Free First Class 2014: Shopping Portals

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This is the seventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Most major airline and credit card loyalty program have a shopping portal. For instance, google “United shopping” and the first link is to the United Mileage Plus shopping portal.

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Shopping portals allow you to earn huge amounts of miles by making your normal online purchases through your favorite online stores. Just by starting at the portal and using its link to your favorite online retailer, you can get extra miles for your purchases.

The process for earning miles from portals is simple.

  • How do portals work?
  • How can you earn miles by shopping online exactly as you already do?

I’ll show you exactly how to use my favorite portal: the Ultimate Rewards portal. (Remember Ultimate Rewards? They are my favorite type of transferable points.)

Step 1: Sign in to your Chase online account.

You do have to have a Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or other Ultimate-Rewards-earning card to get in. And each card has a slightly different portal with different payouts.

Portals are designed to get you to use the card related to the portal. But you don’t have to use those cards in the mall to earn points. I do try to use the appropriate card for the portal I’m using. Why? If there is a problem with my points posting, I don’t want the portal to have any excuse not to give me the points.

Step 2: Click the Go to Ultimate Rewards banner on the right side of your chase.com account.

Step 3: Find and Click a Link for the Ultimate Rewards Mall.

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Image from the Chase Freedom Portal

Step 4: Click any store listed in the portal to earn the extra points listed.

The stores are listed in many ways inside the portal. There are the “Top Stores.” There are categories of goods you can search. You can also search by store name. Then there is a rectangle near the bottom of the page with several popular stores and their extra dollars per point listed.

Note that every listing tells the number of extra points for shopping at that store through the portal.

Buying things with a credit card from these online stores will naturally earn one point per dollar on your credit card–or more if you are shopping at a store where your card enjoys a category bonus for instance an office supply store with your Ink Bold.

The portal will earn extra points per dollar spent in addition to your normal credit card points.

Step 5: Shop at a store after being redirected from the portal.

When you do click a store, you’ll get an interstitial screen that gives more information on the store you are being sent to.

Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions on this page. Certain things like gift cards are often excluded from earning points. Taxes, shipping, and handling will almost always be excluded from earning points.

You will automatically be redirected to the online store that you selected from the portal. Now you should go about your shopping as you normally would. Cookies in your browser will make sure you get credit for your purchases from the portal.

To make sure you get your points, clear out your shopping cart before going to the portal. Click on a site, and go to work shopping. Take screen shots along the way and of the final purchase, so you can request your points in the unlikely event that they don’t post automatically.

I know there are some people reading this who have successfully completed hundreds of portal purchases, so if anyone has any tips on ensuring points post, let us know in the comments.

Making miles from portals is a simple process, but let me give four tips and cautions, so that you can properly use the shopping portals.

1. Do your research outside the portals.

If you decide you want to buy a certain laptop from a certain website, that’s the point to go to a portal and click the link to the partner website that sells the laptop. Only buy things through portals that you’ve decided to buy already. Do not impulse shop.

2. Once you have an item picked out to buy from a certain website, go to evreward.com to compare payouts across portals.

If you type in the site you want to buy from, it lists how many miles and points dozens of portals are offering. Multiply the number of bonus points times your valuation of a single point in that program, and you’ll know which is offering the biggest rebate per dollar. (If you prefer a different portal comparison site, let us know in the comments.)

Example: The Southwest Rapid Rewards portal had a promotion to temporarily offer 6 Rapid Rewards point per dollar spent at Target.com. I value a Southwest point at 1.43 cents, so buying through the portal netted 8.58 cents worth of additional points per dollar spent or an 8.6% rebate. During that promotion, that was the best rebate available at Target.com according to my point valuations and evreward.com.

3. Read the fine print of the portal.

Oftentimes dollars spent on taxes and shipping don’t accrue bonus points. The fine print also often specifies that you must use a certain credit card like an airline’s co-branded card to earn the bonus through the portal. While many points lovers have found that you’ll actually earn the portals’ bonus points if you use any credit card, be aware of this fine print and that your mileage may vary.

4. Read the Frequent Miler.

He’s the king of portals, especially the Ultimate Rewards portal. He doesn’t content himself with a mere 10x. He’ll double dip by buying gift cards at 10x through the portal, then using them at 10x through the portal for a 20x total. (I know I said sometimes buying gift cards doesn’t earn points, but sometimes buying gift cards does. And sometimes the portal says buying gift cards won’t earn miles, but in practice buying gift cards will earn miles. Confused yet?)

Or sometimes he’ll buy things he doesn’t need in order to resell them for a small loss that is swamped by the points he earns. He’s gotten the Southwest companion pass and tons Ultimate Rewards through portals.

5. Stay on top of limited time promotions.

You probably just ignore your junk-mail emails from airlines, but often they are promoting excellent temporary deals through their portal. You may want to start reading them more closely.

Bottom Line

You can use portals to earn miles for purchases you already make online. In addition to miles earned from credit cards and flying, you can easily earn enough mile to travel more, better, and cheaper.



Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. evrewards often lists way more bonus miles than one actually gets from the site. The last time I went through there it said 10 per dollar for the store I used, when I went through the portal for that card the store said 4 🙁 Wish it was more accurate!

  2. Scott, I’m loving this series. It’s fun to read a refresher from time to time. =)

    I use the portals all the time and have rarely had trouble. I also use UPromise, since I have a Sallie Mae High Interest Savings Account and with Upromise, provided you deposit $25 a month into the account, you get a 10% match at the end of the year of all your purchases through the portal.

    Finally, a trick I like to employ is when all things are equal, I shop through a portal for an airline on which I have elite status. I am sure others would disagree and go through Ultimate Rewards or others means, but once in a while miles or a bonus don’t post, and I have been able to lean on the airline to credit the miles because they don’t want to make me unhappy over something like portal miles. Just a thought.

    Thanks for the great post!

      • Yeah, it’s worked out a couple times. For me, it’s whenever the portals run a bonus like the United back to school that I struggle to get the miles credited in a timely manner. So when I go through AA, and then call AA directly after trying to work with the portal, they often times just credit it. Worth a try. =)

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