How to Earn More Travel Rewards Without Getting a new Card

By Cathleen McCarthyLifestyle and

Dear Cashing In,

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After my wife lost her job last year, we didn't want to cancel our vacation so we combined our points and miles to get as much as possible for free. She still had the 30,000 miles from signing up for the US Airways MasterCard, which helped a lot, but it's amazing how many bonus miles we found out there. This year we're doing the same thing, including hoarding rewards for my business travel. Outside of opening new credit cards and "maximizing spend" (which we prefer to avoid right now), where can we find the best bonus points? 

- Max

Dear Max,

The first thing you should do is check for current promotions and try to book your reservations to take advantage of them. Your US Airways MasterCard has a couple on offer, not as sweet as the sign-up bonus but every bit helps. For one thing, you can get 250 bonus miles for every reservation you make using that card, but you have to book your travel by Oct. 31 and travel by Dec. 31, 2013.

Now through July 31, 2013, you can also get a 50% bonus on US Airways' Dividend Miles by registering with the US Airways promotion site and using your Dividend Miles number when you book hotels or rental cars from one of US Airways' partners.

That's on top of the deals they're offering through the end of the year on rental cars and hotels. US Airways has 70 hotel partners, including Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, Best Western and InterContinental. With the 50% boost, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest members earn 3 miles per $1 instead of the usual 2 miles per $1 on qualifying stays this summer. Hilton HHonors members earn 1.5 miles per dollar instead of 1 mile per dollar this way.

Dividend partners with nine different car rental operations and all are offering deals that will boost your miles and get you discounts. Spend $200 on a car from Budget, for example, and you get up to 30% off ($60) by using the code BCD #Y145002. You also earn up to 6 miles for every dollar you spend. So for a $140 spend, you could get 840 miles, plus another 420 as the 50% bonus.

Of course, this pales in comparison to the miles you could get by signing up for a new credit card. I feel it's my duty to point out that since US Airways is in the process of merging with American Airlines -- as I'm sure you've heard -- your credit card is going to turn into an AAdvantage card no matter what you do. If I were you, I'd be proactive, apply for an AAdvantage card now and pocket the bonus miles that come with the card while the two airlines are still separate entities. Your Dividend card will vanish eventually anyway, but you'll end up with enough miles to cover one round-trip vacation fare, as long as you stay in the United States.

The Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard may be too rich for your blood right now, with an annual fee of $450, but it offers a 30,000 mile sign-up bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus 10,000 elite-qualifying miles each year you spend $40,000. You can get 25,000 regular miles by spending $750 in the first four months with the garden-variety AAdvantage Visa or American Express. They each have a $50 annual fee, waived the first year. That's a pretty easy score, even on a budget.

See related: How will the airline merger affect my US Airways miles?, American, US Airways merger could launch credit card battle, Can I get more rewards by using my hotel's app?