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Having a pet is like having a child and as I’ve learned in the past 6 months since getting Miles, the expenses add up quickly. As with most expenses, you have a lot of options where you buy things and how you maximize your miles and points. I’ve been getting better and better at minimizing my costs and maximizing my miles with Miles (get it), so I thought I’d share some of my experiences. As always, feel free to share your thoughts!
I always try to get multiple points per dollar on my purchases so when shopping for dog food, toys, and treats I decide which card to use based on where I am buying the items. Right now I feed Miles Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Puppy mix, which sells for $19.99 at my neighborhood pet store in NYC and on Amazon.com, $20.58 at Petco, and $16.99 at PetSmart.
If you buy your pet supplies/food at grocery stores you can earn 5 points per dollar with your Hilton Amex, 3 points per dollar with Citi Hilton HHonors Visa and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, 6% cash back with your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, and 2 points per dollar with your American Express Premier Rewards Gold or US Bank FlexPerks Visa.
If you find yourself picking up dog supplies at a gas station you can earn 2 points per dollar with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus card and 2 points per dollar with your Premier Rewards Gold card. Though the selection won’t be great at gas stations and the prices will most likely be marked up, if you’re on the road and in a bind you can usually find some treats and canned dog food there to hold your pup over until you reach your destination.
The Trusty Gift Card Angle
Another option to consider is buying gift cards at an office supply store like Staples, Office Max or Office Depot and earning 5x points with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus card. At Staples you can purchase gift cards to Petco from $25 t0 $100 as well as Visa or American Express gift cards that can be used almost anywhere. Drugstores like CVS and Walgreens usually sell various gift cards so I would recommend stopping into to your nearest drugstore and seeing what they have available to purchase by credit card. After all, you might as well earn 5X points per $1 instead of just one on your purchases.
Amazon gift cards are available at both Staples and Office Max which you can purchase with your Ink Bold, Plus or Classic and then use online to buy pet supplies from various Amazon merchants.
Lately I have been buying Miles’ dog food and treats from Petco, through Amazon.com for $19.99 per bag. After reading on FlyerTalk that many people were getting 3x points from Amazon (Marketplace 3rd party only) when using their Premier Rewards Gold card I decided to try my luck and see if my purchase qualified for the 3x and they did! The Citi Forward card gives 5 points per dollar on “books” and most Amazon purchases qualify, which is a nice 5% additional return on your spend. Check out this post to read about my experience.
Online Shopping Portals
Another great place to look – and a chance to double dip and earn multiple miles or points in addition to the ones you’ll earn by using a travel credit card is through airline, hotel and credit card shopping portals. Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall you can place an order online from 1-800-PetMeds for 6 points per dollar, PETCO for 5 points per dollar or PetSmart for 4 points per dollar right now.
Last week I clicked through the Ultimate Rewards portal to get to Staples.com where I purchased a $100 PETCO gift card. Once I received the gift card 24 hours later in my inbox, I clicked through the UR portal once again to PETCO.com and bought a few bones and chew toys for Miles. I figured that my first purchase at Staples would earn the extra 3 points per dollar for shopping through the portal for a total of 8 points per $1, but I didn’t think my purchase at PETCO using a gift card would qualify for the 5 points per dollar because the terms and conditions in the Ultimate Rewards Mall state “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents.”
Surprisingly enough, however, a week after both transactions processed I received an email from Chase saying that I earned extra points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Both purchases were listed and it showed that PETCO earned 96 points based on $19.17 worth of items bought and Staples earned 300 points for the $100 gift card.
Since I used my Ink Bold, I should also get an additional 5 points per dollar on my Staples purchase bringing me to a grand total of 896 Ultimate Rewards points earned for $119.17 spent. Although this method takes a bit more time clicking through the portal twice and waiting for the gift card to be sent to you, it’s worth the extra points you will earn.
I haven’t tried using the Ultimate Rewards Mall paired with gift cards at any merchants other than PETCO so I can’t guarantee that it will work but it can’t hurt to try. Depending on what you need whether it be food, bedding, medicine, or grooming products you should be able to find it at one of these retailers and earn some extra Ultimate Rewards points while doing so.
To find the best bonuses with online shopping portals, I always do a quick search of EVReward.com, which shows that there’s a great range of options available on purchases of everything from general pet supplies and food to even pet medications through online retailers including PetSmart, PETCO.com, PetFoodDirect.com and 1-800-PetMeds. EVReward isn’t perfect though – you’ll notice Ultimate Rewards is missing – so always be sure to double check the portal you’re interested in just to be sure. Details on the five retailers with the most travel-specific program partners as follows:
PETCO.com (12 partners):
1-800-PetMeds (12 partners):
PetSmart (12 partners):
PetCareRX (9 partners):
PetFoodDirect.com (8 partners):
While programs like Amtrak and Choice Privileges offer more points per dollar, depending on the travel you’re interested in, they might not be worth nearly as much as American or United miles. You should evaluate which points or miles programs are most valuable to you and decide what shopping portal to use from there.
Another site that I’ve recently become aware of is wag.com, which was launched by Amazon.com in July of 2011. I’ve seen a bunch of advertisements for them lately promoting certain discounts and free shipping. As a new customer you’ll get 20% off your first order using the code “BARK” and 3 months of free shipping with no minimum amount using the code “GOCRAZY“.
Since wag.com isn’t that well known yet, there are only a few rewards programs that have partnered with them. I searched Evreward.com and found you can earn 1 bonus mile per dollar with American Airlines and 1 bonus point with Hilton HHonors, or 0.5 bonus miles per dollar with United. Although those bonuses are not as great as some of the other pet supply stores shown above, a big discount and free shipping for 3 months is always nice option to have.
Offer specifics are of course subject to change, so be sure to check your preferred programs frequently for updates. Regardless of which offer(s) you take advantage of, caring for your pet can be an expensive proposition — you may as well collect some miles or points while you’re at it!
Know before you go.
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