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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.
At the bottom of this post, you’ll find your tasks and the resources you’ll need to complete them. Remember to reach out if you have questions about the information in this post or the tasks.
If you’re a U.K. and you’ve landed here, head over Travel the Globe 4 Less where Anne has great tips for U.K. travel hackers.
The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking: Shopping Portals and Dining Programs
Step 1- What is a dining program?
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! Think of dining programs as a set it and forget it way to earn. Every mile or point counts and the couple 100 earned here and there from dining out or picking up your favorite pizza at the more than 11k participating restaurants will add up over time!
1. Read this post on how you can use dining programs to earn award travel.
2. Give it a try! Sign up for a dining program and eat out (or order in) for your 1st dine at a participating restaurant.
Here are the airline and hotel loyalty programs that participate in dining program rewards.
Complete your registration profile. Remember you’ll need your airline or hotel loyalty membership number. Add your credit card information to your profile. Use that card when you dine at a participating restaurant or bar and earn miles and points for travel! Know that a credit card cannot be registered for more than 1 airline or hotel dining program at a time. Use different credit cards to join and earn miles and points in a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Pro Tip: Use a credit card with a dining bonus category, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to earn even more points!
Something to consider…I don’t advocate using your debit card for dining, purchases, or bills because you don’t earn any travel rewards in return. However, if you’re credit score is low and getting approved for credit cards is difficult right now, sign up to a dining program with your debit card to start earning. True, this is a slow way to earn miles and points for your travel goal, but it’s certainly better than earning nothing. Dining programs and shopping portals can help beginners without credit cards start to collect miles and points towards a travel goal.
Step 2- What are shopping portals?
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.
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 do it, too!
1. Read this post on how you can use shopping portals to earn miles and points.
2. Give it a try! Use a shopping portal to make a purchase.
Here are links to the travel and bank brands that offer shopping portals.
Anyone can shop through these shopping portals, except for the Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Barclay RewardsBoost portals. To shop at either of those, you’ll need an Ultimate Rewards credit card like the Chase Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or InkPlus or the Barclay Arrival Plus card for the RewardsBoost portal.
Remember to compare earn rates between shopping portals! You can do this manually or with sites like CashBack Monitor or Evreward. You’ll want to choose a portal that makes sense for the programs you’re earning miles and points, as well as earn the highest possible amount. Nike might offer 3x the miles per dollar spent in the United MileagePlus portal while offering 5x the miles in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. United is a Chase transfer partner so choose to earn through the Chase shopping portal for a better mileage earn rate. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to transfer those points to United. Hawaiian Airlines might offer 7x the points at Nike, but if you aren’t working to earn Hawaiian miles, it won’t make sense to shop through this portal.
Step 3- How about a double dip?
This might be a no-no with chips and dip at a party, but as a travel hacker, you should try to double dip (and even triple dip!) as much as possible. When you double dip, you earn miles and points from 2 sources for the same purchase.
Whether you’re just starting out with 1 or 2 credit cards or you have 60 credit cards like LeAnna and her hubby from Economical Excursionists, you need to know which cards offer bonus spending categories.
Let’s think about maximizing your spending in dining programs. Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2x the points for dining and the Chase Sapphire Reserve does even better with 3x the points on dining. It makes more sense to register one of these cards with a dining program over a different card with no dining spending bonus. You’ll earn 2x or 3x the points on your Sapphire PLUS the points earned from the dining program. Check Chase Freedom’s rotating bonus categories, also. This card has traditionally offered 5x the points on restaurants for one of the quarters during the year. Remember, those 5x the points are in addition to what you’d normally earn from a dining program! Suddenly, you’re earning hundreds of miles from your Chinese takeout!
Suddenly, you’re earning hundreds of miles from your Chinese takeout!
Do you use OpenTable to make restaurant reservations? OpenTable gives you bonus points in their loyalty program toward restaurant gift cards. You could make a reservation for a participating dining program restaurant using OpenTable and pay with a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You’ll earn points from OpenTable, miles and points from the dining program, AND 3x the points with your Sapphire…A.K.A. a classic triple dip!
When you make a purchase from within a shopping portal, keep in mind that bonus categories still apply. If your credit card offers 5x the points on office supplies, you’ll get those 5x the points AND whatever the earn rate is for the office supply store you used. While not exactly a triple dip, shopping portals frequently run promotions, especially around holidays and back to school time. You’ll earn bonus miles and points for spending a certain amount within a specific time period in addition to the usual miles and points from the shopping portal and your credit card. Try to time your purchases to earn points from the shopping portal, your credit card, and a bonus promotion!
Make your money work for you. Spend smarter, not more, and you’ll begin to see your miles and points balances take off!
- Read the post about dining programs & sign up for the one(s) that make the most sense for you.
- Read the post about the wonders of shopping portals.
- Give them a try! Eat at a participating restaurant and use a shopping portal to make a purchase.
- Pin the dining program and shopping portal infographic to your Travel Hacking Pinterest Board.
Start a travel hacking Pinterest board and keep all your resources in one place!
Do you earn miles and points with dining programs and shopping portals? What’s been your biggest success with them? What tips can you share?
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