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Travel rewards credit cards can be an effective way to earn rewards for free travel quickly. But you don't necessarily need a credit card to earn rewards, though. Whether you don't have a credit card or prefer to use them only for emergencies, you can still earn travel rewards without one. 

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Rewards Travel Tips How to Earn Airline and Travel Rewards without Credit Cards

There are several ways to earn airline and travel rewards without credit cards. Some options require more time and effort than others and many are tied to your spending habits. But if you're already spending money on dining out and shopping online, you can use the tips below to maximize your travel and airline rewards potential. 

  1. 1

    Book Flights Using Frequent Flyer Membership

    You can earn miles when you book flights as a member of the airline's frequent flyer program. Make sure to provide your frequent flyer membership number when booking so you don't miss out on earning miles. If you have a flight coming up and you're not part of the airline's rewards program yet, sign up before booking your flights. If you have already booked your flight, contact the airline to see if they can add your frequent flyer information to the fare. 

  2. 2

    Sign Up for Dining Rewards Programs

    Several loyalty reward programs reward you with points for dining out. You'll earn points within the program as you spend money at select restaurants, clubs and bars. Joining these programs is free, so there's no reason not to sign up and take advantage of your spending habits to earn some extra points. 

  3. 3

    Use Shopping Portals

    Along the same lines as dining rewards, many travel brands offer ways to earn points through online shopping. Online shopping portals allow you to earn extra rewards to shop at your favorite retailers.

  4. 4

    Take Advantage of Airline and Hotel Promotions

    If you have travel plans coming up, you may have a chance to earn extra rewards through airline and hotel promotions. Airlines and hotel brands often run promotions that allow customers to earn double (and sometimes even more) points for paid bookings.  An easy way to learn about upcoming promotions is to sign up for your favorite airline and hotel brands' rewards programs and opt-in to receive marketing emails.

  5. 5

    Check Out Airline and Hotel Partner Programs

    Airlines and hotels often partner with other companies to offer deals that earn extra points and miles. You could earn a few hundred points for grocery shopping or fuel purchases with select partners. Sometimes there are even bigger offers that earn you tens of thousands of points on bigger purchases or commitments. 

  6. 6

    Download Rewards Apps

    Using popular rewards apps is another easy way to earn valuable travel rewards. In most cases, you won't earn travel rewards directly but can redeem rewards earned for airline or hotel gift cards. 

  7. 7

    Earn points with car rentals

    Do you rent cars when traveling? If so, you can earn travel rewards due to partnerships between rental car companies and airlines and hotels. Hertz partners with several airlines, including American and United, to help you earn airline miles when you rent a car. So do Avis, Budget and several other car rental companies.  Keep in mind that some rental companies charge a surcharge as part of these types of promotions. Verify whether there is such a charge and whether it's worth it to take the deal still.

  8. 8

    Do airlines surveys

    Another way to earn some airline miles is by filling out surveys. Several airlines offer programs that pay customers (in miles) to share their opinions. 

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List of the Top Frequent Flier Programs

Almost all airlines offer a rewards program that earns points or miles redeemable for flights or other redemptions. Here's a list of some of the top frequent flyer programs: 

Earn Valuable Points or Miles for Travel

Best Travel Credit Cards

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Dining Rewards Programs

dining at gourmet restaurant

Many dining rewards programs are tied to popular airlines and hotel brands like: 

Once you join the program, you can search for local restaurants that participate and earn points on eligible purchases that can go towards your travel. Ensure you register the credit or debit cards you plan to use when dining to get credit for your restaurant purchases. 

Each program has different guidelines, so check the fine print. Some may allow you to earn rewards for online orders and take out. Others may only reward individuals who dine in at their establishments. 

Travel Rewards Shopping Portals

Some of the popular online shopping portals include: 

Instead of shopping directly with retailers, head to the shopping portal online. Search from hundreds of available retailers to find the one you want. Click on the retailer's link and start shopping and earning rewards for your purchases. Adding this one extra step can help you earn plenty of additional rewards, especially if you shop online regularly. 

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Popular Airline and Hotel Partner Programs

Learn more about partner promotions from the top airlines: 

Rewards Apps the Get Airline Points

Some examples of rewards apps include:

  • Swagbucks is a popular rewards app that rewards users for completing various tasks such as watching videos, playing games, answering surveys, searching the internet and shopping online. 
  • The Miles app rewards users for participating in various types of transportation including walking, riding a bicycle, public transportation, rideshare rides, and driving your own car. Then, you can redeem those rewards for gift cards. 

Airline Surveys

Airlines with survey programs include: 

The rewards payout for surveys is low considering the time involved. While it's not a huge moneymaker, filling out surveys during your spare time could be worth it. 

Can I Earn Miles or Points with a Debit Card?

While a solid travel rewards credit card is the fastest way to rack up points, you can earn travel rewards with a debit card too. You can earn points by linking your debit card to a dining rewards program and using it when shopping through a bank's online portal. 

Check if your bank offers a travel rewards debit card or do some research on travel debit cards that you may be eligible for. Several banks offer rewards checking accounts that earn cash back on debit card purchases. You can use cash back earnings to offset travel costs as an alternative to earning points and miles. 

Maximize Your Rewards with a Credit Card 

If you have a travel rewards credit card, you can pair it with the above strategies to earn even more rewards. The quickest way to boost your rewards balance quickly with a credit card is to earn sign-up bonuses by hitting card spending requirements.

After earning the bonus, you can continue to earn points and miles with card spending and participate in rewards programs like those mentioned above. If you frequently eat out, signing up for a dining rewards program can help you earn some extra rewards. An online shopping portal can also be another way to bolster your rewards if you shop online frequently. Find what works for you so you can start earning more travel rewards. 

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Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a personal finance, credit card, and travel writer. He is the family travel and budget expert behind Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife and four kids. His work has appeared on several websites, including FinanceBuzz, Credit Karma, Millennial Money, Club Thrifty, Student Loan Planner and Slickdeals.