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Like most people, I love the idea of earning rewards to get free travel accommodations. Really, who wouldn't want to travel for free? To make things even better though, I've found ways to go beyond your basic travel points. Through the magic of stacking, I typically earn triple rewards when booking travel. By using various programs when I book, I earn rewards that translate to cash back in the form of gift cards, along with those hotel discounts, free stays and airline miles. Here's how I do it.

Start With Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Travel rewards credit cards offer points to use toward travel and often have additional earning potential when booking travel. There are a lot of options out there, but most offer points that can be redeemed for free flights or to offset hotel costs.

Some travel cards also let you earn extra points for specific loyalty programs through hotels or airlines. Whichever card you choose, finding one that works for your spending and travel habits is the first step toward earning free travel benefits.

Take Advantage of Sign-Up Bonuses

Taking advantage of sign-up bonuses from credit cards is one of the quickest ways to earn free travel. In fact, it should be a key point in the decision of which travel card you choose. If you have a trip coming up, consider applying for a credit card with a signing bonus that will benefit you and fit your travel rewards strategy.

Recommended Credit Card Bonuses

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

1.5%Extra Cash Back More Info

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

$0 1.5% - 5%Cashback More Info

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 1x- 5xPoints More Info

The card offers 5x points per dollar on Chase Travel℠, 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery services), as well as 3x points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This card earns 2x points on all other travel spending and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

20,000Points More Info

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value. Dollar Equivalent: $200 (20,000 Points * 0.01 base)

$0 1x - 3xPoints More Info

Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

$200Cash Bonus More Info

Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.

$0 2%Cashback More Info

Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.

Just make sure you pay off your credit card in full each month to avoid interest. Those interest payments can destroy any value you get from rewards.

Sign Up for Loyalty Rewards Programs

Signing up for loyalty programs is also key to increasing your travel rewards. In addition to signing up for airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, look for options from businesses and travel sites you already use or are likely to use in the future. For example, I book a lot of travel with Orbitz, so I signed up for their rewards program.

Many loyalty programs also have partners that can help you earn extra points just by making regular purchases. You might be surprised by which loyalty programs are connected, and it's definitely worth researching so you can earn those extra points from your regular purchases.

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Maximize Credit Card Rewards With Third-Party Booking Websites

Figure out where your credit cards will do the most good for you on third-party booking sites. You might use a travel rewards credit card to stack rewards from booking travel on a website like Orbitz, especially if you have a cash back extension. By going through various rewards programs, a single purchase using the right card could potentially net you cash back, Orbitz travel rewards, airline miles with your airline loyalty program and even more.

And if you frequently book travel through a third-party discount website, it makes sense to update your profile with your frequent flyer numbers. My Orbitz account includes frequent flyer information for my Delta, United and American Airlines programs. That way, if I book through Orbitz, the numbers are there and I receive my Orbitz rewards for booking, as well as the airline miles and whatever rewards I have from the credit card program.

Earn Valuable Points or Miles for Travel

Best Travel Credit Cards

Visit the Marketplace

Another consideration is that you might not be able to get hotel rewards points when you book through a third-party website like Orbitz or Expedia. Instead, if you want hotel rewards points, you might have to go through the individual hotel website. If this is the case, using a hotel-branded credit card can help you boost your ability to earn points toward a free stay.

I'm a member of Marriott Bonvoy, so if I book a hotel room online, I get extra rewards. I go to the Marriott website to book, and I use a travel rewards credit card that offers a high points rate on travel purchases at hotels. Plus, I get my regular Marriott points.

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Save Money on Travel With Your Booking Strategy

Overall, I save a lot of money each year on travel—or at least offset the costs to some degree—just by having a booking strategy that allows me to stack rewards from various programs.

For example, right now I have $35 in Orbitz rewards. I'm planning a three-night trip to Las Vegas for my birthday, and I can use those $35 in rewards to get a nightly discount on a hotel room. I have enough airline miles to fly round-trip for free, and enough other rewards for an Amazon gift card that I can use to buy a fun outfit to wear. The whole thing is going to cost me about $200 out of pocket—mostly in food and drink.

Think about which rewards sites are going to provide you with the most value and which credit card rewards you're most likely to use. Then, put together a strategy that allows you to maximize your rewards each time you book travel.


Ryan Tronier

Ryan Tronier is a personal finance expert and writer. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, The Mortgage Reports, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals. Find him online at