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Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explores week three of a great promotion from the United Airlines shopping portal, which is offering elevated earning rates, spending bonuses and more.
Last month, I wrote about the lucrative All Day Recess Sweepstakes and Promotion being offered through United MileagePlus Shopping. While the entire promotion runs until mid-August, a number of popular online retailers are offering increased earning rates on select dates. The first week saw improved rates for Macy’s, Staples and several others, and last week offered new bonus retailers including Office Depot, Sears and Walmart. In this post, I’ll share the third (and final) roster of online stores offering even more bonus United miles for this coming week and/or weekend, and explain how you can maximize your purchases with each one.
First, here’s a quick recap of the promotion. As I wrote in my initial post, All Day Recess consists of three different offers:
- A sweepstakes;
- A tiered one-time bonus for hitting certain spending thresholds;
- Increased earning rates at select merchants.
Hopefully you’ve registered for the promotion and signed up to receive marketing emails from MileagePlus shopping, earning you a total of 6 entries into the sweepstakes (1 for registering and 5 for signing up to receive emails), which offers a grand prize of 100,000 United miles plus $2,500 in cash (there are also three first prizes of 20,000 miles apiece). You’ll receive another entry for every purchase you make through the portal during the promotion (up to 5 per day).
In addition, you’ll earn a one-time bonus based on the cumulative amount of money you spend (not counting shipping and handling, taxes, gift cards and certain other products) during the promotion period, which ends at 11:59pm ET on August 12, 2015. Here are those bonuses:
- Tier 1 — Spend $125, earn 500 bonus award miles;
- Tier 2 — Spend $600, earn 1,750 bonus award miles;
- Tier 3 — Spend $1,500, earn 4,000 bonus award miles.
The big news today is the announcement of additional retailers offering increased earning rates; in fact, some of them are offering up to 5 times the number of miles you’d normally receive when going through the United portal. Here’s what’s on tap this week:
|Merchant||Old Earning Rate||Promotional Earning Rate||Offer Dates|
|Living Social||2 miles/$||10 miles/$||8/7 – 8/8|
|Walgreens||2 miles/$||6 miles/$||8/7 – 8/8|
|Old Navy||1 miles/$||5 miles/$||8/7 – 8/8|
|gap.com||1 mile/$||6 miles/$||8/9 – 8/10|
|shoes.com||4 mile/$||12 miles/$||8/9 – 8/10|
|LL Bean||2 mile/$||6 miles/$||8/9 – 8/10|
|Neiman Marcus||2 mile/$||10 miles/$||8/9 – 8/10|
For this round, each one is only valid for 2 specific 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. Personally, I find these retailers to be a slight step down from last week, but still better than the first round. No offense to Bose, Finish Line or the Microsoft Store, but my wife and I shop at these newly featured retailers much more regularly.
Let’s look at three of these retailers using the same assumptions I made last week — that is, you purchase exactly $1,500 worth of merchandise, and you time those purchases to take advantage of the increased earning rates. The calculated rate of return is again based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg United miles at 1.5 cents apiece.
1. Old Navy
- Bonus earning rate: 5 miles per dollar spent
- One-time bonus: 4,000 miles
- Total miles: 5 x $1,500 = 7,500 miles + 4,000 miles = 11,500 miles
- Value of miles: $172.50
- Return: 11.5%
- Best credit card: At a non-bonus merchant like Old Navy, you’re best off using a card that offers solid everyday earning like the Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, either of which would add over 2% to your rate of return. The other (potentially lucrative) option would be to use the Ink Plus Business Card from Chase to purchase Old Navy gift cards from Staples or Office Depot and then redeem them online (note that I have not always received bonus miles for using gift cards through an online shopping portal, so your mileage may vary). If all the transactions process correctly, you’d earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar ($1,500 = 7,500 points); these are worth an additional $157.50, which would raise your overall return to 23%.
- Bonus earning rate: 6 miles per dollar spent
- One-time bonus: 4,000 miles
- Total miles: 6 x $1,500 = 9,000 miles + 4,000 miles = 13,000 miles
- Value of miles: $195
- Return: 13%
- Best credit card: The only card offering bonus points at pharmacies is the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card, though this is only 3 points per dollar spent (or an extra 1.5%). While the card is currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after making $2,000 of purchases within the first three months, you’re probably better off using a card for non-bonus category spending.
3. Neiman Marcus
- 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: Same as Old Navy
Again, the potential return at these retailers is impressive, and hitting $1,500 in purchases shouldn’t be too hard given the wide array of products each one carries. Also, keep in mind that the one-time bonus is awarded for your cumulative spending during the promotion, so you don’t necessarily have to spend $1,500 with any single retailer in order to earn it.
Boosting your earnings even further
Finally, one last reminder that using a United co-branded credit card (like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or United MileagePlus Club Card) will offer you extra points for making purchases through the MileagePlus shopping portal. Details are not provided online, but the site does indicate that cardholders “are eligible for increased mile offers from participating stores.” These earnings are in addition to the regular 1 mile per dollar you’ll 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. The All Day Recess promotion continues through August 12th, but this is your last chance to take advantage of higher earning rates at select merchants, so get shopping!
Which merchants on the new list are you planning to shop with during this week of the promotion?
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Credit Rating|
|N/A||16.24%-23.24% Variable||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95||0%||Excellent Credit|