How to Earn Travel Rewards and Points Without a Credit Card

One of the main advantages arguments about using a credit card is, many of them offer rewards and points for traveling. I don’t like using credit cards, mostly because unsecured debt is really dangerous for me. Other people can use them responsibly but most of the time, I can’t.

Still, I love to travel and sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on all the great points and programs available. I found 3 ways to earn points without using a credit card.

Use Discount Travel Sites Like Expedia

There are lots of travel discount sites available for travelers on a budget. I have used Expedia for 5 years now and I love it.

The company recently launched a rewards program for account holders that purchase reservations through the website.

My Expedia rewards account

Expedia rewards details:

Expedia rewards program details

  • It’s completely free – no fees
  • Earn points on flights, hotels, cruises and activities
  • No blackout dates
  • Earn double points if you book with a Mastercard
  • Get 2 Expedia Rewards for every $1 spent
  • There’s no limit on the amount of rewards

One of the main things I really like, is that I can book any type of activity for ANY family member or friend, and I’ll still earn points.

Sign-up For Airline Frequent Flyer Accounts

Each major airport is a primary hub for a specific airline. For instance, Dallas (where I live) is the home base for American Airlines.

Other airlines come in and out of DFW but the majority of them are American Airlines. Since I fly with them almost exclusively, I get points through the AAdvantage frequent flyer program.

I can book flights (even on Expedia) and type in my Rewards number to get credit. I cashed in 3 FREE round trip flights within the past couple years, all without a credit card!

My AA rewards account

AAdvantage program details:

  • Earn 1 point for every mile flown
  • Redeem points for flights starting at 12,500
  • No fees or monthly charges
  • Earn bonus points when shopping online or dining out

I recently traveled with Alaska Airlines and found out they offer a rewards program as well (although they will offer a credit card application in mid-air).

Take Advantage of Hotel Rewards Programs

In case you don’t like using a discount travel site or airlines program, hotel companies offer rewards for booking with them directly.

I like the Hilton Honors program which applies to all the Hilton brand hotels (DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Embassy and etc).

HHonors details:

  • Earn 10 HH points plus 1 airline mile for each $1 spent
  • Expedited check-in and check-out services
  • Spouses stay free
  • Book online or over the phone
  • No additional fees

Marriott Hotels also has a rewards program, and awesome customer service.

Avoid the Credit Card Trap

While many credit cards offer excellent travel rewards and points programs, it’s still a slipery slope if you don’t handle them wisely.

I’m not opposed to using them, and in the past I have used the offers to my advantage. These are just a few options I use to bypass using credit while still earning points for traveling.

Do you enjoy traveling? How do you earn rewards?

Photo Credit: KevinMPringle

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About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and owner of Careful Cents, a site that helps creative freelancers discover the art of making a living. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship and blogging. Since then she’s been featured in sites like The Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, and Kiplinger Finance. In her spare time she enjoys painting, sketching, and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter or Instagram: @carefulcents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeffrey Trull January 11, 2012, 10:48 am

    I’ve earned a lot of flyer miles recently by applying for credit cards and then simply making the minimum purchase to get a ton of miles. I don’t like this method since I don’t really like dealing with credit cards, either, but it’s surely the best way to get a lot of miles. Now I just need to figure out how to use them all!

    Other than that, I do look out for other little ways to earn miles, like surveys or other things that the airlines offer.

    • Carrie Smith January 11, 2012, 8:02 pm

      Good point! If you can take advantage of the bonus miles for new cards, I say go for it. Also, you could always send me any extra points you don’t want. Lol

  • The Happy Homeowner January 11, 2012, 3:24 pm

    I had no idea Expedia instituted a rewards program; thanks for sharing!

    I’m an avid traveler, but I do use credit cards for their cash-back and travel insurance perks. Of course, nothing goes on them that can’t be paid for by month’s end.

    I’m constantly searching for ways to make travel cheaper, and I’m definitely one for thinking creatively in an effort to save some moolah!

    • Carrie Smith January 11, 2012, 8:01 pm

      I really enjoy traveling too, so I’m always on the lookout for the best deals and rewards. Glad to meet a fellow traveler and trade some good secrets :)

  • kae927 February 16, 2013, 7:51 pm

    I own a small business and book hotels for lots of my contractors. Do you know of a hotel chain that will let me book and pay for a hotel and acquire points when I am not the one staying there?

    • Carrie Smith February 18, 2013, 10:16 am

      That’s a great question! The only way I’ve been able to do that is to make sure the hotel charges my credit card — like prepaying. Then when the other traveler checks in, they can just sign the receipt. Hopefully that helps!

      • Leeo March 17, 2014, 9:47 am

        Hello Carrie. Thanks for the help. wanted to ask how many points do u need to travel lets say 8000 miles?