Earning Rewards Points as a Family

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Travel hacking is incredibly easy when you’re doing things on your own. You can apply for credit cards when you want, and the points you earn can be used at your discretion. While travelling solo can be a lot of fun, many people like to travel with someone else. For those who have kids, travelling without their little ones usually isn’t going to happen. So is it possible to travel hack with two or more people? Yes, but it’ll require more work (or none at all if you don’t care).

Although couples who travel hack together will have to sign up for more credit cards, they’ll naturally earn points at a much quicker pace than someone doing it solo. Admittedly, not every partner is going to be interested in signing up for credit cards, but once they take their first business class flight, or get a nice hotel room for free, they may be more inclined to join you in your hobby. Even if your significant other doesn’t want to join the party, earning rewards points as a family should be a priority.

Combining your points

Earning rewards points as a family is easy if you have a joint credit card. While this is a decent strategy, you’d earn even more points if each partner had their own credit card. By doing this, each person would be able to take advantage of any good welcome bonuses. If you’re following the two credit card method of travel hacking, you’d be getting an extra sign up bonus every year as a couple. For perspective, you could easily earn 100,000 points combined each year. That could potentially cover a round-trip flight within Canada for a family of four.

Even though your points are earned separately, you can actually combine them in a few different ways. For example, Aeroplan Family Sharing allows you to merge the points of up to 8 family members. This is important since normally people earn points individually, but with family sharing, you’re creating one giant pool of points. Having more points makes it easier to get a free flight later. 

Marriott Bonvoy is another example. Although they don’t have a family plan option. You’re allowed to transfer 100,000 points to another member’s account once every calendar year. Remember, with Marriott Bonvoy, you get the fifth night free when booking four nights on points, so pooling points is highly advantageous.

Keep in mind that pooling your points is still beneficial even if you have family members who don’t have credit cards. For example, if you have young kids, they can still earn Aeroplan points individually on flights. By having them in your family sharing plan, you’ll be able to use their points. If you just left them in their own account, they’d pretty much be useless as it’s unlikely that they’d redeem those points any time soon. 

Taking advantage of American Express referrals

If you’ve ever looked at my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada, you’ll quickly notice I often talk about an increased welcome bonus for American Express cards when you sign up with a referral bonus. The referral bonus is a gamechanger for earning rewards points as a family since the person making the referral, and the person accepting the referral each get additional points. You can essentially keep referring each other to get extra points. 

Here’s a quick example.

  • Player one signs up for the American Express Platinum Card with a referral link. At the time of this writing, that would give them 105,000
  • Player two then uses the referral link generated by player one for the American Express Platinum Card. Player two would get 105,000 points as the welcome bonus while player one gets 20,000 points for making the referral.
  • Combined, the pair have earned 230,000 points. That’s 30,000 more points compared to if they signed up for the regular offer. 

Note that the referral bonus can often change, so the number of extra points you’ll get may differ from my example. The point is, using referral links will almost always benefit you. Also, look at how many points the couple has earned by signing up for just two cards. That’s more points than some people earn in a lifetime. 

What’s also great about American Express is that you can actually refer your partner to different cards. For example, you can refer the following:

It’s also worth mentioning that the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card also has a referral bonus. The person accepting the referral usually gets an extra 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, while the person making the referral gets 10,000 points.

As long as you hold one American Express Card, you can refer your partner to many other American Express cards. With your travel hacking strategy in mind, you can apply for the cards that help you meet your goal.

American Express Platinum Card

  • $799 annual fee
  • Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $10,000 in the first 3 months
  • 30,000 additional points when making any purchase in months 14 – 17
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel, and 1 point on all other purchases
  • $200 annual travel credit
  • $200 annual dining credit (per calendar year)
  • Unlimited airport lounge access

Sharing benefits as a family

Even though many travel hackers focus on the welcome bonuses, some benefits included with credit cards can be shared. Those can be very useful for people who are travel hacking as a pair or family.

As I’ve stated, people who have limited time, but still want to travel hack should always keep one primary credit card. This is the one you’ll keep long-term, so you should pick one that really benefits you. I personally use the American Express Platinum Card as my main card. I chose this card because it provides unlimited lounge access for me and a guest. My wife and I took advantage of that for many years. When we had a child, she also got the Platinum Card as it ensured all three of us could get into the lounge for free.

The WestJet World Elite Mastercard is another example of a potentially good primary card that will appeal to families with multiple children. If each parent applied for the card, the family would have two companion vouchers each year and get free checked bags. Plus, you can combine your WestJet dollars when making a redemption if you call in to make your reservation. Alternatively, some Aeroplan credit cards come with a Buddy Pass, but that’s a one-time offer. 

You would also want to try and maximize your benefits on a single person while sharing them as a family. For example, with Marriott Bonvoy, you earn higher status as you accumulate more qualifying nights. Although you can get Gold Status for free with the American Express Platinum Card, the really good benefits come with Platinum Elite Status. To get Platinum Status, you need 50 qualifying nights in a calendar year. 

Essentially, you should always book your hotel room under the same person. If the person without status is travelling solo, have the person with the status book the room. You could then add the name of the person travelling to the reservation. This would give the traveller the status benefits without the person with status actually being there. This is vital when earning rewards points as a family.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 55,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 in the first 3 (must use a referral link)
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points

Keeping track of things

Admittedly, people who don’t have the time to travel hack may find this family management a bit annoying. Yes, it requires a bit more work, but as you can see, it’ll clearly pay off. The ability to combine your points makes it significantly easier to reach your travel goals.

Keep in mind that both players don’t need to sign up for new credit cards every year. You really only need one person to do that. Presumably, that same person would also take the time to understand how the points game works. If you do end up combining points and applying for credit cards together, you’ll want to make sure you use referral links from each other.

In addition, it’s important to keep track of things with a spreadsheet. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just want to note when you signed up for a credit card so you remember to cancel it later. It’s also important to write down what the welcome bonus requirements are as they can often change. Always keep up to date with the best credit card offers since it’ll be the easiest way to reach your travel dreams.

Spreadsheet example:

Credit cardAppliedCancelledWelcome bonus
Amex PlatinumJan. 1, 2022105,000 points
TD Aeroplan Visa InfiniteFeb. 1, 2022Jan. 1, 202350,000 points
Amex CobaltFeb. 1, 2023Jan. 1, 202430,000 points
Amex Aeroplan ReserveFeb. 1, 2024Jan. 1, 2025120,000 points

Travel Hacking for Lazy People

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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