How to earn bonus miles and points on travel, shopping and credit cards


One thing we have done at Rewards Canada right from when we first launched in September of 2001 has been to research, track and publish bonus offers for flights, hotels, car rentals and much more. In fact it proved to be so popular on Rewards Canada with visitors not only from Canada but from abroad as well that I created in 2005 to strictly cover loyalty bonus promotions from around the world! The bonus points listings and coverage on both sites became quite well known that I even recall attending a loyalty industry conference in the late 2000s and someone commenting “Oh, you’re the bonus points guy” And that was before that other site with the last two words in that comment even launched 😉


Bonus points and miles promotions are an amazing way to earn even more miles and points on everyday actions and travel. Collecting more points and miles means you can achieve your reward goals sooner. However thousands of consumers miss out on boatloads of bonus miles & points either by not knowing about offers in the first place, forgetting about or not registering for them or not following up on them after completing the promotion’s requirements. It’s that last one that I can say hasn’t changed in 20 years, that is, there are times – sometimes a lot of times where you have to chase the bonus points and miles! Loyalty programs are great at promoting offers to members to earn more miles and points but sometimes they aren’t so great at delivering the end results. So what should you do to ensure you get those miles, points and other loyalty currencies you are rightfully entitled to? Keep on reading to find out!

If you don’t feel like reading the whole article (TLDR) just be sure you follow the following five key takeaways:

  1. Find a bonus offer and register for it right away
  2. Take screenshots of the offer and offer T&C’s plus keep all emails relating to the promotion
  3. Understand the terms of the offer and make sure you can meet those terms 
  4. Keep track of if and when the points post
  5. Chase those points if they don’t post and keep on the loyalty program until they do post!

Find offers and register for them

A snap shot of a bonus offer listing – taken from RC’s Marriott Bonvoy Bonus points page

The first thing of course is to know about bonus offers so that you can take advantage of them! The best ways are to read the emails you get from the loyalty programs, to check the loyalty program websites and most importantly, to check the bonus offers section of Rewards Canada (or our global site for programs not covered on RC). The reason why I say to check our bonus offers section is that there are a lot of promotions, typically from a program’s partner that don’t actually get mentioned on a loyalty program’s website or in their emails. I also recommend checking our blog frequently (or better yet. subscribe to our RSS feed) as some promotions that have extremely limited time frames of only a few days like those from PC Optimum, Rexall, Best Western etc. only get posted onto the blog. Now that you have found a promotion that works for you here’s what you should do to make sure you earn that bonus!

I break this ‘How to’ out into three sections for travel, shopping and credit cards and you’ll see many of the tips do apply to all three. The key word across the board is screen shot – or screen capture, screen grab – whichever term you like to use. We like to use screen shot.


The first step in earning bonus miles and points covers most promotions but is mostly related to travel and that is registering for an offer.

Back in the day if an airline ran a double miles promotion everyone would get the bonus so long as their frequent flyer number was on the booking. Many people got surprise bonuses as they weren’t even aware of the bonus! Happened to me in the 90s on a flight from Calgary to Frankfurt – Air Canada was offering double miles on the route and I had no idea until I got my Aeroplan statement in the mail about a month after my return flight. Yes a paper statement in the mail! Who remembers those! Anyways, there it was the base miles for the flights and two extra lines showing the double miles bonus! That was a long time ago, now with technology improved and the emergence of the internet came the advent of registering for offers. The main reason why this came into place is that the loyalty programs could now make sure they didn’t award bonuses to everyone. They would only have to provide extra miles for those registered and thus keep their points liabilities lower. So that is the case with most travel bonus offers but we are even seeing it from other non travel loyalty programs nowadays. So here’s what you do.

Register for an offer right away even if you don’t know if you’ll use it. I’ve heard too many stories of people saying they’ll wait to register and then they forget about the promotion and miss out on the bonus miles and points. Or in the case of some promotions the registration window is shorter than the actual promotional period so again by being proactive and registering right away you won’t have to worry about missing that cutoff date!

