Continuing on the theme of online shopping portals, I almost always buy my flights through Travelocity, specifically because of the Ultimate Rewards portal, using my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred gives 2 points per dollar spent on travel. You can also use the Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel directly for 3 points per dollar spent on travel. Or you can do even better and use the Ultimate Rewards portal to go to Travelocity, book your travel through Travelocity, and then earn the base Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus of 2 points per dollar spent on travel since Travelocity counts as travel AND get an additional 2 points per dollar spent on Travelocity for going through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Thus, by going through UR to Travelocity, you can get close to 4 points back per dollar spent on flights (It’s not quite 4 points per dollar since you don’t earn bonus points on taxes or fees on Travelocity, but it still usually amounts to more than earning the alternative 3 points per dollar on travel by booking directly through Ultimate Rewards).
To make this even better, you could pay for your flights through Travelocity using an Amex Premier Rewards Gold card which gives 3x points on airfare. Even though you’re booking through Travelocity, the charges are coded as airfare directly from the airlines, so you get the 3x points from Amex as well as the (close to) 2x points from the UR portal. Unfortunately, if the points don’t post, you’ll have a harder time arguing to get them since you didn’t use a Chase card.
This also means that the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card is largely irrelevant, since it only offers 2 miles per dollar spent on United. Since Ultimate Rewards points can be converted into United miles at a 1:1 ratio, there’s little reason from a points-earning perspective to use the MileagePlus Explorer card over the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Before I buy anything online, I always check to see if I can earn additional points by buying through an online shopping portal. These portals give you additional points back per dollar spent if you navigate to ecommerce websites through the portal.
The portals that I use the most are Discover’s portal, which typically gives 5-15% cash back, and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal (note: you have to have either a Discover card or a Chase card to use these portals). Most airlines and many hotels also have portals where you can earn additional miles or hotel points by shopping through the portal.
It’d be too exhaustive to check which portal is best for any given purchase, but thankfully, there are websites dedicated to doing just that for you. The ones that I use most are Evreward and Cashbackholic. You search for the website you’re planning to purchase from, and these sites will tell you how many additional points you could earn through various portals. However, these sites don’t list any restrictions there might be (for example, certain kinds of purchases might not earn bonus points), so you still need to verify for yourself that your purchase will qualify for the portal that you choose.
These portals can also make it a better deal to buy from certain websites. For example, when I was last looking to replace my carry-on luggage, while Amazon sold the suitcase I wanted for the cheapest price, Luggage Online was not that much more expensive, and I could get an additional 7 points per dollar spent if I went through the Ultimate Rewards portal to Luggage Online. Since I value 1 Ultimate Reward point at 1.5 cents conservatively, this was effectively a 10% discount on the price from Luggage Online, so it made more sense to buy the suitcase through Luggage Online, even though Amazon had the cheapest price.
Similarly, it’s always good to check if you might earn additional points for things you’re going to buy anyway. Buying my Groupon to South Africa through the Ultimate Rewards portal made the decision that much easier since I was getting such a large rebate on the trip.
What other tips do you have for buying things online?