You know the tried-and-true ways to boost the number of miles in your airline awards account: flying one or two carriers consistently, staying in specific hotel chains that give airline miles, using credit cards that earn points or miles on everyday purchases.
With help from Emily Jablon and Daraius Dubash, who co-founded the blog MillionMileSecrets.com, here are five other ways to enhance your account:
— Focus on the "category spending bonuses" your credit cards offer. Many rewards credit cards earn multiple points per dollar on purchases at specific categories of merchants. For example, the EveryDay Preferred card from American Express earns bonus points at supermarkets and gas stations; the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers travel and dining bonuses.
"Category bonuses can be lucrative because you can open credit cards that cover each of your major categories of expenses to ensure you are earning bonus points on most of your purchases," Jablon said.
— Take a look at online shopping portals tied to your credit card. About 7% of total domestic retail sales are online, according to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce survey. Before you make that purchase, check out frequent-flier and hotel points programs' shopping websites, which offer multiple points for online purchases. When loyalty program members log on and surf these sites and click through to a retailer, they can earn multiple points per dollar on their purchases at major stores, including Macy's, Target, Best Buy and hundreds of others.
How do you know who has what? "Before you shop, check EVReward.com to see which portal is offering the best bonus at a specific merchant," Dubash said. Simply go to EVReward.com, enter in the search field the name of a merchant and the site generates a list of how many bonus points per dollar each online shopping portal is offering.
— Find out which restaurants are part of your airline or hotel dining bonus program. Several airlines, including Alaska, Southwest and United, partner with the Dining Rewards Network of affiliated restaurants and bars. When members link a credit card with their frequent-flier number through their airline's dining rewards portal and use that card to pay for a meal at a participating restaurant (you can look up participating restaurants on the airline or hotel dining rewards network page), the cardholder automatically earns three to five points per dollar spent.
"Consumers should register all their credit cards in dining programs," Jablon said. "The only thing better than sushi is sushi and miles."
— Pay attention to limited-time promotions. You probably get scads of emails every week offering bonus points and miles on topics as diverse as flying a specific route or renting a car from a partner agency. Dubash suggests "registering for promotions as soon as you hear about them." If you are traveling, look for associated promotions on the frequent-flier program or deals pages of the airline you will be flying.
For instance, "If you're off to Europe on a paid business-class ticket because of work, it is usually worth it to register for a bonus promotion for a flight you are already taking," Dubash said.
Besides MillionMileSecrets, you can also check ThePointsGuy.com, View From the Wing (viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com) and One Mile at a Time (onemileatatime.boardingarea.com), which cover airline and hotel promotions as they happen.
— Look to your bills to help you build your miles. Many banking tasks present points-earning opportunities. Paying a mortgage with a points-earning card can earn points or cash back that outweighs the credit card-processing fee, Jablon said. Dubash points to BankDirect and Fidelity Investments bonuses that give miles for opening new accounts and or maintaining certain balances.
But don't go overboard, she said. "Start slowly, see how you cope with managing the details and then gradually increase from there," she said.