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Earning points and miles on purchases is the easiest part of rewards travel, earning the highest possible points and miles on our everyday spend, however, is a different story. We can earn rewards for staying at a hotel or taking a flight, paying for dinner and a taxi home with a rewards credit card, or we can earn rewards in bulk when receiving signup bonuses from new credit cards.
Transforming our interest in points and miles from a mere hobby into rewards mastery requires we dig deeper, and learn strategies that offer increased returns on every dollar we spend.
The first time a friend mentioned double-dipping when offering me some pointers on rewards, it brought to mind childhood memories of swiping a second helping of ketchup on my half-eaten french fry when my parents had dropped their guard. But when raised in relation to rewards points, double-dipping on points and miles via online shopping portals is one of many strategies that can help us in our quest for rewards travel success.
Using online shopping portals can help raise rewards earning rates from the base 1 or 2 points per dollar spent on rewards earning cards, supercharging the number of points or miles earned. The double dip is the added cash back, points, or miles we receive from using the shopping portal.
What Exactly Is an Online Shopping Portal?
Online shopping portals (OSP’s) are referral websites that offer incentives when you use their referral links. By clicking through to the online merchant you intend making a purchase from using a link on the OSP’s website, they make a small commission.
How does a third-party website offer cash back or rewards when you’re still purchasing direct from the vendor's website?
The OSP's have agreements in place with each retailer they direct traffic to. When we click on the link in the OSP redirecting us to the online retailer and then make a purchase, the OSP receives a small commission on the sale.
The cash back, points, or miles we receive is either a portion, or in some cases the total sum, of the commission received by the OSP from the retailer.
Supercharging Rewards Points and Miles with Online Shopping Portals
OSP's offer several different ways to double dip on rewards and which one we use depends on our individual travel goals.
Focusing on a transferable currency like Ultimate Rewards, you can shop in the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal and earn bonus Ultimate Rewards points. It’s important to note that the bonus points are in addition to any points you would typically earn on your credit card, hence the double dip.
It’s also an excellent method to help meet minimum spending requirements on cards like the new Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, essentially bagging points three ways.
If for example, you hold the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card and shop through Mileage Plan Shopping, renewing your anti-virus subscription through AVG would net an additional 9 bonus miles per dollar spent. With the 1 mile/$1 received for everyday spend on the credit card, that's 10 Alaska miles per dollar.
We look for a minimum redemption value of roughly 1.6¢/mile for Alaska miles which gives you approximately 16¢ back on every dollar spent. Most shopping portals also run regular promotions for additional spend. Alaska recently gave members the opportunity to earn 3,000 bonus points for $1,500 total spend over roughly two weeks. That would make it a triple-dip!
By shifting some of your household spending between different rewards-earning credit cards and shopping portals, and taking advantage of regular promotions within loyalty programs, you can earn 2X, 3X, and higher rewards.
The aim here isn’t to go haring off on radical spending sprees dropping cash on big purchases. It’s to change your everyday spending behavior to maximize the rate of return on the money you would be spending in any case. You can earn bonus points on purchases ranging from new Apple products to WeightWatchers.com and everything in-between by utilizing shopping portals, and all it takes is a small shift in behavior.
When you start nailing the process down it can milk points from every stage of the purchase.
- Purchase an airfare on Delta via Priceline.com and earn 1% cash back through befrugal.com
- Paid for with a Chase Sapphire Reserve® earning 3X Ultimate Rewards points
- Earn Delta SkyMiles on the Delta flight
- Also, earn points in Delta SkyBonus account (small business loyalty program)
That's rewards 4 ways from one transaction!
Different Styles of Rewards Focused Online Shopping Portals
Most major airline frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs have an OSP that allows you to earn additional rewards on top of your regular points. If you are focused on a particular program and already employ a co-branded credit card, you could potentially be earning extra points with every purchase you make.
The only bank rewards program with an online shopping portal worth writing home about happens to be the most valuable, Chase Ultimate Rewards. The portal at UltimateRewards.com offers fantastic bonus offers that often tie in with the bonus categories on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and allows you to earn substantial bonus UR points.
If travel is not your thing, there are dozens of OSP’s offering cashback rather than points and miles. The following sites consistently sit at the top of our list of cashback sites:
However, with so many OSP’s out on the web, it can be difficult to know which site to use for specific purposes. Thankfully, there are some smart folks already well on top of these things that have developed aggregators to sift through the deals and deliver the best bonus points.
Mastering the art of ‘maximum return on spend' in the points and miles game can take time, effort, and not a small amount of know-how. But the rewards are free travel experiences, cashback on everyday purchases, and the satisfaction of claiming a win when you get it right.
Utilizing online shopping portals to maximize rewards is an essential component of becoming a rewards master and is something all loyalty members should focus on if they want to start earning big rewards without changing the amount of money they spend each month. This is a case of small changes in behavior bringing big rewards!
Have a unique hack to maximize points through online shopping portals? Share it in the comments.
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