When you fly on a paid ticket, you earn miles. If you pay for that ticket with a rewards earning credit card, you earn points for the purchase as well. Many people assume those to be the only two ways to earn miles on the purchase. It turns out that you can earn an extra set of points by HOW you book your ticket. For example, some people use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall.
My preferred way of booking tickets is by using Expedia and BigCrumbs together.
Expedia is just like any of the other online travel agency sites like Vayama or Orbitz, but there's one major difference: it has a rewards program, Expedia Rewards. If you book hotels on Expedia, you get one point per dollar, and there are often bonuses to earn 50% extra points. If you're booking a flight, you get one point per every two dollars spent.
These points can be redeemed for airline tickets at a valuation of one cent per point or for hotel vouchers in varying amounts. These hotel vouchers can be used on any hotel on Expedia.com. If you look closely at the program, you'll see that it will take you a LONG time to get any sort of decent reward on Expedia. My wife and I use the same Expedia Rewards account, we have been using it for a couple years, and we still haven't gotten enough points to redeem for the award we want. We're saving up to get 50,000 Expedia Rewards points for the $1000 hotel voucher. The nice thing about the hotel vouchers on Expedia is that you can use them at non-chain properties that you might not otherwise stay at, opening up a variety of more exotic destinations.
It takes a LOT of buying to get to a high amount of Expedia Rewards points, but keep in mind that you're getting these points in addition to the airline miles you would regularly earn for flying plus the credit card points you would earn for spending.
It actually gets a little better, still. BigCrumbs is a program that pays you cash for clicking a link to refer to you a site and purchasing something. The amount they pay you varies for different sites, but right now, if you book a flight on Expedia, you get paid $1.75. You used to get $3.20, but that number has gone down recently.
BigCrumbs is pretty cool. You literally just get a paypal deposit into your account once a month. It's hard to argue with that. So if you book a flight with BigCrumbs and Expedia, you're now getting the airline miles you've flown, the credit card points from spending, Expedia Rewards points, and $1.75 cash from BigCrumbs.
It actually gets slightly better beyond that. BigCrumbs has a referral program. If you refer people to BigCrumbs, and they make purchases on BigCrumbs, you get a little bit of cash from their purchases too. So… if you can use my strategy above AND recruit some of your friends and family, it gets even more lucrative.
I know some people swear by the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, but Expedia Rewards + BigCrumbs is my preferred way to book airline tickets and non-chain hotels. I like that I don't lose any of the earning that I'm used to, I get a little bit of cash back, and I slowly accumulate a third type of points, Expedia Rewards, that I can use to redeem for off-brand hotel redemptions in the future.
You can sign up for BigCrumbs via my referral link here.