Example of a registration form for an Aeroplan flight bonus

You always want to register right away as well as some promotions won’t reward your bonus for travel or transactions prior to you registering. Some programs however are more lenient and will credit all transactions during the promotional period even if you registered after the fact. Still I don’t like to mess around so I make sure to register right away. 

TIP!Always check Rewards Canada’s bonus promotions pages prior to booking any travel to see if there are any potential bonuses you may be missing out on!

During the registration process be sure to take screen shots of the offer page, the confirmation of registration (if provided) and make sure you keep the confirmation email if one is sent. Some programs will also show you what promotions you are registered for in your online account so be sure to screen shot that as well. 

Screen shot confirming registration for a Best Western Rewards promotion


Screenshot showing a registered offer in my IHG Rewards Account


These are all travel related but there non-travel promotions that require registration such as AIR MILES requiring opting in for some promotions, Starbucks to earn bonus stays and American Express and RBC requiring registering for offers in their Amex Offers and RBC Offers programs.

Example of an AIR MILES opt in requirement


Once you’ve registered and have all your screen shots saved then read the terms and conditions of the offer so you understand what it takes to earn the bonus. For example some flight bonuses aren’t awarded on the cheapest fare classes or in some cases it might be for economy class only and so on.  Nowadays, one the most common terms we are seeing, that I’m pretty sure Air Canada instituted are offers only being available on new bookings. That is, if an offer kicks off on May 12 any booking made prior to that the falls into the remainder of the promotion conditions won’t count. That’s right, they aren’t rewarding your loyalty because they already have your money. I know this has been a sore point for many Aeroplan members and now many other loyalty program members. Not all programs do this but it’s definitely becoming more prevalent so be sure to check those terms! 

With hotels you’ll also want to be careful with some bonus promotions that come with a higher room rate than the best rates available. Many of the big chains have bonus points rates that they charge extra for and you get extra points for them. These are typically known as “Screw your employer” rates as most people who pay for the stay themselves won’t want to shell out the extra cash for the points. However if you are billing the room to your client or your employer pays for it many people do take those rates to earn the points since in the end they aren’t paying for the stay. There are exceptions to this rule and there will be times when there are bonus offers at individual hotels (in particular Marriott) where the bonus points rate is the same or just slightly more expensive (where the points have more value than the difference in price)  so it would make sense to book that bonus points offer. Essentially compare the best member rate from the hotel to the bonus points rate and see if it is worth it to go for those extra points. Also note this does not apply to the global promotions that hotel loyalty programs run where you simply register for the bonus and then complete your stays as usual.

Now that you’ve registered, understand the terms and have gone ahead and made your bookings you just sit back until your flights, hotel stays, car rentals etc. are complete and wait for them to post your account. You may only see the base miles or point post initially but don’t panic – sometimes it takes additional time for the bonuses to post. Typically I like to give it a week after the base amount posts and they I’ll start chasing unless the terms of the offer state otherwise. For example AIR MILES states it can take up to 120 days for bonuses from some promotions to post. Yes, four months! So for promotions like that you should mark it in a calendar or set a reminder to check for those bonuses! 

If they don’t post then it’s time to start chasing. Essentially chasing the offers means contacting the program’s customer service. Whether you do it by phone, email, online chat or snail mail doesn’t matter too much to begin with. Your first communication with them will be to see if they acknowledge the bonus promotion and if so and they state you did meet the conditions then you don’t have much to worry about. Typically the agent will make notes or even force those points to post. That’s the best case scenario. If they don’t acknowledge it, and it happens, we’ve heard of cases where agents have absolutely no details of the promotion, then that’s where all the work you put in at start comes in handy. You have screen shots that detail the promotion, show you registered and so forth. You will typically email those in and hopefully a few weeks after those bonuses will post. Again you may have to do some follow ups if the points don’t post and what may ultimately happen is the program will manually post points or miles to your account that equal what the bonus should have been. For the most part however it doesn’t seem to have to go that far especially when the promotion is from one company like a flight bonus from Air Canada for Aeroplan members. Where things tend to head south is between partners like getting bonus miles for a hotel stay or car rentals. This is where sometimes you may be making several calls. The airline will tell you the bonus is the onus of the hotel chain so you have to call the hotel chain to force them to report the bonus to the airline and so forth. Basically it should come down to where you found the offer as to where you should start first. For example, in early 2021 there was lucrative promotion for earning bonus AeroMexico Club Premier points on Choice Hotels stays in Mexico (read about the offer here) One of our readers took advantage of the offer and didn’t see the bonus points post:


In this case contacting AeroMexico for the bonus points is the first step as this promotion was being actively promoted by AeroMexico with all the details being listed on their website for Club Premier. Hopefully we hear from David that the bonus points do end up posting!

