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Do you know the effortless way to exponentially increase the miles and points you earn for your purchases?
Online shopping portals are an easy way to earn lots of bonus miles, points, or cash back on purchases you’d probably make anyway. Nearly every airline, hotel, and bank has some kind of shopping portal to help you earn free travel extra quickly.
When you start your online shopping through a portal, you’ll be able to double-dip rewards and boost your savings or points earning. For example, you can earn bonus points at lots of retailers through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, on top of the rewards you’d earn from top travel rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
We’ll show you you everything you need to know about online shopping portals. And show you how easy they are to use.
Different types of shopping portals
No matter what rewards currency you want to earn, you’ll find a beneficial shopping portal that suits your needs.
Almost every major airline has a shopping portal, so you can likely earn bonus miles with your favorite airline. Here are examples of airlines with shopping portals:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- United Airlines (and United Airlines MileagePlus X app)
Depending on current promotions and where you shop, you could earn 30+ miles or points per dollar.
Hotel shopping portals aren’t as prolific as airlines, and now that Marriott and Hilton have discontinued their portals, the only major chain option is the Choice Hotels shopping portal.
If you’d rather earn hard cash, there are tons of portals for you. Depending on where you’re shopping, you could earn 20%+ back. Some of the more popular cashback sites are:
You can even sometimes earn cash back for travel purchases, like airfare, hotel stays, and online travel agencies (Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, etc.) through these sites.
Several banks have their own shopping portals, as well. So you can earn cash back and flexible rewards from your online shopping, too. You can earn bonus points through:
Some bank shopping portals will require that you use a card that they issue. Your results may vary.
It’s worth noting that Rakuten allows you to choose between cash back or Amex Membership Rewards points. this is HUGE for Amex Membership Rewards collectors. If a merchant is offering 6% back, you can instead choose to earn 6 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar. We estimate Amex points value to be 2 cents on average. If you choose to earn Amex points instead of cashback, you’re effectively doubling your return!
What are the BEST type of rewards to earn?
There is no “best” rewards program. The rewards you choose to earn will differ based on your travel goals. For example:
- If you want to book award flights to Hawaii, you might want to use the Chase shopping portal to collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- If you’re more interested in domestic flights, consider the JetBlue portal or the Southwest portal
- If you rarely fly, but you visit family for the holidays in small towns, you might collect Choice hotel points through the Choice shopping portal to earn free hotel nights
That said, earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points is likely the best idea if you don’t have any travel plans in mind. That’s because it’s easy to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to lots of travel partners, or use the points at a fixed cash value to reserve travel.
Use shopping portal aggregators to find the best deal
Shopping portal bonuses change constantly, and checking each individual portal takes forever. So it’s important to know the best shopping portal aggregators. They keep tabs on all shopping portals, and let you know which one will give you the highest return for your purchase.
Examples of shopping portal aggregators are:
The MMS team’s current favorite is Cashback Monitor. We find it’s usually the most up-to-date, and there are lots of handy features.
Keep in mind, miles & points can have VERY different values. One thing we love about Cashback Monitor is that you can designate different cash values to miles & points. Then instead of displaying the amount of points you’ll earn, it will tell you what percentage you’re getting as a return.
So if you value Alaska Airlines miles at ~1.8 cents each, and British Airways Avios points at just 1 cent each, you can type that into Cashback Monitor.
Then when you click on a merchant, you’ll see which is the better deal according to YOU.
Get even bigger returns on your purchases
Here are a few tips to help you get the most for your money.
Stack promotions for even more rewards
If you know what you’re doing, you can get an even better return than what the shopping portal aggregators tell you. That’s because you can sometimes “stack” bonuses, to earn more than one for the same purchase.
For example, you can stack AMEX Offers with most shopping portal deals. Add an offer to your AMEX credit card, and use that card to make an eligible purchase on the retailer’s website through an online shopping portal, then earn even more cash back.
Monitor bonus promotions
Shopping portal promotions are being released all the time.
Log-in to your accounts once in a while, and watch for email promotions. Sometimes they aren’t listed on sites like Evreward and Cashback Monitor. Though with Cashback Monitor, you can set alerts for when certain stores increase their cashback offer.
A great way to stay on top of all this is by subscribing to the Million Mile Secrets newsletter, or by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We monitor these kinds of things, and we tell you about the ones we think are worthwhile. It makes things a lot easier for our readers.
Watch out for pitfalls
If you’re not careful, there are a few mistakes you can make to lose your bonus points.
Ad blockers prevent shopping portals from properly tracking your purchases. So if you have an ad blocker enabled on your browser, you will likely not get bonus miles & points for making purchases through a shopping portal.
Turn off your ad blocker beforehand!
