Sunday Reader Question: How to Maximize Points on Apple Purchases this Holiday Season

by on November 25, 2012 · 13 comments

in Chase, Shopping

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TPG reader Don writes:

“I plan on buying a lot of Apple products as gifts this year. What is the best way to maximize points since the Apple Store earning is most portals is only 1 point per dollar spent?”

With the iPhone 5, new iPad mini and MacBook Pro Retina Displays, Apple products are bound to be among the top sellers this holiday season, so I wanted to do a post on maximizing your Apple purchases to earn the most points.

I wrote a post back in September about how Best Buy is one of the fourth quarter bonus spending merchants for the Chase Freedom card, at which you can earn 5 points per dollar up to $1,500 until December 31, 2012, so you’ve got a month left to maximize your purchases there – including Apple products – and get the 5x bonus points. The one thing to note is that the iPhone 5 is only available online (unless you order it with a Sprint contract), so though Best Buy is offering an extra point per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, which would bring your earning potential to 6 points per dollar, you won’t be able to get that on the iPhone 5. You can, however, earn 6x points using your Freedom card for iPods, iPads, and Macbooks, all of which you can order online, though.

If you don’t have a Freedom card, there are still ways to earn plenty of multiple-point bonuses on Apple purchases. You could consider using the Ink Bold or Ink Plus buy Visa gift cards at a store like Office Max score the 5x points bonus on that purchase, then use the gift cards to buy Apple products.

Another option with the Ink Bold or Plus would be to use it to purchase the iPhone from your wireless carrier since the cards also award 5x points on wireless/phone category spending, so you might be able to get the 5x bonus that way. While the card’s terms say that the 5x bonus is on service, I’ve often noticed that I earn 5x points on my entire wireless bill when I use the Ink Bold to pay for it, so you might as well try.

Other cards that give you category spending bonuses on wireless/phone expenses include: the Ink Classic and Ink Cash cards, which give you 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services.

If you’re signing up for new service and have one of the Hilton credit cards, you could try using one of those instead. The Surpass and Amex give 6 points per dollar spent on phone, cable, satellite and internet bills, and they offer 3 points per dollar on everything else, so even if you don’t score the full 6x bonus, at least you’re getting 3x points. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, meanwhile, offers 3 points on purchases while the normal Citi Hilton Visa offers 2 points per dollar on most purchases. The US Bank Flexperks Visa offers 2 FlexPoints per dollar on categories including cell phone purchases.

Speaking of which, purchasing the iPhone through your wireless carrier could be a good way to double dip since Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are also offering one-off point bonuses for purchases and new services through airline and hotel programs’ online shopping portals.

Verizon Wireless is offering varying amounts of points for purchases made through shopping portals this holiday season:
1,300 American Airlines miles
1,200 United miles
1,100 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
850 Delta Skymiles
850 US Airways miles
1,500 Priority Club points

AT&T is also offering point bonuses in the following amounts:
3,300 American miles
2,900 United miles
2,700 Southwest points
2,100 US Airways miles
5,500 Marriott Rewards points
3,800 Priority Club points
And perhaps the biggest bonus: 15,000 Alaska Miles For New T-Mobile Contract now through March 31, 2013.

650 American miles
550 Southwest points
400 Delta miles
400 United miles
400 US Airways miles
750 Priority Club points
1,167 Choice Privileges points

2,999 Hilton HHonors points

Apart from the iPhone, here are a few other ideas on how to earn multiple points on your various Apple purchases. You can get 2x points per dollar at Target through the Ultimate Rewards portal and though the iPhone 5 isn’t on sale there, they do sell iPods and Virgin Mobile prepaid iPhone 4’s.
There is also a variety of other merchants that you can navigate to through Ultimate Rewards that sell various Apple products including – where you get 3 extra points per dollar – that stock iPod touches and old versions of the iPhone including the 3.

Radio Shack is offering 3 extra points per dollar through Ultimate Rewards, but unfortunately iPhones and iPads are only available for in-store purchase, but you can buy an Apple TV box for $99.99.

