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Shop Smart and Earn Miles for Back-to-School

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

During the Back-to-School shopping season, some airline shopping portals offer Back-to-School bonus miles promotions for spending a certain amount of money within a given time period.

These promotions aren’t only for people with kids and teachers shopping for notebooks, pencils, and markers. Back-to-School shopping portal promotions are for anyone who plans to shop for nearly anything.

Are you planning to buy anything over the next several weeks?

Whether you’re new to travel hacking or a seasoned pro, shopping portals are a no-brainer way to earn miles and points for all the things you buy.

So, whether you need to buy new shoes and a backpack, household goods like paper towels, cleaning supplies, and a new lamp or yoga gear to start a new fall workout routine, shopping portals will give you a greater return on your spending.

And, who doesn’t love making their money work harder, especially when it pays off in travel rewards?!

First, let’s take a look at which portals are offering bonus miles and the specifics of each promotion.

United MileagePlus Back-to-School Bonus

shop smart and earn miles for back-to-school
  • Earn 500 bonus miles for spending $150
  • Earn 1,500 bonus miles for spending $350
  • Earn 3,000 bonus miles for spending $600

Shop between July 23-August 19.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Back-to-School Bonus

Southwest back to school shopping portal promo
  • Earn 250 bonus miles for spending $125
  • Earn 900 bonus miles for spending $300
  • Earn 2,000 bonus miles for spending $550

Shop between July 23-August 19.

Delta SkyMiles Back-to-School Bonus

Delta back to school shopping portal bonus
  • Earn 500 bonus miles for spending $150

Shop between July 23-July 29.

Alaska Mileage Plan Back-to-School Bonus

Alaska back to school bonus
  • Earn 300 bonus miles for spending $150
  • Earn 750 bonus miles for spending $300
  • Earn 1,500 bonus miles for spending $500

Shop between July 23-August 10.

American Airlines AAdvantage Back-to-School Bonus

American back to school bonus
  • Earn 500 bonus miles for spending $150
  • Earn 1,500 bonus miles for spending $350

Shop between July 16-July 26.

How to Maximize Shopping Portal Promotions

First, you need a frequent flyer number with the specific airline to shop in their portal. You can sign up for free on the airline’s homepage.

Also, keep in mind the (typical) rule of thumb with shopping portals and gift cards. You earn miles if you pay with a gift card. But, you don’t earn miles if you buy a gift card within the portal.

Note the dates for each portal promotion, too. American and Delta are for more time-sensitive than the others.

To get started, simply visit the shopping portal’s homepage. Sign in with your frequent flyer number. Find the store where you want to shop. Make your purchase and earn miles!

The earn rate for each store is the miles you’ll earn for each dollar spent. The bonus miles as part of the promotion are in addition to those miles. Compare earn rates between the portals easily with a site like Cashback Monitor.

Take advantage of credit card bonus categories.

Stack of credit cards

Let’s look at an example.

Chase Freedom Flex typically offers quarterly bonus categories for drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, and more.

If you shopped at a shopping portal store that fell into one of these quarterly bonus categories and paid with your Freedom card, you’d earn:

  • the miles from the earn rate for that store
  • 5x the Ultimate Rewards points with your Freedom card, and,
  • if you hit a spending tier, the bonus miles as per the promotion!

Think outside the box, too. For credit cards with bonus categories at office supply stores and grocery stores, use the gift card kiosks to buy merchant gift cards. Then, use those gift cards to purchase what you need within a shopping portal.

For United, use the MPX App to earn more miles.

Aircraft at sunset

The MPX App is United’s app for earning miles while you shop in-store and online.

Within the app are stores listed nearby and online where you can earn United miles. The earn rates are listed within MPX. When you make a purchase at a particular store, you’re actually purchasing an e-gift card that can be scanned by a cashier or used to pay for a purchase online.

Let’s say you want to buy something at Sephora. You can shop in-store and, once the cashier rings you up, purchase a Sephora gift card within MPX for the exact amount you need. Then, have the cashier scan the gift card. Voila! You just earned miles.

What’s even better, though, is to shop with that gift card through a shopping portal. Here’s what that would look like.

  1. Go to United’s shopping portal and click on Sephora to shop.
  2. Fill your shopping cart.
  3. At checkout, use your MPX app to buy a gift card for the amount you need to pay.
  4. Then, choose gift card as your payment method at Sephora and enter in the gift card numbers to purchase the items in your cart.

You’ll have earned miles from the MPX app, the United Shopping portal, your credit card, and if you hit a spending tier, the bonus miles as part of the Back-to-School promotion.

It’s important to read the terms and conditions for any store you make a purchase with through the MPX app. A few stores limit you to using the gift card only in-store or only online.

Lastly, if you have a MileagePlus credit card, you’ll also get a 25% miles bonus on purchases with the app.

Spread out your spending to different shopping portals.

Closeup of woman's hand writing on paper
Do you have a long shopping list?

You won’t earn bonus miles for spending more than the highest spending tier. So, if you plan to purchase big-ticket items or just have a bunch of things to buy, take advantage of more than 1 shopping portal bonus.

For example, you can earn 2,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for spending $550. But let’s say you have purchases totaling $700. Why not break up the purchases to hit the max bonus at Southwest and spend the remaining amount in a different portal to hit another spending tier bonus?

Or, if you have a spouse, use both of your frequent flyer numbers with a particular airline to shop and earn miles. Don’t go over that max spending level. Instead, log in to your spouse’s account and earn bonus miles for your remaining spend.

Shop smart and earn miles for back-to-school! Plan your purchases and take advantage of promotions, like these Back-to-School bonuses. If you were going to make these purchases anyway, then best to get a return on your money to help make your travel dreams a reality. 

How do you plan to take advantage of these Back-to-School promotions?

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