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The beginners guide to airline shopping portals

July 13, 2021
7 min read
The more space you have on that credit card, the better off you'll be.
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

If you’re new to the points and miles game, it’s easy to assume that the only way to earn points and increase your loyalty with an airline is to fly them frequently or carry their travel rewards credit card.

However, that’s a common misconception for beginners — there are plenty of alternative ways to earn points and miles, and one of the most effortless is through online shopping portals. That means you can earn extra rewards without even stepping foot outside your door.

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Not only is this is a great way to boost your points on top of flying and earning through credit cards, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to double or even triple dip. There are shopping portals that offer cash back, flexible points and hotel points, but today we’re going to focus specifically on airline shopping portals.

Related: Don’t want to miss out on earning bonus points? There’s an extension for that

Online shopping portal fundamentals

Online shopping portals allow you to earn bonus points and miles at hundreds of online retailers just by doing business with them through the portal. This already sweet deal gets even more generous when you use a rewards credit card that lets you earn additional points for your spending.

You can earn anywhere from a few extra points on smaller purchases such as ordering photos through Walgreens, or you can reap big rewards when you make significant purchases such as buying a new MacBook Air through the portal — the points add up either way.

A practical time to use the portal is when ordering everyday necessities, like contacts. You might not think about earning additional points through purchases like these, but if you were to order through 1-800-CONTACTS, you could earn 5 miles per dollar spent by starting your shopping through the American Airlines AAdvantage portal. Not only is it convenient, but it adds up and could ultimately lead you to your next vacation just by ordering something you need online and through the portal.

Say you’re spending $500 a year on contacts. Here’s what you could be earning:

Now you’ve racked up 3,500 bonus miles just by saving yourself time and preordering your contacts.

Related: Maximizing shopping portals for your online purchases

How to use airline shopping portals

Now that you’ve got a general understanding of the potential points and miles you could earn through these portals, here's how to make the most of your purchases.

Step 1: Pick an airline

All of the major carriers offer shopping portals, so there’s no issue there. However, it’s essential to pick an airline that you’re most likely to fly and can easily access. Otherwise, what’s the point of earning United miles if they don’t fly out of your base airport?

Step 2: Sign up for the airline’s loyalty program

To earn miles, you have to have an account with the airline of your choice. It’s a super simple but vital task to do before you start earning.

Step 3: Download the Google extension

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

If you use Google Chrome, it will give you links to all the significant airline shopping portal plug-ins. By downloading the plug-in, you will automatically be notified with a pop-up if a site you’re shopping on offers points. All you have to do is click “activate.”

Step 4: Shop through the link

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

If you don't use Google Chrome, you can earn points by navigating to your preferred portal directly and starting your shopping from there.

Here are some of the more popular airline shopping portals:

Note that, depending on the portal, it can take several weeks for the miles to be credited to your frequent flyer account.

Tips and reminders

(Screenshot courtesy of Cashback Monitor)

This is a relatively straightforward process, but it’s also easy to miss a few steps the first couple of times using it. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If using the plug-in, 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Only use promotions or promo codes found on the portal; if you use others, the purchase may become ineligible for bonus points and miles.
  5. Consider using a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor. 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 you are shopping with.

Related: Earn even more rewards by adding this one small step to your online shopping routine

Bottom line

Online shopping portals are a fantastic tool that every type of traveler and online shopper should be taking full advantage of as it’s an effortless way to boost your points and miles balance. This is a great way to get into the points and miles game as it doesn’t require getting approved for a credit card. However, if you do have a travel rewards credit card, this is the perfect opportunity to double dip.

For a deep dive into online shopping portals, check out this episode of TPG Talks:

Related: TPG’s beginners guide to credit cards: Everything you need to know

Additional reporting by Jordyn Fields.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
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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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees