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Best Rewards Malls for Back to School Deals

August 22, 2012
Shopping, Shopping News
At NerdWallet, we adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Editor’s note, Dec. 18, 2014: Since this post was written, ShopDiscover has become Discover Deals, which continues to offer Discover card customers special access to exclusive shopping deals.

Despite the kids’ protests to the contrary, the return of August means the return of school. Between fresh supplies for a new grade and new clothes to replace outgrown styles, the back to school shopping tab can grow fast. A recent study of consumer trends found that 31% of shoppers in 2012 intend to spend more on back to school items than last year, compared to just 24% who plan on spending less. A separate poll sponsored by the National Retail Federation (NRF) calculated that the average back to school shopping receipt for a family with K-12 children will be $688.

With all of this spending on the horizon, shoppers inevitably look for deals to ease purchase pain. Utilizing online rewards malls is one of the best ways to save during the back to school season. Rewards malls are websites that grant additional bonuses, usually in the form of miles, points, or cash back, for purchases made at partnering e-commerce retailers. Most rewards malls work with hundreds, or even thousands, of major retailers.

How to Score Rewards Mall Bonuses

To get rewards mall bonuses, all you have to do is visit the reward mall’s site and click on the icon of whichever retailer you wish to browse. The rewards mall portal will then promptly redirect you to the retailer’s website itself. The same NRF study found that approximately 40% of consumers will buy at least one back to school item online, so if you’re a part of this 40%, there’s no excuse for missing out on these online perks and privileges.

To make things even better, you’re probably already qualified to join a rewards mall if you have a credit card. Many leading banks, such as Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo have points programs for their credit card customers. Other popular points programs, like Southwest Rapid Rewards or Hilton HHonors, have online malls as well. Other online malls include independent cash back websites that partner with retailers to offer you deals on your purchases.

ShopDiscover Trounces All Competition

Because most rewards mall programs look pretty similar from the outside, we decided to break down the numbers to find out which rewards mall offers the best points and perks at back to school retailers. We selected 20 of the nation’s most popular back to school stores, checked out all of their rewards, and compiled a ranking of the malls.

We really did intend this to be a competition. But ShopDiscover obliterated the field. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing ShopDiscover at the top of our rewards malls standings, but for the back to school season, the rewards program really found a different gear. ShopDiscover scored the highest rewards rate at 19 of the 20 stores. A distant second was Upromise.com, the popular college savings program, with 7 first place finishes and 6 in second place. Capital One Perk Central took third with 2 first place awards and 2 second place awards. The surprise of the day might have been Bank of America’s WorldPoints Mall, which didn’t have any first place finishes but scored 6 awards for second place. Everyone else brought up the rear of the pack. ShopDiscover, simply put, wiped the floor with its opponents. The rewards mall’s 10% rate promotion on select back to school stores just dominated the rest of the opposition.

Before we get to the tables, a few quick notes. The standings don’t add up to 20 because we included ties. Also, because this is a back to school post, our numbers are current as of 8/1/2012. Most of ShopDiscover’s 10% rewards are only good until 9/6/12. Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall has alternating monthly specials as well, so our numbers reflect their August 2012 rewards. Chase also tends to rotate giving higher rewards rates to different cards, so we’ve used their lowest number in order to avoid unfairly deceiving any Chase cardholders.

Many of the other programs don’t list when their rewards will be bumped back down or only list the dates individually by retailer. If you’re reading this a few months down the road, check our discount finder to see if your desired reward has increased or decreased.

Rewards Mall # of 1st Place Deals from our Top 20 Stores List # of 2nd Place Deals from our Top 20 Stores List
ShopDiscover 19 0
Upromise.com 7 6
Capital One Perk Central 2 2
Bank of America WorldPoints Mall 0 6
eBates.com 0 5
FatWallet.com 0 4
Choice Hotel Privileges Mall 0 3
Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall 0 2
Amtrak Guest Rewards Shopping 0 2
Marriott ShopMyWay Mall 0 1
United Mileage Plus Shopping 0 1
Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping 0 1
Citi ThankYou Bonus Center 0 0
Citi Bonus Cash Center 0 0
Hawaiian Airlines eMarket 0 0
American Airlines AAdvantage Shopping 0 0
Wells Fargo Earn More Mall 0 0
Delta SkyMiles Shopping 0 0
Hilton HHonors Earnings Mall 0 0
jetBlue Shop True 0 0
US Airways Dividend Miles Shopping Mall 0 0

Here’s the chart for the best mall(s) for the 20 retailers as mentioned above:

Retailer Best Mall(s) Rewards Rate
Apple ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%
Best Buy ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%
Dell Home ShopDiscover 10%
JCPenney ShopDiscover 10%
Kmart ShopDiscover 10%
Kohl’s ShopDiscover 10%
Lenovo ShopDiscover 10%
Macy’s ShopDiscover 10%
Microsoft Store ShopDiscover 10%
Nordstrom ShopDiscover 10%
OfficeDepot ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%
OfficeMax ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%
Old Navy ShopDiscover, Upromise.com, Capital One Perk Central 5%
Sears ShopDiscover 10%
Shoebuy.com Capital One Perk Central 17%
Sports Authority ShopDiscover 10%
Staples ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%
Target ShopDiscover 10%
Walgreens ShopDiscover 10%
Walmart ShopDiscover, Upromise.com 5%