Two years out of study abroad I’m asking myself why I never signed up for frequent flyer programs. I flew more in those four months of study abroad than I have in my entire life. It makes no sense. Now, I’m obsessed with frequent flyer points and have recently learned some tricks to accumulate some major points.

Travel to Barcelona for free with frequent flyer points!

1. Sign up for a credit card with a miles sign up bonus

After reading up on credit cards with miles bonuses, I decided to sign up for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. I received 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points upon my first purchase and will receive 3,000 bonus points on my sign up anniversary each year. The 50,000 points is worth two domestic roundtrip tickets and definitely makes the $69 annual fee worth it. I also get double points for booking Southwest flights. Pretty good deal. Study abroad students may want to choose a card with features such as no foreign transaction fees or no annual fee the first year. I fly Southwest since I am no longer abroad but there are many international carriers that offer bonus points for credit card sign ups. If you do not yet have a credit card and are looking to build your credit history, or even if you do have a credit card and want to add another, this path to bonus miles could be for you.

2. Shop online through airline shopping portals

If you are an avid online shopper or even if you only shop online sometimes, it is definitely worth it to shop through airline shopping portals. For every dollar you spend you could earn anywhere between 3-30 bonus points. Recently, I was notified of a Sears promotion  where you could earn 15 points per dollar in the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal. I bought  a gift card and earned 15 points on the dollar and then used that gift card to buy the DSLR camera I have wanted for a while. The purchase earned me another 15 points per dollar so ultimately I got 30 points per dollar on my purchase.  If you did not want to buy anything at Sears, you could buy a gift card and upgrade the gift card to a prepaid Mastercard at your nearest Kmart. Beware: Most Kmarts will let you buy gift card with gift cards but some don’t. Also, make sure you don’t charge anything you can’t pay off in full at the end of the month!

3. Sign up for dining rewards programs

Sign up for airline dining rewards programs and earn points at your favorite restaurants and fast food places. If you were going to those places anyways you might as well get something for it. I haven’t fully utilized dining rewards yet but I plan to investigate it more in the future.

4. Get hotel reward points

Right now there is a promotion through Club Carlson Rewards where you can earn around 50,000 points on one hotel stay before July 15. If you have a family trip planned, consider staying in one of the Club Carlson hotels and then use those points for a really fancy hotel on study abroad. While all your friends are squished into hostels you could be sleeping like a king in a $500 a night hotel for free!

5. Sign up for as many rewards programs as possible

I flew for many years without signing up for rewards programs and thus wasted an opportunity to accumulate miles and points. You might as well just sign up for a bunch of programs and then let the miles accumulate over the years. It doesn’t make sense to try to rack up points on one airline or one hotel line. Just sign up for a bunch and let the lowest prices and best deals guide you. Use the free app Award Wallet to track your points.

6. ‘Like’ airlines and hotels on Facebook

7. Follow frequent flyer blogsThe other day I ‘liked’ Frontier Airlines and found out they had a contest running in my town where if you went to 6 scavenger hunt locations you could win Frontier Fly Bucks. I ended up collecting around $220 worth of Frontier Airline gift cards. Follow airlines and hotels on Facebook and Twitter to learn about promotions and deals.

This is probably the most important piece of advice I give on this list. I learned about all of these deals and promotions from a few frequent flyer bloggers. They are experts and have extensive knowledge on how to take advantage of airline and hotel promotions. They are also super responsive to readers’ comments and questions. I read their blogs and follow them on Twitter. Here are a few of my favorites: Million Mil Secrets, The Points GuyMommy Points, and FrequentMiler.