The ultimate guide to the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan shopping portal
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Editor’s note: At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information needed to make educated decisions about travel and your rewards-earnings strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route network. But we are sharing this information to provide value for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the most underrated frequent flyer programs out there, and at 1.8 cents a mile, Milage Plan miles routinely top TPG’s list of most valuable airline miles. Unfortunately, Mileage Plan miles are also among the hardest to earn as Alaska doesn’t partner with any of the major transferable points currencies, only Marriott Bonvoy.
If you’re trying to top up your account balance and have already exhausted all the easy ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles, including through Alaska and Marriott credit cards, crediting Alaska, American or British Airways flights to your Mileage Plan account or even buying miles on sale, you should consider using the carrier’s online shopping portal as well.
Today we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know to double or even triple dip the next time you shop online by leveraging the Alaska Mileage Plan shopping portal.
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Fundamentals of online shopping portals
Online shopping portals are one of the easiest ways to double dip and earn extra miles on purchases you already planned to make. They cost nothing to use, simply start your trip at the portal’s website (or install the browser pop-up button, which Mileage Plan Shopping offers) and you’ll earn bonus miles when you shop with eligible retailers.
The exact amount you earn will vary by store. Some offer a fixed amount of miles for signing up for a recurring service like a newspaper subscription, but most offer a bonus multiplier (2x per dollar, 3x, etc.) like a standard credit card bonus category. Also make sure to keep your eyes out around the holidays as most major shopping portals offer limited-time elevated rates.
For example, I know that when it’s time for me to get a new phone I’m going to wait until the 10x miles per dollar at Apple bonus becomes available through shopping portals, a deal that usually returns a few times a year. Like I mentioned you won’t pay anything more for shopping through a portal, so all the extra miles you earn (in addition to whatever you’d earn from your regular credit card spending) are just icing on top of the cake.
How to get started with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan shopping portal
Before you can start using the Alaska Airlines shopping portal you’ll need to go to www.mileageplanshopping.com and log in with your Mileage Plan account information. If you don’t currently have a frequent flyer account with Alaska Airlines but are interested in earning Mileage Plan miles, you’ll need to make an account.
Mileage Plan shopping partners with over 850 stores, so if you’re buying something online there’s a good chance that you can earn bonus mile through this portal.
You need to start your shopping trip at Mileage Plan Shopping, and after you’ve browsed through the available offers and decided where you want to shop, select the store and click the “shop now” button. This will open up a new tab for that specific merchant, and from there you just shop and check out as normal. It’s important to note that if for any reason you close out of the tab, you’ll need to go back and start the entire process again or your miles won’t post correctly.
Of course, it can take a while to make it a habit to always check for portal offers. That’s why I strongly encourage everyone to add the browser extension for your favorite portals so you always get a friendly reminder and don’t leave extra miles on the table.
For example, when I open up the staples.com website on my computer, I see popups from three different portals whose browser extensions I’ve installed — Alaska Airlines, Rakuten and Swagbucks. This lets me quickly compare offers and click on whichever portal is offering the highest rate of return.
In addition to bonus miles, shopping portals can help you find extra discounts with the merchants you’re shopping at. Going back to our earlier Adidas example we saw a number of coupon codes and sales available when searching through the Mileage Plan shopping website, but if I go to adidas.com and click on the Mileage Plan shopping button (not the banner to activate the portal, but the button on my browser) you can also see the discounts this way.
Shopping portal tips and reminders
Shopping portal technology has gotten much better over the last couple of years, but you’ll still need to be careful not to accidentally lose your bonus miles by clicking (or not clicking) on the wrong button. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If using the plug-in browser button, you must “activate” the points when alerted by the pop-up. Otherwise, you will miss out on the points completely, which would be a real shame because you were so close.
- If using the shopping portal site, you must click through the link on the site and then make a purchase from the page that pops up. Don’t navigate away and come back later as the bonus will no longer be activated. This means you can’t close the tab out, but sometimes even switching to other tabs can trip up the portal. My way around this is to shop and browse as much as I want, and then once I’ve added everything to my cart and am ready to check out I go back and activate the plug-in browser button. That way I just need to complete the quick checkout process without changing any tabs.
- You must make sure that you have cookies enabled in your browser for the retailer’s site. This is what allows the portal to “track” your purchases and award bonuses accordingly.
- Only use promotions or promo codes found on the portal; if you use others, the purchase may become ineligible for bonus points/miles.
- You cannot stack multiple shopping portals together, so don’t bother trying or you may lose out on both sets of bonus points. Which leads to my last tip …
- Consider using a shopping portal aggregators like CashBack Monitor or evreward. The site allows you to pull up a specific retailer and see the earning rate you’d get across all applicable shopping portals. This includes all of the above types of portals, allowing you to quickly compare earning rates and determine which one offers the best return for the individual merchant at which you are shopping.
Best credit cards to use with online shopping portals
Shopping portals don’t change the way the transaction is coded, meaning the charge on your credit card statement will still be from “Adidas” whether or not you use the Mileage Plan shopping portal. Many online merchants fall into the category of “everyday spending,” a catchall term used to describe merchants who don’t fit into any common credit card bonus category.
You can check out TPG’s full guide to the best cards for everyday spending, but the two that I find myself using the most are the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which earn 2x American Express Membership Rewards points on your first $50,000 in purchase per calendar year (then 1x) and 1.5% cash back or 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar respectively.
Of course, you’ll want to keep your eyes out for any merchants that do offer a bonus category such as travel or dining. If you’re making a large technology purchase you may want to use a card that offers purchase protection even if it doesn’t earn the most possible bonus points.
Keep your eyes out for a ‘triple dip’
Earning bonus points from a shopping portal in addition to the miles earned on your credit card is already a huge win, but sometimes it’s possible to do even better by stacking on an Amex Offer, Chase Offer or other rebate.
For example, I recently received an Amex Offer on my Blue Business Plus offering $15 back when spending $50 at Winc (an online wine store), eligible for up to three uses. Winc itself was offering a new member promo of $20 off your first box, and the Mileage Plan shopping portal was offering a bonus of 1,400 miles (worth $25 based on TPG’s valuations) for first-time users.
By stacking these deals, I was able to buy five bottles of wine, a $75 value, for only $57 out of pocket. Subtract the $15 credit I received from my Amex Offer and the $25 worth of miles I received, and my net cost was really only $17, or $3.40 a bottle and over 75% off list price. The Mileage Plan shopping portal played a huge part in this quadruple dip (credit card points, shopping portal, Amex Offer and Winc new member offer) and will do me quite well during this extended lockdown.
As with all rebates and bonus offers, you have to be careful not to fall for the marketing and waste money you didn’t want to spend just to earn more miles. However, if you’ve already decided to make a purchase at any of hundreds of popular retailers, the Mileage Plan shopping portal can be a great way to increase your return.
Featured photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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