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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 and AAdvantage eShopping in particular.
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 does the AAdvantage eShopping portal work?
Say you’re planning to buy shoes online from Nike. Instead of going straight to Nike’s website when you’re ready to make the purchase, pull up the AAdvantage eShopping portal and search for Nike.
Miles payouts can vary from day to day. Recently, we found the AAdvantage eShopping portal offering 5 miles per dollar spent at Nike, up from the standard earning rate of 3 miles per dollar.
When you click "Shop now" on the portal, you’ll be redirected to Nike’s website to make your purchase. There are often restrictions, which you can see on the intermediate page as you’re being redirected to the Nike site.
Then, just shop on the Nike 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.
» Learn more: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide
How to register for the AAdvantage eShopping 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.
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-May offering members the ability to earn 2,020 bonus miles by making four purchases of at least $50.
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.
For example, with restaurants closed due to COVID-19, ordering meals through food delivery services could be more attractive. With GrubHub as a favorite store, you'll receive an email alert when the earning rate goes up — and recently it jumped from 2 miles per dollar to 10 miles per dollar.
If you have The Business Platinum Card® from American Express card, you might want to "favorite" Dell Technologies, Dell Home and Dell Outlet. That way you'll get an alert when you can earn bonus AAdvantage miles when using your biannual $100 Dell statement credit. Terms apply.
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.
» Learn more: Which American Airlines credit card should I choose?
The bottom line
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.
AAdvantage miles can be hard to earn — especially during this time of reduced travel. American Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of any U.S. bank rewards programs, so you can’t top off your AAdvantage account by transferring bank points. That means the AAdvantage eShopping portal is a key way to earn AAdvantage miles.
Travelers saving up AAdvantage miles for a future trip may want to use the AAdvantage eShopping portal even if other airlines’ portals pay out a little better. You also might want to consider signing up for an AAdvantage credit card or earn AA miles through a Bask Bank savings account.
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 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card