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Sunday Reader Question: Earning Points Through Shopping Portals

by on May 6, 2012 · 65 comments

in American Express, Chase

TPG reader Jean-Marc asks:

I have a question regarding shopping through a portal. Before any online purchase, I usually go to evreward.com to see where I can get the most bonus points. For the sake of this example, let’s say it’s the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. When I click on the link, I get asked to login to my Chase account, then pick a credit card (I have the Sapphire Preferred and Freedom). Let’s say I pick the Sapphire Preferred, when I check out, can I pay with another credit card (my SPG Amex), and still get the bonus points through the mall, but get the base point for the spend on the Amex?

Great question – let me take it back a couple steps for the beginners.

If you shop a lot online, you should be raking in the points and miles by maximizing shopping portals. The general rule of thumb with these portals is that as long as you click the link and make a purchase, with any credit card, you will get the points/miles. Why do these portals exist? Well usually they are run by third party e-commerce websites that act as a middle man. The retailers pay the portals, say 7%, of your total purchase, for sending business their way. In turn, the portals incentivize you to spend more by offering miles and points that they purchase from the airline for less than what they are getting paid by the retailer. In an ideal world everyone wins: the retailer gets more business, the shopping portal makes money for basically doing nothing, the airlines make money from the portals on the miles (that they hope never get redeemed) and the savvy shopper rakes in miles when those poor souls who actually shop in the store get the shaft on the bonus opportunity.

The great thing is that you can pretty much use any credit card – you don’t have to use an airline or credit card-affiliated product. For example, say you want to buy a $100 item from Target and you want to maximize the miles you get, but you’d really like to top up American Airlines if it’s the best. I’d first go to EVreward.com and compare how many points/miles each portal is offering.
I’d generally prefer accruing Chase/Amex points because they are transferable to a number of different partners, but neither partners with American and the earning ratio is the same, so I’d go directly through the AAdvantageeshopping.com portal for this purchase. Now, you don’t have to use an AA-affiliated credit card, so you could use your United Club credit card which offers a lucrative 1.5 miles spent on every purchase. In the end you’d end up with 300 American miles from the portal (deposited usually within two weeks of purchase) and 150 United miles from the credit card spend.

As Jean-Marc writes, it gets a little trickier with the credit card shopping portals, because they try to make it seem like you need to use their credit cards to get the points, however you don’t. In order to accrue points in Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards you need to have an eligible card (like Amex Premier Rewards Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred), but you don’t have to use that card through the portal. Once you click through, a cookie gets placed on your computer that tells the system to award you X amount of points for your purchase. Usually the cookie lasts for at least 30 days, so even if you forget to click through the portal on a future visit, it’s very likely you will still get the bonus (though I always recommend clicking through to be safe). The systems are not sophisticated enough to cross-reference the type of credit card used to actually make the purchase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards portal saying you need to use a Chase card.. not true, but they’d like you to think that

Additionally, many portals will exclude the purchase of gift cards from accruing points/miles, however the systems often do not detect gift cards and you will still get the bonus. On top of that, sometimes you can even then use those gift cards after clicking through the portal and potentially earn miles on purchases paid for by those gift cards – a classic double dip.

Note, it doesn’t always work out as planned and there are variations between vendors and portals on what works and doesn’t, so I’d recommend starting off small and see what works before you try to go big time.

FYI for those with the new Ink Bold card which offers 5 points per dollar on office supplies, the Frequent Miler blog has some really unique ways to maximize that via gift card purchases through shopping portals. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Greg, the brains behind Frequent Miler, and I’m really impressed with his creativity in the spend/gift card/portal space. I’ve even added him to my blogroll, so check him out!

In the meantime, here’s a list of popular shopping portals:

Air Canada: Aeroplan EStore
AirTran: A+ Rewards Mall
American: AAdvantageEshopping.com
American Express: Bonus Points Mall
Amtrak: Amtrak Guest Rewards
British Airways: BA Miles Estore
Chase: Ultimate Rewards Shopping
Choice Rewards: Choice Privileges Mall
Citi: Thank You Shopping
Delta: Skymilesshopping.com
Discover: ShopDiscover
Frontier: Early Returns Mall
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines eMarket
Hilton HHonors: Hilton HHonors Shop to Earn Mall
Marriott Rewards: Shop My Way
Mastercard: Mastercard Marketplace
Priority Club: Priority Club Shopping
Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping
United: Mileageplusshopping.com
US Airways: Dividend Miles Shopping Mall
Virgin Atlantic: ShopsAway
Visa: Visa Offers (these are discounts not points-earning)

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Ron

    While not points or miles, often times Shop Discover offers a more generous cashback than other points/miles options seen via evreward. When shopping on that portal, you must use a Discover card to receive the cashback bonus.

