How holiday shopping could lead to a free vacation
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Take your holiday shopping list this year and see how easy it is to rack up a ton of bonus reward points. When you channel your Hanukkah and Christmas purchases through a points or miles shopping portal, you can earn 5x, 10x or even more in bonuses.
Families can really boost their points and miles balances while getting just about every gift on their list through one of these online shopping portals. And those points and miles can help fund a family vacation in the upcoming year.
Are you a double dipper? Then use your rewards credit cards for shopping portal purchases so you earn those rewards on top of the bonus payout offered by the portal.
Especially lucrative this season are 5% rotating categories for Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) and Discover it Cash Back credit cards. Discover is offering a 5% cash back bonus (must enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back up to $1,500 in purchases; plus 1% cash back on all other purchases) at Amazon, Target and Walmart.com, while the Freedom is offering 5% back at department stores and on purchases using Paypal or the Chase Pay mobile app. The bonus is valid on up to $1,500 in purchases. You can stack these points on top of the ones being offered in the online malls to really boost your rewards balances.
How do shopping portals work?
If you’re new to rewards shopping portals, read TPG‘s guide to maximizing your family’s Black Friday holiday purchases.
Keep holiday bonuses in mind
Many of the portals are offering special bonuses through the holiday season. If you plan to even do just a bit of shopping online, it may pay to pick a portal with a healthy bonus. Here are some current options:
- American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping: Earn up to 3,500 bonus miles (spend $150, earn 500 bonus miles; spend $600, earn 1,500 bonus miles; spend $1,200, earn 3,500 bonus miles). Offer ends 11/21
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping: Earn up to 1,500 bonus miles (spend $150, earn 300 bonus miles; spend $300, earn 750 bonus miles; spend $500, earn 1,500 bonus miles). Offer ends 11/21
- Delta SkyMiles Shopping: Earn up to 1,000 bonus miles (spend $150, earn 500 bonus miles; spend $300, earn 1,000 bonus miles). Offer ends 11/14
- Southwest Rapids Rewards Shopping: Earn up to 3,000 bonus points (spend $150, earn 500 bonus miles; spend $500, earn 1,000 bonus miles; spend $1,000, earn 3,000 bonus miles). Offer ends 11/21
- United MileagePlus Shopping: Earn up to 5,000 bonus points (spend $150, earn 500 bonus miles; spend $750, earn 2,500 bonus miles; spend $1,500, earn 5,000 bonus miles). Offer ends 11/21
3 real-world shopping examples
Let’s take a look at a few sample holiday buys to see how you can earn the maximum reward.
Hot Christmas gifts for the kids
If you have a Harry Potter fan in the house (and who doesn’t?), you might have your eye on the Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit — Build a Wand. Learn To Code. Make Magic at Amazon. If you Google the toy, you’ll see prices are pretty competitive at $64.99 and it’s available at Target and Best Buy as well as Amazon and other stores.
Unless you have a particular online portal that you are favoring for this purchase, it’s probably a good idea to go to a shopping portal aggregator like CashbackMonitor.com or Evrewards.com to see which online shopping mall is offering the best bonuses at the stores where the toy can be bought.
You’ll find that you can earn an extra mile per dollar at several airline shopping sites if you make your purchase at Best Buy, but you can increase that earning rate if you shop at Target through the online shopping portals for British Airways, Spirit, Amtrak or Flying Blue. That means the $64.99 purchase will earn nearly 130 miles or points at some of those portals, and nearly 455 miles if you went through Flying Blue’s portal.
If you have the Discover it Cash Back and use it to make your purchase at Amazon, you’ll earn 5% back (up to $1,500 upon enrollment; 1% cash back on all other purchases) as well because Amazon is a rotating bonus category this quarter. That will net you nearly an additional $5 in savings.
Don’t let all the options confuse you though. Keep in mind that while you want to maximize rewards, you should be collecting miles or points that you can actually use or you will end up with a bunch of orphaned miles in programs that won’t get you anywhere.
New stroller under the Christmas tree
Let’s look at another example to help illustrate. If there’s a bundle of joy joining the family soon, you might want to get the parents-to-be a baby stroller. They might have even hinted that they like this Doona stroller at Nordstrom’s. There aren’t currently any bonus offers at Nordstrom via shopping portals, but if you happen to have a Chase Freedom, you can get 5% cash back (aka 5 points per dollar) spent on department store purchases this quarter (up to $1,500).
But, let’s not give up on shopping portal bonuses on this buy yet. If you Google the stroller, you’ll see that it is also available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and according to CashbackMonitor, Alaska Airlines is offering 3x miles on that retailer through its shopping portal. At a cost of $499.99, that would rack up nearly 1,500 bonus Mileage Plan miles for going through that portal. Not collecting Alaska miles? How about 4x at the British Airways online mall? That would net nearly 2,000 British Airways Avios points, and those are very valuable when it comes to booking short-haul award flights on partner American Airlines.
Buy a computer, get a free flight
The third time’s the charm, so let’s tick one more present off the Christmas shopping list and see if we can get some bonus rewards along the way. What if you have a lucky someone on your list that is getting a new MacBook computer under the tree?
While occasionally you can earn a bunch of miles on Apple purchases, that is pretty rare when buying directly from Apple. Right now you can get 3 Avios points per dollar spent at the Apple store through the British Airways online mall, or 2 points per dollar spent at Choice Hotels, Amtrak or Spirit Airlines online malls. On a $1,500 computer, even 2 or 3 points per dollar adds up very quickly. In fact, 4,500 British Airways Avios is actually enough for a short award flight. Buy a computer, get a “free” flight!
A few words of caution, especially if you are opening up multiple sites to find the best deal: Be careful to stay in the portal you ultimately choose to make your purchase. Just to be sure, when you’ve got everything you need in your cart and you’re ready to make your purchases, go back to the portal you selected and click through to the merchant again — just to be safe.
If you want to stack rewards, think about adding a coupon from a site like evrwards.com or ebates.com for some extra cash back. But be careful you don’t veer away from the shopping portal that has your desired bonus. You can also check these sites for rebates, including BeFrugal.com and TopCashBack.com.
You should also comparison shop to make sure the price you’re paying is competitive and you’re not overpaying for your rewards. And keep in mind that free shipping adds value where that is offered.
Bookmark these shopping portals
Here are links to shopping portals operated by airlines, hotels and banks. Be sure to register for the portal, log in to your account and click on the retailer where you want to shop. That assures that miles or points will be credited properly. Check the sites during the shopping season because bonus offers have been known to go up to 20 points or miles for each dollar spent.
Airline shopping portals
- Aeromexico Club Premier Mall
- Air Canada Aeroplan eStore
- Alaska Mileage Plan
- American AAdvantage eShopping Mall
- British Airways eStore
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- Delta SkyMiles Shopping
- Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles
- JetBlue Shop True
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping
- United MileagePlus Shopping
- Virgin Atlantic Shops Away
Hotel loyalty programs
Bank reward programs
Other travel shopping portals
Think of these online shopping portals as being a bit like Santa Clause — they want to give the gift of miles and points to you this year. All you need to do is purchase your holiday gifts by clicking through the portals and your loyalty program balances will get a big fat reward to start off the New Year. Do you holiday shop with rewards in mind? What’s the best promotion you’ve taken advantage of?
Featured image by Tetra Images/Getty Images
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