FREE MILES = FREE FLIGHTS. THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE MADE EASIER.
By Laura Lemonade
Love free travel? What if I told you that it is possible to earn tons of airline miles by just doing the things you already do? It’s free, it’s easy, and it is awesome. Once you read this, it just might change the way you look at travel as free flights will become easier to obtain. Let’s face it, we would all love to travel more, but airline tickets and hotel costs can really add up – especially for families. I learned this the hard way when my household went from a family of three to a family of five with the addition of twins five years ago. My husband and I loved traveling but soon faced the fact that we now had to buy five plane tickets and pay for hotels which had extra room for a family of five. As a stay at home Mommy who doesn’t have the luxury of flying very often, I kept thinking that there had to be an easier way to collect miles and points besides the typical miles earning credit cards. I researched other ways to accumulate miles and then came across a hidden gem which, for some reason, I found out not everyone knew about. Welcome to the world of online shopping portals – one way to fast track yourself to your next free travel adventure!
So what is a shopping portal? Five years ago I had no idea that this miles-unicorn existed! No one had ever told me about them, and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about these sooner! Airlines, hotels, and some credit cards will offer these online programs which allows you to earn extra points and miles when you sign up with them and click through to a retailer. The number of miles or points you earn depends entirely on the retailer. There are some great hotel and credit card portals which I will discuss in detail at a later date. Some of those credit card portals require you to have a specific type of credit card to use, so I’ll mainly concentrate on how to utilize the airline portals in this article since no specific type of credit card is needed. If you already use these shopping portals on a daily basis- great! You are on the path to fast track your miles earning! If not, continue reading to find out more.
The American Airlines shopping portal is a good example of one such shopping portal (http://www.aadvantageeshopping.com). Sign up by creating a login and registering your American Airlines frequent flier number so that every time you make a purchase using this portal, your miles account will be credited. Let’s say that today I want to make a purchase at Walmart.com since I need groceries, and they offer free shipping on orders over $35. I would first go to the Aadvantageeshopping web site. Making sure that I am logged in, I use the search bar to find Walmart. When I click on the “shop now” button under the Walmart icon, I am redirected to the Walmart website where I complete my online order as normal. A few days later I will receive an email from Aadvantageeshopping which lets me know that my order has been tracked through the portal and my American Airlines account has been credited with the extra miles.
The more popular airline travel shopping portals include:
· American Airlines: Aadvantageeshopping.com
· Southwest Airlines: rapidrewardsshopping.southwest.com
· United Airlines: shopping.mileageplus.com
· Delta Airlines: skymilesshopping.com
Portals don’t require loyalty. You can subscribe to one or all. You do not need a special miles earning credit card to get these extra miles. Using the portals alone will get you those bonus miles offered by the retailers on the shopping portal. For those who use Google Chrome, a plugin is available for your browser bar. To get this for the AA shopping portal, go to https://www.aadvantageeshopping.com/button/. Never miss out on extra miles again.
When it comes to your miles earning strategy, you should choose to collect miles which are best for your lifestyle and travel needs. Factors like where you live, where you plan to travel to, and how you like to travel will influence your decision as to which airline portal you want to use the most to accumulate miles. Since I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I make use of Southwest and American Airlines for my flight carriers since they are based out of Dallas. Southwest is great for families traveling domestically since they typically have lower mileage redemption fees than American Airlines. However, for those long international flights to Europe or Asia, I choose American Airlines since they have a decent business and first class product on their 777 and A320 aircraft. Mileage is a game of strategy. When choosing your preferred airline(s), ask yourself where you want to go, and which airlines you would use the most to suit your needs.
Now that you have your favorite airline portal(s) selected, let’s get the most bang for your buck! There are many ways to utilize these shopping portals to maximize your miles earning potential. It starts with shifting the way you think about your everyday spend. Let’s explore how to get yourself as many miles as possible.
In life before portals, the old me would walk into Target and stock up on things like toilet paper, pet food, laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc., essentially “leaving free miles on the table! “ My husband laughs because he thinks I am so crazy about ordering all my dry goods online now from Walmart or Target and getting free two day shipping as I avoid going into the store. I try not to buy anything in the store that I can buy online. Am I a bit crazy? Yes! Do we absolutely get free flights as a result of my habits? Yes! And you can too! Let me be clear, I am not a grocery store lover. I would rather be home spending precious time with my family or doing something else productive with my time. I know there are a lot of women who love to grocery shop. More power to them, but I am not one of them.. So, with all my dry groceries being shipped in, I don’t have to spend time fighting traffic, getting the inevitable shopping cart dent in my car, and the unavoidable wobbly-wheel shopping cart. I consider this a win in the miles earning game (and a win for my sanity). Not only does it save time, but I can also use Walmart Grocery Pickup for my perishable items, saving time to do other fun things.
