Rewards Programs

8 creative ways to build credit card rewards points quickly


If you’ve had the same card for a few years, happy to be collecting a few hundred points here and there, we have two words for you: Wake up

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If you’ve had the same credit card for a few years, happy to be collecting enough points to get a free domestic flight or a few hundred dollars in cash back every year, Gary Leff has two words for you: Wake up.

Leff, co-founder of frequent flier community, says credit card rewards have never been better. Maximizing your points is just a matter of paying attention and making the right choices. Do you pay for everything possible with your credit card, including your nanny and your yard guy? Do you look for opportunities to double and triple your points? “It’s free money,” Leff says. “It’s like the banks want you to fly internationally in premium cabins for free.”

We asked Leff and other savvy reward chasers for their favorite — and most creative — tips for racking up credit card rewards. Remember, none of these tricks is worth pursuing unless you pay off your card every month; otherwise, interest charges cancel out any gain.

8 creative ways to rack up credit card rewards

1.  Sign up for four to six cards a year. Competition has really pushed up the value of sign-up bonuses, which are often worth hundreds of dollars, if not more, in points or miles. “I remember I got excited when Chase offered a 20,000-mile bonus,” Leff says.  “Now it’s a totally different world. Fifty thousand miles is the new 15,000, and we’re seeing 100,000-mile sign-up bonuses with some regularity. It’s incredible.” With that many miles, you can get two coach tickets to anywhere in Europe, worth several thousand dollars. Many credit card gurus have found that signing up for four to six credit cards a year, and then canceling them once the rewards have been issued, has had only a small impact on their credit scores. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to do that if you know you’re going to refinance or apply for a big loan like a mortgage soon.

2. Lend money to someone in Kenya. Through, an international micro-lender, you can use your credit card to loan money to a screened applicant from one of 60 countries. The borrower pays you back over time, and Kiva claims a low 1 percent default rate. “You get the points, and you know you’re doing something worthwhile,” says Rick Ingersoll, who blogs about credit card rewards at “Is it 100 percent guaranteed? No. But I’ve been doing it two and a half years, and I’ve never had a problem.”

If you’ve signed up for a credit card that requires you to spend a couple thousand dollars in a short amount of time to get the sign-up bonus, sometimes you have to get creative. Here are three ways to boost your spending in the short term. Just make sure you have enough cash to pay the bill when it comes:

  1. Buy gift cards. You can buy gift cards and use them for your spending in the future instead of your credit card. You’ll need to do some thinking to match your gift card purchases to match your actual spending, so you don’t end up paying for cards you won’t use. Be on the lookout for discounts — sometimes gift cards are sold at less than face value. You could also buy a bunch of store gift cards to use down the line or give as gifts, but make sure you consider any fees. If you can’t afford to prepay that much, you can buy gift cards and resell them on eBay. You’ll probably take a hit, but it can be worth it if you have no other way to hit your minimum spend.
  2. Use a service that pays bills with your credit card. Sites such as allow you to use your credit card to pay your mortgage or other bills that don’t take cards. The service charges a fee, but again, it might be make sense it if you need to bump your spending that month to a specific level.
  3. Offer to pay a friend’s bill. If a friend is about to make a big purchase, ask if you can pay for it on your card, and get the friend to reimburse you.
  4. Prepay your expenses. Ask if you can prepay your home and car insurance, cable, utility bills for six months. Or buy all your family’s birthday and Christmas gifts in one big, early shopping spree.

3. Transfer money to a friend or family member. Offering to put dinner on your card when you go out with friends is a no-brainer, but you can also use your card to pay friends back by using a payment service such as Amazon Payments, PayPal or Venmo. Some rewards buffs report in travel forums that they take that to the next level, using payment services to regularly pay a family member large amounts and then get reimbursed, just to get the reward points, though some experts say that tactic is questionable.

4. Register your cards at iDine. Register up to five credit cards with this program and you can earn miles or cash for eating out at participating restaurants. Get up to 15 miles or 15 percent cash back per $1 spent, depending how often you eat out and whether you’re willing to fill out surveys about your experience. “This is a really good way to earn rewards with very little effort,” says Gary Steiger, webmaster of “Sometimes you don’t even realize the restaurant is included, especially if you’re traveling, and you get points anyway.”

5. Segregate your spending. Some cards give you extra points for gas; others give you a bonus when you use them for groceries or travel. Make sure you’re making a conscious choice about which card to use where. “Everybody should have three or four or five cards in their pocket,” Ingersoll says. At restaurants, use one that pays extra points for dining out, at gas stations, use the one that gives you back more for gas, and so on. “And if you’re buying an airline ticket, use the one that gives you 1 point per purchase plus 1 point for every mile you fly.”

6. Use shopping portals. Never go directly to a store’s website, the experts say. Always check first to see if it’s listed at the shopping portal of the bank, airline or hotel associated with your credit card. If it is, you’ll earn the typical reward for your spending, plus additional points, miles or cash back, depending on the program. Many retailers even ship straight to the store for you so you don’t have to pay shipping. One caveat: Comparison shop before pushing the portal’s “buy” button. Some portals’ prices far exceed the retail value of items, making your extra points very costly.

7. Get reimbursed manually from your flexible spending account. If you pay your medical expenses out of a flexible spending account, don’t use the card they give you, says Daraius Dubash, who blogs about traveling using miles and points at Pay for those expenses with one of the Best Rewards Credit Cards instead, and then manually file for reimbursement. “It’s slightly more time consuming, but the points add up quickly,” says Dubash, who together with his wife has 3.8 million miles.

8. Get creative with sitters, contractors. Ask your nanny, house cleaner, pet sitter and yard man if you can pay them with American Express gift cards instead of cash, Dubash suggests. Or see if you can pay them through Paypal, Venmo or Amazon Payments. Another way to rack up points: If you’re doing a lot of work on your house and you trust your contractor, give him your credit card to buy what he needs for the job.

See related: Getting the most value for your hotel rewards points, How to keep track of all those rewards points, 8 ways to maximize your credit card rewards points, Great credit score means you should reap rewards

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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