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The holiday season brings a variety of point and miles earning opportunities. Whether it’s gifts for your favorite traveler or maximizing Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, you can do many things to boost your account balances before the end of the year. One of the best ways to do this is through airline shopping portals, and one carrier just sweetened the deal for the next few weeks.

Through November 24, you can earn bonus United miles when you shop at MileagePlus Shopping. There are actually two different components to this promotion: a tiered bonus based on your cumulative spending across all merchants and limited-time earning rate elevations at select merchants. Today, we’ll take a close look at these offers to see if they’re worth your while.

You can earn up to 6,000 bonus miles for shopping through United's portal this month.
You can earn up to 6,000 bonus miles for shopping through United’s portal this month.

The first aspect of the promotion is relatively straightforward. There are four different tiers that will award you bonus miles based on your total spending across all participating retailers:

  • Tier 1: Spend $150 — Get 500 bonus miles
  • Tier 2: Spend $350 — Get 1,500 bonus miles
  • Tier 3: Spend $650 — Get 3,000 bonus miles
  • Tier 4: Spend $1,250 — Get 6,000 bonus miles

In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegged MileagePlus miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so earn tier offers a solid boost on your return:

Bonus Tier

Spend

Bonus Miles

Value

Additional Return

Tier 1

$150

500

$7.50

5%

Tier 2

$350

1,500

$22.50

6.43%

Tier 3

$650

3,000

$45

6.92%

Tier 4

$1,250

6,000

$90

7.2%

Remember that these earnings are on top of the regular miles you’d earn through MileagePlus Shopping (generally 1-4 miles per dollar spent).

Keep in mind the following disclaimer as it relates to these bonuses:

“During the “Holiday” bonus campaign, which runs from November 8, 2015 through November 24, 2015 at 11:59:59 pm ET (the “Bonus Period”), Member will receive a one-time bonus of up to 6,000 bonus award miles on qualifying purchases, in addition to the standard miles earned from shopping online through MileagePlus® Shopping. Bonus miles will be issued based on Member’s cumulative qualifying purchases made during the Bonus Period: 500 bonus miles for qualifying purchases of at least $150; 1,500 bonus miles for qualifying purchases of at least $350; 3,000 bonus miles for qualifying purchases of at least $650; or 6,000 bonus miles for qualifying purchases of $1,250 or more. Returns, cancellations, shipping and handling, taxes, gift card or other cash equivalent purchases, and certain products are not included in the bonus award miles eligibility calculation; please see the MileagePlus Shopping site for details on product eligibility and/or any coupon code details or other usage restrictions. Please allow 8-10 weeks after the Bonus Period for bonus award miles to post to your MileagePlus Shopping account. The maximum number of bonus award miles that will be awarded to an eligible MileagePlus Shopping account through the “Holiday” bonus campaign is 6,000 bonus award miles. This offer cannot be combined with other offers or promotions. Please check the MileagePlus Shopping site daily for updates to increased earning opportunities. Void where prohibited by law.”

The promotion also includes elevated earning rates at several popular merchants.
The promotion also includes elevated earning rates at several popular merchants.

The other aspect of the promotion involves select retailers that are offering elevated earning rates on specific dates during the promotion. There are actually three different groups of merchants. Here’s the first:

Merchant

Rebate

Elevation

Elevation Dates

Sears

2

4

11/10 – 11/12

Magazines.com

12

16

11/10 – 11/13

Neiman Marcus

3

12

11/13 – 11/14

Disney Store

1

4

11/15 – 11/17

Macy’s

2

6

11/17 – 11/18

Apple store

1

3

11/17 – 11/18

Microsoft Store

1

3

11/18 – 11/20

Toys ‘R Us

.5

2

11/18 – 11/20

Kohl’s

1

3

11/22 – 11/26

 

Even if you've never heard of Singles' Day (like me!), you can still take advantage of higher earning rates on November 11th.
Even if you’ve never heard of Singles’ Day (like me!), you can still take advantage of higher earning rates on November 11th.

The portal is also offering two additional promotions within the broader promotion. One of them is designed for Singles’ Day (China’s version of Black Friday targeted specifically towards unmarried men). The following retailers will offer higher earning rates on or around November 11th:

Merchant

Rebate

Elevation

Elevation Dates

Saks.com

3

12

11/11

Aveda

2

9

11/11

Levi’s

3

10

11/11

Gilt Groupe

1

4

11/11

Blue Nile

2

4

11/8 – 11/15

Snapfish

5

10

11/8 – 11/15

Shoes.com

4

8

11/8 – 11/15

Overstock.com

1

3

11/8 – 11/15

Barnes & Noble

1

3

11/8 – 11/15

eBags

4

8

11/8 – 11/15

The final group of higher earning rates relates to Thanksgiving (or “miles-giving”) and applies to select dates between 11/22 and 11/26. Here’s a chart with those retailers:

Merchant

Rebate

Elevation

Elevation Dates

Macy’s

2

8

11/22

Backcountry.com

3

8

11/22 – 11/26

Neiman Marcus

3

12

11/23

Lenovo

1

3

11/24

Walmart

1

3

11/25 – 11/26

LEGO

1

4

11/25 – 11/27

JC Penney

2

12

11/26

As you can see, in all cases it’s a relatively limited selection of merchants, and the higher earning rates are only available for at most a week. Still, if you’re looking to earn some bonus miles and were toying around with purchasing gifts from one of these stores, be sure to set a reminder on your calendar!

Example

Here’s an example of how this promotion can result in some significant earnings. Let’s say that you were planning a purchase at Neiman Marcus. MileagePlus Shopping usually offers you 3 miles per dollar spent at Neiman Marcus, but from November 13-14 and on November 23, this earning rate quadruples to 12 miles per dollar spent. Since you are a great husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/parent, you decide to max out the promotion in one fell swoop and spend exactly $1,250, and you use TPG’s recommended card for everyday non-bonus spending: the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express.

Your earnings are thus:

$1,250 x 1 point per dollar spent = 1,250 Starpoints (worth $31.25 based on TPG’s valuations)
$1,250 x 12 miles per dollar spent = 15,000 MileagePlus miles (worth $225)
Tier 4 bonus = 6,000 MileagePlus miles (worth $90)

Total Rewards = $346.25

Total Return = 27.7%

That’s quite a return for your holiday shopping!

Maximizing with Gift Cards

While you typically can’t earn bonus points or miles through shopping portals by purchasing gift cards, I have been able to use retail gift cards to pay for the purchase and earn bonus points or miles.

A few retailers in the above table do have electronic gift cards (delivered via e-mail) on Staples.com, including Microsoft, Sears and Macy’s. You also may be able to find additional ones in an actual store, though you also have the option of purchasing them in grocery stores (with a card like the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card from American Express) or gas stations (with a card like the Citi ThankYou Premier Card).

Auf den Sitzen der 747-8 liegen ein Kissen, eine Decke und Lufthansa Kulturtaschen // A pillow, a blanket and Lufthansa amenity kits are lying on the seats of a 747-8
A valuable redemption (like Lufthansa’s new business class) is that much closer if you take advantage of this promotion!

Bottom Line

Everyone should be making online purchases through shopping portals as it is, but it’s great to see one airline offering an additional incentive to shop through its site. Even though United significantly devalued its program at the beginning of last year, there are still ways to get a solid value from redeeming MileagePlus miles. This holiday promotion can hopefully put you even closer to that dream trip!

Will you be taking advantage of these bonuses through MileagePlus Shopping?

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
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Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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