How To Easily Earn Miles With Card Linked Loyalty Programs

How To Easily Earn Miles With Card Linked Loyalty Programs

Do you want to earn airline miles or hotel points without actually traveling? Well then you’ve come to the right place! Let’s talk about what card linked programs are and how they let us accumulate miles without having to fly at all.

What Are Card Linked Loyalty Programs


Card linked loyalty programs are programs offered by 3rd party companies that award miles or cash back when you use your credit card to make eligible purchases at certain partnered companies. They aren’t as good at earning miles as credit card churning but are a really convenient way to rack up some rewards on everyday spending. Some really common card link programs are hotel/airline dining programs like Delta SkyMiles Dining, Dosh, and Rakuten. Before you get too excited, there are 2 important things to understand about card linked programs.

  1. You must enroll your card with the card link program before you can start earning rewards. More on how to do this in the next section.
  2. There is a set list of eligible partners where you can earn rewards. Not all places you use your credit card at will earn you rewards.

In order to enroll your card and see all the places where you can earn rewards, you will have to navigate to the 3rd party program’s affiliate site or app. After signing up, there will be a catalog on their website/app showing you which partner companies are eligible for rewards. This catalog should look similar to what you see below.

In my view, these partner companies can be classified into 3 major categories: dining, ride share, and in-store retail.

Generally, companies and restaurants that fall under the dining and ride share categories are associated with an airline’s or hotel’s loyalty program and will pay out the rewards in that loyalty program’s miles or points. For example, Mileage Plan Dining is the official dining card linked program of Alaska Airlines and will award a certain amount of Alaska miles for each purchase at an eligible restaurant.

Card linked offers include getting 3x miles on eligible dining purchases
Get 3x miles on dining purchases!

Eligible ride share partners will also pay out rewards in whatever travel program currency you linked your card to. Check out how Lyft rides can earn Hilton Honors points!

You can earn airline and hotel points when paying with a credit card linked to a ride share app
Earn Reward Points From Ride Share Purchases!

For in-store retail partners, the associated card linked programs like Rakuten or Dosh will generally not be associated with a travel loyalty program and will pay out rewards in cash. The exception to this is Rakuten, which actually allows you to earn Amex MR if your linked card is an MR earning card. This is pretty powerful since MR is a transferrable point currency and can be transferred to numerous hotels and airlines. This is generally more valuable than cash back and more flexible than being tied to a single travel loyalty program so it’s highly recommended to configure your Rakuten account to earn MR instead of cash.

Card linked offers are a way to earn cash back for purchases made in store at eligible retailers
Get cash back for in-store purchases!

These card linked loyalty programs are awesome because you can now get even more rewards for everyday purchases you’re making in addition to what you’re already earning with your credit card. For example, if I’m paying my bill of $50 at a restaurant that earns 3x Alaska miles with my Amex Gold, I not only earn 200 MR, but also 150 Alaska miles!

How To Enroll In A Card Link Program


Card link programs require you to input your credit card details and grant access to the 3rd party company to read your credit card transactions. This is how they will verify that you made purchases at the eligible partners. Don’t worry it’s secure and they can’t see your personal details, only your credit card transactions.

You must add a credit card and link it to the card link program
Adding a credit card to a card link program

For card link programs that are associated with a travel loyalty program, you have to first make an account with the travel program so that the miles earned can be credited to the right account. After making that account, you can go to the travel program’s home page and navigate to the “Earn points/miles” section of the website to find the card linked programs.

Earn miles section of a travel program

You’re going to be looking for the dining program or the ride share program.

Note that normally these dining programs will have their own dedicated website that you will have to enter and enroll in. You can see how Delta Skymiles Dining has its own dedicated URL and page.

Card Linked Dining Programs have dedicated websites that you have to enroll in
Card Linked Dining Programs have dedicated websites

Once enrolled, you can log in and go to the page that lets you add your credit card to that account.

You must add your credit card to the card link program after enrolling to be eligible to earn rewards
Make sure to link your card!

