The WORST Ways to Earn Those Free Hotel Points and Airline Miles

Congratulations! You may have started this year by opening a credit card to take advantage of a big points or miles bonus towards a discounted trip in 2018. It may be one of the new Hilton Honors American Express Cards, or a flexible points program like Ultimate Rewards earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but the result is still the same: you are working your way towards a frugal trip.

There are always rewards cards offering free hotel points and airline miles to new customers. The biggest question is how you plan on meeting the minimum spending requirement.

While there are easy ways to meet the requirement and earn extra points – such as using your card for everyday spending or shopping through points malls – there are some ways that simply don’t make sense. Although these methods might be tempting, they aren’t always profitable and can put you at risk of going into debt, resulting in a negative equity on the points you earned.

When it comes time to start making that spending requirement, there are certain traps everyone should avoid. Here are three of the most common – and some better options you may want to consider.

Bitcoin (and Other Cryptocurrencies)

It seems that you can’t turn anywhere today without hearing about the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Yes, Bitcoin has become a household term that represents a new avenue of investment that you could purchase with your credit card. But is it worth it?

Like any investment, future performance is never guaranteed. When you combine that with the fact that cryptocurrencies are decentralized and highly volatile, purchasing Bitcoin and other similar currencies is a high-risk purchase that could easily backfire, leaving you in debt. Unless you are willing to take on a significant amount of risk, avoid buying Bitcoin.

Instead: Consider using your card to invest in a Kiva loan, helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses in developing countries. Although you won’t earn interest on your loan, it is a great way to pay it forward while earning a miles boost for yourself. FlyerTalk has a great resource on how to get started with Kiva loans.

Cash Advances

Have you ever considered purchasing a cash reload card or other type of cash card in order to meet your minimum spending requirement? Some credit cards may look at this as a cash advance purchase, depending on where you purchase your cards from. Because points-bearing credit cards do not consider a cash advance as a qualified earning purchase, anything you buy in this category may be disqualified towards your minimum spending qualifications.

If you are in doubt as to whether or not a purchase will count towards your minimum spending goals, be sure to double check. In the fine print, you will often notice a disclaimer that cash advances or cash-equivalent purchases are not counted. Therefore, it’s always a safe bet to avoid cash advances as a way to make minimum spend work.

Instead: As we’ve discussed in the past, buying gift cards instead of cash cards can be an easy way to make minimum spends work for you. In some situations, gift cards can earn even more points – for example, buying gift cards at a grocery store using the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express can yield double Membership Rewards points, while helping you get closer to your points bonus.

Loan Payments

Finally, there are a lot of great services that help you earn points and miles for your bigger spending in life, like your rent or mortgage payment. You may want to use your credit card to pay off these debts and earn points and miles – but is it worth it in the end?

Unless you can immediately pay off that bill, you are exchanging one form of low-interest debt for another high-interest debt. Making loan payments with a credit card requires discipline and careful planning – and if you can’t manage a loan payment as part of your regular budget, you definitely can’t manage a loan payment with a credit card.

Instead: With tax season heating up, it may be worthwhile to consider paying your taxes with that points-earning credit card. Although you won’t earn any bonuses, you can still take advantage of monthly payments or one big lump payment to satisfy your minimum spend requirement.

How do you manage your spending requirements to earn points and miles bonuses? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

[Image: Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr]

Joe Cortez
Joe Cortez is an award-winning journalist and blogger focused on travel, leisure, and loyalty programs. As a frequent traveler, Joe has flown across the United States, Canada, and Europe primarily on award bookings and discounted flights. In addition,…
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The JetBlue Plus Card

  • Annual Fee: $99 fee waived for the first year
  • Foreign Fees: 0%
  • Card Type: Travel

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  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire.
  • Earn and share points together with Family Pooling
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember’s first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card
  • Your first checked bag is free.

Breakdown

Earn (pt.)

Spend


3 months

30,000

$1,000


JetBlue Purchases

6.00

$1


Restaurants Purchases

2.00

$1


Groceries Purchases

2.00

$1


All Purchases

1.00

$1


The JetBlue Plus Card

  • Annual Fee: $99 fee waived for the first year
  • Foreign Fees: 0%
  • Card Type: Travel
FTG Review Reward Breakdown Points Breakdown
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire.
  • Earn and share points together with Family Pooling
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember’s first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card
  • Your first checked bag is free.

Breakdown

Earn (pt.)

Spend


3 months

30,000

$1,000


JetBlue Purchases

6.00

$1


Restaurants Purchases

2.00

$1


Groceries Purchases

2.00

$1


All Purchases

1.00

$1


Apply Now

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