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TPG reader Marc tweeted me to ask:
@thepointsguy — “Can you blend shopping portals? For example, can I use the Southwest portal to get miles and still use Ebates to get cash back, or must I choose one or the other?”
Shopping portals are one of the easiest ways to rack up points and miles for purchases that you’d already be making. I urge you to avoid going directly to a retailer’s website when you can easily use a shopping portal to get a better return. In some instances you can earn huge bonuses (I’ve recently seen as high as 36 points per dollar) depending on what you’re shopping for. Now is a particularly opportune time to use shopping portals, since many of them offer extra spending bonuses during the holidays.
In addition to branded airline and hotel portals, there are also cash back portals like Ebates, which brings me to Marc’s question–can you blend an airline shopping portal with a cash back portal?
As much as I love to double dip, the answer is no. You can’t get both cash back and airline miles from shopping portal purchases. To figure out which portal offers the best return, check EVReward.com and search for the retailer you have in mind. The results are imperfect and sometimes outdated, but they’ll give you an idea of your options.
For example, I would much rather get two American Airlines miles than 2% cash back, since I value those miles around two cents a piece (1.7 cents in my latest monthly valuations). Thus, I get 3.4% back if I take the miles option. Put your math skills to use to see where you’ll get the best deal.
You also have to consider your overall award travel goals. If you’re close to having enough airline mileage for a redemption, then those last few miles are even more valuable. If your frequent flyer account is close to empty, the cash back may be more useful to you.
Shopping portals are also great for resetting the expiration dates of your points and miles, so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Typically, I recommend using airline shopping portals over cash back options, as they’re usually the more lucrative of the two. Either way, definitely use one of them and get some kind of cash back, points or miles if you have online shopping to do.
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.