One of my favorite ways to earn miles is by leveraging shopping portals. If I have to buy things anyway, why wouldn’t I want to earn bonus miles?
Right now a few of the major airline shopping portals are offering additional bonus miles as a “New Years” promotion. The opportunities to earn bonus points goes through early January, but there are more limited-time increases for certain merchants as well.
Given that there is approximately 0% chance of my going anywhere near any major retailer during the post-holiday madness, it’s nice to be able to take advantage of sales while earning miles from home (or an airplane, in my case).
What are the bonuses?
Typically, you can always earn at least one extra point per dollar by using a shopping portal for select merchants. Sometimes a certain merchant will offer extra points (2x, 3x, 15x, etc.), but occasionally the portal itself will offer a promo, like is happening now.
Alaska, American, and United are all offering tiered bonuses, making it possible to earn plenty of extra miles, as follows:
|Program||Bonus period||Tier 1 Bonus||Tier 2 Bonus|
|Alaska Mileage Plan Shopping||through January 8, 2017 at 11:59 pm ET||500 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $150||1,000 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $300 or more|
|American AAdvantage Eshopping||through January 3, 2017 at 11:59 pm ET||500 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $150||1,000 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $300 or more|
|United MileagePlus Shopping||through January 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm ET||500 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $150||1,000 miles for qualifying purchases of at least $300 or more|
If these promos seem similar it’s because they are. The same companies run the backends of all these portals. So the concepts are pretty easy — as long as you start your transaction by clicking from the homepage for the shopping portal, you earn bonus miles.
These are in addition to what you’d normally earn for your credit card spend, and in addition to what you’d normally get for shopping at these merchants.
Determine the best portal for your purchase
While these portals are all fundamentally the same, the earnings rates can be different for each merchant. I like to check using Cashback Monitor, which I’ve found to be pretty accurate.
If you have an Apple Store purchase to make, for example, you can easily see which portals are offering the best rate:
Other merchants have increased payouts right now as well. Magazines.com is offering 45 points/$ which is potentially interesting for some, but I’m also seeing 10x at Nike, 12x at Macy’s, 20x at eBags, etc.
Register and link your frequent flyer account to the associated shopping portal
If you haven’t already signed up for a particular shopping portal, it only takes a few moments. This is a good point to note that your frequent flyer account might not be the best one to use.
Miles earned through shopping portals can be a great way to keep less-active accounts from expiring, or to build up the balances those who can’t leverage credit cards. My nieces, for example, aren’t old enough for credit cards, but still have a couple of frequent flyer accounts, and this is an easy way to build up their balances.
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that these promotional bonuses are per account. If you have a lot of shopping to do, breaking the purchases up across multiple accounts could earn you even more miles.
Check Amex Offers
This is an optional step, but if you have any American Express cards, you’ll want to check your Amex Offers to see if you’re eligible for a statement credit or other bonus. Ben writes about many of the travel bonuses, but there are great offers for everyday purchases as well. Combining the 2x points at Neiman Marcus with the 10x points from the Alaska portal today could be a good deal, for example.
Again, this can be a case where it makes sense to break up your transactions. If you have multiple Amex Offers for $20 back on purchases of $100, but have $200 of items to purchase, splitting into two transactions can be worthwhile.
Shop (almost) as normal
Shopping portals are pretty easy, but you’ll want to pay attention to maximize your miles.
- I like to use an incognito browser, but I’m not sure it’s still necessary
- Start at the home page for the shopping portal, and make sure you’re signed in to the right account
- Click through to the merchant you want to shop at
- Add items to your cart, and purchase as usual
- Repeat (including going back to the shopping portal) for additional transactions
Keep track of your spend, and follow up on your points
The great thing about these back to school promos is that the purchases are cumulative. You don’t have to spend $300 in a single transaction to earn those 1,000 bonus American miles, for example.
These bonuses are for net purchases so if you return something, you won’t get the miles. Otherwise, they should post in 8-10 weeks (I generally add a calendar reminder).
You can really earn a ton of extra miles this way. It’s not as efficient as leveraging a great credit card signup bonus, but shopping portals offer extra points for things you were about to purchase anyway, and can be a great way to spread miles across multiple accounts.
Are you planning on taking advantage of these portal bonuses? Any particularly great deals?
(h/t Miles to Memories)