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Besides the bonus cash and points that you earn from the initial welcome offer when you first sign up for a credit card, one of the best ways to continue earning miles and points is through ongoing spending on the card. Generally speaking, most cards will earn 1 to 2 miles or points (or 1-2% cash back) for each dollar spent on the card, though many cards do also offer bonuses in some spending categories such as dining, grocery stores, office supply stores, gas or other.
Earning extra miles and points through shopping portals
Another great way to earn extra miles and points while shopping online is through shopping portals. If you’re not familiar with a shopping portal, here’s how they work. Let’s say you want to buy something at Bed Bath and Beyond. Instead of going directly to Bed Bath and Beyond’s website, you instead go to the website of the shopping portal of your choice. For cash back, Rakuten, TopCashback and BeFrugal are some of the more popular sites. Most of the major US airlines also have shopping portals that earn miles instead of cash back.
Once you’re on the shopping portal’s website, find Bed Bath and Beyond and click through from the shopping portal to Bed Bath and Beyond. Cash back amounts change all the time – at the time I wrote this article, Bed Bath and Beyond was paying 10% cash back if you shopped from Rakuten (screenshot above). The way it works is that the merchant (Bed Bath and Beyond in this case) pays the shopping portal (Rakuten) a commission for referring traffic, and the portal pays out some of their commission to you in the form of cash back.
Finding cashback bumps during the holidays
Before you buy anything online, I recommend checking to see which shopping portal has the highest cash back (or miles back) rate, and making sure to go through that portal in order to maximize your cash back. One site that you might consider is CashbackMonitor.com. Cashback Monitor regularly checks all of the major shopping portal sites for most merchants and shares the current portal rates.
These cash back rates change at least daily, so it’s good to have a place to check them without having to check each shopping portal individually. They also separate out pure cash back from airline miles, hotel points and credit card points so you can pick the one that is the most valuable for you.
Looking for shopping portal bonus promotions
Many of the airline shopping portals also offer regular promotions for total amounts spent, including during the holidays. Here’s one example of a December 2019 promotion from the American Airlines AAdvantage shopping portal
In this case you can earn up to 2,000 bonus miles if you spend $500 through the AAdvantage shopping portal, so an extra 4 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent. This is in addition to whatever rate is being paid out by the merchant you shop with, so it can be a great way to rack up bonus miles.
An important note is that the shopping portals for American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines are all run by the same company (Cartera). So usually if one of the airline shopping portals is running a promotion, they all will be running similar promotions, so make sure to shop through the one whose miles you value the most.
Check your credit card quarterly bonus categories
Another way you can maximize your cash back bumps during the holiday is to maximize your quarterly bonus categories. There are several different credit cards that offer 5x points on a rotating set of categories up to a certain amount (generally $1500 in spending), and if you haven’t hit your limit for Q4 yet, now’s a great time to do it.
Here are a few of the more popular credit cards with 5% quarterly bonuses, and their Q4 2019 bonus categories:
- Chase Freedom – Earn 5% back on Paypal, Chase Pay, and department stores
- Discover – Earn 5% back at Amazon.com, Target stores, Target.com, and Walmart.com
- Citi Dividend – Earn 5% back at Best Buy and department stores
Consider maximizing your bonus categories with gift cards
Another way that you can get a cashback bump during the holidays or any time is by purchasing gift cards. This can be a great way to earn multiple points per dollar spent, even at merchants where you might normally only earn 1 point (or 1% cash back) on a dollar spent.
Consider an example where you have a $100 purchase that you want to make at Home Depot. If you were to just go to Home Depot, most credit cards do not have home improvement stores as a bonus category, so you would earn 100 points / $1 back from your $100 purchase. Now if you went to an office supply store (such as Staples), you could buy a $100 Home Depot gift card and pay with a card like the Chase Ink Cash that earns 5x points, you’d earn 500 points / $5. Grocery stores are another place that both sells gift cards to other merchants and has many different credit cards that offer bonus points.
Now in this specific example, it may not be worth it to go through the hassle to get an extra $4, but depending on how big your purchase is and how far out of the way you have to go to get the gift card, it might make sense. Consider your specific situation to decide if this is a worthwhile strategy for you. Another thing to keep in mind if you make a purchase with a gift card is that many credit cards offer purchase protection, which you likely will not get if you buy your item with a gift card. So that’s another factor to consider whether the extra points outweigh the loss of any purchase protection you might get with a credit card.
If you want to combine this idea with our earlier tip of going through a shopping portal, that’s a great idea! Just make sure to read the fine print of your shopping portal – many shopping portals do not pay cash back on gift card purchases.
I hope that these tips can help you maximize your miles, points and cash back as you shop this holiday season! Good luck out there and happy shopping!