Shopping Around Cost Me 9,000 Points — Reader Mistake Story

Aug 26, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Greg, who picked the wrong time to look for savings:

My wife and I bought our first house recently. We knew we would have a lot of expenses, but also knew that if we planned right, those expenses would earn us a lot of points toward our next trip. At almost $900, a mattress was going to be one of our biggest purchases. We found one we liked at Macy’s and planned to buy it through an online shopping portal that was offering 10 points per dollar spent on the Macy’s website. To earn even more points, we would use my wife’s Chase Freedom credit card (No longer open to new applicants), which was offering a 5x bonus at department stores that quarter.

I accessed Macy’s.com through the shopping portal offering the bonus, added the mattress to my cart, and entered my wife’s credit card information. But just before clicking the button to buy, I decided to check the internet for coupons to try and save a few extra bucks. The coupon search was a dead end, but I did browse around and click a few links on the coupon website before completing my purchase.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the coupon website had replaced the “cookie” previously placed in my web browser by the shopping portal. Without that crucial bit of internet code, the shopping portal would never know that I made the purchase, and we would never see the bonus points. We got our new mattress and earned the 5x points on the Chase Freedom card, but we lost the opportunity to earn nearly 9,000 points from the shopping portal.

I hope other readers won’t make the same mistake that I did. Once you’ve started your purchase through a shopping portal, be sure not to click through any other shopping portals or referral websites.

Shopping portals provide an easy way to boost your earnings from online purchases, but they can be temperamental. I don’t have a 100% foolproof method for getting purchases to track correctly, but following a few basic guidelines will give you a high success rate. First, make your web navigation as concise and linear as possible. Start by opening your shopping portal of choice, then click through to the merchant using the link provided and promptly complete your purchase. Once you initiate a portal session, it’s no longer the time to read reviews, hunt for a better deal or browse around for other items you might want — all of that should be done before you start.

Second, make sure your computer and web browser are set up for success. Enable cookies and clear anything that might prevent your purchase from tracking correctly (like adblocking software or cookies from previous sessions). I say this from personal experience, as an untracked purchase contributed to me letting 168,000 United miles expire. If adjusting settings every time you shop online sounds tedious, use an alternate web browser that’s already set up for that purpose — I primarily use Chrome, but since my MileagePlus fiasco, I boot up Internet Explorer when I’m ready to buy. You can also use incognito mode (or the equivalent on other browsers) for a similar effect.

Finally, be careful when using coupons or other promotional codes that aren’t explicitly compatible with portal rewards, since applying an ineligible code may nullify your bonus. You might want to roll the dice on smaller purchases, since the coupon’s value is more likely to outweigh the rewards you’d earn. But for larger purchases, I recommend playing it safe and leaving coupon codes out if you’re uncertain how they’ll affect the transaction.

Related: TPG Readers Reveal Their Favorite Shopping Portals

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 us to post it online), I’m sending Greg a 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 info@thepointsguy.com, 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. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by krblokhin / Getty Images.

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