How to Earn Bonus Points, Miles, or Cash Back

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  • Online shopping portals help you to earn bonus rewards for online purchases.
  • Many airline and hotel loyalty programs have their own shopping portals — and some credit card issuers, too. 
  • You can “double dip” on rewards by using a rewards credit card through an online shopping portal.
  • See Insider’s guide to the best rewards credit cards.

Do you shop online with even mild regularity? If you aren’t using online shopping portals, you’re forfeiting cash, airline miles, hotel points, and bank points that could very well springboard your next vacation.

Using shopping portals is one of the most powerful steps you can take to immediately improve your rewards earnings. It’s easy to do, and it doesn’t alter the shopping experience in any way. Shopping portals are extremely low-hanging fruit that pay off in a big way.

Read more: The 3 steps I take to save money and earn more than 100,000 points each year shopping online

Here’s everything you need to know about shopping portals, including how to use them, tricks to maximizing them, and pitfalls to avoid.

An online shopping portal is a website that gives you bonus rewards simply for beginning your shopping with them.

You can access thousands of merchants through shopping portals. Once you find the store you want in the merchant directory, you’ll be taken to the official store website. For the most part, you won’t notice any difference during your shopping; the prices are the same and the merchant code won’t change when the purchase posts to your credit card.

Rakuten website

Once you click on the store you want to shop with, you’ll be taken to the actual merchant website.

Rakuten website

The only thing to note is that occasionally a shopping portal will specify that you can’t use a store coupon or promo code at checkout. If you find this in the shopping portal’s fine print, you’ll have to do the math to see which route will save you the most money.

Each shopping portal offers its own unique payout for making purchases. For example:

  • You may earn a fixed number of points per dollar you spend, unique for each merchant (for example, 5x points with Macy’s versus 2x points with Apple)
  • You may receive a few thousand points for enrolling in a food or media subscription
  • You may receive 1,000+ bonus points if it’s your first time using a particular shopping portal

Some portals also publish promotions that reward you for spending a specified amount of money.

The vast majority of airlines — and a few hotels — have their own proprietary shopping portals. This is a great way to rack up bonus miles and points from your couch.

Here are some popular shopping portals from travel programs:

There are also many travel-unrelated shopping portals that pay you in cash back, such as:

Some credit card issuers like Chase, Citi, and Barclays have their own versions of shopping portals, which require you to log into your account to use. With them, you can earn bonus bank points or cash back.

With all these options, it can be hard to discern where to find the biggest return for your shopping. Shopping portal bonuses are always changing, after all. Here’s how to stay on top of the best deals. 

Shopping portal aggregators allow you to view all the shopping portal deals in one place. This can save literally hours for those who shop online with regularity.

Examples of shopping portal aggregators are:

My favorite by far is Cashback Monitor. It gives you a digestible rundown of the most viewed stores, as well as the stores currently offering the highest return.

Cashback Monitor shopping portal aggregator website

View the most popular (and most rewarding) stores at a glance.

Cashback Monitor

With Cashback Monitor, you can simply enter the store at which you want to shop and it will display all shopping portals participating with that particular store. Results are organized by:

  • Cash back
  • Travel miles/points
  • Credit card points
  • Other reward points

Cashback Monitor page outlining the current return rates with Walmart.

Search “Walmart” and you can easily see the biggest payout for your Walmart shopping.

Cashback Monitor

And while the website orders its list of portals by return rate, you can rearrange this list to reflect your personal value of each rewards currency. For example, let’s say you value American Airlines miles twice as much as Southwest points. If a shopping portal is paying 4 American Airlines miles per dollar and 7 Southwest points per dollar, Cashback Monitor would list American Airlines miles before Southwest because it knows the return rate is better for you.

To set up preferences like this, you’ll have to create a Cashback Monitor account (it’s free).

Use browser extensions

Internet browser extensions are an excellent way to save money when shopping online. They follow you around (in an extremely non-sinister way) and alert you if the product you’re viewing will earn rewards through a shopping portal. If you install more than one extension, you may receive a series of handy pop-ups whenever an item qualifies.

