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Shopping online has become a staple of American life. Beyond allowing customers to shop around for that perfect deal, online stores relieve shoppers of the need to leave their homes. Now, simply click a few buttons and wait for your order to arrive.
Another, often-forgotten perk of shopping online is the ability to use a shopping portal to save even more. Unfortunately, knowing which portal to use (and when) can be daunting for those who may not be familiar. To make things easier, we've compiled this guide to shopping portals and some mini-reviews of our favorites.
- What Is a Shopping Portal?
- What Is Stacking?
- Pay With the Right Rewards Card
- How To Find the Most Rewarding Shopping Portal
- Tips for Shopping Portals
- Cash-Back Shopping Portals
- Bank Shopping Portals
- Airline Shopping Portals
- Hotel Shopping Portals
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Shopping Portal?
In a nutshell, shopping portals are a way to boost your savings or earnings when making online purchases.
When a shopper navigates to a store's website after clicking a shopping portal and makes a purchase, the store pays the shopping portal a commission. This commission is then shared in part with you, the shopper, in the form of cash back, points, or miles.
Depending on the store and the portal used, the shared commission can be as little as one bonus mile per dollar spent or as significant as several thousand bonus miles on a larger purchase. In either case, the earnings can add up quickly!
For this to work, however, you need to follow the correct process. Shopping portals rely on cookies/trackers in your web browser. When you click through the shopping portal, it will take you to the store you want to shop at (Best Buy or Sephora, for example) and use trackers to see if you make an eligible purchase. If you close your browser, navigate away from the page, or return several hours later to complete your purchase, you may not receive a payout from the shopping portal. You must follow the required link to be eligible for most portal bonuses, and some expire after an hour or two.
What Is Stacking?
“Stacking” is a beloved term in the points and miles community. It refers to the strategy of maximizing each purchase by layering multiple methods of earning and saving at once. Online shopping portals play a critical role in this strategy.
As noted above, shopping portals earn revenue by referring customers to online stores. As such, any strategies to earn rewards or get discounts that don’t interfere with using a referral link from a shopping portal to reach the merchant's website can generally be stacked for additional savings. Examples include:
- Redeeming a coupon or discount code on the merchant’s website
- Discounts, bonus points, or statement credits triggered by paying with a specific credit card, including Chase Offers or Amex Offers
- Points or cash back earned by using a rewards credit card to pay for your purchase
Pay With the Right Rewards Card
Perhaps the easiest way to get extra value from an online purchase is to pay with the right rewards card. There are two approaches to consider. The most common strategy is to maximize the points you earn on the purchase.
Optimizing your rewards earnings
If your goal is to maximize your overall value, these three factors should guide your choice:
- Can you make progress toward earning a valuable reward by putting this spending on a specific card? For example, if you’re working on the spending requirement to earn a welcome bonus, other factors like the number of points you’ll earn per dollar spent are less important.
- Do you have a card that earns extra points/cash back with this type of merchant? For example, there are great cards for earning extra points on specific categories like travel, dining, or groceries.
- If you can’t earn extra points based on the category, the best option is to use a credit card that earns a solid return on all purchases. Two of our favorite cards in this category include the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (which earns 2X on everyday purchases) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (which earns 1.5% on everyday spending).
When to pay with a card that earns fewer points
There are three situations where you might be better off ignoring the advice above:
- If you need to earn a specific type of points for an upcoming trip. In this case, you might want to use a card that earns the points you need, even if you end up with fewer of them.
- If you can earn a bonus or statement credit by paying with a specific card. For example, if you're targeted for an Amex Offer that awards a $15 statement credit on a purchase of $50 or more, you might want to use the card tied to that offer. You could save more money than the value of the lost rewards.
- If you're making a large purchase that might require purchase protection and extended warranty benefits. When purchasing a laptop or other big-ticket item, it can be beneficial to pay with a card that includes some of these benefits in case your new purchase gets damaged or stolen.
How To Find the Most Rewarding Shopping Portal
Whenever you make an online purchase, one of your first steps should be to check an aggregator tool. These websites help online shoppers maximize their spending by collecting all of the shopping portal offers or coupons in one place.
