How to Use Portals for Holiday Shopping to Maximize Rewards

How to Use Portals for Holiday Shopping to Maximize Rewards

Black Friday officially launches the holiday shopping season, which is a great time of year to rack up tons of miles for next year’s travels. While the miles earned from the increased levels of spending are great, there are multiple ways that rewards can be increased using airline and bank shopping portals, Amex offers, and credit card bonus categories. You can even stack them. That’s right. You can combine these great earning opportunities to earn even more.

Shopping Portals

Shopping portals are a very simple way to earn extra points and miles. Almost every major airline, hotel, and credit card issuing bank has a shopping portal. The way they work is you simply log into your account with the associated rewards program and search for the merchant with which you plan to make a purchase. Then you click through to that merchant’s website to complete the purchase.

Most portals also offer the ability to sort by earning rate so you can see which merchants are currently offering the biggest bonuses. Typically, the portal rewards are in the form of extra points or miles for each dollar spent. Earning rates are often one to three extra points or miles per dollar for the most popular merchants, however the portals will often run specials when the rates are higher. For some merchants in narrower markets, you can get huge bonuses of 20 to 30 miles per dollar. Other merchants will offer a fixed number of points for completing a certain type of purchase, for example 25K points for signing a new cell phone service provider contract.

In the screenshots below, we have logged in to Alaska Airlines’ MileagePlanShopping.com portal and sorted by earn rate. Every merchant currently offering six or more miles per dollar is displayed.

Alaska Airlines MileagePlan shopping portal
Alaska Airlines MileagePlan shopping portal

Example of Offers Currently Available

In the table below we have summarized airline mile and transferable point portal bonuses available at the largest retailer in the country, Walmart. The earning rates are similar to those you will find at other large retailers. There are a wide variety of programs that offer shopping portals, and earning rates are constantly changing. A great resource for finding the best offers is cashbackmonitor.com.

Walmart Portal Bonuses 
British Airways Mall3 Avios / $
Spirit Online Mall2 miles / $
AA / United / Delta / Alaska / Southwest1 mile / $
Chase2 points / $

Amex Offers

For anyone who has an American Express card, Amex Offers are a great way to earn additional rewards on holiday shopping. There are essentially two types of offers – those that offer bonus points for shopping at certain merchants, and those that offers discounts (for example spend $100, get $20 back). Offers vary widely by card and are often targeted, so the only way to know for sure what offers are available to you is to log into your account and check your offers.

Credit Card Bonus Categories

You should also make sure that you are using the credit card which will maximize earning for every purchase. Some cards have constant bonus categories, some have rotating bonus categories, while others have annual spending bonuses that you may be able to achieve with a boost from holiday shopping. Here are a few of the best:

  1. Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom card has 5X Ultimate Rewards categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. Bonus points are earned on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter. The categories for the final quarter of 2016 are fairly broad and many readers should find them useful:

  • Drugstores (such as Walgreens, RiteAid CVS and Duane Reade)
  • Department Stores (such as Sears, Nordstrom, Macy’s, JC Penney)
  • Wholesale Clubs (such as Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s)

Chase Freedom Cashback calendar 2016
Chase Freedom 5X Rewards categories for the last quarter of 2016

There are many smaller regional stores as well, so be sure to check the entire list of eligible merchants here.

Of course, in order to maximize Ultimate Rewards earned on the Freedom card, it must be paired with one of Chase’s premium offerings such as the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Preferred Business card so that points can be transferred to Chase’s transfer partners.

  1. Discover It

The Discover it card is quite similar to the Chase Freedom card in that is offers rotating 5% cash back categories. There is some overlap with the Freedom card for the last quarter of 2016 but there is also excellent unique opportunity. The 5X categories are:

  • Amazon.com
  • Sam’s Club
  • Department Stores

Ultimate Rewards are more valuable than cashback when paired with a premium card, so we would only recommend using the Discover It card for Amazon purchases if you happen to have both cards.

Discover it card 5% cashback calendar for the last quarter of 2016
Discover it card’s 5% cashback categories for the last quarter of 2016

  1. Any Card with a Calendar Year Spending Bonus

If you have a card with a calendar year spending bonus and you are getting close to hitting the spending requirement, you may want to consider putting all of you holiday spend on that card to push you over the finish line. There are only about 6 weeks left in the year and some of the spending bonus thresholds are very high. An example of a card with a good annual spending bonus is the Delta Platinum card from American Express, which awards 10K redeemable miles and 10K Medallion Qualifying Miles for spending $25K in a calendar year.

  1. Any Card on Which You Are Working on Meeting the Sign-up Bonus Requirement

Most travel rewards credit cards come with lucrative sign-up bonuses that require between $2K to $5K of spend within a few months of opening the account. If you have recently opened a card and need a significant amount of spend to qualify for the sign-up bonus, this should be your number one priority. Most sign-up bonuses dwarf any amount of points you could expect to earn from everyday spend, so make sure you prioritize this card over any others.

Most travel rewards credit cards come with high sign-up bonuses

Stacking Rewards

Stacking rewards is the concept of taking advantage of multiple offers on the same purchase. For example, you could use a Chase Freedom card to make a purchase through British Airway’s portal on Walgreens.com. This would result in 5 Ultimate Rewards and 3 Avios per dollar spent. For many purchases, it will be possible to stack at least 2 types of rewards, so be sure to check all credit card earnings rates, shopping portals, and Amex offers before making a purchase.