Maximize Your Points With Back to School Shopping

by on August 16, 2012 · 14 comments

in Air Canada, American, Chase, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian Airlines, Hilton, IHG Rewards, Marriott, Shopping, Southwest, Ultimate Rewards, United, US Airways

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Back to school shopping can be a major expense, but if you play your cards right (literally) you can rack up a ton of miles and points by leveraging online shopping portals. What are these portals? Basically online retailers pay a commission to websites to refer them business – so these portals are simply intermediary sites where you click through to popular retailers sites and in doing so, a cookie is stored on your computer and you get a certain number of miles/points for every dollar you end up spending. Say that retailer paid the portal 10% of your total purchase for the referral – the portal in turns kicks you back, say 5%, in the form of miles usually deposited automatically into your account a week or two after the purchase.

From a consumer perspective there’s no reason to not take advantage of these portals because they take you to the exact same site as if you went there directly, but instead you rack up a bunch of extra points that are in addition to the points you earn from your credit card. It’s a no brainer double dip.

I know people like to physically go into stores to pick out merchandise, but what I recommend is buying what you need online and then if necessary, going into the store and exchanging merchandise as needed. This way you get the lucrative online shopping bonuses and you can shop in store. Of course most stores will take back points if you return merchandise, but exchanging may allow you to still keep the portal points. Can’t hurt to try! At a very minimum you are earning portal points for the merchandise you don’t need to return/exchange. Plus you should really just get in the habit of always shopping online to maximize your points earning, so no better time than the present to start.

My favorite portal is the Chase Ultimate Rewards earning portal because the points earned can be accrued into your central Ultimate Rewards account and then transferred to partners like United, Hyatt and Southwest. On top of the flexibility factor, the earning ratios are generally better than going through those partners’ portals directly. I also like the American Express’ earning portal, but it’s currently under a major renovation and my Amex sources tell me it should be back soon and is definitely not being discontinued. I’ll update on that as soon as I hear anything.

As an added bonus, if you are a Delta American Express cardholder, you can earn up to 5,000 bonus miles with their Back to School promotion: 250 extra miles per $250 spent.

Delta Skymiles Bonus Offer

Here are some of the most popular back-to-school retailers with my picks on the best deals. Check out to find different earning ratios between portals, though note that it’s not 100% perfect so always check your preferred portals directly for the most up-to-date earning information.
Receive an extra 10-20% off & free shipping on orders of $59 or more in clothing, jewelry & for the home when you use code SEARSBTS
during checkout.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
: 10 points per $1
Delta: 4 miles per $1
15% off everything with code LPS15OFF
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 10 points per $1

Bed Bath & Beyond
Bed Bath and Beyond is offering free shipping on thousands of college essentials. One of the coolest features at Bed Bath & Beyond is their “Shop Here, Pick Up There” option. TPG Intern Ryan did this when he went to college, where you shop at your local Bed Bath & Beyond and can take your time deciding what you need for college and then you scan all the items. Then, you let them know where you are going to be attending college and they find the closest store, and when you arrive there all your items are boxed up. You can go through it then to reconfirm and decide if you need to make any changes and then pay. It saves a lot of time, especially on move-in day!

Earn bonus points by shopping through the following shopping portals:
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 2 point per $1 (1 mile with most other portals)
Target offers free shipping on their daily deals plus over 500,000 items are eligible for free shipping when you spend $50 or more. Those items will say, “Ships free with qualifying $50 order.”
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 2 point per $1
American: 2 mile per $1
Marriott: 4 points per $1
Free shipping on certain TVs and items classified as “Cool College Gear.”
United: 3 miles per $1
US Airways: 3 miles per $1
Macy’s offers free shipping on all purchases of over $99 on their site.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 3 point per $1
American: 4 mile per $1
Hawaiian: 4 miles per $1
Staples offers free shipping on all orders of $45 or more on their site. You can also sign up for Staples Rewards and get at least an additional 2% back on all purchases. Also note that the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points at Staples since it qualifies as an office supply purchase.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 5 point per $1
American: 3 mile per $1
Delta: 3 miles per $1
They offer free shipping on all purchases of $50 or more. They have some prepackaged backpacks where you get the backpack filled with $25 worth of free school supplies all bundled together. Also note that the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points at Office Max since it qualifies as an office supply purchase.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 3 point per $1
American: 3 mile per $1
Delta: 2 miles per $1
Hawaiian Airlines: 3 miles per $1
Apple offers free shipping on all orders over $50 or free in-store pick up on any item. Be sure to use the education store to save even more with discounts for students and teachers. Another promotion, they are currently offering is when you buy a new Mac, you can get a $100 gift card to the Apple App store toward any software purchase.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1 point per $1
Amtrak: 4 points per $1
American: 1 mile per $1
Delta: 1 mile per $1
Priority Club: 2 points per $1

Here’s a list of some other popular shopping portals:
Air Canada: Aeroplan EStore
American Express: Bonus Points Mall (Currently under maintenance)
Amtrak: Amtrak Guest Rewards
Chase: Ultimate Rewards Shopping
Choice Rewards: Choice Privileges Mall
Citi: Thank You Shopping
Discover: ShopDiscover
Frontier: Early Returns Mall
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines eMarket
Hilton HHonors: Hilton HHonors Earnings Mall
Marriott Rewards: Shop My Way
Mastercard: Mastercard Marketplace
Priority Club: Priority Club Shopping
Southwest: Rapid Rewards Shopping
US Airways: Dividend Miles Shopping Mall

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Windycityf

    I earn on average 3000 miles a month from shopping via American Airlines ehopping portal. I have not flown American in over a year but I managed to earn 1 free ticket.

  • Flyprof1

    Is it possible to maximize these periodic shopping portal specials by switching among portals? For example, all of my cards are registered and I normally shop through the AAdvantage shopping portal. If I wanted to take advantage of, for example, a Delta or United special, could I do so? Would I have to unregister all of the cards from AAdvantage and reregister with Delta or United first?

  • thepointsguy

    It’s not like dining programs where you have to register your cards with portals. You only need to login with your frequent flyer number and then shop using whatever card you want (with chase and Amex its best to use their cards)

  • thepointsguy

    So yes you can maximize and shop at different portals for the best deals

  • Flyprof1

    Oh, thank you! I thought that the registration and portal access were connected in some way. Very good to know.

  • Karl Mitchell

    Don’t forget the Virgin Atlantic and British Airways portals they always seem to have a very different set of bonuses. -Karl

  • Sravi

    The browser plugins are especially useful. they’ll let you know if a website is involved in a promotion. The united one works great! Also, sometimes free points if you register your card. I don’t see that chase has one (but that would be great)

  • Sravi

    The browser plugins are especially useful. they’ll let you know if a website is involved in a promotion. The united one works great! Also, sometimes free points if you register your card. I don’t see that chase has one (but that would be great)

  • Jbuerck through United’s portal is giving 21 points per dollar. I just bought a $60 pair of shoes and got over 1200 points!

  • Tcmaes

    Chase shopping portal is not offering 10pts/$ for Sears anymore. Please double check.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    Awesome find!

  • Jake

    Uh….depending on your location, Staples Rewards gives 5% back. Come on, do a little more research instead of blindly slapping on words on the screen. At least note that the % changes depending on location.

  • Tahsir Ahsan

    yes it is. only for Sapphire Pref/Bold users

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