these dining programs and eating at the restaurants in their network can get you up to 5x points per $1 on dining! Plus, there’s usually a 1,000 miles bonus just for signing up. You can sign up for the dining programs below:
- United MileagePlus
- US Dividends
- Delta SkyMiles
4. Double Dipping with Category Bonuses
Double dipping on rewards is beautiful music to my ears. When I say double dipping, I mean earning MEGA rewards two different ways, at one time.
Let me break it down like this. Most rewards credit cards will have category bonuses attached to them, like my Sapphire Preferred credit card. My Sapphire Preferred earns me 2 points per $1 spent on dining. Great, but I will earn even more when I go through the dining program I mentioned above. This means I can potentially earn 7 points per dollar on my dining purchases.
Another example is this: I have a card that gives me 5x points per $1 at office supply stores. There’s a lot of ways to slice these bennies. I can buy gift cards at office supply stores and get 5x points per $1 on that purchase. Then I use those gift cards for my daily spending (or to load my Bluebird account) and it’s like I’m earning 5 points per dollar on whatever I use the gift cards to purchase.
And I can take this a step further. Discover has a shopping portal, which has Staples (an office supply store) as a store option with a cash back offer of 5%. So I can use my card through the portal that earns 5x points on office supplies + get the 5% cash back for going through the Discover portal. And, Staples will sometimes sell $200 gift cards that can be used for daily spending, or to fund Bluebird. Total haul for $1,000 in gift cards is 5,175 points AND a $50 statement credit. That’s not bad at all!
Earning miles and points for everyday purchases is a way of life for me. Yes, it does take a little more time in some situations, and there are fees to activate the gift cards, but the extra earnings are well worth it. It’s all about the effort you put in when it comes to getting more for your dollar.
That said, this isn’t for everyone. Please don’t try these techniques if you can’t manage your spending or credit card payments. I manage my multiple credit cards with the Card Watchdog software so I can stay on top of my credit card details and set up payment reminders. Organization is important!
I hope this post gives you the tools to earn more back on your everyday spending and achieve your rewards goals!
What questions do you have about earning rewards points in simple ways? What was the last trip you took for free?
Editor’s note: I’d like to thank Geoff for sharing some of his wisdom with us. We’ve become churners in the Frugal Rules home as we love being able to earn free trips for every day spending we’d be doing anyway. If you do churn credit cards, hopefully you picked up a new trick or two…I know I did. 🙂
Geoff Whitmore is lead traveler/writer at NoobTraveler.com, a blog dedicated to educating its readers on reward travel, travel tips, and cost-saving travel techniques. The blog particularly focuses on new travelers (or as they like to call them, “Noobs”), and it teaches its readers how to save BIG. All the while, the site maintains a humorous writing style that is both fun and informative.
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.
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