I have written in the past about the value of rewards shopping portals. These sites allow you to click-through to online businesses where you earn rewards for purchases you make. Earlier this week, this point was hammered home when I received my American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping 2016 year-in-review email.
In 2016 I earned 11,155 AAdvantage miles by shopping via the portal! I had no idea I had earned that many miles but it illustrates the benefit of diligently using portals to earn additional bonus rewards over time, just for making purchases you would otherwise make. If you are not using portals, there's no time like the present to get started and enhance your rewards account balances.
What portals are out there and how do I use them?
There are many kinds of portals for you to choose from. There are portals that allow you to earn cash back - eBates.com and TopCashback.com (I earn referral bonuses if you would like to join either site via the provided links). American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping allow you to earn AAdvantage miles, while Hilton HHonors Shop-to-Earn offers Hilton HHonors points. If you prefer flexible points currencies, you could shop through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to earn Ultimate Rewards points.
Rewards portals are very simple to use. You go to the portal you want to use and search for the business where you want to shop. Using the link on the portal, you click-through to that merchant . As long as you stay on the merchant's site and don't start a new session, any purchase that meets the portal terms and conditions earns rewards.
As I said there are many portals, but how do you find them? How do you know which one offers the best deal on rewards or the rewards you prefer? You can check either CashbackMonitor.com or evReward.com. These sites list the various portals and available rewards for a merchant. For example, last weekend I was shopping for a ceiling fan at Home Depot. I went to Cashback Monitor to learn what portals offer rewards for Home Depot. As you can see below, there are dozens of sites for earning rewards for Home Depot!
Which portal should you choose?
That depends. If you are trying to maximize your point balance in a specific program, then that program's portal would be your first choice. If cash is your thing, the left-hand column at Cashback Monitor should draw your attention. What if you just want the greatest rewards return for your spending? That's a little trickier but Cashback Monitor lets you compare the rewards returns for the choices on an apples-to-apples basis.
Using Cashback Monitor to compare returns on various portals' rewards
If you setup a Cashback Monitor account, you can assign values for various hotel points, airline miles and credit card points. Click on your username in the top right corner. On your account screen, then click on "Assign Value to Miles." The Points Guy is a good source for reward currency valuations.
The next screen allows you to enter a per point or per mile value for various rewards currencies. Just enter the values for as few or as many currencies as you like then click save.
Future searches for online merchants will report an apples-to-apples value for all points as percentage return on spend. Here's the same search for Home Depot but with rewards presented as percentages.
Now, if you are looking for the maximum value for your spend, you can go to the portal with the highest percentage return! For Home Depot that would be Simply Best Coupons or Yazing. I was not familiar with either of those portals, so I went with the Chase Ultimate Rewards (Sapphire) portal in order to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points. I earned 210 points, valued at 2.1¢ apiece, for a total return of $4.41. That may not seem like much, but as I showed with the AAdvantage miles, they add up if you consistently shop this way.
One final tip on taking advantage of portals. You might say, "Online shopping is great, but there are times when I don't want to wait for something to be shipped to me." I completely get that! I wanted to get the ceiling fan that day (though I have yet to install it, but that procrastination is outside the scope of the blog!). Once I found the fan I wanted in my local Home Depot store, I checked HomeDepot.com, going via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and found the exact fan at the exact price. I ordered it and simply selected store pickup instead of shipping. I did not get my item quite as fast had I carried it to the register, but I only had to wait an hour or so. That's a tradeoff I am willing to make for additional points and miles! Most brick and mortar retailers will allow you to pick-up online orders in store; that is how I earned a lot of the AAdvantage miles in 2016.
Shopping portals - one of the lesser publicized, but high gain/no cost tools of the points and mile community to enhance our account balances! If you have not tried them, check them out with your next purchase. If you keep it up, you will be glad you did!