Playing in multi-player mode to earn more valuable rewards


Greg has written in the past about the games we play to earn valuable rewards and the tools we use to do it. The truth is, as with any game, these games are more fun in multi-player mode. For some people, that will mean a couple working together. For others, it may mean several members of a family. Here are some ways you can take advantage of playing the game in multi-player mode to increase your rewards and potentially combine forces for more valuable uses. Note that some of these techniques may push the limits (or rather could be used to push the limits) in terms of the ways you are comfortable earning miles and points. Each person must set his or her own ethical boundaries and play in the ways that you find comfortable.

club carlson credit card

Get everyone signed up for loyalty accounts

Some of the best deals are targeted and others can only be completed once per person. Having a team can therefore be advantageous: multiple players means multiple chances to be targeted / get in on that deal / put together more meaningful rewards.

The first step in playing in multi-player mode is to sign up everyone in your household for accounts with at least the major US-based airline loyalty programs. Some will take this a step further and help non-traveling family members set up accounts, too. Aunt Suzie might not be much of a traveler, but there’s no reason she can’t have a free frequent flyer account.

Why get everyone signed up for US-based frequent flyer accounts? For starter’s, there are shopping portal bonuses. Right now, each of the major US-based airlines is offering a shopping portal bonus where you can earn bonus miles based on how much you spend. These promos are usually capped: for example, with the current American Airlines bonus, you can earn a maximum of 3,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 during the promotion window.

It is worth having multiple travelers set up to earn miles because there may come a time when you know that you can spend more than that cap during the promotional window. Having multiple players means that you can divide your purchases to trigger the bonus multiple times in your family. In his recent post about the portal promos, Stephen noted that purchases have earned miles through airline portals in the past, so it should theoretically be possible to trigger 3,000 bonus AA miles by purchasing two $500 Visa Gift Cards. That’s more than half the number of miles necessary for an economy web special transcon flight or maybe even halfway to New Zealand. Similar shopping portal bonuses typically happen at least 3 or 4 times a year. With dynamic award pricing like those examples, taking advantage of a shopping portal promo twice might be enough miles for a free one-way flight. If you’re playing in 2-player mode, you could have enough miles for a round trip after two portal promos. If you’re in multi-player mode, racking up multiple piles of useful miles could become pretty attractive. Of course, you may prefer to stockpile your miles for more valuable rewards, but being able to do so in multi-player mode can increase their utility in the future.

To be clear, the purpose with regard to portal promos is to be able to help other family members take advantage of a portal bonus (like 3K bonus miles for $1K in purchases). Whether you’re triggering that bonus with your regular shopping habits, gift card purchases, reselling activity, etc, you may find times when you can meet the required spend threshold more than once. Rather than spending $2,000 through one account, it would be useful to have a second family member earning miles so you can purchase $1K through each account and earn 3K bonus miles in each account. Keep in mind that you’re not going to combine those miles because most airline programs would charge you money to do so. However, if you are able to earn a bonus like that a few times, it could quickly add up to enough miles for a flight. If you’ve been collecting those bonuses in two accounts, you’ll be looking at the potential for a round trip flight or a flight for a second passenger.

Take advantage of programs that allow you to pool points

Most airline loyalty programs would charge you to transfer your miles to another member (note: not all of them do, as seen below), but there are some programs that allow you to pool points for free. This enables you to easily join forces. Some examples are:

Hotel programs
Hilton (unlimited pooling with up to 10 others)
Marriott (no fee if one member has Gold or higher status, can transfer up to 100K points per year to another member)
Hyatt (can transfer to or receive miles from any other member once per 30 days)

Airline programs
JetBlue TrueBlue (can pool with up to 6 other members)
Hawaiian Airlines (a Hawaiian Airlines credit or debit card holder can receive up to 10 mileage transfers per year free of charge)
British Airways (can have a household account with up to 7 people who live at the same address)
EgyptAir (can pool redeemable and elite qualifying miles with up to 6 members who have a first-degree relationship)

Credit card programs
Capital One “Miles” (can transfer “miles” earned on Venture / Spark cards to any other customer with a miles-earning account, no cap)
Citi ThankYou points (can transfer / receive up to 100K points per year, points expire 90 days after transfer)
Chase Ultimate Rewards (can transfer to one household member or joint business owner)

Being able to combine forces can make for some nice opportunities. First, it means that you could combine points earned through a great welcome bonus to double the power of your points. See our Best Credit Card Offers page for current offer information, recognizing that you could double the bonus in many of the above programs by playing in 2-player mode with a husband/wife/partner/friend/family member.