The most helpful extensions include:

Again, Rakuten allows you to earn either cash back or Amex Membership Rewards points (1 cent = 1 point). In other words, if a store is offering 8% back via Rakuten, you can earn up to 8 Amex points per dollar.

Insider values Amex points at 1.8 cents each toward travel, meaning an 8% return is actually around 14.4%. If you know the best ways to use Amex Membership Rewards points, choosing to earn points instead of cash is the way to go.

Read more: The best credit cards for online shopping

Double (or triple) dip on rewards

The rewards you earn through online shopping portals are completely separate from the rewards you’ll earn from other avenues on the same purchase. If you use a rewards credit card, you’ll earn points, miles, or cash back from your credit card in addition to the shopping portal bonus.

For example, if you buy a laptop at Staples through the Wyndham Rewards shopping portal with your Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, you’ll receive:

  • 11 Wyndham points per dollar for shopping through the portal (offer current at the time of post writing)
  • 5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (5% back) for using your Ink Business Cash at Staples (the card earns 5x points at office supply stores*)

That’s quite a points haul — effectively 16 points per dollar. A reasonably priced laptop will likely earn you more than 10,000 points.

You can add another level to shopping portals by incorporating Amex Offers**. Amex Offers are targeted statement credits or bonus points that trigger when you enroll your card and spend at select merchants. For example, I’ve currently got an offer on my Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card for 10% back at Dell, up to a total of $1,500.

Amex Offer for 10% back at Dell

You can combine Amex Offers with shopping portal bonuses and credit card rewards.

American Express

At the time of writing, if I buy a $500 computer monitor from Dell via Rakuten, I’ll get:

  • 6,000 Amex points (12 points per dollar for using the Rakuten shopping portal)
  • $50 statement credit (10% back on my Dell purchase with Amex Offers)
  • 1,000 Marriott points (2 points per dollar for spending with my Marriott card)

That’s 7,000 points and a $50 rebate for triple stacking deals.

Read more: Guide to the best travel rewards credit cards

Look for holiday promotions

Throughout the year, but especially around the holidays, shopping portals issue promotions incentivizing you to spend specific dollar amounts with them. They’re often tiered — something like:

  • Spend $250, earn 500 bonus points
  • Spend $500, earn 1,000 bonus points
  • Spend $750, earn 3,000 bonus points

If you’re going to be making purchases anyway, it’s worth perusing your favorite shopping portal to see if they’ve got an active promotion like this.

In-store purchases

If you’re the kind of person that will scratch and claw for every extra point, you can also use shopping portals in-store. If you see something you like, simply log onto your favorite shopping portal, make your purchase, and choose in-store pickup. Many stores prepare your order in about an hour — but this strategy is only worth it if you’ll be hanging around the store for a while.

Read more: 5 ways to earn more cash back with credit cards, shopping apps, and more

What to watch out for

Not all purchases qualify

Read the portal’s fine print before you check out. Some items are exempt from earning bonus rewards (cash equivalents such as gift cards are commonly ineligible from earning shopping portal rewards).  

Ad blockers may foil your earnings

A shopping portal works by directing you to your desired merchant and then tracking your activity until checkout. Ad blockers often prevent shopping portals from tracking you, meaning the portal won’t have a record of your purchase — and you’ll get no rewards.

Fortunately, many portals will warn you that your ad blocker is preventing them from tracking you, giving you an opportunity to temporarily disable it before checkout.

Rakuten website alerting the user that ad blockers are enabled.

You’ll usually get a warning if your ad blocker is on.


Some promotions disqualify your order

If you enter a promo code or coupon code at checkout, this will sometimes disqualify you from earning shopping portal rewards. It’s not a rule — you can sometimes get away with it — but unless the savings outweighs the bonus points, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Bottom line

Shopping portals can earn you a significant amount of miles, points, or cash back on purchases you intended to make anyway. If you’re not using them with regularity, you’re losing money with every purchase.

With shopping portal aggregators, it’s very easy to find the best portal for your specific purchase. And with browser extensions, you can often earn rewards without even visiting a portal at all.

*5% cash back and 2% cash back on the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each year, then 1% cash back

Featured credit cards from our partners

Featured Reward

60,000 points

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Featured Reward

3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories

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Featured Reward

$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening

Credit Needed

Good to Excellent