How to Travel for Free: Surveys, Sweepstakes and Dining
This is Part Two of a three-part series in how to travel for free or cheap using rewards programs and other savvy methods of saving money. Click here for Part One on How to Travel for Free: Credit Cards, Travel Rewards and Cashback Portals.
Today I’m going to discuss a few less popular methods of earning rewards points for travel. These methods are more time consuming and earn less points than using credit cards or cashback portals but combined with other rewards programs you can quickly earn enough points or miles for an upcoming vacation.
Surveys can be a long and tedious way to earn airline miles but the upside is that many sites credit your miles quickly so it can be a great way to earn the last few hundred miles needed to book an award ticket. The biggest downside to survey sites is that you don’t qualify for every survey and can spend 10 or more minutes answering one only to discover you were disqualified and didn’t earn any miles. It can be disheartening and Brandon has long since given up answering surveys for rewards points. Still, I’m chugging along with the surveys, currently working through a site called Opinion Rewards Club to earn some extra KLM Flying Blue miles for my upcoming trip to Tanzania. In the past month I’ve earned 470 miles from answering surveys a few nights per week.
Almost all airlines are partnered with a survey site and many offer bonuses when you first sign up. Your best bet is to figure out which airline you need miles with and then sign up with their partnered survey site. Two of the most popular sites, e-Rewards and e-Miles, allow you to choose from a variety of travel partners for miles redemption. These partners include American AAdvantage, United, Alaska Airlines, Southwest, Hilton HHonors, and IHG. Other sites, like the Opinion Rewards Club I’m currently using, only allow you to transfer miles to the partner with whom you first signed up.
My all-time favorite site for earning rewards, however, is Swagbucks. It’s not just for answering surveys either. Earn points by printing coupons, watching videos or shopping online with their cashback portal. Redeem points for travel related gift cards like Southwest Airlines, Hotels.com and Royal Caribbean or get Amazon gift cards and buy travel related products.
Entering sweepstakes, or “sweeping”, has been a hobby of mine for a few years. I used to spend hours a night entering sweepstakes, using autofill programs to lessen my chance of typos. In the past I won things like an iPod touch and a $500 Marriott gift card as well as smaller prizes like a free pack of Twizzlers or DVD’s.
After Stink was born I almost gave up the habit but every now and then I’ll find an interesting sweepstakes to enter. This past summer many hotel chains were hosting excellent sweepstakes with lots of prizes. Marriott gave away 1,000 free nights at their hotels and I was lucky enough to be a winner, earning a free night in any of their Category 1-9 hotels. Two months later I won a free night at a Country Inn and Suites and Brandon won a free night at a Starwood Preferred Guest hotel. It was a very lucky summer for us and now we’ll get to take a few weekend trips this year for free!
Sweeping can be a great way to earn free travel and even though the chances of winning are based purely on luck there’s a few things I do to increase my odds of winning. I prefer to find 2 or 3 sweepstakes that I’m really interested in and then bookmark those sweepstakes to enter daily. Then when I have a bit of free time I’ll find some one-entry sweepstakes to enter.
Good to Know: Be sure to read the official rules for each sweepstakes. Some allow one entry per person (or per email address) so you and your spouse can each enter. Others only allow one entry per household.
Dining out is another way to earn a few reward miles. Just like the survey sites, almost all airlines offer a dining reward program that allows you to earn miles when dining at certain restaurants in your town. Most places are local establishments, not franchises, and not all cities will have a large selection to choose from. Still, it’s a great option if your favorite restaurants happen to be listed in the reward program. Just keep in mind that you can only be signed up for one dining reward program at a time but you can always change to a different airline if you need to.
Investing in stocks requires a lot of money up front in order to earn airline miles but if you have some sitting around then it’s an easy way to earn enough points for a free one-way airline ticket. When my father passed away I received a small inheritance from his life insurance. With that money I invested $25,000 through American Airline’s Fidelity investment program (United and Delta have similar programs). With my $25K I earned 15,000 American AAdvantage miles. The only stipulations were that it had to be a new non-retirement account and the money must stay in the account for 9 months. A $50,000 deposit will earn 25,000 miles and a $100,000 deposit will earn 50,000 miles…if you have that much money to invest, that is!
Now that we’ve covered some of the best ways to earn money and rewards for free travel it’s time to put those skills to good use. Stay tuned for Part Three where I’ll discuss a variety of free or low-cost vacations you can take using reward points!
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