  • http://twitter.com/wanymayold Wany May

    TPG You apparently forget the British Airways shopping portal which gave you 36 avios/dollar earlier this year on nordstrom.
    Yes, it is not in the list of evreward.com

  • Dj Donahue

    If I go to Chase Ultimate rewards then pay with an Amex, aren’t I getting points for BOTH credit cards??

  • Rak Siam

    That’s basically what the whole post is about. What you are really getting though is Ultimate Rewards points through the portal and Amex MR points through the credit card spend.

  • Darrell

    Don’t forget the British Airways shopping portal

  • thepointsguy

    Nice catch- added to the list

  • thepointsguy

    You will only ever get portal points for one portal (so in this case Ultimate rewards) and then the points for the card you use (Amex). So yes, you can get both Amex and Chase points for an online shopping portal purchase

  • thepointsguy

    Added

  • Fred

    Are the retail prices charged at e-commerce stores the same at the retailers brick and mortar stores?
    in other words, does Staples charge the same price online for a keyboard that it does at their store?
    i would hate to pay 10- 20% more online just to get a handful of extra UR points. i do know that there is a convenience factor of having my order delivered to me vs. going to the store and i also understand that some people live in rural areas that are many miles away from the nearest shopping center.

  • TrentSwanson

    Evreward rarely accurate. UR best bet for greatest bonus offer when insufficient time to log into major portals and don’t need specific airline’s miles

  • thepointsguy

    Usually the same, if not less. Plus you have to factor the time save and other factors like gas that make going into a store more expensive.

  • Jivepicnic

    I have found that the vast majority of websites charge the same for shopping online as they do in the store. If I need an item today, I’ll usually take advantage of the store pickup option (if the store offers it). I buy the item online through the portal, tell them that I’ll pick it up at the store, and then get it the same day. That way I get the item immediately and get the points/miles for shopping online. This has worked well for me at stores like Best Buy, Sears, Kmart, and Lowe’s, among others.

  • http://twitter.com/Indiana082 Mark Gross

    The only shopping portal for Amazon (at least according to EVReward) is Hawaiian Airlines. Just finding out about this a few weeks ago; wish I’d have known earlier with the amount I spend with those guys. Installing their toolbar makes getting miles from Amazon a pretty easy process – Green light; you’re earning. There are a lot of toolbars associated with the loyalty reward programs that give you points for searching (Hawaiian is 1 point for every 3 searches) – why use Google or Yahoo when you can get rewarded for your searching.

  • Akparsa

    Tread VERY carefully using a non-Chase card at the UR Mall. I personally will never do it again for a large purchase.

    Most Chase CSRs believe that you cannot earn UR points unless you check out with a Chase card.

    I had about 8000 points not post when I used an Amex card instead of Chase. I eventually got the points but I was told no definitively and repeatedly. I eventually got ahold of a specific CSR helped me.

  • stanolshefski

    Amazon’s affiliate program rules require that merchants not share the affiliate money with consumers. Hawaiian’s program must be grandfathered in.

  • stanolshefski

    Also shipping and tax, depending on if they apply to your purchase.

  • PJ

    Play with the rules not the fire :) ; I would not mess around with the allmighty and generous Chase. on March 31, there were 9 points etra for shopping at Home Depot. hmmm too bad Gift cards NOT not eligible.. did not dare to try ; did buy 40 bag of garden mulch at 50 % off plus almost 10% rebate and mulch bags were ready to be loaded by the time I reached the pickup center sweet

  • PJ

    I loaded up Amazon gift cards in 1st quarter on my two freedom cards when Chase was offerring 5 % on Amazon shopping

  • PJ

    why? UR is certainly worth more than Amex MR wish I could trade MR agasint your UR

  • Carwag25

    One trick that I learned because I was not getting points when going through the UR portal and using an Amex: Use another browser and clear out the cookies. I made 4 $300 plus purchases on the UR portal with an Amex that I could not get the points because I used an Amex.

  • duc1986d

    Do you guys know if I have to use my Discover card for Discover cashback?
    The rule said “Yes” but I am not sure if I can just use my Chase Sapphire

  • Marc

    Couple more portals I’ve used..
    Mypoints.com (good for United miles – 10200 mypoints for 5k United)
    Virgin Atlantic

    Evreward and rewardsdb.com are good to at least find the portals that partner with a given retailer, its good to click thru and check the true earning rate, as both can be inaccurate.

  • bald army guy

    I’ve been searching portals for apple ipads but have found that these portals operate on high profit margins. The places that sell I pads have hoge markups over the apple store. It as is they just go down to the local apple store and buy a iPad and resell it tax and and all, through their portal. Has anyone found a legitimate apple sell through these portals? Amazon, eBay, new egg, compusa all fail.

