This is a free excerpt from Upgrade Unlocked: The Unconventional Guide to Luxury Travel on a Budget by Stephanie Zito.
The easiest and most lucrative way to maximize point earning on the things you already buy is to use a magic service online called a shopping portal. Shopping portals are simple websites run by your favorite airlines and hotels, and contain links to nearly every online store you can imagine (and probably already shop at). When you use a portal as a gateway to access your regular online store, you earn points in a mileage program for whatever you buy. Really!
For example: If you want to buy North Face mittens online, you could go directly to northface.com and purchase a pair for $63 and receive 0 miles. Alternatively, you could first go to a portal like the American Airlines e-shopping network and select the North Face link.
You’ll be redirected to the North Face online store (while your registered mileage number is tracked via cookies), and when you purchase your $63 mittens you’ll automatically be awarded 126 miles (since North Face offers a 2x bonus on each dollar spent when shopping through the portal).
Hundreds of stores—including many that you already shop at—have shopping portal links and it merely requires one extra click to earn hundreds or even thousands of points.
You can easily find the shopping portals for the hotel, airline or credit card program of your choice by visiting the special offers page on an airline or hotel brand’s website or by searching “shopping portal” + airline / hotel partner name.
If you’re working on accruing mileage in a specific program to reach an award goal, stick with the portal for that airline, hotel or credit card award program. You can also use a site like evreward that will show you which shopping portal has the best mileage offer for a particular store.
Outside the U.S., in-store shopping programs are more common.
In Australia, you can get Qantas points for anything you buy in Woolworths. Every once in a while you might come across a deal where the miles offered by a certain store or for a certain product actually outweigh the value of the product itself.
Chris once earned more than 800,000 U.S. Airways miles in one shot by purchasing $8,000 worth of “Track it Back” security stickers through a 40x bonus points promotion in the Dividend Miles shopping portal (now the AA Shopping Portal since the airline’s mileage programs officially merged this year).
While the hundreds of actual stickers—designed to track lost items—were of little value to Chris (he threw most of them away), he was able to use the 800,000 miles to purchase more than $70,000 worth of repeated first and business class trips to Central Asia, Europe, and Africa on some of the best Star Alliance airlines.
Layer your shopping mileage earning strategies to multiply the points.
Use a mileage earning credit card when you shop online. You’ll get miles for the portal transaction, plus miles for the credit card spend. A few favorites from our partner site, Cards for Travel, are:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 40,000 point signup bonus, then double points on all travel and dining spend throughout the year
- Starwood Preferred Guest – Earn up to a 25,000 point signup bonus, then a 20% bonus for every point transferred to airline partners
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card – Earn a total of 100,000 Avios (!) after completing minimum spending requirements
You can also add on a gift card strategy for even more miles. To do this, use a mileage earning credit card to buy gift cards through a portal merchant, then use those gift cards for your actual shopping. (The miles keep coming and coming: it’s like the movie Inception!)
Office supply stores online are a great place to buy gift cards for all kinds of shops and restaurants. If you have a business credit card like the Chase Ink Plus or Bold, you can earn 5x points per dollar on your card, plus an additional 1x – 2x points for making the gift card purchase through a portal.
Once you get the gift card you’ve ordered, you can use it at an actual store, add it to an online or app account balance (this is what I do with Amazon.com and Starbucks gift cards), or use it to shop online.
If you’re shopping online with your gift card be sure to check evreward to see if the merchant is a member of a shopping portal—you can get even more points when you make the final purchase.
Sound complicated? Here’s a practical example. Nathan Barry earned 75,000 miles by triple dipping in shopping portals, gift cards and credit card spending bonuses while completing a minor home renovation project:
“I bought $500 home improvement gift cards from Office Depot using my Ink Bold credit card from Chase. This card gives me 5x points per dollar at office supply stores, so I earned 2,500 points per gift card that I purchased. I then used the gift cards to make purchases at Lowes using the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal to reach Lowes.com and earned another 5x bonus points from the portal. I selected in-store pickup as my shipping option and my purchase was always waiting for me on a cart when I went to pick it up (convenient too!).
Additionally, because I was shopping online I was able to use 10% off coupons from a Google search to get a small discount only available online. Overall, the cost of my home renovation was about $10,000 and because I used the trick of buying gift cards I wound up earning a total of 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for expenses I was going to have anyway. Some of my shopping was in-store and so I didn’t always get the full 10 points for every dollar. But I always made sure to get at least 5x every time!”
To recap: If you want to rack up the miles while buying what you’re already going to buy, visit the shopping portal of your favorite airline or hotel and make note of which of your favorite stores are registered merchants.
Bookmark the site and always use the portal before you do any online shopping. Get used to using evreward to check which shopping portal offers the most lucrative shopping bonus.
This was an excerpt from Upgrade Unlocked, written by Stephanie Zito. If you learned something from the post, you can purchase the whole guide and learn a lot more. Pricing begins at just $39.