Two of the most popular websites for this purpose are:
- CashbackMonitor: This website neatly displays the offerings of practically every shopping portal. This makes it easier to choose the portal to use.
- Evreward: Similar to CashbackMonitor, Evreward collects shopping portal offers as well as online store coupons, cash-back programs, and gift card bonuses.
Tips for Shopping Portals
Using any shopping portal is a reasonably straightforward process, but things can still go wrong. Between purchases not tracking or payouts registering at the incorrect rate, getting your promised commission can be a headache. To ensure that things go smoothly, we recommend following these steps:
- When using a shopping portal, always start with an empty cart. If there are already items in your cart from a previous visit, you risk not receiving the bonus miles for those items.
- Once you're on the merchant website, don't leave the window before checking out. Your original shopping trip was tied to the shopping portal, but a return visit may not be.
- Your web browser needs to have cookies enabled for portal bonuses to track.
- Always read the full terms of each bonus to ensure that the purchase you intend to make will qualify. What products are/aren't included? Do you have to spend a minimum amount? Look for these details.
- If possible, take screenshots throughout the buying process. That way, if things go sideways, you'll have proof of your purchase and portal use, as well as what you should earn.
Cash-Back Shopping Portals
Originally founded as “Ebates” in the late 1990s, Rakuten is one of the oldest — and best — shopping portals on the internet. As such, its platform is among the most reliable in terms of commission and customer service. Better still, it maintains one of the best selections of partnered merchants and regularly offers lucrative referral/welcome bonuses to new customers.
Rakuten functions primarily as a cash-back portal. However, in early 2019, it launched a partnership with American Express. Now, Amex cardmembers can opt to earn Membership Rewards points instead of cash back on their purchases. Depending on how you value Membership Rewards points, this has the potential to drastically improve your returns.
It's also worth noting that you don't need to pay with an Amex card to earn Membership Rewards through Rakuten. You could pay with a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card, earn your normal points-per-dollar rate from Chase, and still receive Membership Rewards from Rakuten.
For a more in-depth look at one of our favorite shopping portals, check out our dedicated guide to using and maximizing Rakuten.
TopCashback is a site that has also been around for a while, originally launching in 2005. It offers lucrative cash-back rates that often match or beat competitors like Rakuten.
One important thing to keep in mind with TopCashback (or any shopping portal, really) is how long it takes to receive your payout. In the case of TopCashback, it typically takes a few months for your commission to become payable. The FAQ page points out that you may wait even longer for purchases early in the month, given that commissions are typically settled at the end of the month. While not a huge deal, this is certainly worth considering. TopCashback payouts come in the form of PayPal, direct deposit, or, for an extra bonus, a gift card to a handful of stores.
Mr. Rebates is a shopping portal founded in 2002. While it doesn't offer bells and whistles like in-store cash back or alternative payout options, it compensates with one of the widest selections of partnered merchants. Otherwise, it operates similarly to Rakuten or TopCashback. Again, the key is to double-check an aggregator to see which portal offers the best return.
Bank Shopping Portals
Barclaycard Rewards Boost offers certain cardmembers the ability to earn even more points than what they already earn through spending on their card alone. Rewards are deposited directly into your Barclays account.
Earn cash back on purchases made through Capital One Shopping. Unlike Barclays, Capital One Shopping rewards do not earn award miles. Instead, they come in the form of cash back that can be redeemed for e-gift cards of your choice. You will need to set up an account to start earning cash back through Capital One Shopping.
Capital One Shopping even has its own Google Chrome browser extension, making it easier to guarantee you're getting cash back with each purchase.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are one of the most popular flexible rewards currencies in existence. Besides offering several valuable transfer partners, point collectors also can redeem points toward other travel purchases for between 1–1.5¢ per point through the Chase Travel Portal or as straight cash back at 1¢ per point.
Most people earn their Chase Ultimate Rewards points by spending on several popular credit cards, including:
As Chase's dedicated shopping portal, users can collect Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent at over 400 online stores. If you stack this with your earnings from using a great everyday spending card like the Freedom Unlimited, it's possible to significantly increase your Ultimate Rewards balance after only a few purchases.
