Buying an iPhone 5? Make sure to earn points!

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I admit that I love my iPhone.  I am on my second one now, and I don’t foresee switching to any other type of phone anytime soon.  That phone really has changed the way that my family stays connected when travel takes us many miles apart.  It also has really negatively impacted my use of actual cameras, but that is a different issue for a different day.  As I’m sure you know, the iPhone 5 was just announced.  As always, there are new features that will make many people want to get their hands on the phone the second they are available.  The iPhone 5 goes on pre-sale September 14th and then actually goes on sale September 21st.  The prices will range from $199 – $399 for those with wireless contracts.

If you want to learn more about the iPhone 5 you can watch the entire two hour announcement here, or you can read some of the highlights here.  If you want to learn about how to maximize your points-earning potential if you plan to purchase one, keep reading.

Traditionally the best online shopping portal for Apple was the American Express Membership Rewards shopping portal.  It often awarded around 4x for purchases made at the Apple store.  However, that portal disappeared without warning a few months ago, and has yet to return.  Perhaps it will reappear in the future, but it certainly isn’t available right now.  That leaves us to try and find a new source for earning points on Apple products.  The good news is that there are many options, the bad news is that the options aren’t currently as lucrative as they were when I did a similar post for the iPhone 4S in October.

I recommend comparing online shopping portal options by using a site like,, etc.  They aren’t always 100% accurate, but they are a good place to start.  Nothing replaces you actually going to some of your favorite portals and double-checking the earning potential for yourselves.

When searching for the best points earning potential for the iPhone 5 (or other Apple products), also keep in mind the possibility of using third party retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Radio Shack, etc.  In fact, it seems like Walmart may be undercutting the others by about $9, so take that into consideration!  You may find the points for using a different retailer may be better (or worse) than going directly through Apple.  Another option if you are getting new service with a phone provider such as AT&T is to search for deals that include points for new service.  One example is getting 2,500 miles for a two-year agreement plus phone purchase with AT&T via the United MileagePlus Shopping portal.  This particular deal is only good for new accounts and not upgrades on existing accounts.

One thing that is common when Apple releases new popular products like the iPhone 5 is for those products to not be eligible for points earnings via the portals during the pre-sale time frame, or on the day they are launched.  They typically become eligible for points the day after they officially go on sale.  I haven’t seen that type of restriction this time around so far, but just keep an eye on the terms and conditions and take screen shots.  Update: At some point this afternoon that restriction has now been added to many stores and portals.  This is not at all surprising, but everyone should be aware and make purchases (or wait) accordingly. 

Another idea to maximize the purchase of an iPhone is to do so with strategically purchased gift cards.  For example, if you want to purchase it via Best Buy, then you could use your Ink Bold Charge Card or Ink Plus cards to purchase Best Buy gift cards at a 5x multiplier at an office supply store like Office Depot.  You could do the same thing by purchasing a relevant gift card with a credit card that paid a bonus out at grocery stores.  You could then use those gift cards to make the purchase for the iPhone.  You will lose some purchase protections depending on the type of gift card you use, but it is an option.  Though now that I think about it, it wouldn’t shock me if you used one of the Ink cards to purchase the iPhone directly from a cell phone retailer and it paid at 5x due to the category.  I don’t know for sure if they code the sale of phones differently than monthly bills, but I’d love to hear from someone who has first-hand experience with that!

If you aren’t in a hurry to get your hands on the latest piece of Apple technology, my instincts tell me that there will be much better miles and points deals at these electronics retailers as we inch toward the holiday season.  Both Apple and Best Buy were 10x via the Ultimate Rewards portal around Black Friday last year, so it is always possible there will be much better points-earning opportunities in a couple of months  Also the Chase Freedom Visa card will award 5x points for purchases at Best Buy during the 4th quarter starting on October 1st.   Even if you just buy the $199 model, that is 1,000 Ultimate Reward points just from using that card.  Though I know some Apple fans that would explode if they didn’t have the newest gadget in their paws the moment it is available!

While not directly related to purchasing the iPhone 5, since we are on the topic of cell phones, if you still have not moved your cell phone bills to one of the Chase Ink cards where you can earn 5x points each month for a bill you are going to pay anyway, please proceed directly to time-out.  Do not collect your new iPhone 5.  😉  Cell phone and data plans for iPhones aren’t cheap, so you are missing out on literally thousands of Ultimate Reward points each year if you haven’t done that (or in the case of my large family plan, tens of thousands).  I am very much enjoying that benefit of having the Ink Bold, so I hate to think that others are still missing out.

I’d love to hear the other ways you maximize iPhone purchases!


Disclosure:  I do receive a commission if you are approved for a credit card using one of my affiliate links.  I get nothing for you purchasing an iPhone other than perhaps a case of “Apple Envy”.  🙂

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.



  1. I just clicked into the SkyMiles shopping area. Current terms and conditions of the 1mi/$ don’t mention iPhone being excluded. It does say it only applies to a limit of 2 phones purchased with a contract.

  2. Ah also noted AT&T is running a thing in the SkyMiles Shopping site for 1800 miles with new contract. Better than a poke in the eye.

  3. Great (and relevant) post. Not only am I looking into buying an iPhone 5, but I got my eyes on a new Apple laptop. The thought of buying these expensive items with a paltry 1X bonus through the UR mall is nothing short of sickening! 🙂 I’ll keep my eyes peeled for big bonuses around the holiday times.

  4. Personally I am waiting to see if Chase will have another x10 for Best Buy around Thanksgiving this year. Combined with the already x5 for the Freedom card (for Q4) at best buy, it could be a sweet x15.

  5. One of the “Dark Arts” for Apple is to buy discounted Radio Shack gift cards from Plastic Jungle, etc. and use them to purchase Apple at up to a 15% discount at Radio Shack. The discount can vary over time and discounted gift cards for retailers like Best Buy are also out there. Look also for the Virgin Mobile version of the Apple phone – not the latest version, but perhaps the cheapest way to run with Apple. Of course the industry thinks Apple customers are fond of being overcharged and overpaying for products – show a little savy and prove them wrong. 🙂

  6. I hope the Ink card gives 5X for Virgin Mobile. It should, but one never knows. Buying the iPhone 5 outright & then getting unlimited everything for $50/mo seems like the most affordable setup (based on 2yr ownership). See Gizmodo for that info.

    • @dg, that is what I anticipated based on prior similar pre-sales. I will update the post to say that is now in effect. Thanks!

  7. That really stinks because when I purchased my iPhone yesterday through the portal, it did NOT say the presale was excluded. I checked many times before I finally hit Enter. Boooooo!

  8. Ok, this is going to freak the miles and points folks out here. My son got to the At&t store Friday before I could catch him and pre-ordered two new iphone 5s (one for him and one for my husband). After sales tax, etc he charged $428 to a card that only earns 1 point per dollar. Even though the receipt says that the charges will not go through until item ships, he was unable to change the credit card to our Ink Bold. I even called AT&T. No luck. Hate to miss out on points.

  9. I am really wishing I got my Amex gold invitation last week so I could get $200 of the $1000 spend I need in the next three months for 50K MR points. I guess 215 mp miles will have to do.

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