United MileagePlus Shopping: Cool Features, Decent Miles

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The United MileagePlus Shopping Mall is one of the best airline carrier malls, close to the top in both rewards rates and number of partners. Here are the important stats as of 9/26/12:

  • Average rewards rate: 1.54% (United’s portal partners with 37 of the 40 portals we tested).
  • # of stores: 768
  • Miles post: within 8 weeks of purchase date

Top 3 Things to Know about the MileagePlus Mall:

  1. Shop in-store and over the phone.
  2. If you’re a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus cardholder, check if the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall rate is higher than United’s.
  3. Buy a song on iTunes from the mall to keep your MileagePlus miles from expiring.

Insiders’ Tips

Boarding Area blogger UnRoad Warrior, on how to maximize savings with the MileagePlus mall:

“Search [through] multiple sites that may sell what you are buying. Do price comparisons (you can do them outside the mall, say using Google) and buy from the site with the [best] deal, rather than the one with the most miles. It’s all about the $ to mile ratio for me.

One should subscribe to their emails to get updates. Holiday season is a great time to rack up the miles. Gift cards are a good deal too.” 

Boarding Area blogger Mommy Points weighs in as well:

“Recently I got in on a 21x ‘Back to School’ promo for shoes.com that worked out very well.

Make it a habit to log-in and check out some of the seasonal deals as there are sometimes some gems in there.”

Mommy Points on the MileagePlus Shopping Toolbar:

“I don’t use toolbars as I want to be able to choose which mileage mall to make an individual purchase.  It can be worth it to download a toolbar when there is an incentive to do so, but I typically then recommend to have it uninstalled.  The exception would be if someone will never remember to shop through a portal.  In that case, getting some miles is better than no miles.” 

How to Best Use the Mall

Buy from the mall to keep miles from expiring.

United MileagePlus miles expire 18 months after your last account activity. If you don’t fly that often, you could easily lose all your miles. To prevent mile expiration, you have to prove account activity. Once you do, all your miles will be saved for another 18 months.

Buy something cheap or something needed from the online portal to get account activity. But because it can take months for miles to post, buy a song from iTunes for 99¢. Some sources claim that miles from iTunes post very quickly.

Check the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall rate.

If you’re a Chase cardholder of the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus, compare both the United mall rate and the Chase mall rate. Chase points transfer to MileagePlus miles at a 1:1 rate, so shop with whichever mall is higher. Compare the rates at our discounts tool.

Here’s a quick list of some merchants where Chase’s rate is higher than United’s, from 9/26/12:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall Rate United MileagePlus Shopping Rate
Bass Pro Shops 5% 3%
Bath and Body Works 5% 1%
Bloomingdale’s 6% 2%
ESPN Shop 6% 2%
Home Depot 5% 2%
Kmart 2% 1%
Kohl’s 4% 1%
Macy’s 3% 2%
Microsoft Store 4% 2%
Office Depot 3% 2%
Office Max 5% 2%
Shoebuy.com 10% 5%

 

Shop In-Store and By Phone?

Yes. And you thought that online rewards malls were, well, online. United MileagePlus Shopping offers award miles for shopping in brick-and-mortar stores and for shopping by phone.

Here’s how in-store shopping works:

  1. Register your debit or credit cards with MileagePlus Shopping.
  2. Search by your zip code to find participating retailers in your area.
  3. Check any retailer restrictions.
  4. When you visit the store, simply use your registered debit or credit card to check out.
  5. Wait for miles to post.

The in-store partners are pretty limited, and the award mile offers thin, but this is a cool bonus that a lot of malls don’t have. Before you register your card, check out the participating retailers in your area. If nothing interests you, it’s probably not worth giving over your credit card information.

Shopping Assistant: Handle with Care

The MileagePlus Shopping Assistant is a toolbar you can download for your browser. The toolbar alerts you that award miles are available when you’ve gone directly to a participating merchant’s page. When you search for a product on Google, Yahoo! or Bing as well, a United logo will pop up in search results if there are bonus United miles available.

When the toolbar is active you can also get 1 mile per 3 valid searches in the toolbar, up to 100 MileagePlus award miles per month. Award miles on searches will post within 60 days.

The toolbar comes with privacy concerns, however.  Because the mall is actually administered by Cartera Commerce, not United Airlines, Cartera gains all of your search information. Under the FAQ “Are you capturing/tracking my behavior online?” the answer points to a “MileagePlus Shopping Assistant Privacy Policy,” which is actually just the basic mall privacy page  – not a specific toolbar privacy page.

Where the Mall Flies High

United’s portal compares very well to other frequent flyer malls. When we compared travel rewards malls for the back to school season, United placed 2nd out of all airline carrier malls.

With 768 partners by our latest count (9/26/12), the shopping mall gives you a lot of options. Combine this with those decent rewards and you have a good way to get United miles.

Where the Mall Nosedives

Cartera Commerce. The company that administers the United mall has a poor reputation for customer service. You’ll have to fill out an online form to get into contact with Cartera. The company has been sued in the past for failing to deliver promised miles.

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  • Mme Zeroni

    that is so true about failing to d eliver promised miles. Very frustrating. In general the mileage plus website is a disaster – never answer emails