You can also get to the Apple Store through Ultimate Rewards for an extra point per dollar on purchases – still that’s better than nothing, and all their products are available through there (as long as they stay in stock!).

You can earn 2 points per dollar at the online Apple store when visiting it through either the Priority Club or Amtrak shopping portals, or 1.5 miles per dollar through Hawaiian Airlines. Citi ThankYou is also offering 2 points per dollar spent at Apple.

If you don’t have a Chase card, you can also sync your Amex card on Twitter and tweet #AmexBestBuyOffer to get $20 off purchase of $200 or more. You can only register once per card, and the $200 must be on a single purchase online or in the store by December 31, saving you $20 on Apple purchases – or anything else – at Best Buy.

As a reminder here’s the list of online 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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  • Milesbuilder

    Discover shopping portal offers 5% on best buy regardless of which card you pay with

  • PeteM

    The UR mall had a whole month or so of one-day-only bonuses leading up to x-mas last year. I remember there was one day where you could 10x points at for instance. I was hoping for that again this year, but I guess not??

  • David

    I’m not sure if it has been reported but Citi Thank You car sent a targeted offer for 5s points for every $1 spent through 12/31/12; you have to enroll your card by callling800 784-2484. Also I received a offer from US Airways a moth or more ago that listed one of my US Airways cards and offered 5x miles for every $1 spent through 12/31/12; registration was also required in October

  • Ben

    I disagree with the prepaid strategy. I think the doubling of the warranty from 1 to 2 years offered by most CCs is more valuable than the extra points. It may also be wise to put the purchase on a card you plan on keeping for a few years for the same reason.

  • Grant Thomas

    I think you can buy Best Buy gift cards at office supply stores, grocery stores, or pharmacies. Use ink card or Hilton cards.

  • mhenner

    Amtrak if offering 5 points per dollar spent this weekend, including apple. Then you can add on your credit card earn.

  • AKold

    What if you put partial amounts on the CC? Like if it’s a $300 item, put $250 on gift cards and $50 on the CC ..

  • Kathy

    I bought a Mac Book Air on Black Friday through the United MileagePlus Shopping mall for 3x points plus I will get the $20 credit for syncing my american express card . I decided to use my American Express instead of my Freedom card for the extra warranty. I know I could have gotten 5x points but I will be able to max out my points on the freedom card by the end of the quarter at kohls or best buy on other smaller purchases. Was this wrong?

  • Chris S.

    I was just about to mention how foolish Brian is for not mentioning the extra purchase protection offered by AmEx and/or Visa Signature cards. Any big-ticket item should go on a card with purchase protection and to suggest otherwise isn’t wise.

    You made the right call.

  • thepointsguy

    The post is about maximizing points- not warranties. If you’re looking for warranties then putting on an Amex can make a lot of sense. Personally i don’t use extended warranties ever so id prefer miles/points in the bank

  • Hyathka

    Thanks for the suggestions. I need to pick up an iPad mini, and had been hoping for the 10x points deal at the ultimate rewards mall (which happened last year but apparently is not happening this year). 5x UR points is fine though.

    I had not considered getting Visa gift cards at Office Depot/Office Max/Staples (5X UR points) and using those to buy the iPad. Are there any gotchas to look out for when doing this? Will Apple take a handful of $100 Visa gift cards as payments without any hassles?

  • Brian(J)

    I had no problem using $500 visa vanilla non-reloadable cards to buy several iPad minis. It’s easy to split across two cards also, but the transaction did freeze the balance on one the cards for a week.

  • Fanfoot

    An iPad Mini Wi-Fi costs $329. At the AT&T store you can only buy the 3G version. Which runs roughly $129 more without a contract, and about $359 WITH A TWO YEAR CONTRACT (monthly fee x 24) which is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE. If you don’t need the 3G service (many people will find it useful, just sayin’), then buying the 3G model to get a few more UR points is CRAZY.

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