A final note on travel bonus offers is for car rental bonuses. There are many car rental bonuses that at times have been super lucrative to take advantage of but they are also notorious for being the worst at actually posting. I would say personally I’ve had to chase 50% of the bonuses for car rentals and probably 50% of car rentals that didn’t even have bonuses I still had to chase and this is even with some car rental companies charging a frequent flyer mile recovery fee! I know another of our readers (Andre I’m looking at you) had difficulty with an Alaska Airlines car rental bonus where the program told him they weren’t even aware of it! Hopefully Andre got his 10,000 bonus Mileage Plan miles in the end! So consider this a warning for car rental bonuses in that you should be prepared to fight for those miles and points!


When it comes to shopping, online or in store there can be lots of great bonus offers to take advantage of. The biggest by far come from shopping online via a loyalty program’s online shopping portal. These are your Aeroplan eStore, AIR MILES Shops, Rakuten and so on. Many of these portals run lucrative promotions throughout the year that award 10x miles or points, triple the cash back and so on. Unlike many of the travel bonuses the online shopping offers do not
require registration as you have to log in to those portals to begin
with. In my own experience most of those bonuses post without any issue but that isn’t always the case due to some errors that can occur behind the scenes in the communication between the loyalty program, the affiliate provider tracking the sales and commissions for those purchases and the end merchant. You see, the way online shopping portals work is that they earn a commission on each sale made via the merchants in their portal. The programs then take the commission they earn from the merchant and award part of it to the shopper in the form of points, miles or cash back. The commission part is undertaken by a third party affiliate provider so there are a lot of channels behind the scenes where there can be a communication break down and thus create problems with points posting. So the onus is on you the consumer to keep track of everything and chase the base points and the bonus points! 

An example of a bonus points offer on the Aeroplan eStore

After logging into the portal the first step again is to take a screenshot of the offer. If it is 10x points for Father’s Day, take that screen shot of it and even the terms and conditions if you can. Then click on the merchant you want to shop at. Now this is where you need to be careful and what some online portals won’t tell you. Complete your purchase in one fell swoop. That is if you click through from an online shopping portal make sure you finish your shopping and pay for the transaction without closing your browser or browser tab. Don’t navigate away and come back. If you are perhaps searching for promo or coupon codes – do that beforehand and right them down or copy them somewhere. Many of the coupon sites work with the same merchants and when you click to reveal the promo code it takes you to that merchant and forces the coupon site’s cookie onto your computer which  can override the tracking cookie from the loyalty program’s shopping portal and you’ll be out of luck for earning points. So I stress that you complete those purchases without closing your browser or tab. Now, I have had luck actually going to an online merchant, filling my shopping cart and then going to the online portal and clicking on that merchant which opened in a new tab and my cart was there so I could check out and I did get the miles. I don’t recommend this as every merchant may have different rules around how their cookies work. Once you have completed the transaction, take a screenshot of your order confirmation and keep your confirmation emails from the merchant as those provide a time stamp that would show you made the purchase during the bonus promotion period. Keep the offer screenshot, your email order confirmations until you get your points and just like the travel section. If those bonus points don’t post start chasing. For online shopping it can take as long as 6-8 weeks for transactions to post so keep all your back up documentation handy. If after 8 weeks you don’t see your base points, bonus points or both, contact the online shopping portal and start a missing points/miles request.

If you are in store and a grabbing something off the shelf that has a tag that states buy 3 and get X amount of bonus or points or miles – take out your phone and take a picture of that tag! Then check your receipt to see if those bonus points are accounted for or keep your receipt until you see those points post to your account. Personally I find that most in-store promotions post immediately so there hasn’t been a need to chase after them.

