Part 2 of Earning Points and Miles: Everyday Spending and Category Bonuses

Before we get started, I feel like I should insert a disclaimer here: you should always pay your balance in full every month. If you cannot be responsible with credit cards, stop reading now!!

This post will cover how to earn more points and miles by using credit cards for everyday spending. In addition to paying all expenses possible on a credit card, it is important to make sure you are using cards that earn extra points on bonus categories when possible.

The first and most obvious thing I can say is STOP USING CASH! Always use a credit card anywhere credit cards are accepted.  Put all of your spending on a reward earning credit card. If you pay off the balance every month, you will never pay interest.

Bonus Categories

Most airline and hotel co-branded cards offer bonus points for travel booked through the airline or hotel. For example, the Citi AAdvantage card earns 2 points per dollar if booking a flight on American Airlines.

Some cards offer bonus points for dining, travel, gas, and many other categories.  For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers 2-3 points per dollar on restaurants and travel, depending on which Sapphire card you have. Stay tuned and I will go more into detail about how to earn maximum points on your everyday spending.

Minimum Spending Requirements

Here is a list of ways to meet the minimum spend required for a sign-up bonus to be awarded but in many cases it can be done by simply switching all of your spending from cash/debit cards to your credit card.

I won’t give a specific number, but anyone with kids knows how expensive childcare is. Let’s just say the amount we pay for our son’s preschool is usually enough to cover a minimum spending requirement even if it was our only credit card spending.  You should know me better than that by now though, of course that’s not the only thing we put on credit cards! Other basic things that add up quick are utilities, groceries, gas, and car insurance.

More on category bonuses

The second step is to familiarize yourself with any category bonuses your card(s) earn. As stated above, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns 3 points per dollar.  This may not sound like a lot, but it adds up quick because you are doubling or tripling your earnings everytime you use a card that earns a bonus for the category in which you are spending.  Most airline cards will get you at least 2 points per dollar on airfare with that particular airline.  Read more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards here.

Which credit card should you use for everyday spending?

I put most of my spending on my American Express SPG card because those are the points I value the most.  The exception to this is when I’m making a purchase that qualifies for a category bonus on a different card.  Here is a current list (as of May 2017) of which cards we use for different purchases.

A simple example is if I’m at a restaurant, instead of using my SPG, I will use my Chase Sapphire Reserve, because I will get 3 points per dollar instead of the 1 point per dollar that I would get with my SPG.  These are certainly not the only 2 cards that award flexible points, but they are the 2 that I use the most.  American Express Membership Rewards is another great program that I also use.

Starwood preferred guest, SPG starpoints

Here’s a little math to demonstrate:

I’m going to use a simple number for the purpose of explaining this but say I spend 10,000$ a year on travel and dining.

  • If I use my SPG card for these purchases, I will end up with 10,000 starpoints.*  Unfortunately, SPG does not really have any category bonuses outside of paid hotel stays at their properties.
  • If I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred (2 points per dollar on travel and dining), I will get 20,000 points per year with 10,000$ spend.
  • Now if I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I will end up with 30,000 points. That’s enough for a round trip ticket to Hawaii if you know how to spend the points wisely (which I will teach you!).

In conclusion, an extra point or two per dollar can really make a difference to your total earnings over time.

*Remember that for every 20,000 SPG points transferred to airlines, you get 5,000 bonus points. So this potentially makes you an earning of 1.25 points for every dollar. This may not sound like much but an extra 5,000 points can make a huge difference when it comes time to redeem your points and miles. 

westin rancho mirage, spg palm springs

Use Spg points to stay at The Westin in Palm Springs. Or use them for plane tickets. Or Both!

Bonus offers in email or snail mail:

Another important tip is never assume that an email (or regular mail) from the bank/airline/hotel associated with your card is spam.

For example, my husband has the American Airlines card that is used by Barclaycard (this is different than the Citi AAdvantage card).  In January he received an email that if he spends at least 500$ on his card each month January-March, he will get 15,000 bonus American Airlines miles. While he almost never uses this card (because he primarily uses the SPG and Chase cards like me) but keeps it for benefits, I had him spend 500$ on it for those 3 months because it is a great easy way to earn bonus miles. That’s basically 10 bonus miles per dollar.  Any purchases he made with that card counted toward the 500$ spend needed for each of those 3 months.

caymus vineyards, napa valley on miles and points

Spend your money on wine, not airfare and hotels.

I also get frequent offers in the mail from Citi for my AAdvantage card that are usually 3 bonus points for a few months for certain categories such as gas stations, department stores, and restaurants. I always take advantage of these types of offers because 3 (or even 2) is always better than just 1 point.

The take-aways:

  • Put all of your spending on reward earning credit cards
  • Learn your category bonuses for your specific card
  • Take advantage of mail and email bonus offers for your existing cards

Part 3 will cover shopping portals. This can boost your points quite a bit if you can remember to always use them when possible!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, or if you would like me to write about a certain topic, please feel free to reach out via email, the comment section, Facebook, or Instagram! Thanks everyone for your support so far.



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