There are many ways to earn miles without every foot on an airplane. The first, and for many the most lucrative ones, is taking advantage of huge credit card sign-up bonuses, which can sometimes generate up to 100,000 airline miles per pop. You’ll also earn at least one mile or point per dollar spent on rewards credit cards, with added incentives to collect certain types of purchases through category bonuses, such as the two points per dollar you’ll earn when dining with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the 5 points per dollar you’ll earn for office supply store purchases made with a Chase Ink business credit card.
From there, you can earn hundreds of miles and bonus points from hotel chains, car rentals, cable TV subscriptions, and through online shopping portals just about anything and everything you buy online.
However, the miles and points you can earn for your online purchases can take you well beyond the incentives of rewards cards. By accessing a retailer’s website through a “shopping portal,” you can at least double or triple your earnings, and can sometimes earn 30 miles or more for certain purchases. The reason? Shopping portals, each affiliated with a frequent flyer, bank, or credit card rewards program, receive a percentage of their transaction from the merchant as a “thank you” for submitting their business.
It doesn’t matter that you’re planning to buy in any way – it never hurts to see if there are more opportunities to earn miles for purchases you were already planning to make.
Three of the most popular (and lucrative) shopping portals are American’s AAdvantage eShopping Mall, United’s MileagePlus Shopping, and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall. Other airlines and credit cards offer their own shopping portals, but checking dozens of sites before making any purchases can turn out to be a full-time job – three sites to check each time is enough.
For the products that you were already planning to buy, compare the prices of the item in some online stores. Once you find the site you want to use, clear your browser cache and head over to the dedicated shopping portals of American, United, and Chase to find the current retail offering. The rewards generally vary from site to site, so it is worth shopping around. American and Chase may offer an additional 1 mile per dollar spent at Best Buy, for example, while United’s MileagePlus Shopping promises an additional 3 miles per dollar, with offers that change daily.
Obviously, in this case, you’ll want to click on the United offer and go to the merchant’s site to make your purchase.
Occasionally, the portal’s incentives can be so generous that it might make sense to purchase items you don’t really need, such as a new set of luggage during a 30-mile-per-dollar eBags promotion or dozens of magazine subscriptions when Magazines.com is offering the a whopping 60 miles to the dollar. When deals like that come up (especially the magazine bonus, which can be incredibly lucrative), you can make purchases you weren’t planning on making. Assuming you really want the miles but don’t want to keep the merchandise, you can give the merchandise as a holiday gift, sell it on eBay, or buy magazine subscriptions for your local hospital.
You will learn about the best deals by subscribing to mailing lists with the respective shopping portals.
Assuming you have followed the instructions in the agreement (generally gift card purchases and discounts not provided through the portal site are prohibited), you will receive your miles and points within a few weeks of making your purchase. However, if you return the products, the miles will also be deducted. There are generally no spending limits, so if a particularly good deal comes along, a $ 4,500 bag purchase might come along with a free first class roundtrip to Asia, and you can keep! the suitcases!