Airline miles and hotel and credit card points can be a great way to help offset travel and other expenses. Signing up for a new credit card and getting the bonus miles and points from the welcome offer can be a great way to boost your mileage balances, but if you don’t want to continually sign up for new credit cards all the time, there are other ways to get extra miles besides just your regular every-day spend. Today we are going to talk about shopping portals and how you can use them to get extra miles and points when shopping online.
What is a shopping portal and how does it work?
A shopping portal at its most basic is just a website that has a listing of different companies, with a bonus amount for each of them. Here’s an example from the American Airlines shopping portal:
You can see that you will earn a variety of airline miles for every dollar that you spend through the shopping portal. Most websites on the Internet work on a commission model, where the referring site will earn a commission if you purchase something after clicking through their link. In the case of shopping portal sites, they are choosing to send some of the commissions that they earn back to you, in the form of airline miles or cash back.
The process of using a shopping portal is fairly straightforward – all you need to do is go to the shopping portal’s website. Once you’re on the portal website, find the retailer where you want to make a purchase, and click through from the portal website. Then in a few weeks, you should earn the bonus miles. Generally I have found that most shopping portals track your purchases pretty well, but you may want to take screenshots or other documentation that you clicked through from the shopping portal website, in case there is any dispute about whether or not you earned the miles.
Example of shopping portals
Here are a list of some of the more popular airline shopping portals:
- Southwest Airlines shopping portal
- American Airlines shopping portal
- Delta Air Lines shopping portal
- Alaska Airlines shopping portal
- United Airlines shopping portal
- JetBlue shopping portal
- Hawaiian Airlines shopping portal
There are even shopping portals for Spirit Airlines, Amtrak, Wyndham Hotels and more. You might notice that many of the airline shopping portals look the same – many of them are owned by the same company (Cartera).
If you prefer earning cash back in lieu of airline miles or credit card points, there are also a variety of cash back shopping portals, such as Rakuten, BeFrugal or Top Cashback. Because it is very common for different portals to offer different amounts of rewards for the same merchant, it can pay to check different portals. One place that you can use to compare the rates of different portals is Cashback Monitor. Cashback Monitor allows you to put in a merchant and see the payout rates for all of the major shopping portals.
The other option that you have to use a shopping portal to get extra miles when shopping online is through bonus promotions. These are mainly seen on the airline shopping portals that are run by Cartera (Delta, Alaska, Southwest, American and United) and run periodically throughout the year. Generally these bonus promotions offer a tiered bonus opportunity depending on how much you spend through the portal during the bonus time period. Here’s an example from a recent American Airlines back to school spending promotion:
For this particular promotion, you could earn:
- 500 bonus miles when you spend $150
- 1000 bonus miles when you spend $300
- 2000 bonus miles when you spend $500
Note that these bonus miles are not cumulative; so if you spent $500 during the bonus period you would only earn 2000 bonus miles, and not 500 + 1000 + 2000 for meeting all three criteria.
Because these are typically run by the sites that are owned by Cartera, you will generally see the same promotions at the same times across all of their shopping portal sites. That way you can choose to earn the miles that you value the most. One important thing to note is that in many cases the promotions vary slightly between the different shopping portals, so it can pay to compare.
There are also occasionally more ad-hoc promotions that run with additional offers or bonus mile opportunity on specific merchants.
The last shopping portal opportunity I wanted to talk about is the ability to sometimes “double dip” through shopping portals. This is more of an advanced technique, takes a bit of additional time and may not always work. Let’s illustrate with an example – say you want to buy a $500 stove from Lowe’s, and Lowe’s is currently at 5 miles per dollar spent at the Delta Skymiles shopping portal. To execute the double-dip, you would work as follows:
- Go to the Delta shopping portal site, click through to Lowe’s, and buy a $500 GIFT CARD from Lowes.com. You should earn 2500 Delta Skymiles for your $500 purchase. You’ll still also earn miles, points or cash back from the credit card that you choose to pay with.
- Then, after you have the gift card, go BACK to the Delta shopping portal, click through to Lowe’s AGAIN, and buy your stove, paying for it with the gift card you got earlier. You should earn another 2500 Skymiles
A few things to note – first of all, this may not always work. Many shopping portals do not pay out on gift card purchases – check the terms and conditions to be sure. Another note is that by paying for your purchase with a gift card, you won’t get any purchase protections that might be available if you pay with a credit card. Still, if you’re looking to squeeze out the maximum, this may be something worth considering.
Hopefully this guide to shopping portals has given you information on another great way to earn extra miles, points or cash back when shopping online!