TPG reader credit card question: Which credit card should I use in shopping portals?

Aug 17, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Savvy TPG readers know that while credit card sign-up bonuses and bonus categories are usually the fastest way to rack up points and miles, it’s also important to look for opportunities to double-dip and earn as many miles as possible on each purchase you make. TPG reader Beth wants to know if it matters which card she pays with when purchasing through a shopping portal.

Can I use a shopping portal from one program but pay with another? For example, use the AAdvantage shopping portal but pay with my Chase Sapphire Reserve?

TPG READER BETH

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Online shopping portals are one of the best ways to earn bonus miles on everyday purchases with thousands of online merchants. Most major airlines and hotel chains offer a shopping portal, and Chase even has its own version for Ultimate Rewards-earning cards.

If you don’t want to bother with points and miles, there are also a number of cash-back portals like Rakuten (though Rakuten also lets you earn your rewards as Amex Membership Rewards points, which is an amazing opportunity). This array of options allows you to pick what type of rewards you want to earn. Any time you’re shopping online, you should check a site like cashbackmonitor.com to compare earning rates across multiple portals.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Current shopping portal earning rate at Nike, according to cashbackmonitor.com
Current shopping portal earning rate at Nike, according to cashbackmonitor.com

The good news for Beth is that most programs don’t care which card you use to pay, and you can mix and match as you please. One day you can use a card such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn a solid return on non-bonus spend, and then you can switch to a brand new card if you’re working on earning a sign-up bonus. These shopping portals earn their commission by directing you to the merchant where you make a purchase, so you would even earn bonus miles from the portal if you paid with a debit card (but please don’t).

Now, it’s worth pointing out that if you invert Beth’s question and look at the other side, there’s one important exception to this rule: the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. When you log in to your Ultimate Rewards account and navigate to the shopping portal, you’ll be told that you need to use a Chase card to earn the bonus. Many people have successfully earned bonus miles even if paying with another card, but this is not how the program was designed to work and it might cause headaches if your purchase doesn’t track correctly.

In addition, these portals can be a little glitchy, so I strongly suggest only clicking through to the store when you know what you want to buy and are ready to checkout (i.e. do your browsing first). I usually add all the items I want to my cart before activating the shopping portal, and I find that it helps my purchases track better. It also helps to close out extra tabs and make sure you only have one browser window open at a time. Finally, be sure to read the exact terms of the given merchant, as certain types of purchases — mostly gift cards or other cash equivalents — are generally excluded from earning shopping portal bonuses.

(Screenshot courtesy of rapidrewardsdining.com)
(Screenshot courtesy of rapidrewardsdining.com)

Many airlines also offer dining rewards programs, which follow a similar concept as online shopping portals. The one major difference is that you have to link your card of choice online before going out to eat at an eligible restaurant. While you can only link each card to one program (so you can’t register your Chase Sapphire Reserve with American and United at the same time) you’re free to use any card you want with these portals, and there’s no requirement to stay within the same program.

Bottom Line

Shopping portals are a free and easy double-dip opportunity, and if you ever shop online, it’s an absolute no-brainer to use them. You’re free to use whatever payment method you want when shopping through these sites, giving you valuable flexibility in choosing the type of rewards you want to earn on the purchase.

Thanks for the question, Beth, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Poike / Getty Images

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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.

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