Eating at a restaurant

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking: Shopping Portals and Dining Programs

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

Shopping Portals and Dining Programs are fantastic and simple ways to earn miles and points for award travel.

While credit cards are a quick and lucrative way to boost your airline and hotel loyalty accounts, shopping portals and dining programs are part of any travel hacking long-term strategy.

Use your travel rewards credit cards and your travel hacking mantra, spend smarter, not more, and you’ll be on your way to steadily growing your miles and points balances.

Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking- Shopping Portals & Dining Programs

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking: Shopping Portals and Dining Programs

Many airlines and hotels have a dining program as part of their loyalty rewards program. Taking advantage of them is a no-brainer.

Dining programs are free to join using your airline or hotel loyalty member number. Sometimes, you can even earn bonus miles or points just for signing up!


Once your registration is complete and whenever you eat at a participating restaurant, simply pay with the card you included in your dining program membership and you’ll earn miles or points!

Pro Tip: Use a credit card with a dining bonus category, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to earn even more points!

Dining programs are truly a set-it-and-forget-it way to earn points and miles.

To learn more about how to leverage Dining Rewards, enroll in my FREE course, Travel Hacking Basics. 

We’ll talk about how dining programs fit into an overall earning strategy and how to maximize them effectively, as well as other important points and miles basics like the credit cards to look at first and video tutorials showing how to search and redeem for award flights.

Free Travel Hacking Basics Course Sign Up Form

Just like dining programs, shopping portals can also be part of an airline or hotel’s loyalty program. Bank travel reward programs, like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, even have shopping portals.

Essentially, each shopping portal has earn rates per dollar spent at hundreds of stores you likely already shop. You simply find the store you need in the shopping portal. Click on it to be redirected to that store’s website and shop as you normally would.

You’ll earn the miles and points based on the earn rate displayed in the shopping portal.

girl makes a purchase on the Internet on the computer with credit card

I’m a big fan of online shopping because it’s quick and convenient. When I began travel hacking years ago, shopping portals were a complete wonder. 

I just couldn’t believe how I could earn so many miles and points by just logging into a shopping portal and selecting the store where I was already planning to shop! 

I even order household goods like paper towels and shampoo by clicking on Walmart or Rite Aid from within a portal and earn at least double the miles and points I would’ve had I just gone to the store or headed directly to the store’s website.

You can learn how to use shopping portals effectively, too!

In my FREE course, Travel Hacking Basics, we talk about strategies for maximizing your points and miles earning with the dollars you were planning to spend regardless.

Quite frankly, shopping portals can be a game-changer and earn huge windfalls of points and miles for your everyday spending when used correctly.

Anyone can shop through these shopping portals but many don’t because they don’t know about them, never mind how to use them to their advantage.

It’s not about saving for travel with the small amount of money (maybe) left over after paying your bills at the end of the month. It’s about making your money work harder for you by getting a return on every dollar possible. 

I’ve earned a couple of hundred miles for ordering household goods. I’ve also earned 30k+ points for single purchases by leveraging strategies and being opportunistic.

Enroll now for FREE in Travel Hacking Basics to learn more.

Example Earnings from Dining Programs & Shopping Portals

So, you might be wondering how much you can really earn by using dining rewards and shopping portals. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Dining Rewards programs earn 3x-5x miles per dollar spent depending on how many times you’ve eaten out. A $100 dinner even at the lower-earning tier of 3x miles per dollar earns 300 miles.

Now pay for that dinner with a travel rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve which earns 3x the points per dollar and you’ve “double-dipped,” earning points and miles from 2 sources for the same purchase for a total of 600 points and miles.

Or, how about shopping for a new pair of sneakers through a shopping portal? Let’s imagine Macy’s is offering 5x the miles or points in the shopping portal. The sneakers cost $100. In a blink, 500 miles or points are earned. 

Now, let’s say you time this purchase during a quarter when the Chase Freedom Flex is offering 5x the Ultimate Rewards points for department store purchases.

By paying with this card and going through a shopping portal, you’ve earned 1000 points and miles for sneakers you were planning to buy no matter what.

Learn more about using these strategies in Travel Hacking Basics!

Do you earn miles and points with dining programs and shopping portals? 

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24 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking: Shopping Portals and Dining Programs”

  1. Great tips! Dining plans are something I have never really utilised but they appear to have real benefits when you pair them with other travel hacking cards/tips and tricks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Pairing them is the key, Vicki! The points can really add up with dining and shopping perks. 😉

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      If you are in the U.S, you can earn points every time you dine out at a participating restaurant. They’re such a good perk, Monika.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Dining programs and shopping portals can be really lucrative. I’ve earned a ton of points this way. We are certainly lucky with our travel rewards, Toni. 😉

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You can certainly earn miles and points from airline and hotel loyalty programs, Brigid, and earn for paid flights and stays. But, the perks like credit cards, dining programs, etc are U.S.-based. There are travel hacking rewards in the UK and Canada, but it’s harder elsewhere.

  2. Great tips, I love the one about starting a travel hacking board on Pinterest! I’ll definitely do that!
    I wish there would be more travel hacking opportunities in Asia too where I live now. My German credit cards don’t offer such good points and miles like the US cards. You guys are lucky, enjoy it!
    At least we have cheap flights here 😉

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      True, Sab, we are lucky with our travel rewards programs. I’ll have to check out your new travel hacking Pinterest board! 😉

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      C’mon Mags, you’ve got to! It can feel intimidating to begin, but just jump in and start. There are so many rewards to be had.

  3. Very interesting! I have taken advantage of the dining programs but have definitely not maximized the potential. I have to look into the shopping programs as well. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Shopping portals can be really lucrative Christina, especially when there are promotions and you can double or triple stack them. 🙂

  4. Wow, this article is truly an eye-opener! I didn’t know much about shopping and dining portals but this one made me think about trying your travel hacks. Great information for novices, too!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Anna. Trying to make the tasks simple and effective so anyone can get started. 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      That’s great, Jennifer! You want to maximize the money you’d already be spending.

  5. Shopping portals are one of the best tactics to earn more miles and points and it doesn’t have to be hard. You just simply shop like you normally do but just go through a portal. The miles and points (even cashback) change daily so you should definitely check them out to get the best rates for your shopping. Happy travels!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Alex, you are so right! Great tip to on checking the earn rates. You want to get the most for your spending.

  6. Ah, the dining programs – We live in a small town, where not a single restaurant participates in a dining program. Presently we are in Ecuador and the use of a credit card will usually ‘inflict’ a surcharge; from 5% – 10%! So we are told by merchants. It seems each individually makes a separate decision.
    In respect to the dining programs, Springfield, IL did have various restaurants on their list, but not anymore. So, if you find a good restaurant close by, hang on. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but the program is not as extensive as it once was. On the other hand, there are various credit cards, Marriott comes to mind, where you garner 2 pts/$. At least something.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Karin,
      I agree the dining rewards can be hit or miss depending on where you live. Regardless, they’re still worth it to join. There’s no obligation to spend any money (except if you want to earn a potential sign-up bonus) and when you travel to another city, even visit relatives in another place, you could wind up at a dining rewards restaurant. Upcoming in the course, I have downloadable bonus category checklist with all the cards that offer extra points on dining purchases. Have you made use of shopping portals?
      As for your travels in Ecuador, I honestly had not heard of merchants adding arbitrary fees before you mentioned it. Have you found that to be the case everywhere or only in remote areas?

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