Airline rewards programs

Shopping for Miles and Points

I’m finally trying to really maximize my miles and points on purchases. For a long time when I needed to make a purchase I would half heartedly look at cashbackmonitor for the best portal to use to earn miles when shopping online. But after months of reading about people doubling or tripling their points return on shopping and not really grasping how they were doing this, I’m finally taking the plunge and figuring it out.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 8.57.08 AM

CashBackMonitor is a good site to use to find the best shopping portal for online purchases

I needed to buy a new refrigerator. For ease of calculation let’s say I selected one that cost $500. I could easily earn 500 points by using a credit card for this purchase at any store. Obviously, any of my award points cards work for this. But I wanted to improve on that return.

The easiest option is to go through one of the airline shopping portals to buy at Home Depot’s online store (my store of choice after shopping around and finding a fridge I wanted). Sometimes you can get 10x or even more through these portals, but at the time I really needed to make this purchase the best I could find at Home Depot was 5x. Actually it was 2x the first day I looked, but I had to delay my purchase a few days to wait for the gift cards to arrive (see below) and it went up while I was waiting. This means I get an extra 2500 points with a few mouse clicks and an online purchase of my fridge. This is unrelated to the credit card I use to make the purchase.

Southwest Airlines shopping portal

Southwest Airlines shopping portal

Considering other options, I recalled that Staples and Office Max both sell Home Depot gift cards. Why would I want to use a gift card to buy my refrigerator? Because if I spend the money at an office supply store my Chase Ink card gives me 5x points on the purchase. This means I earn 2500 points on $500 worth of Home Depot gift cards.

You can buy these gift cards online from these same office supply stores. When I made the purchase I found an offer for 2x points online at Staples through the Alaska Airline shopping portal (and a bunch of other airlines, I just decided I value Alaska miles the most right now). Again, sometimes these offers go up to 5x or 10x, but 2x was the best I could find when I needed to make the purchase.

When you buy a gift card online it's delivered via email

When you buy a gift card online it’s delivered via email

So I bought $500 worth of Home Depot gift cards at Staples via the Alaska Air shopping portal. This earned me 1000 Alaska miles. I used my Chase Ink card (which I’m conveniently trying to meet a minimum spend on right now) so I got 5x points for the purchase: 2500 Ultimate Rewards points. Then I spent my $500 in gift cards at the Home Depot online store after clicking through the Southwest shopping portal and earned 2500 Southwest miles.

Miles/Points earned for $500 purchase

1000Alaska miles
2500Southwest miles
2500Ultimate Rewards points

Total = 6000 points 

(I value all of these points roughly equally but you should obviously focus on earning points/miles in the programs of most value to you)

This is a decent showing but you could do better. Unfortunately I needed to make this purchase rather urgently. So I couldn’t take advantage of good shopping portal offers (i.e. 10x points) at office supply stores. The points offers are always changing, and 2x is pretty much the minimum. If I had the luxury of waiting to make this purchase I could have easily doubled or even tripled my points from an office supply store.

Here are my shopping take home lessons:

1. I will be buying Home  Depot gift cards from office supply stores when I see really good shopping portal deals (I set up an alert email on CashBackMonitor). I spend enough money there to be sure I’ll get use from these. And worse case I can liquidate them by buying visa gift cards which are available in many HD stores.

2. Always shop online through an airline, hotel or cash back shopping portal. Always.

3. Buy gift cards through office supply stores (or other stores that offer good rewards on my credit cards) if they are available for any of the stores I shop at.



  • Great post! Is it a HD-wide policy to accept HD GC for other GC, or are stores pretty ymmv on that?

    • Good question Star. I’m not sure about that. I have read about people doing this but not sure about store policy. And I haven’t tried it out myself yet.