Travel Tip Tuesday: Earning Easy Miles through Shopping Portals
Over the past several years, I have found myself doing more and more shopping online, especially during the holiday season. I find it exceptionally easy to go online, do a search, find exactly what I am looking for, compare prices, and purchase–all with just a few clicks. But did you know that a very easy way to earn miles on what you were going to buy online anyway is through shopping portals? Read on to find out how to take advantage of this free and easy tool to build your points and miles balances!
What is a shopping portal?
Almost all major airline program and even reward credit cards have something called a shopping portal that allows you to “click through” their website to your preferred online retailer. When you “click through” the shopping portal that you used gets credit for basically referring a customer to the retailer, and you get a cookie in your browser that shows that you clicked through their portal. This cookie allows you to complete your shopping as normal, check out as normal, pay anyway that you want, yet earn points or miles for the purchase.
For example, to access the United Shopping Portal, you would go to United.com, log-in to your Mileage Plus account, and go to the page where it details how to “earn miles.” From there, you simply scroll to Mileage Plus Shopping, and click. Or, even easier, use this link: http://www.shopping.mileageplus.com. Almost every mileage program has a similar way of accessing their shopping portal.
Once you are logged in, you will often be greeted by a page of some of the more popular stores available, and/or the most popular deals. For example, right now United is running a promotion with FTD where you can earn 30 miles per every dollar you spend with them–not a bad deal if you were already planning on purchasing flowers. As you can see below, United is also offering 3 miles per dollar on purchases at Nordstrom.com, and you can even earn miles on purchases via eBay (and I do quite a bit of shopping on eBay)!
If you don’t immediately see the store that you want to shop in, do a quick search–most online retailers are available including Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, Macy’s, Best Buy, and many, many more. If you are going to buy something online, why not earn some miles doing it? But wait, there’s more!
Account Activity=Miles don’t expire
One of the great benefits of using online shopping portals is the ability to keep your miles from expiring. Many loyalty programs will simply take your miles from you if you don’t show activity for a year. By tracking your mileage expiration dates via a program like AwardWallet, you can also keep track of their expiration date. If you are getting close and don’t want to lose your valuable miles, go to that program’s online shopping portal, click through to the merchant of your choice, and make a purchase. That purchase will earn you miles in that particular program, and reset your expiration date since you showed activity!
Which Shopping Portal to use?
If you are a member of multiple loyalty programs and maybe even credit card rewards programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may wonder which shopping portal should to use to maximize your purchase. Luckily, there is a website out there called evreward.com. You simply go to this site, type in the store where you want to shop, and it will tell you what programs are offering the best rewards.
Once you search for your particular store, the site will show you numerous options to earn points, and even cash back. Furthermore, this site will also provide you with valuable coupon codes that may be useful for your upcoming purchase. As you can see in the screenshot below, the American Airlines AAdvantage shopping portal is currently offering 6 miles per dollar spent at Macy’s, and you can also use a coupon code to save an additional 20% off your purchase. Assuming you still want to shop at Macy’s you click the link to the portal you want to use, log in, click through, make the purchase and you get those points/miles.
As a general rule, it doesn’t make sense to credit miles via shopping portals to hotel programs, because they are normally not as good a deal as airline or credit card points programs. I know it’s a few extra clicks that could take a little extra time, but you are earning free miles for something you would have purchased anyway and not earned anything extra. As an added bonus, you can use a mileage or points earning credit card to get even more miles from your purchase (you don’t have to use the credit card for that particular portal). For example, you can use a United brand credit card after clicking through the Delta shopping portal–it doesn’t matter. Then you earn Delta miles for the money you spend via the portal click through, but also get United Miles via using their credit card for the purchase. Pretty cool huh?
Sign up for the Shopping Portal Mailing Lists
Throughout the year, the various shopping portals will have promotions to entice you to click through to online retailers via their sites. Sometimes these promotions are extremely lucrative. I have seen promotions for 10 points per dollar at Nordstrom and up to 45 points per dollar on some other online retailers. Subscribe to the mailing lists and get notified about these great deals.
I certainly am not advocating to go out and do a bunch of shopping online just to earn points. However, if you are going to be shopping online anyway, why not take a few minutes and click through a shopping portal to earn a few extra points or miles. Even if you are only earning 1 point per dollar spent you will be getting something back that may come in handy on a future award redemption. Furthermore, you will be resetting the expiration date of those points or miles so you don’t lose them.