Once your card has been linked to your account, you’re able to go start earning miles through your purchases!

Best Card Link Programs


It’s hard to pick a “best” program since it really comes down to which reward currency you value the most. Almost all the major US airlines and hotel chains offer some kind of card link program and their rates are generally the same. There may be some minor differences in the earn rate, like how Alaska earns 1 mile per dollar on Lyft while Delta earns 2 miles per dollar. But for the most part, the rates will be comparable.

With that said, I personally value Alaska miles a lot so almost all of my dining and ride share card link programs are set to Alaska. For the retail side, I like using a combination of Dosh and Google Pay. Dosh is unique in that it has both dining and retail offers so I stack it with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining for eating out.

Here’s a list of card link programs you can enroll in broken down by category.

Dining

Airlines
Hotels
Misc

Note that these dining card link programs usually come with a new member bonus so take advantage of that!

Ride Share

Retail

Stacking Card Link Programs


Before you cycle through all of your loyalty programs and try adding your card to each of them, you have to understand that not all of these programs are stackable. There are currently 2 main card linked rewards program companies: RewardsNetwork and Points.com. RewardsNetwork powers all of the card link dining programs offered by US airlines and hotels. Points.com will handle the ride share rewards for the airlines and hotels.

You cannot stack loyalty programs that are powered by the same 3rd party card link program. This means that if I sign up for MileagePlus Dining with my Amex Gold, I cannot sign up that same Amex Gold for Rapid Rewards Dining. You’ll get met with an email like this.

You cannot link the same credit card to multiple loyalty programs powered by the same card link program
You cannot link the same card to multiple loyalty programs

However, you can sign up different cards for different loyalty programs. This means I can sign up my Amex Gold with MileagePlus Dining and my CSR with Rapid Rewards Dining and there will be no issue. There is just more to keep track of now. If you sign up 9 different cards for the 9 different dining programs and can keep track of all that, I’ll be super impressed!

You can also stack across the eligible partner categories I listed above. You can enroll the same card for a dining program and a ride share program with no issues. This means I can link my Amex Platinum to MileagePlan Dining and also link it to my Lyft account to earn Delta miles.

Limitations of Card Link Programs


Card link programs are great but there are still some limitations to be aware of.

Limited Restaurant Selection

Usually the restaurants listed as eligible for rewards will be local, smaller restaurants that are not associated with any major chains. You definitely won’t find popular spots like McDonald’s or Chick-fil-a on there. You also won’t find Michelin starred restaurants or other fine dining establishments so be sure to curb your expectations. For the smaller cities you may find that there’s an even more limited selection of restaurants as compared to a big like New York.

Only Available On Certain Days

There are certain restaurants where they state that rewards will not be earned on certain days (usually weekends). Be sure to double check that the day you go allows you to earn rewards!

Some days are excluded from earning rewards
Some days are excluded from earning rewards

Not All Payment Networks Accepted

Another thing to be aware of is that only certain payment networks may earn rewards at a certain retailer. Payment networks are companies like Visa, Amex, and MasterCard that work with Bank Issuers like Chase and Capital One to process the transactions. See how in the picture below that MasterCard will not earn rewards at this restaurant. Be sure to check that the payment network of the card you linked is eligible to earn rewards!

Not all payment networks are eligible for rewards
Not all payment networks are eligible for rewards

May Conflict With Individual Credit Card Offers

Lastly, there are some bank issuers like Citi who also use Rewards Networks to power their individual card offers. Citi Merchant Offers are cash back card linked offers that are accessible to Citi credit card holders. You may notice that the companies listed on there closely match what you would see on a card linked dining program. If you do end up activating one of these offers from Citi, you’ll soon get an email notifying you that your card has been delinked from the previous program if it was linked to one.

Conclusion


Card linked programs are a great way to earn miles and cash back without having to actually travel. They are convenient and allow you to stack up rewards even faster! Just be sure to take note of all the limitations and which card is linked to which program. Let me know what some of your favorite card linked programs are!

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