An excellent credit score isn’t required to get approved for a travel rewards credit card, but a good score helps.
Even if you have a good credit score, you may not want to pay an annual fee or increase your debt so you can earn reward points on a credit card and get free flights and hotel stays.
But there are other options. Here are some ways to earn travel rewards without needing a rewards credit card:
Join Loyalty Programs
Airlines and hotel chains often offer free loyalty programs and award points or miles for travel. Stay at a certain hotel often, such as Hilton? The Hilton Honors rewards program offers points for stays at its hotels, which can be redeemed for later stays.
Southwest Airlines customers earn six points per $1 spent on basic fares, but it doubles to $12 miles on business fares. Collect enough points and your next flight could be free.
Look for Promotions
Those same loyalty programs occasionally have promotions to offer bonus points or miles if you buy certain offers. Earn double points, for example, by staying at a hotel on a slow weekend.
You can find out about such promotions on social media or by signing up for emails from the travel brands you use often.
Join Dining Clubs
Some airline dining programs award airline miles for eating at participating restaurants, or for simply signing up for their programs. Delta, American and Southwest all have dining clubs.
The American Airlines program, for example, is free and users earn 1,000 bonus miles by spending $25 in the first 30 days after enrollment. Just eat at participating restaurants and pay with your linked credit or debit card.
Book With a Partner Site
Two websites—PointsHound and Rocketmiles—give users airline miles for booking hotel stays.
PointsHound partners with airlines so users can earn up to 10,000 miles per night. The site has more than 300,000 hotels to choose from.
Rocketmiles has the same top level of miles earned per night. It claims that frequent travelers can earn 80,000 miles per year by booking with Rocketmiles. Its list of loyalty programs is constantly growing and includes Southwest, American and United Airlines.
Shop in Airline Portals
United, Alaska, American and Southwest each have their own shopping portals that give bonus miles for each dollar spent.
You log on to your airline’s shopping portal and click through to each store’s website to start shopping and earning rewards miles. A credit card isn’t necessary to shop in these portals. A debit card or PayPal account can be used.
If you do use a credit card, remember one of the first rules of earning travel rewards: only buy what you can afford to pay off in full when the bill arrives. That way you’re not paying interest on the credit card, which would nullify some, if not all, of the savings you’d gain by getting free travel with rewards points.