Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Maximize your Mileage and Point Earning this Holiday Shopping Season

With only two weeks left to the big day for gift giving the push is on to finish your Christmas shopping. Whether it’s online or in store there are many ways to maximize the miles and points you earn holiday shopping. Ultimately you can make those reward dreams come closer by following one or more of our 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 the pack of AA batteries you forgot to buy before Christmas and have to pick up at 7-11 on Christmas day. 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 a snow blower as a gift at Home Hardware? Using your Aeroplan Visa or American Express and then swiping your Aeroplan 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, Aeroplan members can earn triple miles on all Home Hardware purchases until December 15th 2012. 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.

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
I’ll focus first on online shopping since you really need to get orders in this week to ensure delivery by the 24th from most retailers. All of the tips here are bonus promotion based but be sure to read the Aeroplan tip to see how you can earn even more miles.

Most loyalty programs, whether travel based or not now have online shopping malls where you can earn miles or points for shopping at many online retailers. Some programs are just getting into the game such as RBC Rewards who just launched their online shopping mall on December 7.

Aeroplan has their eStore online shopping mall where you can earn Aeroplan miles for your online purchases. There are bonus mile offers from individual retailers in the eStore but there is also a general bonus offer from Aeroplan that will award you up to 4x the base miles on all your purchases depending on how many retailers you shop at. But what isn’t being promoted very heavily is that you can actually earn up to 5x the miles instead of 4x. How can you do this? Simply register for an exclusive Aeroplan promotion on Facebook. So the question is why settle for the 4x miles if you can get 5? Both the 4x and 5x offers run until December 20, 2012

Air Miles has their AirMilesShops.ca online shopping mall that also offer many individual retailer bonuses like the Aeroplan eStore and also like Aeroplan has a general bonus offer of 10x the Air Miles on all purchase made via AirMilesShops.ca until December 25, 2012.

RBC Rewards which just launched their online shopping mall called eMall on December 7 does not have any general bonuses but their are individual retailer bonuses. The best thing about the RBC Rewards mall is that RBC Avion Visa cardholders can hold onto the points they earn via the online shopping for conversion to British Airways Avios during the often run 1.5x transfer bonus, actually it is running right now until December 31 but you may not have your points post in time. So essentially you can earn 1.5 Avios for every point earned via RBC Rewards’ eMall.

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 like American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles. American is awarding 500 Bonus Miles for every US$250 spent until December 17 and US Airways is offering up to 1,000 bonus miles until December 31, 2012. If you are from Europe and reading this even Air Baltic BalticMiles Shop&Earn is offering triple points until the end of the year. 

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 are however some not-so-well-known tips 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. These 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 Visas, Scotiabank American Express Cards and even cash back cards like the Scotiabank Momentum Visas and the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard.

Gift Card Tip #1
Are you a gift card giver at Christmas or you don’t know what presents to give this year so you’ve settled on a gift card? If you can, and it depends on the retailer, don’t buy the gift card straight from them as on most credit cards you will only earn your base miles or points. Buy them at a place where you can take advantage of your category bonus. For example if I wanted to give my dad a Future Shop gift card I would only earn 1 Membership Rewards points on my Amex Gold Rewards Card if I bought it at Future Shop but if bought it at Rexall or Sobeys I would earn 2 Membership Rewards points.

Gift Card Tip #2
This one is similar to above but involves a little more time and effort. This tip is for those of you who know what gifts you are buying for your kids, family, relatives and friends. The reason why it will take more time is that it requires multiple stops and purchases but if you have the time and want the extra miles then go for it! Take the Future Shop example from above, you know that your child wants a new iPod Touch for Christmas. You could go buy it directly from Future Shop 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 go buy yourself the Future Shop gift cards, earn the 1.5 or 2x or more miles/points/cashback on the purchase and then use the gift cards when you get to Future Shop. 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. (Maybe it would be better if I used Old Navy as an example instead of Future Shop since you don’t really require any of those benefits on Old Navy purchases?)

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!

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