Make the miles add up faster

Los Angeles Times - - TRAVEL - By Eric Rosen travel@la­times.com

You know the tried-and-true ways to boost the num­ber of miles in your air­line awards ac­count: fly­ing one or two car­ri­ers con­sis­tently, stay­ing in spe­cific ho­tel chains that give air­line miles, us­ing credit cards that earn points or miles on ev­ery­day pur­chases.

With help from Emily Jablon and Daraius Dubash, who co­founded the blog Mil­lionMileSe­crets.com, here are five other ways to en­hance your ac­count:

Fo­cus on the “cat­e­gory spend­ing bonuses” your credit cards of­fer. Many re­wards credit cards earn mul­ti­ple points per dol­lar on pur­chases at spe­cific cat­e­gories of mer­chants. For ex­am­ple, the Ev­ery Day Pre­ferred card from Amer­i­can Ex­press earns bonus points at su­per­mar­kets and gas sta­tions; the Chase Sap­phire Pre­ferred card of­fers travel and din­ing bonuses.

“Cat­e­gory bonuses can be lu­cra­tive be­cause you can open credit cards that cover each of your ma­jor cat­e­gories of ex­penses to en­sure you are earn­ing bonus points on most of your pur­chases,” Jablon said.

Take a look at on­line shop­ping por­tals tied to your credit card. About 7% of to­tal do­mes­tic re­tail sales are on­line, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent U.S. De­part­ment of Com­merce sur­vey. Be­fore you make that pur­chase, check out fre­quent­flier and ho­tel points pro­grams’ shop­ping web­sites, which of­fer mul­ti­ple points for on­line pur­chases. When loy­alty pro­gram mem­bers log on and surf these sites and click through to a re­tailer, they can earn mul­ti­ple points per dol­lar on their pur­chases at ma­jor stores, in­clud­ing Macy’s, Tar­get, Best Buy and hun­dreds of oth­ers.

How do you know who has what? “Be­fore you shop, check EVRe­ward.com to see which por­tal is of­fer­ing the best bonus at a spe­cific mer­chant,” Dubash said. Sim­ply go to EVRe­ward.com, en­ter in the search field the name of a mer­chant and the site gen­er­ates a list of how many bonus points per dol­lar each on­line shop­ping por­tal is of­fer­ing.

Find out which restau­rants are part of your air­line or ho­tel din­ing bonus pro­gram. Sev­eral air­lines, in­clud­ing Alaska, South­west and United, part­ner with the Din­ing Re­wards Net­work of af­fil­i­ated restau­rants and bars. When mem­bers link a credit card with their fre­quent-flier num­ber through their air­line’s din­ing re­wards por­tal and use that card to pay for a meal at a par­tic­i­pat­ing restau­rant (you can look up par­tic­i­pat­ing restau­rants on the air­line or ho­tel din­ing re­wards net­work page), the card­holder au­to­mat­i­cally earns three to five points per dol­lar spent.

“Con­sumers should reg­is­ter all their credit cards in din­ing pro­grams,” Jablon said. “The only thing bet­ter than sushi is sushi and miles.”

Pay at­ten­tion to lim­ited-time pro­mo­tions. You prob­a­bly get scads of emails ev­ery week of­fer­ing bonus points and miles on top­ics as di­verse as fly­ing a spe­cific route or rent­ing a car from a part­ner agency. Dubash sug­gests “reg­is­ter­ing for pro­mo­tions as soon as you hear about them.” If you are trav­el­ing, look for as­so­ci­ated pro­mo­tions on the fre­quent-flier pro­gram or deals pages of the air­line you will be fly­ing.

For in­stance, “If you’re off to Europeon a paid busi­ness-class ticket be­cause of work, it is usu­ally worth it to reg­is­ter for a bonus pro­mo­tion for a flight you are al­ready tak­ing,” Dubash said.

Be­sides Mil­lion Mile Se­crets, you can also check ThePointsGuy.com, View From the Wing ( view from the wing. boardingarea.com) and One Mile at a Time ( one­mileata­time.boardingarea.com), which cover air­line and ho­tel pro­mo­tions as they hap­pen.

Look to your bills to help you build your miles. Many bank­ing tasks present points-earn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Pay­ing a mort­gage with a points-earn­ing card can earn points or cash back that out­weighs the credit card-pro­cess­ing fee, Jablon said. Dubash points to Bank Di­rect and Fi­delity In­vest­ments bonuses that give miles for open­ing new ac­counts and or main­tain­ing cer­tain bal­ances.

But don’t go over­board, she said. “Start slowly, see how you cope with man­ag­ing the de­tails and then grad­u­ally in­crease from there,” she said.

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