A few months ago, I shared with you a trick on how to save money at gas stations and earn more miles and points in the process. Today, I’m back with some advice on how to earn more miles and points on shopping. From everyday purchases at Target to designer handbags at Nordstrom, using one simple little trick will earn you hundreds (or even thousands) of additional miles and points.
As you guys know, I’m not a huge fan of manufactured spending. I don’t like having to spend more money to earn more miles and points. Instead, I would rather earn more miles and points for the normal spending that I already make. And the best way to do that (with just a little bit of work) is with gift cards and through online shopping portals.
And for the record, I will mention several credit cards, stores and airlines in my examples. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, nor do I receive any compensation from them. These are only examples for you to see how I personally earn a ton of miles for only a little bit of extra work.
Let’s cover a few basics first. What’s a gift card? Gift cards are free and do not cost any additional money to purchase. A $50 gift card to Nordstrom will cost you $50. There are no activation or additional fees associated with them. These gift cards should not be confused with store charge cards or credit cards. Those are actual credit cards that require a credit inquiry.
Store gift cards should also not be confused with prepaid debit cards or gift cards from banks such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Those cards are not specific to any store, can be used anywhere (Visa, MasterCard or American Express cards are accepted) and usually come with an activation fee of several dollars. For example, a $50 Visa gift card will cost about $55.95 ($50. plus $5.95 activation fee).
The gift cards I’m referring to in this post are store gift cards. Store gift cards can be purchased from the stores themselves, online or through other retailers such as grocery stores, gas stations, office supplies stores and pharmacies. Many different stores and online retailers have gift cards such as Macy’s, Target, Nordstrom, Amazon.com and eBay.
Online shopping portals are shopping referral websites. Most airlines and hotel chains have online shopping portals and so do banks such as Chase and Citi. Online shopping portals are free to use and will earn you award miles or points for that specific program. For example, American Airlines’ online shopping portal will earn you American Airlines AAdvantage miles, Alaska Airlines’ online shopping portal will earn you Alaska Mileage Plan miles and Chase’s shopping portal will earn you Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. The online shopping portals don’t require you to use their branded credit card or even a credit card at all. You can pay with any credit card, debit card or even a gift card. Keep in mind, these are bonus points/miles. These are in addition to the points and miles that you will earn from your credit card for making the purchase.
Most major brick and mortar stores, as well as online stores, will have a presence through the online shopping portals. Earning rates will vary between the individual stores and the online shopping portals so it always pays to check the other online shopping portals before making your purchase. For example, I just checked Alaska, American and United’s shopping portals for Nordstrom. Both Alaska and American were offering an additional 4 miles per dollar spent through their shopping portals. Not bad but checking United’s shopping portal, I saw they were offering 6 miles per dollar spent. United was the big winner in this case but that won’t be for every situation. Always check all the shopping portals when shopping for different stores.
To earn miles or points using an online shopping portal, all you have to do is create an account. They are free to join and free to use. Just log on, find your store, get referred and shop as you normally would. A few weeks later, your miles will post to your account.
Let me give you an example.
I love Groupon and I make purchases from their website all the time. From Crossfit classes to discounted meals and weekend trips, I’m a sucker for all those deals. Let’s say there’s a $50 Groupon deal for dinner at a local restaurant that I want to try out. What I used to do was jump online, go directly to Groupon’s website and use my credit card to purchase the Groupon.
Now, I have a Chase Ink Bold business credit card that I use for a lot of my spending. If I were to use that credit card, I would earn 50 Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for my Groupon purchase ($50 x 1 point/dollar spent = 50 UR points).
But instead of settling for 50 UR points, let’s look at how I can double dip on my purchase. Instead of going directly to Groupon’s website to make the purchase, I will drive to any office supply store such as Staples or Office Depot and purchase a $50 Groupon gift card using my Chase Ink Bold card. I will then jump online and instead of going directly to Groupon’s website, I will go to United’s MileagePlus shopping portal. There, I will search for Groupon, click on the referral link to Groupon’s website and then make my purchase using the $50 gift card that I just purchased from the office supply store.
With both scenarios, I will spend $50 on my Chase Ink Bold card but there’s a huge difference in the points accrual. In the first scenario, I will only earn 50 UR points. In the second scenario, I will earn 250 UR points AND 200 United Airlines miles.
How is that you ask? It’s because my Chase Ink Bold card earns me 5 UR points for every dollar I spend at office supply stores. So I will earn 250 UR points for buying the $50 Groupon gift card at Staples or Office Depot ($50 x 5 points/dollar spent = 250 UR points). And by shopping through United’s MileagePlus shopping portal, I will earn an additional 4 miles for every dollar I spend at Groupon, which means I get another 200 United Airlines miles ($50 x 4 miles/dollar spent = 200 UA miles).
This principle can be applied to any online store, not just Groupon. Want to buy an expensive handbag for the Mrs. from Macy’s or Nordstrom? Or a new TV from Best Buy? Use a gift card and go through an online shopping portal and you will rack up more miles and points than you can handle. Here are the last three purchases I made online. As you can see, I earned an additional 1,113 miles just by using the online shopping portal.
But what if you don’t want to buy things online? That’s fine too. Buying a gift card prior to using it at the store will net you more miles and points than buying the item from the store directly with your credit card. For example, I can go buy a $50 gift card to Nordstrom at Office Max using my Chase Ink card and will earn 250 UR points as opposed to only earning 50 UR points if I just swiped my credit card at Nordstrom directly.
But what if you don’t have a credit card that earns bonus points at office supplies stores? Then use a credit card that earns you bonus points at grocery stores (like the American Express Everyday Preferred card). You know what they sell at grocery stores? That’s right, gift cards. Or use a credit card that earns you bonus miles or points at gas stations or pharmacies. Yup, they sell gift cards there too. Don’t have a credit card that earns you bonus points at any store that carries gift cards? Fine, then just use your credit card through the online shopping portals to earn the extra bonus miles. Using an online shopping portal will always be better than shopping at a store’s website directly.
Now I know what you’re thinking. That seems like a lot of work for some extra miles. But honestly, it’s really not that inconvenient. Just think of it as items to buy as part of your weekly shopping list. When I’m at an office supply store, I buy a bunch of gift cards for places that I know I’m going to spend money at for the week.
Here’s another example. I shop at Target Stores a lot. But unfortunately, there’s no credit card out there that gives me bonus points at Target. So I have two choices. I can use my regular credit card at Target each time I make a purchase (wrong!) or I can buy a Target gift card from a store that I do get bonus points at (correct). I will then use the Target gift card to shop at Target and enjoy my bonus points as if I got them from Target.
However, there are a couple of negatives to buying gift cards that you should be aware of. Most credit cards will offer you some sort of price protection or warranty extension when you make a purchase with your credit card. Different credit cards will have different benefits. So if you buy a gift card with your credit card and then use that gift card to make a purchase, those price protections or warranty extensions DO NOT carry over to the items purchased with the gift card.
Also, if you decide to return the items that you purchased with the gift card, you will be refunded in the form of a gift card. You will not be able to refund the gift card for credit back onto your credit card. So make sure that whatever you decide to buy, you will want to keep (or be able to make a future purchase at that store again). Gift cards also can’t be used to buy another gift card.
So those are my tips for you on how to double dip and earn more miles and points for your everyday spending. If you have any questions or comments on how this has worked out for you, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Thanks!