(No time to read the full article? Here’s a quick summary on maximizing rewards with online shopping: Check out CashbackMonitor.com; Join Rakuten with a special referral link and get easy money for joining. Then start racking up cash back with no extra effort; Join your favorite airline’s shopping portal (see below); and, Maximize your spending by getting a new credit card with a big sign-up bonus.
Travel Freely’s core approach is to maximize your rewards in the least amount of time. Using a shopping portal can take some extra time and mental energy. But, you can earn additional rewards or simple cash back on top of your regular credit card spending, especially with online shopping. You can also add this earning on top of hitting a large signup bonus.
The first caveat is that you’re not going to be racking up the amount of rewards points that a new credit card signup bonus will get you. That’s the easiest way to some major cash back or rewards points. However, you can rack up several thousand points a year without too much hassle if you get a system in place.
Easiest Way to Maximize Spending: Get a New Credit Card with a Great Bonus and Good Earning Value
If you haven’t gotten a new credit card lately, consider our top offers that could get you an easy $500-$700 in cash back or rewards travel. Most people can comfortably hit these signup bonuses with everyday, monthly spending.
For example, if you spend $3,000 on your regular credit card you’ve had for years, you’re probably earning 1-1.5% in cash or points. If you get a new card, you’ll probably earn higher rates AND you’ll add $500+ in sign-up bonus value by spending the same $3,000. (Worried about your credit score? Read: How Free Travel Increases Your Credit Score)
Here’s the top-ranked personal and business card for those looking for a new card. These are chosen because of their sign-up bonus and ongoing earning value.
Best Overall Rewards Card:
Best Sign-Up Bonus Business Rewards Cards:
On to the Shopping Portals to Online Shopping…
Full disclosure, I’m an amateur when it comes to shopping portals, but people rack up lots of miles using them. So, I reached out to some experts to gather the best of the best in order to pass along some good advice and put my spin on it. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below. Also, there are ways to earn additional points/miles through dining and hotel rewards portals, but this article focuses on shopping portals.
How do shopping portals work?
To use a shopping portal, you use the store of your choice to complete your purchase. Before going directly to your online retailer, you begin at the shopping portal website. Then you go to the store’s site. Once, you click through to your store’s site, browser cookies are used to track the source of your purchase. That’s how the sites connect the purchase to the portal. Many of the best portals, such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and other airline portals, now have browser extensions, which allow you to skip the first step completely and go straight to your online store.
For example, if I want to make a purchase on Macys.com, I first go to my shopping portal and see if I can earn anything extra. The portal might say, “5% on Macys.com.” I just click that link and make my purchase at Macys.com. Then, the shopping portal will pay you 5% of your purchase!
The cash or rewards you earn are on top of any points you earn with your credit card.
Cash Back Shopping Portals
These portals are not affiliated with rewards programs. You earn cash back for purchases you make.
Probably the most well known cash back portal is Rakuten. It’s really easy to use, and even has it’s own Chrome browser extension to let you know automatically if you could earn cash back. If you’re interested in signing up, here’s a referral link that will get you extra bonus money.
Rewards Program Shopping Portals for Online Shopping
These portals were earn points and miles towards a specific loyalty program.
Each major airline program has their own shopping portal. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were run by the same company. They look very similar and the same stores seem to have the same miles bonuses. If you want to simplify these opportunities, I would choose the airlines that you use most, and look at the value this portal could bring. Most of these airlines now have a Chrome browser extension that will automatically tell you if you could earn rewards when you’re shopping at a store’s site.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
AAdvantage eShopping Mall has over 950 online retailers. You just need an AAdvantage membership number. If you have an American Airlines credit card, you can earn additional points.
Travel Freely member Lisa (Highlands Ranch, CO) says, “We earn over 70,000 miles per year just through the AAdvantage eshopping site. I shop at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Petco, Kohl’s and sports stores like Fanatics. There are many hotel chains on the portal as well.”
Delta Airlines Skymiles
SkyMiles Shopping has hundreds of stores listed.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Rapid Rewards Shopping is clearly one of the best portals for a couple reasons. Rapid Rewards miles are some of the best rewards, but the miles earned also count toward the 110,000 point requirement to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
Southwest specialist Lyn Mettler, author of GoToTravelGal.com, says, “One of my favorite times of year to earn Southwest points is around the holidays, because that is when we do most of our shopping on ‘stuff.’ And it happens to come at a time when I am trying to earn my Southwest Companion Pass for the following year. By taking advantage of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal, we are able to rack up points we can use for free flights on Southwest. When you can earn up to 20 or 25 points at some stores, those points can add up quickly at holiday time!”
United Airlines MileagePlus Shopping
MileagePlus Shopping earns United Airlines miles at 900 stores.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall
When you shop at the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, you can earn valuable Chase points known as Chase Ultimate Rewards. Keep in mind that you’ll need to use the credit card associated with that account in order to earn the bonus points. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, this might be the portal for you.
For more about the best overall card for beginners, read Why We Love the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Overall, I don’t recommend that the casual free traveler spend a lot of time on these sites. But, if you have a favorite airline and online retailers that you buy from often, then consider adding a Chrome browser extension for that specific portal. This is an easy, hassle-free system to earn additional cash or rewards. Rakuten is the top rated portal worth giving a try.
If you’re not quite sure, take a quick at the site Cashback Monitor – a site that summarizes all available offers for both Cash Back portals and Rewards portals. You can search by store to see what portal has the best offer. Keep in mind that some offers can be misleading because they may not offer their highest deal for all items. That’s where I get frustrated and would rather avoid the mental energy.
Final point: I strongly recommend getting a new credit card with a great signup bonus. When you knock out your minimum spending requirement, you’ll be looking at an easy 40-60,000 points bonus with far less effort spent. If you’re not sure where to start, the best overall card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The easiest to use and redeem for beginners is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Then, add the card to your Travel Freely dashboard and forget about your deadlines. You’ll get email reminders for your bonus deadline and your annual fees. =)