While earning points through credit card purchases can add up over time, there are ways to make faster progress towards your travel goals beyond just spending more. Today, we’ll review a few additional options tied to shopping online, as well as my beloved #SuperBonusMiles purchases.
Online Shopping Portals
You can earn additional miles or points through shopping online beyond just the credit card rewards! Many different banks and travel partners operate a shopping portal, which is essentially a website that provides links to external e-commerce sites. Rewards vary by destination e-commerce site, and will range from 0.5 to 10+ points per dollar spent at the site. Occasionally you will also see special offers that are a fixed amount of points. These are more commonly tied to signing up for a specific subscription service (e.g. Blue Apron, Wall Street Journal, etc.), though some online florists also run similar promos. I’m personally a fan of Teleflora for quality of delivered flowers and their partnerships with local florists. Most major flower holidays, they offer 750 points for a purchase linked through United.com.
How it works
You log into the bank or travel website to access your account, navigate to their shopping page, select the store, and complete your purchase like normal. Within a few days (up to a week or so), the points will automatically show up in your account.
The two I use, again tied to my harmonized system are Chase Ultimate Rewards and United MileagePlus. To access the Chase site, log into your Chase account, and go to your Ultimate Rewards page. At the top menu bar, there is a Earn Points button that will take you to their shopping portal.
For United, log into your account, then go to the MileagePlus page. Select Earn Miles, and scroll down to their Everyday Activities section, and select MileagePlus shopping.
How I really use shopping portals
I’ll do some reconnaissance ahead of time to know who typically participates in e-commerce shopping portal sites. In my experience, you’ll never find Amazon.com on these, but you can find things like Home Depot, Nike.com, Office Depot, and even Walmart.com. Once I have a specific purchase in mind, I’ll find what I want to buy like I would normally, evaluating reviews, prices, etc. If I already know my preferred store is a shopping portal participant, I’ll add the item to my shopping cart. Then, I’ll go to my two preferred shopping portals and see what the current offer is in terms of points per dollar spent. Without any specific bonuses (see the next section), I go with whomever has the higher offer, and click on the link to return to the e-commerce site. Thanks to internet magic, my cart will carry over to the new tab, and I can directly proceed to checking out, earning my additional points.
If both United and Chase have the same offer, I go with Chase, again due to the greater versatility of the Ultimate Rewards points. Chase points can become United points (with Chase Sapphire Reserve) but United points can’t become Chase points, so keep things in Chase as long as possible
Pro Tip: Most shopping portals will indicate that you earn extra points buy using the linked card. In my experience, you can use any form of payment to complete the order and earn the points. So don’t stress if you accessed the shopping portal through a link, use whatever form of payment maximizes your points.
United Spend Promos
Various times of the year, United will run a promotion, providing additional points if your purchases during a specific period of time exceed certain thresholds. Recently, they had a several week period that if you made $150 in purchases, they added an additional 500 miles, and exceeding $300 in purchases was worth 1000 miles. This provided an additional 3+ miles per dollar spent if you end up close to the threshold amount. For me, I’ve been planning a number of summer home improvement projects, so I created my shopping list, went over to homedepot.com and officially purchased my to-do list, earning additional points in the process. Now I just need to actually do those projects.
I’ll do my best to call out these promotions in the future here and on social media so you can take advantage as well.
United MileagePlus X app – Adding eGift Cards!
United has really helped me out recently in maximizing these non-credit card related points by releasing an app that ties a lot of these systems together. Go to your device’s app store, and download MileagePlus X. This app works similar to their MileagePlus shopping portal, but adds another new way to earn; eGift cards. From the app, select MileagePlus eGift Cards, and you will be taken to a list of stores sorted either by distance from your current location, or a list of participating online merchants. On the list, you’ll see a number of vendors like Jamba Juice, Foot Locker, Bed Bath & Beyond, Domino’s, etc. Generally, a high number of chain stores & restaurants participate in the program.
Buy an exact value gift card
How to use the eGift cards: Shop or dine like you normally would (both in store or online), and right when you’re checking out, get the exact total of your order, go to the app, select the merchant, and buy a gift card for the EXACT amount of your total. You can also add tip if you’re at a restaurant. After confirming the transaction and entering your password, you’ll get a barcode and gift card code & pin to provide the cashier/server, or enter on the site’s gift card payment, and you’re all set. This gives you additional free miles for the same purchase you would have made anyway.
Pro Tip: The gift cards count as their typical merchant category, so make sure you pay with the correct credit card. For example, a restaurant counts as dining, so use your Sapphire Reserve as the card to purchase the gift card. Home Depot counts as home improvement, so it’s applicable as a Chase Freedom category this quarter (Q2 2019).
Added Bonus for MileagePlus Explorer Visa
I have shared that my credit card system tries to stay relatively simple, relying only on three consumer Chase cards. However, I also keep the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa from Chase. While I only use it to book flights on United to get the free checked bag, I still keep the Chase United credit card ($95 annual fee) for a few other perks as well, that we’ll get into in later posts. However, an interesting, not overly well publicized benefit is linked to the MileagePlus X app and eGift card purchases. By being a card member (linked through my United account), I get an additional 25% bonus on every gift card I purchase through the app. That means, if I’m buying a $100 gift card to a merchant that is currently offering 4 miles per dollar, instead of 400 points, I get 500. I’ve tracked my purchases for the past several years, and at the $0.015/point valuation, I tend to average an additional $20-30 per year in perks from the card.
Bring it all together: #SuperBonusMiles
One of my favorite things in life is combining these various means of earning miles into a single transaction, as these very easily stack! I’ve mentioned a couple of examples throughout, but here’s a few more to illustrate the point.
Recently, our dishwasher broke. While unfortunate, it actually created an opportunity for a huge per dollar point reward. I found the dishwasher I wanted (on sale, mind you), at Home Depot, and added it to my cart. To make the rest of the math a little easier, let’s say the dishwasher was $500.
Chase at the time was offering 2 points per dollar spent at Home Depot through their shopping portal, so I connected through there.
$500 x 2 = 1000 Ultimate Rewards Points
Home Depot is also part of the Chase Freedom 5x category for the quarter for home improvement.
$500 x 5 = 2500 Ulitmate Rewards Points
I also checked MileagePlus X, and they offered 1 United mile per dollar for the eGift card. Plus my 25% Chase United bonus…
$500 x 1.25 = 625 MileagePlus points
So, on the total purchase, $500 ended up as 4125 points, or 8.25 points/$. At a valuation of 2 cents a piece, that is $82.50 back. At the ridiculous international air returns I’ve averaged, that’s $412 in airfare. And I got a dishwasher out of it!
Another quick example, while we don’t eat at chain restaurants that often, we do occasionally break down and get Domino’s delivered. While you can’t use an online shopping portal, you can easily use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to get 3x for dining, and use that card with the MileagePlus X app to get the 5x points gift card. Again, with the Chase United 25% bonus, that’s 3+5+1.25 = 9.25 points per dollar spent.
Even for little things like body wash, I’ll often order through Walmart.com with the pick up in store option. Typically they participate in all 3 programs, so what would normally be a 1.5x bonus (through Chase Freedom Unlimited), can get closer to 5x with the eGift card and shopping portal bonus.
I’ll keep sharing more of my tips to maximize your miles, and feel free to share your best #SuperBonusMiles purchases with us on Twitter! @ThinkerTravel. Best of luck in hunting super bonus miles!