Guide to Airline Shopping Portals (Online Loyalty Programs)

Guide to Airline Shopping Portals (Online Loyalty Programs)


Online shopping portals can be one of the easiest ways to earn bonus miles or points for your purchases. Before you shy away from using one of these out of fear there are multiple extra steps or hoops to jump through, let’s take a look at just how easy this can be.

These portals work by directing you to a specific retailer’s site, and from there you do your shopping as normal. Any purchase you make gets tracked, and you receive the extra points shortly thereafter. That’s right, the extra step involved to earn hundreds or thousands of bonus points or miles each year is simply to click through to the retailer’s site through the portal, rather than typing in the page in your internet browser.

My approach to online shopping portals is fairly simple: if I can purchase something online and get bonus miles, rather than having to go to a store (and not get any bonus miles), I’m pretty much good. There are often opportunities to stack gift cards or double-dip, as well as several portals that offer cash-back, but for now let’s just go over the basics of earning miles and points on your online shopping.

How do I decide which online shopping portal to use?

This somewhat depends on what your travel goals are, and what miles you’re trying to accrue, as well as what you’re purchasing.

One of the main ways I encourage people to keep miles from expiring is by making a purchase from an online portal. You can often purchase something from iTunes or similar, which is a great way to reset the expiration clock with an airline program.

Otherwise, if you have a specific product in mind, it helps to do some research. Assuming what you plan to purchase is the same price at multiple retailers, Cashback Monitor is our pick for finding out which portals have the best bonuses. These portals often have extra bonuses for Back to School, or during various holidays, so it’s good to check before each purchase.

Here’s a quick snapshot of all the shopping portals available:

Loyalty Program
Shopping Portal
Air Canada
Air France
All Nippon Airways
American Airlines
American Express (Membership Rewards)
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
Hawaiian Airlines
Hilton HHonors
Japan Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Virgin Atlantic

I generally wouldn’t recommend using a hotel shopping portal, as the best hotel portals tend to be Marriott and IHG Rewards, and in both cases it makes more sense to accrue Ultimate Rewards points. The same is also generally true for United and Southwest, so keep in mind that they are Ultimate Rewards transfer partners as well.

How do I earn bonus miles?

The process for earning bonus points is fairly straightforward in most cases:

  • Go to the shopping portal for the program you want to earn miles in
  • Sign in to your account
  • Find the retailer you want to purchase from, and click on their link
  • Complete your purchase as normal
  • In most cases the portals claim points will post in 4-6 weeks, though in my experience they’re often much faster

As a best practice, I would recommend using clearing your cache and making sure your shopping cart is empty beforehand, as otherwise there can be issues with the “click-thru” not tracking correctly. It’s also smart to keep track of the points you’re expecting to earn, and following up if they don’t post.

What about shipping costs?

Many retailers waive shipping for orders over a certain threshold, while others (such as Apple, BestBuy, Nordstrom, and the ContainerStore) will allow you to order the item online, then pick it up in the store. This can be the best of both worlds, as you still get the bonus miles, but don’t have to wait for the items to be shipped.

It’s also worth noting many items are eligible for free two-day shipping through Shoprunner, which is offering eligible American Express cardholders a complimentary 1-year membership.

Unfortunately, the most common same-day/next-day shipping retailer out there, Amazon, is rarely available through a shopping portal.

Overall, I find this to be a pretty easy way to pick up extra points throughout the year.

Another way to maximize points is to earn miles through a dining rewards program, which can help rack up extra points every time you dine out, no matter which credit card you use.

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