Think about the types of products you buy and then compare which retailers are paying the most on the portal you want to use. That’s right. Not all portals offer the same mileage awards, so it pays to compare. An example would be pet food. Walmart sells pet food online, and usually pays 1 mile per dollar spent on the American Airlines (AA) portal. Petco pays 3 miles per dollar spent with free shipping over $49. If I am stocking up on pet food/supplies, Petco is the winner. If you are thinking about buying something off of a web site, train your brain to think about using an online shopping portal to check first to see if it is a web site which your portal offers miles to shop at. Makeup is an excellent example. Most major department stores sell the same brands of makeup at pretty much the same price with free shipping on any makeup purchase. That being said, not all department stores are created equal in terms of miles paid by the retailer. The portals sometimes offer “bonus miles days” for certain stores. From past experience, you will see these bonus miles offered over holiday weekends or closer to major holidays. As of the time of writing this article, the AA portal currently started offering a promotion of a bonus miles payout on any Bloomingdale’s purchase of 10 miles per dollar. It normally only pays 3 miles per dollar. The cost of the Clinique makeup foundation that I want to purchase is $29 with free shipping. I can get the exact same foundation at the exact same price with free shipping from Neiman Marcus and Macy’s which are both paying out 3 miles per dollar currently. You can see the clear winner today is Bloomingdale’s as my $29 dollar purchase will turn into more than 290 miles when factoring in taxes. If you pay with a miles earning credit card, you would make over 319 miles on your single purchase- and it all adds up very quickly.
Now that we’ve trained your brain to speak in terms of miles, you will love using the portals during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? Well, these portals usually offer mileage bonuses on the purchase and for spending a certain dollar amount through their portal. This sounds too good to be true, but I promise, it is AWESOME! My grocery bill is usually more than $500 per month. During these bonus times, I love using the portal to rack up miles on my regular grocery spend by ordering dry goods from Walmart. Typically, on occasions such as back to school, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Easter, and any major holiday, the portals will run promotions on spend thresholds. An example would be, “Spend $200 on the AA portal and get 500 bonus miles”, or “Spend $500, get 2,000 bonus miles”. Each bonus promotion is always different. The bonuses are paid in addition to the miles that you would earn through different retailers with their bonus payouts on the portal ( i.e. Bloomingdale’s 10 miles per dollar spent). Around Christmas time, ordering all your gifts through the portals can pay huge dividends in bonuses if you shop online and utilize these portals. Sending flowers as gifts can sometimes pay out as much as 25 miles per dollar spent. Just type in “flowers” into the search bar on your favorite shopping portal and a list of all the floral retailers participating will populate. You can then see which ones are paying the most and use them to send your next gift. This is a win for everyone.
Saving the best for last – . If you want to earn extra miles and discounts while going out and doing the fun things you already do, this part is especially for you. Groupon and LivingSocial are both on the portals. On the AA portal, they typically pay 3 miles per dollar spent. This means your next restaurant, movie outing, or even Sam’s Club Membership can net you triple miles! If you pay with a miles earning credit card, it can quadruple your amount spent. Also, it is worth noting that UBER Eats pays out as much as 500 miles per dollar spent when you use the AA portal to sign up to have meals delivered through them. If you plan to book a hotel, Marriott is also on the AA portal. You can also take advantage of a program called “Aadvantage dining”, which is similar to the AA shopping Portal. You can sign up by going to https://aa.rewardsnetwork.com/. As I write this article, they are currently offering a sign up bonus of 1,000 Aadvantage bonus miles when you sign up through them and spend $25 on a “dine” within the next 30 days. The set up is very similar to the way the shopping portal is set up. You have to register using your frequent flier number and also register a credit card that you want to use to pay at the restaurants you dine at. If you allow the dining program to send you emails, you will earn 3 miles per dollar spent once you dine at one of the restaurants that is participating. You only have to register your credit card once and then every time you dine at a restaurant on their list, you will automatically receive the 3 extra miles per dollar spent at that restaurant. Once you get to 11 qualified dines, your mileage earnings increase to 5 miles per dollar spent. Participating restaurants can be found by typing in your zip code on the dining portal.
So there you have it folks! I hope that I have provided you some useful insights on how to accumulate miles much more quickly though some planning, all while doing things you already do in your everyday life. Now that you know that you can earn those extra miles faster, those free flights are just around the corner. Keep plugging away. The dreams of your next vacation can become your reality sooner than you think!
Enjoy your next free flight!