How to Earn More Points and Miles with Shopping Portals
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After airport terminals without CLEAR, green jelly beans, or Real Housewives hosting roaring 20s theme parties (enough, already!), there are few things that annoy me more than earning only 1 point per dollar.
The problem is, most online retail stores don’t fit into credit cards’ traditional bonus categories like transit, groceries, or gas. So, with the holiday shopping season upon us, what can you do?
Before you settle for 1 point per dollar in the name of holiday cheer, let’s talk about online shopping portals.
How do shopping portals work?
Shopping portals help you to earn more points on top of the points you already earn from using your travel credit card. You get the points per dollar you earn from your credit card, plus points or miles per dollar earned through the portal.
Extra points for the same purchase? It’s not too good to be true, I promise!
In order for this to work, you have to play by the shopping portal’s rules. Here’s what you need to know before racking up extra points and miles this holiday season.
In exchange for shopping portals directing traffic to a retailer’s site, the portal gets a commission from the retailer. The portals pass along some of that cut to you, the shopper, in the form of points or miles.
The amount of points or miles you earn through a shopping portal depends on the portal, the specific retailer, and even the day. You could earn double, triple, or possibly even ten times the points or miles per dollar when you make a purchase through a portal.
This can be helpful if you need to rack up extra points to make a redemption, work toward earning a welcome offer, or it just makes shopping a little more rewarding.
Types of shopping portals
There are several flavors of shopping portals. Some award airline miles unique to an airline frequent flier program, and other shopping portals are affiliated with credit card issuers and award transferable credit card points.
There are also shopping portals that award you cash back, too, but we’ll focus on the ones that give you points and miles. I mean, this newsletter isn’t called “Going with Cash Back.”
Airline miles shopping portals
Here are the shopping portals with some of the most popular airlines. Each awards you airline frequent flier miles with that airline:
- Alaska Airlines: Alaska Mileage Plan Shopping
- American Airlines: AAdvantage eShopping
- British Airways: British Airways Executive Club Shopping
- Delta Air Lines: SkyMiles Shopping
- JetBlue: True Blue Shopping
- Southwest Airlines: RapidRewards Shopping
- United Airlines: United MileagePlus Shopping
To use an airline’s shopping portal, you’ll need to log in with your frequent flier number. If you don’t yet have a frequent flier account with that airline, you can always create one for free. You’ll need to be signed in to get the miles credited to your account.
Bank shopping portals
- Capital One: Capital One Shopping earns cash back. This does earn Capital One miles. (To make things more confusing, Capital One calls its points currency “miles.”)
- Chase: Shopping Through Chase lets you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer to travel partners.
- Barclays: Barclays Rewards Boost also allows you to earn cash back, but it doesn’t offer points to use for travel.
In order to use these portals, you’ll need to have a credit card account with the issuer.
Unlike other card issuers, American Express does not have its own shopping portal. Instead, it partners with a shopping portal called Rakuten to earn American Express Membership Rewards points. Since I am focused on boosting my Amex points, Rakuten is my personal favorite.
Rakuten may look like a traditional cash back shopping portal at first glance, but there’s a way you can opt in to earning American Express Membership Rewards points through Rakuten.
- Create a free account.
- Navigate to Account Settings. Under the section “How would you like to get paid?” you may first have to select PayPal or check, but this is only temporary.
- Then, connect your American Express account. You’ll be prompted to an Amex login page.
To be eligible to do this, you’ll need to have a credit card that earns American Express Member Rewards points.
Rakuten sends Amex Membership Rewards points to your account once a quarter. So, if you use Rakuten for holiday shopping, you’ll get Amex points on February 15.
One thing to keep in mind: You’ll need to have at least 501 Amex points for Rakuten to send them to your account. Otherwise, they’ll roll over to the next quarter.
How to find the best shopping portal offer?
With nearly ten options to choose from, the shopping portal choices can quickly get overwhelming. Sometimes one portal offers a higher rate with the same retailer.
That’s where the site Cashback Monitor comes in. This site aggregates all the rates you can earn across the airline and bank shopping portals, letting you quickly compare.
Like I said, I usually start with Rakuten because I want to earn more Amex points, but if the retailer isn’t on there—for example, Chewy, the pet supply carrier, isn’t—I then check Cashback Monitor to compare airline shopping portals.
Let’s say you want to make a purchase at Best Buy. Search the store on Cashback Monitor to see the amount of points or miles you could earn through each portal.
These rates could change, so what you see may vary based on the day.
Oh, and one more thing: Amazon is one retailer you won’t find on any shopping portal.
Don’t want to be bothered with the extra step of checking on Cashback Monitor before making your purchase? I hear you.
Many portals have Chrome extensions that you can install to your browser. Go to the Google Chrome Web Store, search the shopping portal you want, and download it for free.
After it’s installed, when you visit a retailer’s site to make a purchase, you’ll see a box appear in the upper righthand corner displaying the rate of points or miles that you can earn.
A word of warning: If you’re like me and have several shopping portal extensions installed, you will be confronted with a cascade of boxes to choose from. It’s important that you click “Activate” on the one portal you want to use.
Rakuten also has an app that works similarly: You search the retailer in the Rakuten app, and tap through to the retailer’s site.
Tips for maximizing shopping portals
Shopping portals can offer a way to turbocharge your points earning, but follow these steps to make sure your efforts are rewarded.
- Make sure you click “Activate,” and then wait for the shopping portal to reload the retailer’s site.
- Only use the promo codes that the portal offers. If you have another discount or promo code that comes from the retailer directly, using it may make your purchase ineligible to earn points or miles through the portal.
- It’s best to start with an empty cart, just to be safe.
- Be careful to read the terms and conditions on what types of purchases are eligible. Gift cards are usually excluded, and certain brands may be excluded from earning bonus points, such as Apple products at some retailers. It’s best to know this ahead of time rather than expecting a treasure trove of points or miles that will never arrive.
Ready to shop? The best points and miles are earned in threes. Or fours. Or fives.
Published December 7, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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