I love free flights! Anthony and I get asked every now and then how we travel as often we do. While we occasionally pay for tickets, most of the time we do not. One way to slowly build miles is through Mileage and Point Malls. These malls are online portals to retailers that many people frequently shop at (Home Depot, Sears, etc.). Several airlines and hotels have shopping mall portals such as United, Delta, and Hilton.
Why Use Mileage/Point Malls
Using mileage and point malls serve two useful purposes:
- They keep your account from expiring if you don’t fly one airline or stay one brand of hotel (most airline mileage accounts expire if the account isn’t used for two years) very often.
- They help you build up mileage and points little by little, by buying what you would normally buy.
Here’s the thing – 2.5 (average) miles to the dollar doesn’t seem like much – but it adds up fast over time. You have to buy that toothpaste anyway, so why not earn a few miles while you are doing it? You don’t have to have or use the airlines credit card to do this either – use any card you want because these miles are earned on your purchase through the portal not on your card.
Ways We Shop To Earn Miles/Points
Certain portals (United and Chase are the ones that we use) run mileage/point deals on occasion where they will offer up to 10 miles/points to the dollar (their average for most retailers is 1-2 points). When this happens, we accrue even more points than we already do. The key here is to check between different portals to see which is offering the best deal.
Drugstore.com, offers a lot of non-perishable grocery items. So I usually buy all of general household items – from toilet paper to toothpaste to laundry detergent from them – this is probably how we earn the bulk of our miles.
Last March, we needed a new washer/dryer set. After researching and settling on the set that we wanted, we compared retailers. This set was available at Sears, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amazon for the same price. I immediately disregarded Amazon because they aren’t linked with any shopping portals. So I compared the first three against United and Chase to see which mall offered the best rate.
Chase happened to be offering a bonus – 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for shopping at Lowe’s. So we bought that washer/dryer set from Lowe’s and earned over 10,000 Ultimate Rewards. That’s enough for some one way flights on Southwest, almost enough for a one-way domestic anywhere in the US on United or a roundtrip between 2 destinations that are 650 miles or less apart (such as Miami and Grand Cayman, Nassau or Cancun) using British Airways Avios for American Airlines.
How Do You Use Them?
So here is how to do it step by step:
- Log into your airline account on whatever airline you choose to use.
- Click on the mileage/point mall (most of the time this is found under “earn miles/points”)
- Search for the store you want to make a purchase at, click on it. You should be redirected to the stores page.
- Complete your purchase. Don’t leave the store’s site before completing the purchase or you will have to start over again.
- After about a week you should see the miles in your account. United sends an email, but not all do, so just watch for it.
Here are some short links to the mileage malls:
- Chase (you can Ultimate Rewards if you already have a credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards by signing into your account, selecting “Earn Points,” then “Shop through Chase”)
Check these out and look through the stores, see if your favorites are there, and next time you make a purchase, earn a few miles. If you don’t see your preferred airline or hotel program listed above, Google “[your preferred program] shopping portal” to see if one exists.
How This Can Save You TIme and Money
The interesting thing about shopping this way is that it actually saves us money – not just on plane tickets, but in the long run because shopping online makes you think out your purchases. For example, if I am purchasing something from Drugstore.com I actually go through the kitchen, take stock of what I need, then get online and fill up the online cart. Since I am going down a list using a general search, I just buy what I need and there are no impulse purchases. There is no money spend on gas, no time spent driving, no toddler to strap into a carseat, AND its delivered to my door in two days for free if I spend over $35 or at any rate with Shoprunner (which you can get for free with most American Express cards).
Remember, this may not earn you a lot of miles quickly. But it does add up over time. Just think, a year of shopping online for stuff you might already be buying could keep your frequent flier accounts active and boost your balance. We haven’t kept track of the miles we’ve earned through United and Chase just by shopping but after 8 years of doing this, we’re pretty sure it at least paid the 70,000 miles that we needed for our current combo trip to Toronto and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
With no particular credit card required and no need to adjust your spending habits, there’s no reason you can’t be earning miles right away for your purchases. You may have to spend a few minutes researching for the best deals, but you were going to spend that anyway driving to the store. You have absolutely nothing to lose by doing this!
*Title Image Courtesy of Clipart Panda, edited by Anthony Felix*