How Free Shipping Cost Me 30,000 Miles — Reader Mistake Story

Jan 23, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Daniel, who missed out on a shopping portal bonus:

My wife and I own a small law firm, and each year we buy holiday gifts for some of our  frequent clients. This past year we checked United MileagePlus shopping for holiday mileage deals, and saw an offer for 30 miles per dollar spent at Harry and David. We clicked through to the Harry and David website, where we proceeded to buy over $1,000 worth of gifts. Along with the 1 mile per dollar earned on our United credit card, we anticipated receiving well over 30,000 miles for our purchase.

Unlike other times we have shopped through United’s site, this time we did not receive an email confirming the purchase had been tracked and that miles would be forthcoming. Per United’s rules, I could not reach out to inquire about the purchase until 15 days had passed — the website wouldn’t allow it. There was no other mechanism to contact them, so I waited the 15 days and then submitted an inquiry.

Their response accused me of not properly placing the order through MileagePlus Shopping, and basically said there was nothing they could do about it. Despite me being a loyal United MileagePlus member for 20 years and using their website to shop many times each month without a problem, there was no opportunity to appeal, no recourse, no nothing.

To follow up, I called Harry and David, where a supervisor was able to tell me what United wasn’t. Namely, that a free shipping code we used at checkout had trumped the bonus miles we otherwise would have received from United. So instead of receiving over 30,000 miles, all we got is free shipping. I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to earning points online via credit cards and partners, and I never thought I would be writing you with a mistake story. I hope other readers can learn from it.

Online shopping portals are among the easiest ways to earn rewards, but there are a few quirky rules to keep in mind, like the one that tripped up Daniel. Most portals (including MileagePlus Shopping) specify that entering a coupon code not found on the portal itself makes a purchase ineligible to earn points or miles. You’ll often get away with it, but in general you shouldn’t expect codes to stack with portal bonuses. If you do use a code and your bonus is then denied, you’re probably out of luck.

Two more common stumbling blocks are opening a merchant’s website in more than one tab or window and using an ad blocker or other software that leaves the portal unable to track your purchases. Either can cause your shopping activity to be logged incorrectly (or not at all), so be mindful of your computer settings and display before your session begins. Fortunately, one rule by which you don’t have to abide is using a credit card that matches your shopping portal. Daniel didn’t have to pay with his MileagePlus card to be eligible for the 30x bonus, so he could have used one that offers a better return on everyday spending.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Daniel a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!


Featured images via Shutterstock.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.