Online Shopping Portals: An Introduction

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There have been several great deals over the past few weeks whereby you can earn bonus miles for shopping through an online portal. I’ve received several questions about how exactly online shopping portals work, so figured I’d do a brief rundown of how they work, and the best ways to pick up additional miles for your purchases.

My approach to online shopping portals is fairly simple: if I can purchase something online and get bonus miles, rather than having to go to a store (and not get any bonus miles), I’m pretty much good. There are often opportunities to stack gift cards or double-dip, as well as several portals that offer cash-back, but for now let’s just go over the basics of earning miles and points on your online shopping.

Which programs offer bonus points or extra miles for online shopping?

In general, most major airlines and credit card programs have an online shopping portal, allowing you to earn bonus miles or points for your purchases. The notable exception is American Express Membership Rewards, which sadly discontinued their shopping mall last year.

I find the most lucrative portal to generally be the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall. Anyone with a Chase Sapphire Preferred has access to this shopping portal, and they typically have the best bonuses at the retailers I find myself frequenting.

Chase Online Shopping Portal

Just a few of the retailers in the Ultimate Rewards Mall

I’ve listed the major airline portals below. I generally wouldn’t recommend using a hotel shopping portal, as the best hotel portals tend to be Marriott and IHG Rewards, and in both cases it makes more sense to accrue Ultimate Rewards points. The same is also generally true for United and Southwest, so keep in mind that they are Ultimate Rewards transfer partners as well.

Airline Online Shopping Portal
Air Canada Aeroplan Aeroplan eStore
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Mileage Plan Shopping
American Airlines AAdvantage AAdvantage eShopping
British Airways Executive Club BA eStore
Delta SkyMiles SkyMiles Shopping
Southwest Rapid Rewards Rapid Rewards Shopping
United MileagePlus Mileage Plus Shopping
US Airways Dividend Miles Dividend Miles Storefront

 

How do I decide which online shopping portal to use?

This somewhat depends on what your travel goals are, and what miles you’re trying to accrue, as well as what you’re purchasing.

One of the main ways I encourage people to keep miles from expiring is by making a purchase from an online portal. You can often purchase something from iTunes or similar, which is a great way to reset the expiration clock with an airline program.

Otherwise, if you have a specific product in mind, it helps to do some research. For example, I’m actually shopping for a new suitcase at present, as my carry-on is once again ready for replacement. I know that eBags, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and a few other places sell my bag, and they all seem to be about the same price.

Cashback Monitor and EV Reward are great websites for finding out which portals have the best bonuses. Cashback Monitor seems to be the most accurate, though EV Reward displays everything on one page, which is nice. A quick search shows which online shopping portals are offering bonus points for each store:

Online Shopping Portal Results

The best option for eBags seems to be through the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, and 8 points per $ for something I was already going to purchase seems like a pretty good deal!

Online Shopping Portal Results

Neiman Marcus, however, is offering 18 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar, which is awesome! The downside is that Neiman Marcus charges sales tax, so that adds to cost somewhat. I value both Ultimate Rewards points and American AAdvantage miles highly, so this is still the better deal.

How do I earn bonus miles?

The process for earning bonus points is fairly straightforward in most cases:

  • Go to the shopping portal for the program you want to earn miles in
  • Sign in to your account
  • Find the retailer you want to purchase from, and click on their link
  • Complete your purchase as normal
  • In most cases the portals claim points will post in 4-6 weeks, though in my experience they’re often much faster

As a best practice, I would recommend using clearing your cache and making sure your shopping cart is empty beforehand, as otherwise there can be issues with the “click-thru” not tracking correctly. It’s also smart to keep track of the points you’re expecting to earn, and following up if they don’t post.

What about shipping costs?

Many retailers waive shipping for orders over a certain threshold, while others (such as Apple, BestBuy, Nordstrom, and the ContainerStore) will allow you to order the item online, then pick it up in the store. This can be the best of both worlds, as you still get the bonus miles, but don’t have to wait for the items to be shipped.

It’s also worth noting many items are eligible for free two-day shipping through Shoprunner, which is offering eligible American Express cardholders a complimentary 1-year membership.

Overall, I find this to be a pretty easy way to pick up extra points throughout the year. Does anyone have any other online shopping portal tips to share?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. i think you have mentioned it in past posts but what suitcase are you looking into if you don’t mind my asking?

    debating whether or not to upgrade my current suitcase.

  2. @ tim — Looking at the Tumi Alpha 20″ international. Have an idea for getting a discount on it, so posting coming on that soon. 🙂

  3. @Ben — Save yourself $400 and buy the Costco 21″ bag. It looks exactly like the Tumi bag (minus the obnoxious Tumi tag), and it only costs $99 (or maybe $109 now). I absolutely love mine, and Costco accepts returns forever (although I did get a bunch of grief when I returned my last one).

  4. @ Gene

    I’m a fan of the Costco 21″ bag, but I’m not sure they still make the one you mean.

    The one in my store now is a fake Rimowa type bag, doesn’t look appealing to me.

  5. The IHG rewards mall closed in August. You might want to update your post. It was a shame because they were qualifying points as well.

  6. While not a bonus portal it’s bonus points for cash spend!In lust with the new airline pre payed debit cards. Already heavy user of the QF
    One and you can load with up to 8 currencies!!!. How about an article on these? Hear AA and BA are going to be hear real soon? You can use it in any Cirus networked bank to withdraw hard currency. You may be in India do you want to withdraw USD or Rupees, well with money changers giving you 6 times the official rate!
    It’s the way you can preload it with different currencies that is great but an extra 5-10,000 points per month is not to be sneezed at!

  7. We believe in the value of online shopping portals and have built a smart tool to compare over 20 different shopping portals including airline and credit card and generic ones like ebates. Check out pick2pay.com or download our iPhone app.

  8. I think it would be good to point out that you should take screenshots of pretty much everything when you use an online portal, including the screen saying how many points you should receive and your order confirmation. The United portal is terrible for tracking certain sites such as Lowes and Home Depot, among others. In fact, I may four purchases through the United portal to meet their recent 1,500 mile bonus, and so far only one of the purchases has shown up. I made these purchases two weeks ago, so hopefully they will show as pending soon. And although you can pay with any card, I’ve found using the card for that particular site (i.e. United Explorer card on the United shopping portal) gives the best results.

  9. has anyone ever tried to buy NM gift cards and receive miles for it? debating if its worth trying or not.

    any feedback would be appreciated!

  10. Do any of the shopping portals have iPhone apps other than United Mileage plus? The apps make it easier to buy on the go. Thanks!

  11. I like your principle or style in doing online portals which is “if I can purchase something online and get bonus miles”. Thanks because with that I gain an idea. Thank u!!!

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