Monday, August 12, 2013

FFB's Tips to Earning More Miles on your Back to School Shopping

With less than a month left before school starting it is time to kick your back to school shopping into high gear!   Whether it’s online or in store there are many ways to maximize the miles and points you earn for back to school shopping. Ultimately you can make those travel reward dreams come closer by following one or more of FFB’s tips.


Pay for everything with your rewards credit card

This is by far the easiest way to rack up miles outside of actual flights with the airlines or stays with hotels. Put everything that you buy on your credit cards even that last $1.99 pen you forgot to buy and have to pick up at 7-11 on your way to dropping kids off at school. Be warned however, if you run a balance and pay interest on your credit cards, those miles you earn will never be worth the money you lose in paying the interest.

Double Dip & Triple Dip

Double dipping is the term coined for earning miles twice in one purchase or transaction. This basically involves your mileage earning credit card being used for a purchase where you also earn miles in the same program as the credit card. Shopping online? Using your airline or hotel branded credit card and shopping via that same program’s online shopping mall ensures you are double dipping.

Triple dipping involves the above but then adding in any bonuses available. Look for emails, coupons or other promotions offering even more miles. For example, Southwest Rapid Rewards members can earn up to 800 bonus Rapid Rewards point made via Southwest’s online shopping mall until August 28, 2013. So the first dip is the base miles earned on the purchase, the second is the miles earned on the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card and the third is the bonus miles from the promotion. See the next section on some specific online shopping bonuses that can let you hit that triple dip.

Southwest Rapid Rewards members can earn up to 800 bonus points
for online shopping
Double and Triple dipping does not have to involve the same program. You can always use a credit card that earns in one program while collecting the actual miles from another program for your flights, hotels, shopping or anything else you can earn miles on.

Online shopping tips

I’ll focus first on online shopping since you really need to get orders in soon to ensure delivery before school starts. 

Many loyalty programs, whether travel based or not, now have online shopping malls where you can earn miles or points for shopping at hundreds of online retailers. Currently some of them are not running bonus offers over and above the base miles/points they award for the online purchase while some others are. Whether or not there is a bonus, you are best off using the online shopping mall of your program(s) of choice as moving your shopping to a program that may be offering 5x miles on purchases but is a program you rarely use may leave you with some stranded miles that you’ll never redeem. In many cases you can also combine coupons/free shipping offers to these orders to not only ensure you are earning miles but are also saving money wherever you can.

Mileage Shopping Tools/Search bars, some programs are offering a bonus for downloading and/or shopping with their downloadable shopping tools. These tools allow you to forego visiting the program’s online shopping mall first before going to the retailer’s site to shop. Be careful however with these tools bars as they may override your attempts to shop at an online retailer via another travel program. You may have to uninstall or disable any downloaded shopping tools before using another program’s online shopping site.


Here are the current online shopping mall bonuses that cover purchases from all of their respective retailers. Many of the malls also have individual retailer bonuses, too many of which to list here but include retailers like Lands End, Staples and more. (This list was last updated:
 August 12)

Provider
Offer
Validity Date
Air Miles 15X Air Miles Reward Miles on qualifying purchases of $20 CDN or more, excluding shipping, duty and taxes, made in a single transaction plus earn 100 Bonus Air Miles Reward Miles when you make a single qualifying airmilesshops.ca online purchase of $50 CDN or more excluding shipping, duty and taxes. Full details
Until Sep 9, 13
Delta SkyMiles Earn up to 2,500 Bonus SkyMiles when you shop online via SkyMiles shopping. Earn 250 bonus miles for every $100 spent up to a maximum of 2,500 bonus miles. Full details
Until Aug 31, 13
Southwest Rapid Rewards Earn up to 800 Rapid Rewards points when you shop online via Rapid Rewards Shopping. Full details
Spend $100 get 200 bonus points
Spend $200 get 400 bonus points
Spend $400 get 800 bonus points
Until Aug 28, 13
United Mileage Plus  500 Bonus MileagePlus Miles when you spend $75 online via MileagePlus Shopping. Full details
Until Aug 18, 13
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub  250 Bonus Flying Club Miles when you download the Download the ShopsAway toolbar. To access the offer, log into your Flying Club account and navigate to Shops Aways under earning miles. Once at the ShopsAway site click on "Shops Away Mile Finder" Full details
Until ?

A great site to see what stores participate in the various programs is called evreward.com. Used by FFB for many years the site also lists some coupons offers and the amount of miles/points per dollar earned.

Don’t want miles or points? You can always earn a cash back rebate by doing your online shopping via one of the many cash back sites like TopCashBack, FatWallet etc. but you should still tie in your mileage earning credit card for the purchase or more than likely  a cash back credit card like the Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®

In-store shopping

The main tips given at the beginning of this article of putting everything on your credit card and double/triple dipping also apply for in-store shopping. There are however some not-so-well-known tips that I have heralded in past interviews that can ensure you earn even more miles and points for your in-store shopping. These tips rely on you using a credit card that offers a category spend bonus at places like Grocery Stores, Gas Stations, or Drug Stores. Credit cards with category bonuses include but are not limited to 

the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®, U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® card, Chase Freedom® Visa or Chase Sapphire Preferred®


Tip #1 - Shopping at stores with automatic category bonuses

Some cards, like Chase Freedom® Visa requires you to assign or register for their category bonuses so make sure you do this before doing any shopping but others like the Chase Ink cards offer a straight 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores, which we all know are great places to buy Back to School supplies.

Tip #2
 - Shopping at stores that do not have category bonuses
This tip involves a little more time and effort and is for those of you who know what stores you are going to shop at for your back to school need. The reason why it will take more time is that it requires multiple stops and purchases but if you have the time and want the extra miles then go for it! This tip involves buying gift cards for the stores you know you are going to shop but do not offer mileage/point/cash back multipliers by getting those gift cards at a store where you do earn those multipliers. For example the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, or the Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard® offer 2 Points per dollar spent at grocery stores so buying a Gap gift card at Von's will earn you 2x more points than just shopping straight at the Gap.


By following some or all of these steps you will be making sure that you are maximizing the miles and points you earn this holiday shopping season! The mileage or point balances in your accounts will escalate and then those reward flights, nights or merchandise will come to you sooner!

Care to comment, have questions or other tips? Please do so below!

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