Right before Thanksgiving I posted an article on earning Hawaiian Airlines miles by going through their shopping portal and making purchases at Amazon.com. For many this was old news but still a helpful reminder. Though shopping portals are one of the easiest ways to earn miles, Amazon only partners with Hawaiian…..or so we thought. Reader Vera recently tipped us off to to another site that (indirectly) earns you Lufthansa miles for Amazon purchases: Payback.
This was an exciting scoop, so I had to find out for myself. I logged on to the Payback website but was met with only German text. I use Google Chrome as my web browser of choice, so it has a handy translate feature. Without it, I would have been lost.
After translating most everything to English, I clicked on the “New Customer Registration” at the top of the screen.
It then asks for your basic information and address. Unfortunately, the site only accepts German addresses. I created a dummy address using the street name from my favorite hostel in Munich. (Decide for yourself whether you are comfortable doing this.)
Now that I was logged in, I immediately typed “Amazon” in the search box at the top of the page. The Amazon.com portal was the first search result that popped up. I clicked on the link “Amazon.de Shop-earn points on Payback.”
After clicking the link, I was brought to the Amazon portal page. The Payback website actually included some handy terms and conditions. At first, I thought I could buy a cheap book for my Kindle and earn Payback points that way. Unfortunately, book and ebook purchases are specifically excluded from earning Payback points.
There are other worrisome terms and conditions included above. Only items that you place in your cart after entering Amazon through the Payback portal will earn points. Also, the terms warn that you should not press the “forward”, “back”, or “refresh” buttons while shopping! It sounds like you need to have something clearly on your mind before shopping. When you are ready, click “Jetzt Shoppen” to enter Amazon.
I searched for a Blu-Ray movie that offered discounted shipping and bought one for about 9 Euros. I fully realize it probably won’t play properly, but the purchase was for the good of the experiment!
Once the points post to my Payback account, how do I redeem them for Lufthansa miles?
The first thing you need to do is be sure you’re logged into your account. From the Payback home page, hold your mouse over “Punkte Einlösen” at the top right. If you are having trouble, it’s the blue tap second from the right.
You should get a pull down screen. Click on “More Redeeming” which is the second option from the bottom on the right column.
After clicking on “more redeeming” scroll to the bottom of the new screen and click on the “more information” link next to the Lufthansa Miles & More logo.
After clicking “more information” you will be taken to the main Lufthansa transfer page. Click the red button at the bottom left to initiate a transfer. You will need an active Miles & More account before completing the transfer.
What is the minimum transfer amount?
You must have 200 points in your Payback account to transfer to Lufthansa. They will transfer at a straight 1:1 ratio.
What is a mileage subscription?
Forgive my interpretation of Google’s translation, but you can actually link your Payback account to your Lufthansa Miles & More number. Every March and September (if you have accrued 200 or more Payback points) your Payback points will be automatically credited to your Lufthansa account.
Can you just manually credit your Lufthansa account instead?
Yes. Just make sure to uncheck the “mileage subscription” box before initiating the transfer. The box is located directly above where you input your Lufthansa frequent flyer number. See below for more information.
How long does it take for the miles to appear in my Lufthansa account?
Reports actually vary on this old FlyerTalk thread, so it’s hard to say how reliable the information is.
Is this all worth it for US residents?
Given that purchase need to be made on Amazon’s German website, I would say no. Shipping on the items I tested out was pretty expensive, and DVDs and videogames were all European versions. I would worry about playback ability on North American DVD and gaming systems.
Are there any other good strategies for leveraging Amazon purchases for miles?
Yes. Amazon gift cards are sold at places like grocery stores, drug stores, and office supply stores.
The American Express Premier Rewards Gold card earns 2X points at gas stations and grocery stores. The American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card earns 6X points at drug stores, grocery stores, and gas stations. Feel free to leverage this strategy with any of the above cards.
If you had to choose, would you opt for Lufthansa Miles or Hawaiian Miles via the Amazon/shopping portal method?
Though each program’s usefulness is primarily defined by its route network and your individual travel goals, I would lean towards Hawaiian miles. They transfer to Hilton HHonors at a 1:2 ratio (check out Scott’s post Transferring Hawaiian Miles to Hilton). They also have excellent West Coast coverage to Hawaii.
Hawaiian even recently announced an intriguing new route from Honolulu and, according to Scott, their economy product isn’t too shabby.
Lufthansa, on the other hand, is famous for its amazing first class cabin and ground service/First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. Tahsir’s epic trip report is further evidence of that.
Lufthansa does impose hefty fuel surcharges on awards like many other European carriers, and their award chart is pretty pricey compared to other Star Alliance charts like United. For example, a North America <-> Europe award in first class is 135K miles using United miles. The same award is a whopping 170K redeeming with Lufthansa, and that’s not even factoring in the fuel surcharges!
If I can just use United or US Airways miles to book Lufthansa flights, why even bother with Lufthansa’s program to begin with?
Primarily for the access to Swiss business/first class award space and Lufthansa first class award space. Scott actually wrote a post about securing Lufthansa first class seats with United miles (The Poorly Kept Secret to Finding Lufthansa First Class Availability with United Miles). Unfortunately, that method requires lots of patience and flexibility.
Premium cabin awards on Swiss are rare using United nor US Airways miles. United.com is actually a great place to look for Star Alliance availability (Free First Class Next Month: Star Alliance Award Searches on United.com). However, looking for direct flights on Swiss is disheartening. Swiss simply doesn’t release first class space to its partners. Not a single day has first class seats and business class availability is tough to find!
Economy space is a bit better, though. Here are some sample searches for September/October for two travelers.
Miami -> Zurich (economy space in yellow, business in blue, green for both)
Boston -> Zurich
New York-JFK -> Zurich (wow, lots of business on Swiss!)
My dream is to redeem for Swiss First Class! How to I get more Lufthansa miles?
You can always transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points into Lufthansa miles. For every 20K Starpoints you transfer to Miles & More, Starwood will kick in an additional 5,000 miles. There’s currently a 25,000 Starpoint sign up bonus on the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card.
There is also a Lufthansa MasterCard issued by Barclay’s. The card comes with a $79 annual fee. The standard signup bonus for this card is 20,000 miles, but back in April of 2011, Barclay’s actually offered 50,000 miles for new card members.
Payback is a perfect opportunity for EU citizens to earn Lufthansa miles for everyday purchases on Amazon. The deal makes less sense for those of us in North America due to shipping, purchase restrictions, and playback issues with movies and video games.
Lufthansa miles are strategically useful for Swiss and Lufthansa first class redemptions, though you are really paying for the access with a pricey award chart and fuel surcharges on award tickets.
When it comes to maximizing miles on Amazon, it makes more sense to purchase gift cards using a credit card with a category spend bonus (such as the Chase Ink Bold at Office Depot or the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass at drugstores or the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card at grocery stores). You can then apply the gift card balance to your Amazon account and shop as you normally would.