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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explores a great new promotion from the United Airlines shopping portal, which is offering elevated earning rates, spending bonuses and more.
As I’ve written about before, airline shopping portals are a great way to boost your earnings on everyday purchases with a variety of online retailers. These sites sometimes offer promotions with increased earning rates or one-time bonuses for hitting a purchase threshold, and today, United Airlines frequent flyers are in luck. United MileagePlus Shopping has just announced a back-to-school promotion that will hopefully set a new standard for limited-time offers, raising the earning rates at several merchants and offering a one-time bonus of up to 4,000 miles.
The All Day Recess Sweepstakes and Bonus promotion actually consists of three offers in one:
- A sweepstakes
- A tiered one-time bonus for hitting certain spending thresholds
- Increased earning rates at select merchants
The promotion starts today (July 21) and runs through 11:59pm ET on August 12, giving you just over three weeks to take advantage of it. Let’s take a closer look at each offer to see how you can walk away with a nice haul of United miles.
The first part of the promotion is a sweepstakes offer with a grand prize of 100,000 United miles, plus $2,500 in cash to offset the taxes that you’d need pay if you win — check out TPG’s post on minimizing prize tax burdens if you do happen to come out a winner. There are also three first prizes of 20,000 miles each. You can earn entries in three different ways:
- Registering for the sweepstakes earns 1 entry.
- Opting into marketing emails from MileagePlus Shopping earns 5 entries.
- Making a qualified purchase through the portal earns 5 entries (you can earn up to 25 per day this way).
We often write about contests being offered by various travel providers, and like always, the odds of winning any of these prizes depends on the number of entries received. Still, it never hurts to try; you can’t win without entering! If you wanted to earn the maximum number of entries, you’d need to complete the first two items and then complete five purchases per day throughout the promotion. This would give you a total of 581 entries; that’s nowhere near a guarantee of winning, but you’d certainly have better odds than most!
In addition to earning sweepstakes entries for purchases you make through the portal, the promotion also offers you a tiered one-time bonus for hitting certain spending thresholds. The bonus you earn is based on the total amount you spend throughout the entire promotion:
- Tier 1 — Spend $125, earn 500 bonus award miles.
- Tier 2 — Spend $600, earn 1,750 bonus award miles.
- Tier 3 — Spend $1,500, earn 4,000 bonus award miles.
These bonuses are in addition to the miles you would normally earn on your purchases. However, you’ll only earn one bonus for the entire promotion. In other words, you don’t get 500 miles after hitting $125 and an additional 1,750 bonus miles after hitting $600. The final bonus amount will be determined based on your cumulative spending on qualifying purchases as of 11:59pm ET on August 12.
In addition, according to the promotion landing page, “shipping and handling, taxes, gift card[s]…and certain products are not included in the bonus award miles eligibility calculation.” This means that you must spend $125/$600/$1,500 prior to taxes and shipping charges to earn the full bonus miles. You may also be prohibited from using merchant coupon codes not found on the MileagePlus Shopping site. Be sure to read the fine print for the individual merchant for complete details and exclusions.
Increased Earning Rates
The final part of the promotion is an increased earning rate at select merchants. Generally speaking, most of these shopping portals offer just 1-2 miles per dollar spent at the most popular merchants. However, through the All Day Recess promotion, you can earn up to 6 times more miles when you make purchases at select merchants. Just be aware that these increases are not in effect for the entire promotional period. Here’s a breakdown of the first round of offers (with more to come as the promotion continues):
|Merchant||Old Earning Rate||Promotional Earning Rate||Offer Dates|
|Macy’s||2 miles/$||10 miles/$||7/24 – 7/25|
|Bose||2 miles/$||4 miles/$||7/21 – 7/23|
|Finish Line||3 miles/$||8 miles/$||7/21 – 7/23|
|Microsoft Store||2 miles/$||4 miles/$||7/24 – 7/26|
|Staples||1 miles/$||4 miles/$||7/24 – 7/26|
As you can see, each one is only valid for 2 or 3 days during the promotion, and the terms state this explicitly:
“Increased earning opportunities are for a limited time only and at the discretion of each individual merchant. Miles earned through shopping generally post within 5-7 business days.”
As a result, make sure you’re shopping at the right time in order to be credited the right number of miles for your purchases. Given the significant increase in earning potential, it’s worth planning your purchases for those specific dates.
The sweepstakes component of the All Day Recess promotion is a nice add-on, but these last two items have the potential to be quite lucrative. Let’s take a closer look at the potential return if you max out the promotion at two popular retailers from the list above.
For each of the following, I’ll assume that you purchase exactly $1,500 worth of items, and that these purchases occur during the 2-3 day window with increased earning rates. I’ll indicate your total haul of miles and calculate a rate of return based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg United miles at 1.5 cents apiece. Even though I’ll focus primarily on the bonus United miles earned through the portal, I’ll also indicate when a particular credit card can significantly boost your earnings.
- Bonus earning rate: 10 miles per dollar spent
- One-time bonus: 4,000 miles
- Total miles: 10 x $1,500 = 15,000 miles + 4,000 miles = 19,000 miles
- Value of miles: $285
- Return: 19%
- Best credit card: At a non-bonus merchant like Macy’s, you’re best off using a card that offers solid everyday earning like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, both of which would add over 2% to your rate of return.
- Bonus earning rate: 4 miles per dollar spent
- One-time bonus: 4,000 miles
- Total miles: 4 x $1,500 = 6,00 + 4,000 = 10,000 miles
- Value of miles: $150
- Return: 10%
- Best credit card: The Ink Plus Business Card from Chase earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at office supply stores ($1,500 = 7,500 points); these are worth an additional $157.50, which would raise your overall return to 20.5%.
As you can see, the potential return is impressive. Even if you don’t plan to spend enough to earn the one-time bonus, the increased earning rates combined with credit card rewards make this promotion an easy win.
Boosting Your Earnings Even Further
A final way to enhance your earnings yet again is by holding a United co-branded credit card (like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the United MileagePlus Club Card). While details aren’t provided online, the site claims that cardholders “are eligible for increased mile offers from participating stores” for making purchases through the site. These earnings are in addition to the regular 1 mile per dollar you’d earn for every dollar spent on the card. I’ve heard that these additional bonuses can be up to 50% higher than the “regular” earning rates for non-cardholders, so be sure to check out these offers by logging into your MileagePlus account on the portal before clicking through to a merchant’s site.
I try to use a shopping portal every time I make an online purchase, so I’m always happy to see such a competitive offer. Unlike promotions we’ve seen from competitors in the past, the All Day Recess offer from United MileagePlus Shopping gives you both one-time bonuses and higher earning rates at key merchants. While MileagePlus has undergone some significant devaluations over the last few years, there are still plenty of sweet spots in the United award chart. Be sure to check back next week for a new set of merchants with increased earning rates!
Will you be taking advantage of this new promotion?