Will I Earn Bonus Points When Using Shopping Portals to Purchase Gift Cards?
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"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.
Shopping portals are one of the easiest ways to earn bonus points and miles outside of credit card sign-up bonuses. TPG reader Lindsey wants to know if an online portal will award her bonus miles on a certain type of purchase...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Lindsey"]Can you earn bonus points/miles by using shopping portals to purchase gift cards? Is this allowed?[/pullquote]
For those unfamiliar, there are dozens of online shopping portals that offer bonus points, miles or cash-back when you're shopping online and click through their website (rather than starting directly at the merchant's page). You'll usually see offers of just one or two bonus points/miles per dollar spent, but sometimes these sites will offer promotions of 15-20 miles per dollar spent or a lump sum of bonus miles after meeting certain spend thresholds. Going through a shopping portal is really a no-brainer if you already planned on shopping online at an eligible retailer.
Purchasing gift cards can be a great way to help meet a credit card's minimum spend or to earn bonus points (sometimes 5x!) at pharmacies or office supply stores. However, it's not all gravy. The answer to Lindsey's question isn't completely straightforward. In most cases, shopping portals state in their terms that they do not award miles for purchases made on gift cards or cash equivalents. For instance, American Airlines' shopping portal for Staples specifically excludes third party and Staples gift card purchases:
That being said, while the terms state that you won't be awarded any bonuses, it's still possible that you'll earn miles on gift card purchases. This is because the system won't always catch exactly what you purchased. There are various data points showing that you can earn shopping portal points/miles on gift card purchases — but this is definitely not a guarantee, and there are plenty of other data points that say you won't get these extra miles.
So don't count on it — it'll just be a nice surprise to see if you're loyalty account gets a boost in points or miles.
Your best bet to maximizing your earnings is to use the right credit card when making online purchases. Many retailers won't code into a bonus category, so you'll want to use a good card for non-bonused spend like the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% or 1.5x Chase points when paired with an Ultimate Rewards earning card) or The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express (2x Amex points on first $50,000 and 1x thereafter). Always remember to use a shopping portal aggregator so you can find which website has the best return and consider pulling a triple dip by using United's MileagePlus X app too.