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Many of us are shopping online a lot more right now. By taking just a couple of extra steps and using an online shopping portal every time you make a purchase online, you can earn miles or points to help you toward a future vacation. Or you can put a little money back into your pocket by shopping through a cash back portal.
The points, miles or cash back from online shopping portals are in addition to the earnings you get by using a rewards credit card, so you can double-dip on rewards. You might even be able to triple that by stacking credit card offers — like AmEx Offers — or earning points with the merchant’s loyalty program.
A close look at one online shopping portal, AAdvantage eShopping, offers a good lesson on how these virtual malls work. Here’s what you should know about shopping portals, as told through the lens of American Airlines' AAdvantage eShopping portal.
What is an online shopping portal?
An online shopping portal is a website that rewards shoppers with bonus miles, points or cash back for making online purchases through hundreds of merchants. Think of a brand you like to shop at online — Apple, Kohl’s, Gap, Harry & David, AutoZone, Staples, Walgreens — and chances are you can earn miles there through a shopping portal.
You'll still make the purchase on the merchant’s website. But you’ll navigate to a site only after logging in to the shopping portal and clicking a link that sends you to the retailer.
When you click the link, the shopping portal puts a cookie in your browser to track your shopping activity. When you complete the purchase on the merchant’s website, the online shopping portal will validate your purchase with the online merchant.
Later, the shopping portal credits your account with bonus points, miles or cash back for the purchase. This process might take days or it could take weeks.
There are dozens of online shopping portals available. Many airline and bank loyalty programs have an online shopping portal. In addition, there are also dozens of online shopping portals that earn cash back. Use a resource like Cashback Monitor to figure out which portals partner with a particular merchant and see the current earning rates.
How do shopping portals work?
Say you’re planning to buy shoes online from Adidas. Instead of going straight to Adidas’ website when you’re ready to make the purchase, pull up the AAdvantage eShopping portal and search for Adidas.
Miles payouts can vary from day to day. Recently, we found the AAdvantage eShopping portal offering 5 miles per dollar spent at Adidas, up from the standard earning rate of just 1 mile per dollar.
When you click "Shop now" on the portal, you’ll be redirected to Adidas' website to make your purchase. There are often restrictions, which you can see on the intermediate page as you’re being redirected to the Adidas site.
Then, just shop on the Adidas site as if you’d gone there directly. Once the shopping portal has validated your purchase, you should receive an email confirming how much you spent and how many miles you earned.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
How to register for a travel rewards shopping portal
Before you can get started with the shopping portal, you’ll need to have an AAdvantage account. If you don’t already have one, you can enroll in the AAdvantage program here (it’s free).
There’s a separate enrollment process for the AAdvantage eShopping portal. To create an account, enter your AAdvantage number, email, name and ZIP code, then create a password. The password doesn’t need to be the same as the one you use for your AAdvantage account. For security reasons, you should probably use a different password.
Before clicking "sign up," consider whether you want to deselect the option to receive emails. As you’ll see below, those emails can help you earn a lot more miles.
Tips to spend like a pro
Take advantage of spending promotions
If you opt in to receiving emails, you’ll be notified when the AAdvantage eShopping portal is offering bonus miles. These promotions are common around holidays, but promotions can be offered at any time.
For example, the AAdvantage eShopping portal ran a promotion in mid-March offering members the ability to earn 1,000 bonus miles by making at least $300 in purchases.
For example, ordering meal prep kits through meal delivery services makes cooking at home a lot easier. Mark Blue Apron as a favorite store to receive an email alert when the earning rate goes up — and it recently jumped from 1,000 miles for a new subscription to 2,200 bonus miles.
How to find stores offering bonus miles
When you go to the shopping portal, you’ll see some featured deals for earning even more miles. You can also check the list of merchants that are offering elevated earning rates.
Elevated earning rates run for a limited time, but the end date might not be published. So if the store where you want to shop is paying more miles than usual, act fast before the deal expires. You can also sign up for alerts when your favorite merchants have higher earning rates.
Get alerts about elevated earning rates
A nice feature of the AAdvantage eShopping portal is the ability to "favorite" merchants. Once you do, you'll receive an email alert whenever there’s an increased payout rate.
Favoriting a merchant is easy. Just find the merchant in the AAdvantage eShopping portal and click the heart icon to add the merchant to your list of favorites.
Then, as long as you’ve opted in to receive emails from the portal, you’ll be alerted by email when the earnings rate increases.
That way you'll get an alert when you can earn bonus AAdvantage miles when using your biannual $200 Dell statement credit. Terms apply.
» Learn more: Which American Airlines credit card should I choose?
If you haven’t developed the habit of clicking through a shopping portal before making an online purchase, you are leaving points, miles or cash back on the table.
Travel points and miles can be hard to earn — especially during a time of reduced travel. But by double dipping and earning points through online shopping portals, travelers can save up points and miles in their preferred loyalty program for a future trip.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card