  • http://breadcity.org/ BreadCity

    Worth mentioning: it’s extremely hit or miss if your points will ever post. About 25% of my Ultimate Rewards Mall purchases have actually posted points. I have to direct message for the other 75%.

    If anybody has tips about strategies/internet browsers/etc. to increase the likelihood of rewards mall points posting, please share them!!!

  • nick

    ebates has 5% cash back at apple

  • Bohemiana

    I keep a list of all my portal purchases with the amount of points due and the date. I have had Chase miss some but I just call up their customer service and without any problem they post the points PLUS bonus points for their error. I had them post and extra 1000 points because they missed a 75 point purchase. I love customer service at Chase Ultimate Rewards!

  • Maxim

    Amex Shopping Portal is offering 6x bonus points for limited time. I believe it’s usually 3x if you have Platinum/Centurion and 2x otherwise.

  • Maxim

    I remember reading comparison of EVRewards.com vs. peers on one of the blogs and it found that EVRewards is not that great, e.g. doesn’t have the most up to date information.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradleysjones Brad Jones

    While evreward.com may be a useful starting point, it is not up to date. My wife uses Bare Minerals makeup and I just made a purchase from Sephora because they are 10x through the Chase Freedom card. Evreward.com is currently showing Sephora at 5x through the UR Mall.

  • Maxim

    It was FrequentMiler who did the analysis:

    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/frequentmiler/2012/03/26/the-best-portal-finder/#comments

    Top one seems to be:
    Cashback Holics

    Some others are:
    Ev’reward.com, Nerdwallet Shopping, RewardsDB, CashReporter, Webflyer’s Mileage Mall, and CashBackMonitor

  • Yourmoney248

    I just want to verify that I understand correctly how this works: Lets say on Evreward it states that if you buy on Lacoste.com with an amex you get 3 points for every dollar on your amex. At the same time if I use the link through my delta skymiles I will get an additional 2 skymiles per dollar spent?

  • Breadcity

    Thanks! Next time I’ll be sure to give Chase a call.

  • Raj B

    I use the same strategy with Amazon. Buy Amazon gift cards at the supermarket and earn 5x points on the Chase Freedom card, plus 2x gas points at the supermarket.

  • Raj B

    If you have a Target credit card, you get 5% off plus free shipping on all purchases. Then use ebates, UR or whatever other portal to get the add’l points.

    And yes, Target does sell iPads, and the Target CC 5% discount T&C does not list Apple as an exclusion.

  • Christel

    If I understand this right–all the times I booked Starwood hotels with my SPG Amex, I could have booked through the Membership Rewards portal and gotten not only SPG points but 3x bonus MR points?

    P.S. Great post, hopefully I can retain the info to use the more appropriate cards whenever I shop online.

  • Andre LaPlume

    It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to click through each portal that offers rewards you can truly use. Usually ShopDiscover is the best, and they give you cash back, (which is just as good as money – Yogi Berra), even if you have the Discover Miles card. Then UR, and that’s usually when I stop looking.

    Got massive UR points buying flooring from HD, and it was ready by the time I got there. Sweet.

  • Jeff G

    One of the main things is if you need to top off a certain account. Lets say the price is better in the UR mall, but you need a few hundred MR points for your next reward. Pay $500 through the UR mall for 2500 UR points, use your AmEx to purchase for 500 MR points.

  • Pdillm

    Don’t forget cash back sites such as ebates.com or mrrebates.com…..

  • Kroozer

    Agree. I have over 50,000 UR points not posted (Home Depot 10X in March) even though 11,000 points posted and all were paid by Amex. First 2 out of 7 transactions posted points. Chase CSR researched and found all transactions, still asking for a record of charges on any Chase card (I said I paid using my Spouse’s card and they want proof of that account) before awarding the points.

  • Robert Hanson

    God help you if you use the AAdvantage portal. It took 9 months of emails to get my first points to post. My second time, after some 35 unanswered emails over a 4 month period, I just gave up. There is no number to call, and AA just says the mall is a private company that they have no responsibility for, despite using their name. I’d like to tell you how I really feel about this company, but this is a family blog, so I can’t…. :>(

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  • Mike

    I learned a 15K point lesson the hard way. I linked through the UR mall for a large Dell purchase but paid with AMEX and I have called twice and sent 5 messages and they are not budging on their supposed rule that you have to use a Chase Sapphire, Freedom, or Bold. While your points may post using other cards if they for some reason they don’t you are out of luck with Chase unless you use one of those cards. They did give me 2500 points for my troubles. Everyone who has had the same issue should push them for some points as well.

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  • Eric

    I’ve had Chase UR not award me points for using the Target card at Target after clicking through the shopping portal.

  • Joe

    I have been doing this for years. I shop thru discover, but use another card or even gift cards and at least 75% of the time, I’ll get an email saying I have earned discover bonus points.

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