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Holiday shopping is here. Sure Black Friday and Cyber Monday haven’t arrived quite yet, but those dates seem to be a bit less important for deals than they have been in previous years, as many retailers are already pulling out the stops to get your holiday cash. I’ve been doing some holiday shopping now for a few months, and have been able to grab good deals and get some mega miles and points payouts in the process. Many of my purchases have been paying me out at over 20 miles per dollar for things I was going to buy for others anyway!
I can’t list out the specific gifts I bought and the specific miles earned because those I shop for read this blog (and Santa doesn’t share all his secrets), but I can still give a few tips and ideas for how lucrative holiday shopping can be when you time it with big miles and points promos.
Use a rewards credit card that gives a bonus at the retailer you are using:
There is an almost endless array of credit cards that pay bonuses when you shop at specific types of retailers. Here are a few examples that may be relevant to holiday shopping.
Chase Freedom – $200 Bonus Cash Back card: 5x (or 5% cash back) at Amazon.com and select department stores from October 1 – December 31st if you have registered for the promo. Limited to $1,500 per quarter.
Discover Cards: 5% cash back on apparel, electronics, toys, gifts and more from October 1 – December 31st if you register. Limited it $1,500 per quarter.
The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN: Earn 2x on U.S. purchases made directly from select computer hardware, software, and cloud computing providers. This means that if you wanted to buy something from Apple, then it would pay out at 2x.
There are many more examples, including some targeted spending offers out there on various cards that will try to encourage you to use a specific credit card for a specific type of purchase for your holiday shopping. This is an easy way to earn bonus miles and points without even going through a shopping portal. To take your points earning to the next level, you want to time purchases with when the payouts on some of the various online shopping portals are pretty high.
Time purchases with big shopping portal payouts at retailers:
In the last few months, we have seen some huge shopping portal payouts including 16x at Sears, 35x at eBags, 21x at shoes.com, 18x at Neiman Marcus, 10x at Kohls, 15x at North Face, 12x at Sephora, and currently there is 60x American Airlines miles at Magazines.com. Many of these only last a few days to a week, so you have to move relatively quickly to take advantage of these big payouts. Of course, you don’t want to make purchases you don’t need, but if you maintain a shopping list then you can pull the trigger quickly if/when something you need is available at a good price for a retailer that has a big miles and points payout. As a refresher, here are a few of the major miles and points online shopping portals.
Take advantage of spending bonuses via shopping portals:
On top of the miles you earn from shopping at specific retailers via the portals, some of the portals themselves have some spending bonuses. For example, from 11/12/13 through 12/02/13 you receive a one-time additional bonus of up to 2,500 miles AAdvantage miles when you spend a cumulative amount of $250 or more with the AAdvantage eShopping mall. Spend a cumulative amount of $75-149.99 to earn 750 miles; spend a cumulative amount of $150 – $249.99 to earn 1,500 bonus miles; or spend a cumulative amount of $250 or more to earn 2,500 bonus miles. Various portals have something similar available, head to this post for details on all the available promos.
Use Amex Sync Discounts, Coupons, etc:
On top of everything else, there are sometimes various coupons and discounts that you can stack on top of everything else. For example, American Express has some offers available if you tweet or register your card for the promotions. A couple of the current ones on my account include:
- Get a one-time $30 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to make a single purchase of $150 or more online at Zappos.com by 12/31/2013.
- Get a one-time $10 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend a total of $50 or more on a qualifying purchase at JCPenney by 12/31/2013.
- Get a one-time $5 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend a total of $15 or more on qualifying purchases at FedEx Office by 12/31/13.
You can read more about those offers on this post.
My own strategy:
So far I have bought presents from Sears, Neiman Marcus, North Face, Shoes.com, Magazines.com, and more all when the portal payouts were really high. I paid for the department store (and Amazon) purchases with my Chase Freedom for an extra 5x. I will be taking advantage of Small Business Saturday with my Amex cards for even more savings. I will have to do some shopping in stores that don’t have great portal payments, but I can use that toward targeted spending bonuses. I can also make sure to shop via shopping portals that have their own targeted spending bonuses. If the average American spends $704 on Christmas, but can do it at an average of 15x (which should not be hard by stacking many of these promos), then that amounts to 10,560 miles and points just for some shopping you were going to do anyway. If you utilize these same principles throughout the year then you will likely earn a few free round trip tickets without even trying hard.
I want to also add that you should always price compare and time the purchases not only with portal payouts, but also when you can get the best deal. Miles and points absolutely have value, but if you are overpaying or overspending to earn them than you likely aren’t coming out ahead. Also be aware that while most of my shopping portal bonuses post on their own, that isn’t always the case. Here is a post on what to do if yours don’t post as they should.
I probably spend a bit north of the national average at Christmas, and I have no question that I will be earning thousands of miles and points in the process while still getting good deals and doing most of the shopping from the comfort of my laptop. I can hear the reindeer circling overhead already! And just because I really do truly believe the holiday season is a good time not just to stock up on the latest fashion and electronics for your family, but also to give back to those much more in need than ourselves, remember that the US Bank Flexperks card gives 3x on charity donations. Do good and make the most of your rewards cards at the same time. Seems like a win, win to me.
What are your holiday shopping plans to maximize deals and miles and points earnings?
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