Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Maximize your Mileage and Point Earnings on Back to School Shopping

With less than a month left before school starting it is time to kick your back to school shopping into high gear! Whether it’s online or in store there are many ways to maximize the miles and points you earn for back to school shopping. Ultimately you can make those travel reward dreams come closer by following one or more of Rewards Canada’s tips.

Pay for everything with your rewards credit card

This is by far the easiest way to rack up miles outside of actual flights with the airlines or stays with hotels. Put everything that you buy on your credit cards even that last $1.99 pen you forgot to buy and have to pick up at 7-11 on your way to dropping kids off at school. Be warned however, if you run a balance and pay interest on your credit cards, those miles you earn will never be worth the money you lose in paying the interest.

Double Dip & Triple Dip

Double dipping is the term coined for earning miles twice in one purchase or transaction. This basically involves your mileage earning credit card being used for a purchase where you also earn miles in the same program as the credit card. Buying school supplies a gift at Staples? Using your BMO Air Miles MasterCard or American Express Air Miles credit card and then swiping your Air Miles card ensures you are double dipping. 

Triple dipping involves the above but then adding in any bonuses available. Look for emails, coupons or other promotions offering even more miles. With the above example, Air Miles members can earn bonus miles on purchases of tons of different Back to School items at Staples. Just check out Staples weekly flyer to see which items have bonuses. So the first dip is the base miles earned on the purchase, the second is the miles earned on your credit card and the third is the bonus miles from the promotion. See the next section on some specific online shopping bonuses that can let you hit that triple dip as well.

Double and Triple dipping does not have to involve the same program. You can always use a credit card that earns in one program while collecting the actual miles from another program for your flights, hotels, shopping or anything else you can earn miles on.

Online Shopping Tips
Our first focus is on online shopping since you really need to get orders in soon to ensure delivery before school starts.

Many loyalty programs, whether travel based or not, now have online shopping malls where you can earn miles or points for shopping at hundreds of online retailers. Currently some of them are not running bonus offers over and above the base miles/points they award for the online purchase while some others are. Whether or not there is a bonus, you are best off using the online shopping mall of your program(s) of choice as moving your shopping to a program that may be offering 5x miles on purchases but is one you rarely use may leave you with some stranded miles that you’ll never redeem. In many cases you can also combine coupons/free shipping offers to these orders to not only ensure you are earning miles but are also saving money wherever you can.

Aeroplan has their eStore online shopping mall where you can earn Aeroplan miles for your online purchases. There is no bonus for any purchases in general like the Air Miles program but there are bonus mile offers from individual retailers in the eStore. It you have earned status in Aeroplan’s new Distinction program you can earn even more miles as follows:

  • dDiamond members will receive 3X the miles per transaction.
  • dBlack and dSilver members will receive 2X the miles per transaction.

Air Miles has their AirMilesShops.ca online shopping mall that also offer many individual retailer bonuses like the Aeroplan eStore but has a general offer of 15x the Air Miles on all purchase made via AirMilesShops.ca until Sep 9, 2013 plus an additional one time bonus of 100 Air Miles Rewards Miles if you make a single transaction of $50 or more before taxes.

RBC Rewards which is one of the newer players on the block for online shopping malls has their RBC Rewards eMall, exclusively for their credit card holders with card that earn RBC Rewards points. The RBC Rewards eMall currently has a general bonus offer of 3x the points on all purchases made from select retailers. See here for details on this offer.

Don’t want miles or points? You can always earn a cash back rebate by doing your online shopping via GreatCanadianRebates.ca!

Though not as popular for Canadians as Aeroplan or Air Miles, many non-Canadian programs have bonus offers for their online shopping malls. See the bonus offer chart below for a listing of those bonus offers.

Mileage Shopping Tools/Search bars, some programs are offering a bonus for downloading and/or shopping with their downloadable shopping tools. These tools allow you to forgo visiting the program’s online shopping mall first before going to the retailer’s site to shop. Be careful however with these tools bars as they may override your attempts to shop at an online retailer via another travel program. You may have to uninstall or disable any downloaded shopping tools before using another program’s online shopping site. Currently the only toolbar bonus is from Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. See the chart below for more details on this offer.

One word of note, many of the online shops are from the U.S. and they will charge you in U.S. dollars which means with most cards you will encounter the foreign exchange transaction fee of 2 to 3% depending on your credit card. Even with this you will probably find the prices from the U.S. better than many Canadian retailers so it can be worth it even with that fee but if you want to bypass that fee, Chase Canada is the only bank to offer no foreign transaction fee cards to the Canadian public and the best of the Chase bunch is the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa.