Some items don’t qualify for bonus rewards through shopping portals. They will be listed in the fine print, but you can generally count on cash equivalents (like gift cards) to not be eligible for bonus earnings through the portal.
Many shopping portals will state that you can’t use store promotion codes alongside their cash back offer. Always read the fine print, or you might be unpleasantly surprised later. That said, in our experience you’ll sometimes still get a shopping portal bonus when you use a store promotion code. But don’t count on it.
For example, if you’re shopping through the Southwest shopping portal, you can only use coupon codes provided by Southwest. If you use other coupon codes, such as those found using extensions or provided by the retailer directly, your Southwest points will be forfeited. Carefully consider each offer and deal and decide for yourself if you’d rather save using a different coupon code or earn Southwest points.
Southwest does frequently provide good coupon codes within the offers for each retailer on the portal, so be sure to keep an eye out for those!
How to use a shopping portal
Here’s a quick guide to help you see exactly how a shopping portal works.
Choose a merchant through Cashback Monitor
When you get to the Cashback Monitor home page, you’ll see a long list of popular stores. You can see at a glance what kind of return each is offering. Or you can use the search bar near the top to find a certain merchant.
We’ll choose Walmart for this example.
Note: If you see notifications on the top and side of the page about ad blockers, that means your ad blocker is still on. Turn it off before you continue, to ensure that your purchases will track later on.
Choose the rewards currency you want to earn
You will now be able to see all the available portals you can use with Walmart.
Click on the miles, points, or cash back you prefer to earn. We generally value miles & points higher than cash back, because of the value you can squeeze from them. We’ll choose to shop at Walmart through the British Airways Mall.
Navigate to the merchant website via the miles and points shopping portal
You will be immediately directed to the store page on the shopping portal you selected. Just click “Shop Now” (or whatever variant is on your preferred shopping portal).
Then you’ll be prompted to enter your British Airways account details.
The shopping portal will indicate that it’s taking you to the store website.
Shop as you normally would
You are now on the actual store website! Shop just like normal, and you’ll receive bonus miles, points, or cash back for your purchase.
In this example, you’d earn 4 British Airways Avios points per dollar you spend at Walmart.
You can even use online shopping portals to save money if you prefer picking up your items in person at the store.
Check to see if your points have posted
Depending on the portal, it can take several days to several weeks for your miles and points to show up in your account. Check the terms and conditions on the portal you’re using to get an idea of what to expect.
If you don’t receive your bonus within the specified time frame, you can contact the portal with your issue. There’s usually a “Contact Us” or “Help” section you can click through.
In the case of cash back portals, each portal pays out a little differently. For example, TopCashBack requires users to manually request a payout (via bank transfer, PayPal, or gift card). But sites like Ebates automatically mail you a check every three months.
Pro-tip: Download a 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.
Airlines and hotels sometimes even create their own extension. Southwest calls theirs the Rapid Rewards Shopping button. Whenever you are shopping at a website that allows you to earn Southwest points, the button pops up as a reminder and asks if you’d like to earn Southwest points. Simply click “Activate,” and any purchases you make from that retailer will credit at their Southwest points earning rate.
Retailers typically offer between 1 to 20 Southwest points per dollar spent. And when the button pops up, it will show the earn rate. The button also appears in your Google results when searching for items. It will list the earning rate next to participating retailers who show up in the search results.
Earn portal rewards even when you’re in-store
That’s right, you can earn bonus cash, miles or points even if you’re inside a brick and mortar store. It’s a bit more effort than simply walking through the checkout lane, but it can be worthwhile.
If you find something you want, you can quickly locate the portal rewards for your store by visiting Cashback Monitor. Many stores will let you order items online and pick them up in-store. Be aware that some stores will not offer bonus rewards for pick-ups.
Shop as you normally would. Try out that leather office chair, pair of penny loafers, or glassblowing oven to see if you like them. When you find items you’d like to buy, pull out your phone and buy your items through a shopping portal instead of checking-out at the cash register.
Your items will likely be available in multiple stores in your area. Be sure to choose the store you’re currently inside to pick-up your items!
Perhaps the most important aspect of this strategy is noting how soon your items will be ready. Some stores will prepare your items in under an hour. Others will take longer. If you’re purchasing something that must be shipped from another store, you might have to wait a few days for your order.
If your order will be ready in an hour, you can continue to shop to pass the time — or walk to the nearest ice cream parlor for a celebratory waffle cone.
If you shop online and are not using online shopping portals regularly, you are leaving lots of miles & points (or cash) on the table.
Shopping portals are easy to use. You can earn transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards points, airline miles, hotel points, or cash back to accomplish whatever goals lie ahead. And that’s in addition to the rewards you’ll earn from any of the best credit cards for travel – a great way to double dip.
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