INSIDER SECRET: Shopping summer sales online for back-to-school supplies and more can earn you bonus points and miles, getting you closer to free travel.
You may not realize that online shopping can earn you points and miles beyond what you’d already earn by using a specific credit card. But many airlines have shopping portals, which allow you to shop and earn bonus points through popular retailers you’d already be shopping at anyway.
What Are Shopping Portals?
Shopping portals are websites provided by a variety of companies, including airline programs. Basically, you find the retailer you want to shop at via the shopping portal for your chosen airline, like Delta or United. Next to the retailer, like Sephora or Walgreens, you’ll see the number of bonus points you’ll earn for doing your spending through the portal link. This amount is in addition to what you’ll earn by putting that spending on your credit card.
When you click through to your selected retailer, your computer sets a cookie tracing your purchase, ensuring the miles you earned based on your spend will be added to your loyalty account.
For example, if you are a loyal American Airlines flyer, you can use the AAdvantage shopping portal to shop for items at retailer Neiman Marcus, which currently has an offer for 3 miles per dollar spent. You click through from the AAdvantage shopping portal to the Neiman Marcus website, where you can shop as normal.
You check out, paying $200 for your purchases with your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that will earn you 1 Chase point per dollar spent. So, you’ll earn 200 Chase points, plus 600 AAdvantage miles, allowing you to double-dip and earn two different points/miles currencies on a few new items of clothing.
Things get really interesting when there are large bonuses for specific retailers. Sometimes, you can earn up to 30 miles per dollar spent on gifts or flowers near popular holidays, or 5-12 points per dollar at average retailers.
If your credit score isn’t as high as you’d like it to be or you’re having issues getting approved for credit cards, shopping portals are an alternative way to earn additional airline miles (besides flying, of course).
A Step-By-Step Guide
1. Pick your loyalty program to earn with
Most major airline carriers have shopping portals. Think about the airline you fly the most or where you’d like to bank your points. If you don’t have a loyalty account with the airline or hotel yet, sign up. Once you have an account, log in to the airline shopping portal to begin. Below is a list of some of the most popular shopping portals:
- Air Canada: Aeroplan eStore
- Alaska Airlines: Mileage Plan Shopping
- American Airlines: AAdvantage eShopping
- British Airways: Gate 365
- Delta Airlines: SkyMiles Shopping
- JetBlue: ShopTrue
- Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Spirit: Spirit Online Mall
- United: MileagePlus Shopping
- Virgin Atlantic: Shops Away
2. Check websites that compare bonuses
If you are open to earning with more than one program and have various loyalty accounts, plan to use websites like Cashback Monitor or Evreward to compare bonuses, especially if you already know where you’d like to shop. For example, if you know you need to purchase something from Bed Bath & Beyond and are open to earning United, Delta or Alaska miles, search for the retailer on one of these sites to see which airline shopping program offers the best bonus for that store.
3. Download the Google extension
Chrome users can download the Google extension that creates a pop-up with a link to airline shopping portals. If a website you’re shopping at offers bonus points or miles, the plug in will create a pop-up. Click to activate it and complete your shopping as normal — and voilà, you’ll earn your bonus points.
4. Start shopping
Whether you go to each specific shopping portal to hunt for deals, use Cashback Monitor or the Google Chrome extension, the main takeaway is that you’re earning bonus miles on shopping you’d already be doing. Note: It’s important to make sure you have cookies turned on. Otherwise, your purchase won’t be tracked and you won’t earn the points.
Because of these bonuses, it’s worth considering purchasing big-ticket items online that you might normally buy in a store. For example, instead of buying a new iPhone or computer in the physical store, head over to the store to see which one you want and talk to staff. Once you know what you need, however, order it via Apple online from home using a shopping portal. This strategy could earn you thousands of airline miles depending on what you buy and how high the current bonuses are.
You should also plan to take advantage of high bonuses around the holidays, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Bonuses may be higher during these times of year, especially on flower and gift items. Sometimes portals will even offer extra bonuses for spending a certain amount of money, especially during popular shopping seasons like the days post-Thanksgiving. These deals might help you increase that bank of miles even faster than you expect.
5. Check for restrictions
Occasionally, certain products are excluded from earning bonus points at a specific retailer, like gift cards. Read the fine print to be aware of any exclusions. Also be careful using any promo codes that aren’t specified on the portal, as they could render the purchase via the portal ineligible for earning miles.
6. Check to make sure your points post
Sometimes it can take several weeks for your points to post, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see them right away in your account. If you don’t see them posted after the time period the portal states, contact the portal to check.
Although using shopping portals for just a couple hundred points here and there might seem silly, it’s not. If you use them each time you shop, purchases begin to add up, and before you even realize it, you may be closer than ever to earning enough to fly for free.
This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.