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How to earn bonus points on department store purchases this holiday season

Dec. 16, 2021
8 min read
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Whether you prefer shopping online or popping into a brick-and-mortar store, chances are you’ll spend money at a department store this holiday season.

Even though department stores aren’t a popular bonus category on most credit cards, there are plenty of ways to earn more points and miles on your purchases.

In this article, I’ll show you all the ways you can earn bonus points when shopping at department stores this holiday season. We’ll start with credit card rewards and then move into other rewards-earning methods you may not know about.

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Earn bonus points with a credit card

(Photo by Marko Geber/Getty Images)

Most rewards credit cards don’t offer bonus points on department store purchases. That said, you can earn bonus points when you pay with an everyday spending credit card that earns more than 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases.

One of the best cards for this purpose is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The card earns 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, 3% cash back on dining and at drugstores and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

While Chase brands the Freedom Unlimited as a cash-back credit card, you can turn cash back earned with the card into Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you also hold select Chase credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. So, in the end, you could get 1.5 points per dollar on department store purchases. This is a 3% return based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Alternatively, you can use The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and earn 2 points per dollar on all purchases (on up to $50,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x). This card earns American Express Membership Rewards points, so you’ll earn 4% back on department store purchases when you pay with this card based on TPG's valuations.

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Another card to consider is the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which earns 2% cash back on purchases made in the U.S. at select department stores including:

  • Bealls.
  • Belk.
  • Bloomingdale’s.
  • Bon-Ton.
  • Boscov's.
  • Century 21.
  • Dillard’s.
  • JCPenney.
  • Kohl's.
  • Lord & Taylor.
  • Macy's.
  • Neiman Marcus.
  • Nordstrom.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue.
  • Sears.
  • Stein Mart.

Related: Why store credit cards are (almost) always a bad idea

Use your shopping to earn a sign-up bonus

You can also use planned holiday spending as a way to meet the minimum spending requirement on a new credit card. There are many great offers to consider, including the bonus on the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. You can earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Additionally, new The Platinum Card® from American Express cardmembers can earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.

Whatever card you pick, you’ll walk away with a stash of points you can use to book an upcoming post-holiday vacation.

Related: The best increased card offers to sign up for this month

Rack up points with shopping portals

(Photo by FreshSplash/Getty Images)

Regardless of the card you use for your purchases, stack all your online shopping with an airline, hotel or cash-back shopping portal to earn even more points.

Most major loyalty programs offer a shopping portal, and you can use a shopping portal aggregator like Evreward or Cashback Monitor to compare offers for different portals. For example, here are the shopping portal bonuses for Saks Fifth Avenue on Cashback Monitor at the time of writing:

(Screenshot courtesy of cashbackmonitor.com)

These portals let you earn bonus points on your online purchases. The number of points you’ll earn depends on the portal you use and where you shop. So using the Saks Fifth Avenue example above, you could earn 10 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent through Rakuten. This means a $100 purchase would net 1,000 Membership Rewards points. Not bad if you ask me.

Using one of these portals is simple. Simply head to the shopping portal you’d like to use and log in with your loyalty credentials. Then, search for the department store you’d like to shop with and click through the portal’s “shop now” link before making your purchase. You’ll be redirected to the department store’s website, where you can make your purchase as usual.

The points will typically be deposited into your account within a few weeks of making your purchase. Keep in mind that this only works for online purchases, so you may want to order online and opt for curbside or in-store pickup if you need a last-minute gift from a brick-and-mortar store.

Related: The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

Amex Offers and your Saks Fifth Avenue credit

(Photo by MStudioImages/Getty Images)

If you haven’t used your Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit from The Platinum Card from American Express (up to $50 each in the first and last six months of the year), you should do so before the end of December. This credit is easy enough to use — just enroll your Amex Platinum Card and then make an eligible in-store or online Saks Fifth Avenue purchase with your card. If you make an eligible purchase, the $50 credit will be automatically applied to your statement.

While you’re logged in to the Amex website, check your Amex Offers too. These offers are a great way to save money on purchases you already planned to make, and you might even get some new gift ideas. These offers are generally targeted and eligibility for offers is limited. So, if you see an offer you like, enroll in the offer via the Amex Offers section of your account.

A few Amex Offers currently available on one TPG staffer's Amex Platinum authorized user card. (Screenshot courtesy of americanexpress.com)

Once you've enrolled in an offer, simply make your purchase as usual and pay with the Amex card that has the Amex Offer attached to it. The bonus points or cash back will be added to your account shortly after you make an eligible purchase. If you have a Saks Fifth Avenue Amex Offer, it can generally be combined with the Amex Platinum credit too.

Related: These Amex Offers will help you save money and make life easier right now

Bottom line

Retailers compete to get a sliver of your holiday shopping, so there are plenty of offers waiting out there for holiday shoppers.

By using the right credit card, taking advantage of bonuses at online shopping portals and remembering to use Amex Offers and other holiday coupons, you can earn bonus points and save money on purchases you already planned to make.

Depending on how much you need to spend this holiday season, you could inch closer to your dream trip. Who said gift-giving can’t be rewarding?

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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