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The beginners guide to airline shopping portals: How to earn bonus points and miles

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.

Newcomers to the points and miles world often think that the only way to earn loyalty with an airline is by flying frequently or using a cobranded airline credit card.

There are many other ways to earn points and miles, and one of the easiest is through online shopping portals. Shopping portals reward you with points and miles (and status, in some cases) without having to leave your home.

Shopping portals boost your points and miles balance alongside flying and credit card earnings and offer the opportunity to double or even triple dip. While there are shopping portals that offer cash back and hotel points, this article will focus specifically on airline shopping portals.

Related: Airline and hotel dining rewards programs: Which is best for you?

What are online shopping portals?

Young woman online shopping at home on mobile phone n the railway station

Online shopping portals allow you to earn bonus points and miles by shopping at various online retailers. These rewards are in addition to the points or miles you would normally earn by paying for the purchase with a rewards credit card.

The points and miles can accumulate whether you’re making small purchases like ordering photos or significant ones like buying a new MacBook Air. One practical example is when ordering everyday necessities such as contacts. American AAdvantage eShopping, for example, is offering 4 miles per dollar spent at 1-800-Contacts.

Say you’re spending $500 a year on contacts. Here’s what you could be earning:

  • $500 at 2 miles per dollar spent on everyday spending with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card equals 1,000 Capital One miles (worth $18.50 based on TPG’s July 2024 valuations).
  • $500 at 4 miles per dollar spent on 1-800-Contacts through the American Airlines shopping portal equals 2,000 AAdvantage miles (worth $31 based on TPG’s valuations), which also count as Loyalty Points to help you reach your next status tier.

Now, you’ve racked up 3,000 miles by saving time and preordering your contacts.

How to use airline shopping portals

Online shopping, woman with laptop and credit card for payment on a sofa in living room of her home. Ecommerce, investment or pay bills and African female person with bank information for internet

Here’s how to optimize your purchases through these portals to maximize your earnings.

Step 1: Pick an airline

All major airlines have shopping portals available, so choosing an airline you frequently fly with is important. You can refer to our latest valuations for the most valuable airline miles. Also, as mentioned, American AAdvantage eShopping purchases earn status-qualifying Loyalty Points, as well as redeemable miles.

Most carriers only credit redeemable points or miles for shopping portal purchases, so you might want to go with American to earn AAdvantage elite status.

Here are some of the more popular airline shopping portals:

Step 2: Sign up for the airline’s loyalty program

Before earning points or miles, you must have an account with your chosen airline. Setting up an account is a straightforward and crucial step in the process. Once you do that, you can then log into the shopping portal with your loyalty account credentials.

Step 3: Shop through the link

To earn points or miles on a purchase, start at your preferred portal and search for the merchant where you want to shop.

AAdvantage eshopping portal search "contacts"

Clicking on a merchant’s name will take you to its page within the shopping portal, where you can see more details about the rewards offered (they change frequently) and any discounts available. Then click “Shop now” to head to the merchant’s site and make your purchase.

AAdvantage eshopping portal 1-800-Contacts

Step 4: Download the browser extension (if you want)

Shopping portal extensions are browser add-ons or plug-ins that allow users to easily activate rewards while shopping online. By downloading the plug-in, you will be notified with a pop-up if a site you’re shopping on offers points or miles. All you have to do is click “Activate.”

These extensions often provide a more seamless shopping experience, allowing users to take advantage of bonus offers and earn rewards while making online purchases without having to visit the shopping portal first.

Whether you use an extension or go directly through the portal, it can take several weeks for the points or miles to be credited to your frequent flyer account, depending on the portal.

Tips and reminders

Here are some important things to remember when using shopping portals:

  • If using a plug-in, activate the points or miles when prompted to ensure you don’t miss out on earning them.
  • When going through a shopping portal site, click the provided link and purchase on the opened page. Avoid navigating away and returning later, as it may deactivate the bonus.
  • Enable cookies in your browser for the retailer’s site. This will allow the portal to track your purchases and award bonuses accordingly.
  • Only use promotions or promo codes found on the portal, as using others may make the purchase ineligible for bonus points or miles.
  • Consider using a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor to compare earning rates across different portals. This lets you quickly determine which portal offers the best return for the specific merchant you are shopping with.

These tips can help maximize your rewards and ensure a smooth shopping experience through shopping portals.

Bottom line

Online shopping portals are an easy way for all types of travelers and online shoppers to increase their points and miles. You can start earning bonus rewards without needing credit card approval. If you have a travel rewards credit card, it’s a perfect chance to double dip and maximize your rewards.