Here is another great tip for travel rewards beginners that will easily double the free rewards you earn… and has other benefits. This is a very basic tip, but one it’s important you know about. It’s related to gift cards: these should not be just for gifts.
Again; let’s just be clear with this sidenote for beginners in the world of travel rewards: rewards on your spending is NOT how you get the most travel rewards, just like traveling is NOT how you get the most travel rewards.
We’ve covered this in greater detail in our introductory post (and we’ll have a free course too), but just know that if this is how you earn the most rewards, you are unfortunately not doing it right. But that’s okay; it’s not your fault, you definitely aren’t alone (it’s probably the biggest myth in an area with so many myths) and it’s very normal to think that this is how it works. But it’s not how it works and I’ll share my expertise and my 10+ years of experience earning rewards so you can become a pro too.
If you think a miserable 1% or 2% return is what travel rewards are all about, boy will you enjoy our upcoming articles… and be blown away.
Yes, you can still earn points with your regular spending, but not that much.
But you should at least maximize the rewards you get; maximize your return. Let’s start by doubling them: here’s how to do that with gift cards.
Gift Cards Aren’t Just To Gift
As I mentioned in the article about shopping portals, I never earn just 1 point per dollar on anything, ever (those portals allow me to get up to 18% back instead of 1%).
Another way to increase your earnings with your regular spending is with gift cards.
Gift cards are obviously a great gift, as the lucky recipient decides what they want and therefore can never be disappointed. But you shouldn’t just buy gift cards as gifts.
By leveraging your credit cards’ category bonuses, you can double your points for your own regular purchases year-round. Category bonuses are extremely common: even the most basic credit cards often offer 50% or 100% more rewards in certain categories like groceries.
And many of the best credit cards in Canada have even better category bonuses: for example, my American Express Cobalt Card earns a whopping 6 Marriott points per dollar on groceries. That’s 500% more than many people earn with a basic 1% back card (and with a more accessible welcome bonus and simpler points, the Scotiabank Gold Card also offers 5 points per dollar on groceries).
But I don’t get that category bonus just on groceries. And if you have a card that has a category bonus, you too can extend it to many many retailers.
You see, if you’re smart, you won’t just get the bonus on that category alone: you’ll get it for a lot more of your purchases at numerous various other retailers thanks to gift cards.
I buy any gift card at my grocery store and I get the 6 points per dollar because the grocery store is coded as a bonus category and so everything I buy there codes as a bonus category.
So when I need to order stuff on Amazon (or any other retailer that offers gift cards sold in grocery stores—and there are many)…
Instead of earning just 1 or 2 Points per dollar on my Amazon purchases with any of my 10 cards (as none of them has Amazon as a bonus category: usually bonus categories are food, gas, travel, etc.)…
… I buy an Amazon gift card at my Metro grocery store, get 6 Marriott Points per dollar on the purchase (3 to 6 times more points for the same purchase!) and then use that gift card on Amazon.
Voila! You can do that for all merchants who have branded gift cards available at grocery stores (the gift card racks have dozens of them: Netflix, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Ikea, Uber, etc.) and always multiply your earnings. Instead of paying with your card directly at those retailers and getting the non-bonused earn rate, you get the bonused earn rate by buying the gift card.
It’s no effort: you already are going to the grocery store, just pick up gift cards. And use them when you go to the other retailers.
The only thing to be careful about is if you usually use the 1-extra year extended warranty and 90-day theft and loss purchase protection that good credit cards give you: you won’t get those with this trick since you’re paying with a gift card, so I personally only use the trick for items for which I don’t need those benefits (Amazon, Netflix, Uber, SAQ, David’s Tea, clothing retailers, etc.) and not for electronics or things I can lose.
How It Adds Up
It might not seem like a huge difference (and of course compared to how we’ll tell you you can earn the most points it’s not much, especially for frugal people) but it still adds up like crazy. It’s at least 200% more with the AMEX Cobalt or Scotia Gold !!! That’s a lot more points over a full year.
And not to mention that by using my Marriott Points well at the right hotels in Spain, South Africa and plenty of other countries, with my Cobalt Card I just need to spend a few hundred dollars to get a completely free night, it’s a crazy fast accumulation. An amazing return.
That’s another thing will teach you in our new travel rewards course: how variable-value points are so much more rewarding even though yes, they are a lot more complicated. But we’ll also show you how even with the easy and simple fixed-value rewards points, you can still get hundreds and hundreds of dollars in free travel each year.
Many of the good credit cards (and even some of the not good ones you might already have from before you knew about our card ranking) have these category bonuses. Even if it’s just 1.5 Points instead of 1 Point, that’s still 50% more! It really adds up over a full year.
Same purchase. But you get 6 Points per dollar… or 1 point per dollar. 6 times more. See how you might have thought rewards aren’t worth it if you only had 1 point?
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Use the right card with a category bonus at the right merchant to buy gift cards and therefore multiply your earnings even at non-bonused merchants.
Don’t miss the next part of our special series:
WHAT TO DO NOW TO TRAVEL MORE IN 2020 4 Tips To Prepare For Flight Deals (On Black Friday Or Not) Save Money On Holiday Shopping And Lengthen Your Trips By Days Completely Free How One Click Will Give You At Least 100% More Free Rewards For The Same Purchase Maximizing Promos To Earn Hundreds Without Even Spending More Another Tip To Get 100% Or 200% More Free Rewards With Absolutely No Additional Effort Learn To Travel In A More Authentic Way (And Also Save Hundreds Of Dollars) THE Single Most Important Travel Decision To Travel For Less Or Travel More Often (Or Both) THE Easiest Way You Can (And Should) Earn 10 Times (!!!) More Free Travel A Common Mistake To Avoid That Is Like Throwing Away Hundreds Of Dollars How To Turn 10 Days Of Annual Vacation Into 25 Days For Free 15 Tips To Save On Plane Tickets (When You Can't Wait For A Deal) 5 Absolute Best Tips To Travel More In 2020
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