Points and miles make it possible to see the world at a much lower cost, but that doesn’t mean everyone is in the best position to earn them. For starters, travel rewards credit cards offer the easiest way to earn rewards on your regular spending, but some of us don’t have the 740+ credit scores required to get approved for them. Not only that, but consumers struggling with credit card debt may not want to run out and pick up a rewards credit card — especially since travel credit cards tend to charge high interest rates.
Now, here’s the good news: You can earn travel rewards without a credit card, and some strategies are a lot easier than you think. If you want to earn rewards for travel but can’t use credit right now, here are the best options to consider.
1. Join airline dining clubs
If you dine out often and want to earn airline miles, you should check out airline dining programs from Delta SkyMiles, Southwest Rapid Rewards, American AAdvantage, and more. These dining clubs will award you airline miles simply for signing up and eating at participating restaurants. You can even earn sign-up bonuses of up to 3,000 miles for dining out at least a handful of times within the first 30 days.
Keep in mind that dining clubs are free to use, and if you’re going to dine out anyway, you might as well take advantage. At the very least, check out each of the dining clubs for airlines you fly with to see if you like any of the participating restaurants in your area. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Airline Dining Rewards Programs)
2. Shop through airline shopping portals
If you shop online frequently, like most people do, make sure you’re clicking through a portal each time you make a purchase. Airlines like United, Alaska, American, and Southwest have their own shopping portals that give you bonus miles for each dollar you spend.
All you’re required to do is log onto your account and “click through” to each store’s website before you shop for your purchase to qualify. And you don’t have to use a credit card to pay for your purchases, either. Instead, you can use other forms of payment like PayPal or debit. (See also: How to Use Airline Shopping Portals to Cash In On Rewards)
3. Join airline and hotel loyalty programs for free
Make sure you’re joining airline and hotel loyalty programs for brands you frequently use. This is especially important if you’re booking paid travel. By including your loyalty number on your hotel or airline reservation, you’ll earn points or miles for any travel you complete.
How much can you earn with paid travel? That totally depends on the airline or hotel and their basic earning structure. As an example, Southwest Rapid Rewards currently gives you six points per $1 spent on their basic Wanna Get Away fares, but you can earn 12 miles per $1 spent on their Business Select fares. Delta SkyMiles, on the other hand, currently awards five miles per $1 spent to basic members who book Delta-marketed flights.
4. Book all your hotel stays and rental cars through a portal
Whenever you book travel, take a moment to think of the ways you could earn additional travel rewards for each dollar you spend. For example, most airlines work with hotel and rental car partners, and they will award you miles in their programs if you book your travel through their website instead of somewhere else.
Many airline loyalty programs even offer bonus rewards when you book vacation packages and cruises, so make sure to scan your options before you book any type of travel online. With American AAdvantage Cruises, for example, you can earn up to 10,000 bonus miles per cruise booking. This is a nice perk if you were going to book a cruise anyway.
5. Check out PointsHound.com and RocketMiles.com
PointsHound, for example, promises up to 10,000 miles for some hotel stays and you can choose from over 300,000 hotels and resorts worldwide. You also get the option to choose from popular airlines like Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and more.
6. Take online surveys
Several airlines give their loyal customers the opportunity to earn miles for answering survey questions online. You won’t earn a lot of miles with this strategy, but it’s still better than nothing. And if you have some time to kill, spending a few hours answering easy survey questions can help you score a few hundred airline miles you can use later.
Here are a few of the top airline survey portals you should check out.
7. Watch for special promotions
Keep an eye out for special promotions from your favorite airline and hotel loyalty programs. From time to time, you can earn bonus points or miles for sharing a post or hashtag on social media or making a specific purchase.
The best way to find out about special promotions is signing up for emails from your favorite travel brands and following them on social media. Once you do that, you can watch out for opportunities to earn easy bonus miles that add up over time.
The bottom line
If you don’t want a credit card or can’t qualify for one right now, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to earn travel rewards. As highlighted above, there are quite a few ways to score points and miles if you’re willing to do the legwork. But the spoils go to those who put in the effort, so start trying to earn bonus rewards today.