Credit Cards

When it comes to earning bonuses on credit cards it typically only involves the welcome bonus when you apply for and are approved for a card. There are some other instances outside of the welcome bonus that may require tracking and following up and I’ll touch upon those as well.

For welcome bonuses there are a few steps and again these pretty much follow those seen above. Start off by taking a screenshot of the offer page for the credit card you are applying for. Then read the stipulations on what you have to do to achieve that welcome bonus. For some cards it will be as simple as being approved for it and they’ll give you the bonus points or miles, for others it will be once you make your first purchase and lastly it may not be awarded until you spend a certain amount on the card within a set time period. Once you know those stipulations make sure you can meet them and once you get the card in your hands set out to reach the spend requirements. Of course, a bonus on approval or first purchase is easy, it’s the ones that have spend requirements that take some more work. If a card requires $3,000 in spending in the first 90 days to get the bonus then make sure you set out to do that. I personally strive to reach the spending requirement in the first month but only do so if financially feasible. For some you may have to spread that $3,000 in spend over the three months to reach the bonus. Just make sure you keep track of your spending and you hit that amount before your third statement date (or whichever date based on the time frame as some cards are four months others are 180 days etc.)

A credit card offer with multiple spend requirements

So now that you’ve met the requirements to earn your bonus but it doesn’t show up, here is what you should do. In the case of cards that award your bonus on approval it typically won’t show up in your account until you receive your first statement. Same goes for the first purchase bonus, unless you don’t make a purchase in your first statement period. For the spend X amount of X amount of time it can vary by issuer. For example, American Express typically posts the bonus within a few days after you hit the spending requirement with no need to wait for the statement period to end or reach the time period allotted for the bonus while others like HSBC will award the bonus points at the end of the spend period requirement (typically 180 days)

If the bonus doesn’t show up on your statement or in your account give the issuer a call or chat online to inquire why the bonus has not appeared. In most cases all it takes is that one call and the issue is resolved. However if the issuer’s customer services states something different about the offer (i.e. there was no welcome bonus, you had to spend this much more etc.) you have your handy screen shots of the offer details to prove them otherwise. I find it quite rare that a credit card issuer will not meet their requirements but there may the odd case where they play hard ball and that’s why you want all the details of the initial offer so that you can get the welcome bonus that you applied for.

Example of a statement credit offer from Amex

For bonuses, statement credits or other special offers provided by card issuers like Amex Offers or RBC offers it boils down to the same steps. Register for an offer if it is required, take a screen shot of the offer and then once you have achieved the requirements keep tabs on when the points post – if they don’t show up in a reasonable amount of time start making some calls to the card issuer to see when the points will post. 

There are other credit card bonuses to chase sometimes as well and those are category spend multipliers. For example the American Express Cobalt Card earns 5x points on eats and drinks (restaurants, grocery etc.) and if you make a purchase at a restaurant in Canada that only posts at 1 point per dollar you should call up American Express and ask for those additional 4 points per dollar. Typically Amex customer service will provide a manual adjustment on the points and they will then pass it along internally that that merchant is not coding properly and have it corrected for the future. Here is what Amex had asked us years ago to pass along to our readers when it comes to category multipliers:

It’s best for the Cardmember to call customer service for bonusing related issues. We need the Cardmembers data to be able to source the transaction in the back end to determine if the multiplier worked…. without Cardmember data, it’s hard to determine what would have happened.

Wrapping it up

In most cases you should get your bonus even if it ends being a manual adjustment from the loyalty program. So long as you are persistent and have all the documentation backing it up there is no reason you should not get your bonus points or miles. What you do have to ask yourself though is if your time worth it. If 5 bonus miles are missing from posting to your account it may not be worth your time to chase but 5,000 miles represents a whole other story. So be sure to pick and choose your battles – it’s up to you, there is no harm in chasing after every single bonus that should come your way but time is valuable so also take that into account.

To see bonus points in action I recommend reading this amazing Earning Stories post of mine from 2017 where we took advantage of several bonus offers to score $1,500 in points on a hotel stay – yes it was a pricey stay but those points worked out to approximately a 23% return!