Most products on this page are from partners who may compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how they appear on the page. However, opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain. This page may include information about American Express products currently unavailable on Slickdeals. American Express is not a partner of Slickdeals.
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.
Here are the Best Credit Card Bonuses in September
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, for example, you get 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That's enough for $750 in travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. In fact, both Sapphire credit cards regularly offer big sign-up bonuses for new members.
Similarly, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers new cardholders 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Capital One has a stripped-down version of this card with no annual fee that also offers new cardholders a generous one-time bonus for becoming a card member.
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.
The 5 Best Hotel Loyalty Rewards Programs
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.
Best Travel Credit CardsVisit 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.
Here’s How I Get Free Meals at Airports Every Time I Travel
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.