Further, programs that allow you to combine points make it easy to take advantage of promotions and stack more miles. For instance, Hyatt is currently running a promotion where you can earn 2,000 points for a stay at one of their four new brands (read more about this promotion here). If my wife and I needed a stay of two or more nights at one of those brands, we could easily book one night in her name and the next in my name and come away with 4,000 total bonus points (which we can later combine into one account for free) — nearly enough for a free Category 1 Hyatt night (which requires 5,000 points).  They are further offering a free Cat 1-4 night if you complete stays at all four of those brands. Again, I’d look to turn that into two Cat 1-4 certificates if I had stays of 2 or more nights planned. If you have a friend or family member with Globalist status, you can even transfer your points to that person so they can make a guest of honor reservation for you where you enjoy Globalist benefits on your stay.

The power to combine points in credit card programs means that in some cases perhaps only one partner needs the card that earns the best category bonus in a chosen field or perhaps only one of you needs an ultra-premium card from which you can both reap the benefits.

Note that there are additional foreign airline programs that offer the pooling of miles, but I included those in the list because they have US credit cards and/or run shopping portals that may offer promos. I also included EgyptAir specifically because it could allow one family member to earn elite status based on pooling elite qualifying miles, which is not commonly possible with most programs.

Increasing your caps

Citi's new speed limit

While I noted above that there are some instances where you may want to share a single card to earn a category bonus, there are many instances where the credit cards that earn the best category bonuses have annual caps on the amount in purchases than will earn the category bonus.

For instance, the Amex Gold card earns 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then 1x). If you have a very hungry family, you may be able to gobble up that spending cap. It therefore might make sense for a couple playing in 2-player mode to both get the card if you know that your spending in a category bonus would otherwise exceed the cap.

In some instances, it can be possible to collect more than one of the same card. For instance, the Chase Freedom card offers 5x in rotating categories each quarter, but the cap is relative low: you’ll earn 5x on up to $1500 in purchases. If you currently have a Chase Freedom card open, you will not be approved for a second of the same card. However, you may be able to downgrade a Sapphire Preferred or Reserve to a second Freedom card and double your cap. If you are also playing in multi-player mode, you have even more possibilities. With this quarter’s bonuses including PayPal and Department Stores, this could be particularly useful for those doing holiday shopping.

Cash back apps / card-linked programs

There are a multitude of programs these days that allow you to link a credit card number or bank login and earn extra rewards when you make a purchase at an affiliated merchant. Many airlines have programs to earn additional miles at restaurants. Apps like Dosh, Pei, Drop, and more offer additional rewards (in some cases whether shopping in-store or online). Sometimes, earnings can stack. Doctor of Credit maintains a great resource on these programs.

Payouts at popular merchants are sometimes capped per day, others may have lifetime caps. For example, in the past, Dosh was offering 5% back at Sam’s Club with a maximum of $20 per day in many accounts and a similar payout at Staples with a maximum of $5 per day. Getting your family in on deals like that can expand earning potential.

Timing credit card applications

Marriott Extended Cert 2
Marriott free night certificates 

If you and a spouse both use credit cards to earn welcome bonuses and valuable perks, it pays to plan out an application strategy. For example, perhaps one person wants to stay under 5/24 while the other goes after new welcome bonuses or maybe you want to strategically earn points that can be pooled. Conversely, some will prefer to diversify holdings between partners. The key is to have some strategy.

The timing of applications becomes particularly handy on cards that offer annual benefits. For example, many credit cards offer an annual free night certificate. In 2-player mode, you’ll want to time out your applications such that you each earn your free night around the same time each year so that you can combine forces and enjoy something like a weekend getaway. With the plethora of Marriott credit cards on the market offering free night certificates, this can become particularly useful since a couple could easily put together enough free nights for a week away if you have the certificates timed to become available around the same time.

Taking advantage of limited deals

Some great deals are limited such that you can only take advantage once per household or per billing or shipping address. If you know other friends and family playing the game as well, it can be great to encourage them to get involved. On the other hand, you may have friends and family with no interest in the game. That can feel like a wasted opportunity, but you may be able to recruit them to help you play for them.

One problem I’ve run into with such deals in the past is that all of my credit cards have the same billing address. Again, a solution to that would be to help your friends or family member make such purchases themselves. But if they have no interest in doing so but don’t mind helping you out, one way I’ve gotten around this in the past is with Visa Gift Cards. Most Visa Gift Cards allow you to register them online to a specific billing address. I’ve therefore in the past been able to register a Visa Gift Card to a family member’s address and send an item directly to that family member using the Visa Gift Card with their billing address attached. Again, that only makes sense when you need something that is limited in quantity — but, for example, I’ve wanted to occasionally pick up a Black Friday deal to give as gifts to two family members and this has helped me do it. Being able to take advantage of Visa and Mastercard gift card deals can make this more rewarding as well.

Bottom line

Earning points and miles to travel or cash back on your purchases can be both rewarding and fun. As with many things in life, it becomes more fun and rewarding with a little teamwork. Make sure to recruit yourself a team so you don’t leave miles on the table.

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