Here are the current online shopping mall bonuses that cover purchases from all of their respective retailers. Many of the malls also have individual retailer bonuses which are not listed here (last updated August 13)

Validity Date
Air Miles 15X Air Miles Reward Miles on qualifying purchases of $20 CDN or more, excluding shipping, duty and taxes, made in a single transaction plus earn 100 Bonus Air Miles Reward Miles when you make a single qualifying airmilesshops.ca online purchase of $50 CDN or more excluding shipping, duty and taxes. Full details
Until Sep 9, 13
Delta SkyMiles Earn up to 2,500 Bonus SkyMiles when you shop online via SkyMiles shopping. Earn 250 bonus miles for every $100 spent up to a maximum of 2,500 bonus miles. Full details
Until Aug 31, 13
Southwest Rapid Rewards Earn up to 800 Rapid Rewards points when you shop online via Rapid Rewards Shopping. Full details
Spend $100 get 200 bonus points
Spend $200 get 400 bonus points
Spend $400 get 800 bonus points
Until Aug 28, 13
United Mileage Plus 500 Bonus MileagePlus Miles when you spend $75 online via MileagePlus Shopping. Full details
Until Aug 18, 13
Virgin Atlantic FlyingClub 250 Bonus Flying Club Miles when you download the Download the ShopsAway toolbar. To access the offer, log into your Flying Club account and navigate to Shops Aways under earning miles. Once at the ShopsAway site click on "Shops Away Mile Finder" Full details
Until ?

In-Store Shopping

The main tips given at the beginning of this article of putting everything on your credit card and double/triple dipping apply primarily for in-store shopping. There is however a not-so-well-known tip that I have heralded in past interviews and on Rewards Canada that can ensure you earn even more miles and points for your in-store shopping. This tips rely on you using a credit card that offers a category spend bonus at places like Grocery Stores, Gas Stations, or Drug Stores and involve the purchase of gift cards. These credit cards with category bonuses include but are not limited to the American Express Gold Rewards Card, CIBC Aerogold and Aventura Visa, Scotiabank American Express Cards and even cash back cards like the Scotiabank Momentum Visa and the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard. Of course you can bypass the whole category bonus option by using a card that earns a straight 2 miles per dollar spent on all eligible purchases like the Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®.

This tip takes a bit more time out of your schedule because  it requires multiple stops and purchases but if you have the time and want the extra miles then go for it! Whether it is for school supplies from places like Staples or Wal-Mart or clothing from the Gap or Old Navy this method will ensure you earn more miles. You could always go directly to these or other stores and earn your base miles on your credit card but by going to a grocery store, drug store or even a gas station that sells gift cards you can buy a gift card for anyone of those retailers and earn the category bonuses of 1.5 or 2x or more miles/points/cashback on the purchase. Then you simply go to that start and use your gift card for the purchase and swipe your loyalty card if the store happens to partnered with a program (ie Staples and Old Navy with Air Miles) There is only one downside to this method other than the extra time required and that is you will not be able to take advantage of the purchase protection, price protection or extended warranty offered by many of the reward credit cards if you are buying electronics or other higher priced items for school.

Here is a comparison of the credit card category bonuses:
Drug Store
American Express Air Miles Credit Card 1 Mile per $10 1 Mile per $10
1 Mile per $10
ATB Platinum Cash Rewards MasterCard 3% Cashback 3% Cashback
3% Cashback
CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite 1.5 Miles per dollar 1.5 Miles per dollar
1.5 Miles per dollar
CIBC Aventura Visa/MasterCard 1.5 Points per dollar 1.5 Points per dollar
1.5 Points per dollar
MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard 5% for the first 6 months, 2% thereafter 5% for the first 6 months, 2% thereafter
1% Cashback
RBC Cash Back MasterCard 2% Cashback 1% Cashback
1% Cashback
Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite card 4% Cashback 4% Cashback
2% Cashback
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card 4 Points per dollar 4 Points per dollar
1 Point per dollar
Scotiabank American Express Card 2 Points per dollar 2 Points per dollar
1 Point per dollar
Sears Voyage MasterCard 1.5 Points per dollar 1.5 Points per dollar
1 Point per dollar

By following some or all of these steps you will be making sure that you are maximizing the miles and points you earn this holiday shopping season! The mileage or point balances in your accounts will escalate and then those reward flights, nights or merchandise will come to you sooner!

Care to comment, have questions or other tips? Please do so below!

General Disclaimers:
“The interest rates, fees, rewards details, benefits and other details of the Capital One product(s) described in the article may have changed since the time of publication. Please consult the product information pages on the Capital One website for accurate product details. In the event of any conflict between the product details in this article and the Capital One website, the details on the Capital One website shall prevail.”
"American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website For full details and current product information click the applicable Apply Now link"
"Chase is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply"

1 comment:

  1. It'd be great to have a table with all retailers participating in different e-malls, so we could see what our options are.