I write a lot about the credit card offers available to earn bonus miles. That’s because sign up bonuses from credit cards are the easiest way to rack up points and miles in a short amount of time. I realize that many people can’t get approved for credit cards or choose not to have them. While that means you’re missing out on some great opportunities, all is not lost. There are other ways to earn miles besides sign up bonuses.
Do you buy anything online???
If you answered no, really? Nothing online? Ever? Never, ever, ever? OK.
If you’re like the rest of us and buy things online, if you’re not currently using a shopping portal for your purchases, you’re missing out on miles.
What’s a shopping portal?
A shopping portal is a website you go to first, before going to the website of the store you’re going to buy something from.
Here’s a video from Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping website that explains how a shopping portal works.
You have to ignore the part in the video where it says to start ALL of your shopping at Alaska’s shopping portal and to pay with your Alaska Credit card. Neither of those are necessary nor the best way to earn the most miles.
There are important things you need to remember when picking a portal to use:
- Different portals will pay different bonuses for the same store
- Not all points and miles are created equal
- It’s better to have a large amount of points in a few programs than having a small amount of points in many programs
If you fly on Delta often, you should check out how many miles you’ll earn at the SkyMiles Shopping site. Same goes for if you fly American, United, Alaska, Southwest or Spirit. Chase runs a shopping portal where you can earn extra Ultimate Rewards points. There are also portals, like Rakuten or TopCashBack, where you earn cash back instead of miles or points. Sometimes this is your best bet if the payouts at other sites aren’t that great.
Looking at all these portals to find which ones has the best deal would be very time consuming and wouldn’t be worth it for most purchases. Luckily, there’s a website that will do all of that work for you.
Cashback Monitor will let you know the current payouts for the major, and minor, shopping portals. This way you can quickly and easily choose which one to use for each purchase. If you’re looking for Nike sneakers you might be shopping directly on the Nike website. Here’s an example of what the payouts might be at each shopping portal:
In this example, British Airways portal is paying 6 points per dollar while Spirit, Virgin Atlantic, Amtrak, Choice Hotels and American are all paying 4 points per dollar. If you’re collecting any points in those programs, you’d just click on the link and you’re taken to the shopping portal’s page for the store, in this case Nike. You’ll have to log into the portal website (most often with the login for your loyalty account) and click the portal link to be sent to the store.
Since I don’t need any more points in those programs, I’ll look for other places to shop. I see that Chase is offering 4 Ultimate Rewards points for Ink Business, Freedom and Sapphire card holders. (Chase occasionally gives more points to one card over another so you have to pay attention), Just looking as cash back options, Discover is paying 5% back while Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is only paying 1.5% back. While some people might prefer 5% cash back, I’d take the four Ultimate Rewards points.
We used a shopping portal to purchase a portable air conditioner for our house. It’s something we hopefully never need but in case of power failures from hurricanes or waiting for an emergency air conditioner repair, it’s a nice thing to have.
My first thought when we found one on sale at Home Depot was which shopping portal were we going to use.
Home Depot’s payouts aren’t the best. You’ll find out quickly that the store where you want to shop never seems to pay much but the ones you’ve never heard off will give huge discounts. The best we could do was 2% or 2 points per dollar. If I’m ever going to use our Alaska Airlines miles, I need more of them so that’s the program I picked.
I’ve found Cashback Monitor to be really accurate about their listings but I always check to make sure the amount listed on their page is the same shown on the portal’s website.
From there it was just a click to the Home Depot website to make our purchase. Two days later, I received an email from Alaska Mileage Plan.
I’d always suggest to do your shopping before clicking through the shopping portal. The way you get your miles is through a referral link generated when you click to the store from the portal. If you start clicking around the store’s website, or even worse, leave the website, that link may get lost and you’ll lose out on your points. If, during the process of shopping through a portal, you click away from the website, just go back and start from scratch from the shopping portal. It’s only a few clicks and will save you the trouble of trying to fight for your points or miles later on.
My suggestion is to do all your browsing and research first and when you’ve decided exactly what you want to buy, that’s when you can go to Cashback Monitor to find the best deal. From there you click to the shopping portal and click back to the store’s website to add items to your cart and checkout. Now, I’ve been known to do my shopping and add items to my cart first, then click to the portal and back to the store. The items are still in my cart and all I have to do is checkout. I know some people say this is risky and may prevent you from getting your miles but I’ve never had a problem. For a big purchase I’ll usually wait to put items in my cart until going through the portal but I’m probably just being overly cautious.
***Full disclosure: If you use our referral codes or links, we may get a small kickback, which helps pay the bills here at Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary