Airline Shopping Portals – What They Are and Why You Should Be Using Them

I have certainly made no secret of my love to travel. From small weekend getaways, to multi-country adventures, my thirst for travel really got a fire lit in 2009 when I spent ten weeks in Oxford. In the five years since that trip, I have traveled sparingly and when I have, the trips have been small, and domestic. Although I love living in Southern California, my domestic travel list is much smaller than that of its international counterpart. Meeting Julie in 2012 only intensified my desire to travel outside of the United States. I can’t wait until she has the chance to soak in the history and excitement that I experience some six years ago.

Oxford Castle: A View from the Hill in ’09

To help get us there, I started to delve into the world of points and miles. It really is a fantastic hobby and I recommend everyone who has some level of interest in travel get involved in some capacity. While there are many levels of this hobby (I classify myself somewhere within the category of intermediate) some of the most basic components are things that require minimal effort and can help get you to a new destination.

Perhaps one of the easiest things a person can take advantage of to gain extra miles are airline shopping portals. If you have a credit or debit card and you online shop, you could be earning miles for your purchases. No, you don’t have to be in the possession of an airline branded credit card or a rewards card to do so. Those things are certainly great, as they allow you to “double dip” on points, but it is certainly not something that is required.

So what do I need to do?

Essentially, most of the major U.S. airlines have a shopping portal that you can use for online purchases. It requires such little effort on your part, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t been using one this whole time (or at least, that’s the way I felt). A quick Google search of “airline shopping portals” will get you there, but for quick reference, below are a list of some of the major options:

Once on the site of your choice, sign up with your frequent flier number for that airline and your information. The process takes little time and you’ll be on your way to earning airline miles in no time. Anytime you want to make a purchase, just go to the website, login, and the search for the place you wanted to buy from. Most retailers will offer anywhere from 1x miles to around 30x miles on the high end. Certain retailers offer a flat number of miles for a purchase (usually subscription services like cell-phone carriers, newspapers and similar).

It’s worth noting, that not everyone retailer is available to access through the shopping portals. And of course, it doesn’t always make sense to buy things online, if you just need a quick item that can be grabbed at a nearby store. But overall, it’s a great way to earn extra miles.

Personal Experience – It Works!

Recently, Julie and I decided to pick up a couple of rain jackets, because we get so much rain here in Southern California 😉 Mostly, we wanted them for those rare occasions where it does rain and we don’t want to use an umbrella, but also for hiking at higher elevations where the weather can change quickly. Without thinking, we headed over to our local REI to try jackets on found ourselves with two new jackets. I came to my senses shortly thereafter, and remembered to go online and see if I could have bought them online. Sure enough, the North Face (Julie’s jacket) was offering 5x the miles for purchasing the exact same jacket online. I also found a jacket I wanted through Backcountry where they were offering 6x miles.  Here’s a quick breakdown of the two different options:

  • Two jackets bought in store at $100 each = 200 points/miles earned.
  • One jacket bought through the shopping portal for North Face at $100 with 5x points + one jacket bought through the shopping portal for Backcountry at $120 with 6x points = 1,520 miles earned.

In both situations, we bought the jackets, but earned substantially less in person than we did going through the online portal.

Bottom Line:

Julie and I don’t have jobs that require travel, so we don’t get the opportunity for a lot of the traditional “butt in seat miles” that can be a quick way to rack up miles. We rely on credit card sign-up bonuses, category spending, shopping and dining portals, and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. If you make just a small tweak to purchases you are already making, you’ll easily be able to boost your mileage balances. Just remember, earn those miles and then burn them on trips and adventures! Points and miles are constantly evolving and prices can always go up. Make sure you get out there and see the world!


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