Admit it, WE ALL SHOP. Can you believe that you can turn that shopping habit into redeemable miles by leveraging online mileage shopping portals? With a little advance planning and delayed gratification (translation: wait till the item arrives at your house), you can turn everyday shopping into additional miles to redeem for air, hotel and car rentals – offsetting costs on future travel. If you aren’t leveraging this today, let me give you a few tips!
Many airlines, particularly the larger carriers, offer online shopping portals which you can use to shop hundreds of name-brand stores (think Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Kohls, Office Depot, Best Buy, Groupon…. jewelry stores, wine delivery services, flower and gift delivery, photo services, even some periodicals, like The Economist!). If you are looking to leverage points and miles for airline travel as a family, this is an easy way to quickly increase the amount you have available to redeem for award tickets.
What are online shopping portals?
Simply put, an online shopping portal is a site that connects shopping you are doing online from participating vendors with loyalty programs, allowing you to earn points and miles for your purchase. In the specific instance covered in this post, we are referencing the online shopping portals associated with airline loyalty programs. This is available to you at no additional charge!
Some of the primary mileage shopping portals for airlines are:
- United Airlines: Use the MileagePlus Portal to grow airline miles that can be used on United Airlines as well as any of their partners, which include airline partners in the Star Alliance.
- Southwest Airlines: Use the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal for airline miles redeemable on Southwest Airlines’ flights as well as their hotel and car rental partners.
- Delta Airlines: The SkyMiles Shopping Portal allows you to build up a miles balance that can be leveraged on Delta Airlines and any of their partners, which includes airline partners in the Skyteam Alliance.
- American Airlines: The AAdvantage eShopping Portal enables you to grow a points balance with American Airlines, which can also be redeemed on any of their partners in the OneWorld Alliance.
- JetBlue and Alaska Airlines also have shopping portals!
- For those in Canada, Air Canada offers the AeroPlan eStore for online shopping while building mileage. For UK residents, British Airways has the online BA Avios Store.
- Emirates offers Skywards Mall for online shopping.
- Many other key airlines have similar options, so be sure to do a quick check online.
Getting Started with Mileage Shopping Portals
Functionally, all the shopping portals listed above operate in a similar manner, so the steps to follow are generally the same. You just need to decide which mileage shopping portal you are going to use for your purchase (more on that decision below).
To start shopping on any of the portals you need to complete two important steps:
- First, you need to establish a frequent flyer account with the airline associated with your desired mileage shopping portals. For example, for the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, you need to have a frequent flyer account with Southwest Airlines. This is necessary so the shopping portal will have a place to deposit your earned airline miles from shopping. This requires FIRST going to the airline site, finding their frequent flyer program, and signing up. Once you have completed this, write down your frequent flyer number so you have it readily available when you register your new shopping portal account.
- Next, you need to open an account or profile with the shopping portal. You can do this by going to your desired shopping portal site and clicking on “log in” or “sign up” to create a new account. You’ll need to have your frequent flyer number ready to enter when creating your shopping portal account, so essentially you are syncing up the two profiles. If you are planning to leverage more than one shopping portal, you’ll need to set up a profile with each one.
I’m ready to shop but HELP! Which portal should I use?!
Part of your shopping strategy should be determined by which airline/airline alliance you are looking to build up a reserve of airline points. This might be driven by a future destination you are looking to book, or it might be driven by your home base location. For example, if you live in a location most easily serviced by Southwest Airlines, perhaps you want to focus on building up miles with their frequent flyer program. You will need to think about your end goal and decide based on this.
Many seasoned veterans in the “miles-and-points-as-a-hobby” space have accounts with multiple frequent flyer programs. If you are new to this concept, I would recommend just starting with one portal and focus on building up your points via shopping with one airline carrier to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Once you have selected your airline of choice and registered with both the frequent flyer program and the shopping portal, it’s time to SHOP!
