If you travel regularly, you know that travel rewards credit cards earn bonus points or miles on virtually every dollar spent. Every point or mile earned represents progress toward a free hotel night or complimentary flight. It’s no wonder the travel rewards category is so popular.
But travel rewards credit cards aren’t for everyone.
Cards with strict underwriting standards are effectively out of reach to the millions of frequent travelers without excellent credit. Those designed for travelers who are building or rebuilding their credit tend to charge high interest on carried balances.
Qualification woes and high interest aren’t the only downsides of charging travel purchases. Every credit card carries inherent risks — among them, the budget-busting financial risks associated with carried balances and credit risks like irresponsible card use and failure to make timely payments.
Travelers leery of the financial risks posed by revolving lines of credit are well within their rights to avoid travel rewards credit cards entirely. They still have plenty of opportunities to earn bonus points and miles with their favorite brands — in many cases, at much higher rates of return than through credit card spending alone. Best of all, some opportunities require no out-of-pocket spending at all.
If you’re uninterested in applying for a travel rewards credit card, there are plenty of alternatives. All earn rewards, none require new credit accounts, and some demand no out-of-pocket spending at all.
Open a Savings Account That Earns Miles Instead of Interest
Travel rewards credit cards earn points or miles on eligible purchases. In other words, they ask cardholders to spend money to make money, as the cliche goes.
The FDIC-insured Bask Savings Account makes no such request. In fact, it’s the only savings account that earns American Airlines AAdvantage® miles instead of interest. If you live near a commercial airport served by American Airlines or its partners, you’re an ideal candidate to open an account with Bask Bank.
The Bask Savings Account offers a lot of value for frequent American Airlines flyers. Highlights include several bonus opportunities for first-year account holders and ongoing mileage earnings on deposited balances.
Account Opening Bonus
New Bask Savings Account holders can earn 5,000 bonus AAdvantage® miles with the following qualifying activities:
- Depositing $1,000 in new money within 30 days of account opening
- Within the first 60 days of account opening, maintaining a $1,000 minimum savings account balance for at least 30 days
The offer applies on accounts opened through Feb. 29, 2020. Bask Bank awards bonus miles within 10 business days, but miles can take up to eight weeks to post to a linked AAdvantage® account.
First-Year Balance Bonuses
New Bask Savings Account holders can take advantage of three separate first-year balance bonuses. In all cases, you must fund the account within 60 days of opening and hold the qualifying balance for 12 consecutive months.
- Earn 10,000 bonus miles by maintaining a $25,000 minimum balance for 12 consecutive months.
- Earn 20,000 bonus miles by maintaining a $50,000 minimum balance for 12 consecutive months.
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles by maintaining a $100,000 minimum balance for 12 consecutive months.
These offers are valid on accounts opened through March 31, 2020. Award miles can take up to eight weeks to post.
The value of this bonus will be reported to the IRS, and the recipient is responsible for any federal, state, or local taxes on this offer.
One-Time Feedback Bonus
New Bask Savings Account customers earn 1,000 bonus AAdvantage® miles just for completing a short feedback survey. Account holders can access the survey through the Bask Bank mobile app or online account dashboard. Offer valid through June 30, 2020.
Earning AAdvantage® Miles on Deposits
Every $1 deposited in your Bask Savings Account earns 1 AAdvantage® mile per year. Deposit $50,000 on Jan. 1, maintain that balance through Dec. 31 without any additional deposits or withdrawals, and you can earn 50,000 AAdvantage® miles through your December statement cycle. Maintain that $50,000 balance for another full year, and you can earn a total of 100,000 AAdvantage® miles over two years.
Take Surveys, Earn Rewards
Your opinion is valuable. Marketing firms and the big-name brands that hire them are willing to pay good money for it — or in some cases, good travel rewards for it. All you need is time to participate in market research to earn frequent flyer miles or hotel points.
