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Where it can take months, or even years, to earn significant sums of rewards through regular credit card spending, credit card sign-up bonuses make it easy to earn $300 or more in cash back, or enough miles for a round-trip flight within a matter of months. All that’s required to qualify is signing up for a rewards credit card and getting approved, then meeting a minimum spending requirement (usually in the $1,000 to $4,000 range) within a specific length of time (usually three months).
However, there are plenty of scenarios where earning a new credit card sign-up bonus just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you’re planning on buying a home in the near future and want to keep new hard inquiries off your credit report, or perhaps your credit score recently took a dip and you can’t get approved for the top rewards credit cards.
Whatever the reason you can’t earn a sign-up bonus right now, there are plenty of ways to rack up rewards using the cards you already have, as well as other methods.
1. Use the right card for different types of purchases
If you have a handful of rewards credit cards with different earning structures, it’s crucial to make sure you’re using the optimal card for each purchase you make.
Different cards might offer bonus points for certain types of purchases. One card might offer extra points on dining, while another offers bonus points for groceries. The key to maximizing rewards is ensuring you’re using the card that offers the most points on everything you buy. (See also: 3 Ways Your Credit Card Rewards Can Make You Rich)
2. Find more expenses you can cover with a credit card
Make sure to go over your monthly spending and bills to ensure every purchase you can make with plastic is being paid with a credit card.
While it’s easy to use credit for groceries, gas, and miscellaneous purchases you make, take a few minutes to think outside the box on the biggest expenses you have each month. Could you pay for daycare with a credit card? How about quarterly tax payments? Health insurance premiums? Your monthly utility bills?
The more expenses you can cover with a credit card each month, the more rewards you’ll rack up over time. Just make sure you’re not paying a fee to pay bills with a credit card. Otherwise, the rewards you earn may not be worth it.
3. Take advantage of shopping portals and dining programs
Airline shopping portals through programs like American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, and Southwest Rapid Rewards let you earn additional airline miles for each dollar you spend, and all you have to do is “click through” your favorite portal before you shop. You’ll usually earn an extra 1-3 miles for each dollar you spend at participating stores in these portals, but it is possible to earn an additional 10 miles or more per $1 spent in obscure specialty stores, or when stores are having bonus promotions.
Many airline loyalty programs also offer dining programs that let you earn additional rewards when you dine at participating restaurants in your area. Some even offer initial sign-up bonuses when you dine out at least three times within 30 days.
4. Use Amex Offers or Chase Offers
Both American Express and Chase have their own “offers” that let you earn additional rewards or cash back when you make a specific purchase within a predetermined length of time. You do need to log into your account and add these offers to your card before you make a purchase to qualify, and you’ll have to meet all terms and conditions they stipulate as well.
Note that not all Amex Offers and Chase Offers reward you for shopping, per se. Some give you cash back when you spend a certain amount of money with a hotel chain, or when you spend a specific amount of cash on airfare with a certain airline. You might also earn rewards for buying a new mattress, hiring a dog sitter, or signing up for identity theft protection.
Also, remember that both Chase Offers and Amex Offers feature a benefit on top of the rewards you receive. You can score a discount with an offer, but you’ll also earn applicable rewards for each dollar you spend with your credit card.
5. Sign up for free loyalty programs
Finally, don’t forget that most loyalty programs let you join for free, and that there are plenty of ways to rack up certain types of rewards without a credit card. For example, you can join airline loyalty programs and earn airline miles each time you fly, regardless of how you pay for your airfare. The same is true with hotel programs like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, since you earn hotel points for each dollar you spend with these brands.
If you don’t travel a lot, also keep in mind that some cash back programs are available for regular purchases you buy. The Rakuten portal, for example, lets you earn up to 40% off purchases made at participating stores like Amazon, Macy’s.com, and Walmart.com.
Like other shopping portals, cash back portals also set you up to double up on rewards. You can get cash back through a portal like Rakuten or Dosh for purchases you make, but you’ll also earn rewards if you use a point-earning credit card to pay.