Airline Shopping Portals
Alaska's Mileage Plan Shopping portal includes popular brands like Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Kohl's, typically offering between 0.5–5 miles per dollar spent.
Alaska also offers a handy Google Chrome Extension to automate the process. Moreover, the portal often features raised bonuses for meeting specific shopping criteria. Keep an eye on our current shopping portal bonus post so that you can time your purchases to coincide with new member bonuses or elevated earnings.
American Airlines operates its shopping portal, called AAdvantage eShopping. It offers AAdvantage members a way to accelerate their AA earnings through normal online purchases.
As you might expect, it functions much like other shopping portals. However, instead of earning cash back, you'll earn AA miles. You'll need to create an eShopping account using your AAdvantage number, then you can scroll through the best bonuses by selecting “Explore Stores and More” and then “Big Deals”.
The portal regularly offers increased bonus opportunities, as well as the ability to automate your portal earnings with a Google Chrome Extension. You can even earn elite status purely from taking advantage of the shopping portal — no flying required — thanks to the ability to earn Loyalty Points on most purchases.
We love British Airways Avios specifically for their flexibility and value towards domestic rewards on American Airlines. If you feel similarly, you can collect more Avios from your everyday purchases via the British Airways Executive Club eStore.
Delta Air Lines
SkyMiles Shopping is Delta's shopping portal, offering lucrative earning rates and bonuses to SkyMiles collectors. Similar to other airline portals, you need to create a separate account to utilize it. On the plus side, it's possible to look through earning rates without signing in.
The portal functions like any other airline shopping portal. However, it also offers one additional feature: card-linked offers.
In addition to online shopping, JetBlue offers a way to earn bonus points for in-store purchases. TrueBlue members can register an eligible card and receive bonus points for purchases made with partnered merchants.
Southwest's shopping portal, Rapid Rewards Shopping, is virtually identical to portals of Alaska and American Airlines. It offers bonus Rapid Rewards points for purchases at 850+ merchants. It also offers a browser extension button for Google Chrome, ensuring you're getting points with each purchase.
The real selling point for Rapid Rewards Shopping is the fact that bonus points count toward Companion Pass qualification. This means that you're not just earning extra points; choosing Southwest's portal for your online shopping can help you achieve one of the most valuable perks in the airline industry.
United MileagePlus Shopping is one of the better airline shopping portals available. Not only does it maintain lucrative bonuses at over 900 stores, but it also offers card-linked bonuses for in-store purchases and a Google Chrome Extension to automate your earnings. Plus, if you hold a United credit card, you can earn even more.
Additionally, United MileagePlus Shopping regularly offers a bonus for new users. Lastly, United MileagePlus Shopping regularly introduces limited-time offers for meeting certain purchase criteria, particularly around the holidays. Keep an eye on our post for shopping portal bonuses for all current offers.
Hotel Shopping Portals
Wyndham Rewards shopping portal
Previously, there were four hotel shopping portals. The Choice Privileges Mall, Hilton's Shop to Earn portal, and the Marriott Rewards shopping portal have all shut down. Currently, only the Wyndham Rewards shopping portal is still available to members. Just like the other portals, you can shop through hundreds of online retail stores and services. The main difference is you are earning Wyndham Rewards points on your purchases instead of airline miles. There also don't appear to be as many promotions as the airline shopping portals have, although there is the occasional offer to earn bonus points on your purchases in the shopping portal. New member bonuses also can help you earn extra points when signing up.
One of the pillars of award travel is to maximize every purchase you make. When making a purchase online, a shopping portal is one of the easiest ways to do that.
While the sheer number of shopping portals can understandably cause analysis paralysis, the key is to always have a plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What points or miles do you need for your next redemption?
- Which points are the most difficult to collect otherwise?
- What other stacking options are available for this transaction?
The answers to these questions will give you a good starting point for which portal you should consider. Then, use an aggregator (like CashBackMonitor) to see which portal offers the best return for your impending purchase. A couple more clicks, and you're well on your way to earning tons of points.
Ready for more? Check out our guide to dining rewards programs.
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