One of the most popular opinions-for-rewards outfits is e-Rewards. Just a few of its participating travel brands include:
- Accor Hotels
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Choice Hotel
- Frontier Airlines
- Radisson Hotel Group
- Virgin Atlantic
Actual earnings depend on survey length and other factors, not all of which are clear to participants. Don’t expect to be eligible for most surveys, either. Survey-makers typically design surveys for respondents who meet specific demographic and behavioral criteria.
Shop Through a Rewards App
Many consumers use cash-back apps and browser extensions to subsidize online purchases. Travel rewards apps and extensions offer similar benefits, just with points or miles instead of dollars and cents.
Curious shoppers looking to get a feel for the process can check out Evreward, one of the more established rewards apps. Evreward counts several major airlines among its partners:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
A handful of other travel brands, including Choice Hotels and Amtrak, also participate. Reward rates commonly fall between 1 and 10 units per $1 spent. On the higher end, that’s significantly better than travel rewards cards, which typically earn no more than 5 points or miles per $1 spent. And some Evreward merchants are inordinately generous, at least temporarily. For a limited time in early 2020, Evreward purchases with 1-800-Flowers earned 30 United miles per $1 spent, for example.
Use a Travel Rewards Debit Card
Travel rewards debit cards aren’t as common or as generous as travel rewards credit cards. But they’re still useful for travelers who are uncomfortable with credit cards.
Your current bank probably doesn’t offer a travel rewards debit card, so you likely have to open a new account with a bank that does. The downside is that most banks partner with just one airline. But since most airlines belong to global alliances with a dozen or more members, that’s not as restrictive as it first seems.
SunTrust’s Delta SkyMiles® World Debit card and Delta SkyMiles® Business Debit card are representative of what’s out there. Note the annual fees, which they can reduce under certain circumstances. A quick search for “travel rewards debit cards” reveals more options, though not all are available online.
Participate in Social Media Promotions
Earn travel rewards without spending a dime by participating in brands’ social media promotions. Rewards are rarely guaranteed, but if you’re lucky enough to land among a promotion’s winners, you can lay hands on a pile of points or miles with relatively little effort.
Start by opening a loyalty account with every travel brand you’ve patronized in the past five years. Follow each brand’s social media handles, especially Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat — the most common promotion channels. Monitor these handles regularly, using lists or filters to sort through the noise. Participate in every promotion that seems worth your time. More often than not, the required time investment is minimal — something like sharing a quick post about the brand along with a unique hashtag.
Most social media promotions don’t have jackpot-size prizes — figure 250 or 500 points or miles, equivalent to a few dollars in cash. Bigger hauls require more effort. In the hopes of winning enough miles to cover the cost of a cross-country flight, I once visited the Space Needle just to snap a picture with an airline’s in-flight magazine in the frame. I was already in Seattle, so it wasn’t hard to do. Alas, I didn’t win.
Use an App to Earn Miles on Hotel Stays
Book hotel stays through a hotel booking app like PointsHound to earn frequent flyer miles for every dollar spent — without making an extra purchase or spending a dime more than necessary. Among PointsHound’s many airline partners are:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
PointsHound is easy to use. Just sign up for a free account, choose your favorite loyalty program from about 20 in all, search hotels through the app, and book your stay. You can earn up to 10,000 bonus miles per booking, though most payouts are lower.
Who knew there were so many ways to earn bonus points and miles with your favorite travel brands without ever touching a travel rewards credit card?
These opportunities are entirely separate from the base points and miles you already earn on every eligible travel purchase as a member of your preferred brands’ loyalty programs. That means more points earned on everyday spending and saving — and less time to wait for your next award stay or flight.
How do you earn travel rewards without a credit card?
Bask Bank and BankDirect are divisions of Texas Capital Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. The sum of your total deposits with (i) Bask Bank; (ii) BankDirect; and (iii) Texas Capital Bank, N.A. are insured up to $250,000. Additional coverage may be available depending on how your assets are held.