5 ways to earn credit card points faster, from dining rewards programs to referral bonuses

credit cards 26Crystal Cox/Business Insider

  • Many credit cards come with great sign-up bonuses that reward you with thousands of points or miles, or hundreds of dollars of cash back, after you meet a minimum spending requirement in the first few months after you open your account.
  • But how do you keep accumulating points once the card is in your hands and you've earned the intro bonus?
  • Some of the best ways to earn more points include joining a dining rewards program, referring friends, and buying things online through your credit card's shopping portal.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

If you signed up for a new rewards credit card recently - like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® - chances are you got a big sign-up bonus of rewards points or miles. But how can you keep earning extra points on top of your regular spending after you've earned the welcome bonus? Fortunately, there are a few easy tricks to help you on your way to that dream vacation or anything else you're saving points for.

But first, a word of warning: Credit cards play a big role in maintaining a healthy credit profile and score. Make sure you're aware of the impact that opening a new card can have, especially if you're planning to apply for a mortgage or finance a major purchase anytime soon.

It's also important to practice financial discipline when targeting credit card rewards - paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay is the best course of action. After all, interest and late charges can cancel out the value you get from your rewards.

If you're still trying to decide which credit card is best for you, you can check out our full guide on the best rewards credit card offers.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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Shopping portals

Shopping portals

Many credit card rewards programs and frequent flyer programs let you earn tons of bonus points by shopping online at everyday retailers. By logging into your account, navigating to the shopping portal (usually found under "earn points"), clicking the site you want to visit, and completing your purchase without closing that window, you can watch your points multiply.

For instance, as of publish time the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal was offering 2 points for every dollar spent online at J.Crew, 2 points per dollar at Sephora, and 6 points per dollar at Bloomingdale's.

Dining rewards

Dining rewards

You can earn extra frequent flyer miles just for dining out. By signing up with a program called Rewards Network, you earn miles each time you pay at a participating restaurant, plus a bonus of up to a few thousand miles when you first sign up and start eating.

The program is fairly simple: You sign up with your preferred airline's dining program, and then register your credit or debit card. Each time you use that card at a participating restaurant, your payment is recognized by Rewards Network and you earn extra miles.

Most major US airlines participate, as well as a few hotel chains. You can look up participating restaurants at the Rewards Network website, as well as see what sign-up bonuses are currently offered.

Make sure you "double-dip" on earning rewards by using a credit card that offers bonus points, miles, or cash back for dining purchases to pay for your meals out. Our favorite options include the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x points on dining), the American Express® Gold Card (4x points at restaurants worldwide), and the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (3x points on dining out and ordering in).

Referral bonuses

Referral bonuses

Have you gotten a lot of value from your Chase Freedom? Have you been happy with the perks that come with your Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express? Know a friend or family member who's looking for a new card? Many credit and charge cards offer bonuses if you refer a new cardholder — a great way to help recommend a card to a friend and get rewarded at the same time.

American Express and Chase run the most robust credit card referral bonus programs, which you can access at the following sites:

Capital One, Citi, and Discover also offer cardholders referral bonuses. Capital One usually sends out referral bonus offers via email, while you can find your referral bonuses on Citi and Discover by logging in to your account.

Follow the prompts to refer a friend to a card (via a referral link you send them). If they apply for the card and are approved through your referral link, you earn a bonus — depending on the card, the referral bonus could be 5,000 to 10,000 points or miles. Best of all, the person you referred gets the standard sign-up bonus, too.

Read more: The best credit card sign-up bonuses available now

Some of the best credit card referral bonuses available as of publish time include:

Adding authorized users

Adding authorized users

While some cards charge a fee to add an authorized user to your account, other cards pay you to add one. Many cards offer bonus miles if you add an authorized user in your first few months of card membership.

When signing up for a new card, make sure to keep a lookout for the option to add someone trustworthy to your account in exchange for a nice bonus. You're responsible for paying any charges made on the authorized user card, but you also earn points or miles for those purchases.

Simply spending money

Simply spending money

It seems obvious, but people with a few cards in their wallet often forget that they can maximize their rewards simply by using the right card for the right purchases.

One card may earn 2x points at gas stations, while another earns 3x points on dining, and a third earns 4x points at grocery stores. Forgetting to pay attention to bonus categories can cost you thousands of extra points each year. By keeping track of cards and bonus categories, you can be sure to always get the most for your regular spending.

By taking advantage of your normal spending habits, it's easy to maximize the points and miles you get back from your credit cards. Before you know it, you'll be on your way to that next great award redemption, whether it's a free flight in first class or a hotel stay booked on points.

Click here to learn more about the best rewards credit cards.
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