Step by Step
1. ALWAYS start any shopping at the mileage shopping PORTAL site. These are the sites I mentioned above. You need to go to this site first. Search for an item (ie: Instant Pot) or search for a store (ie: Kohl’s).
If you search by item, you will have options showing the available stores, the price, and associated mileage earned per dollar spent. You can click on your store of choice and shop from there.
2. CLICK! When you click to shop, you will be taken from the mileage shopping portal to the store’s website. The screen will let you know that it is moving to another website. Don’t close this! Note: Depending on your internet browser choice, you may need to enable pop-ups, noting the site as a safe site.
3. SHOP! Go ahead and shop. Note that if you put items in your cart and close your screen, you should go through the portal again to make sure your purchases are recognized for mileage credit.
Once you get in the habit of starting any online shopping with a mileage shopping portal, you’ll be racking up points towards your next adventure in no time!
Here are a few other ways to really up your game on the mileage shopping portals. However, just don’t drink and shop! I have heard some pretty crazy stories (speaking for a friend! LOL).
WATCH FOR BONUSES. The airline shopping portals regularly offer bonuses so be sure to sign up and watch your inbox for alerts. For example, I received an email about a summer bonus with a particular portal: Spend $200 through the portal by a specified date and receive an extra bonus 500 miles (this is on top of any regular miles earned). If there are items I need to buy but there is no urgency for the purchase, I wait for these bonus offers, which are typically situated around holidays (or maybe that’s the appropriate time for drunk shopping?? Just saying.) In other words, if it’s not something you need right away, keep a little list and enjoy a payout at bonus time!
INSTALL THE BUTTON. Almost every mileage shopping portal offers a browser add-on button that is easily installed. After installation, you will get a pop-up reminder when you are on a site that could earn miles. Some of the buttons allow you to also just click on the pop-up directly to activate mileage rewards before you make a purchase. Be sure to explore this option.
IN STORE PICK UP. Got no patience? This is the option for those who cannot wait (or if you want to avoid unnecessary shipping charges). Shop through the portal but when you get to check out, if your item is available and you can easily reach the store, choose “in store pick up”. This gets your item faster (or free of S&H) and still gets you mileage credit through the airline portal.
USE A MILEAGE CREDIT CARD FOR PAYMENT. When completing your online purchase, use your favorite points-earning (or cash back) credit card for payment for additional perks or miles, in addition to those earned through the portal. Here is an example to explain: the shopping portal offers you 5 miles per dollar spent for a $100 item. After going through the shopping portal, you pay at checkout with the credit card offering miles for the same airline. With this method, you will have earned (5 x 100) = 500 miles for the purchase and an additional 500 miles from the credit card. That’s 1000 miles for one single purchase! Though shalt not judge those who double dip!
Most external shopping discounts and codes from external sources cannot be layered on to the purchases from shopping portals, such as Honey. This will negate your portal mileage purchase. Discount codes available and listed on the portal itself are acceptable. Any sales the store is already having that are available on their website should also work fine.
IN CONCLUSION…. Roamers, I sh&t you not, I have earned more than 10,000 extra bonus miles using shopping portals for regular purchases I was going to make anyway. And I am not a huge shopper. So, take what you have learned and go forth and earn!
*SORRY!!! Please note, I reached out to these shopping portals, and most of them only offer this benefit currently in the US. Exceptions from the list I’ve provided are currently Air Canada, British Airways, and Emirates whose portals are also available to residents in those countries. I encourage you to look into local carriers in your region/country and see if they also offer such a program.
**Disclosure: All this stuff is true at the crazy late-night-time-of-typing. Loyalty program terms and conditions do change as well as the vendors participating in the portals, so be sure to keep abreast of any updates sent to you by the airline portals you have signed up with.
***I didn’t get any payment from any of the mentioned vendors to write this. These tips are based on my own experience and unbiased, unfiltered point of view. Legit!