Reader Question: How to Earn Points While Shopping

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I love shopping.  I don’t care if it is for myself, my kid, my husband, or for my cousin’s friend’s new baby.  I love deal hunting, and shopping is a great forum for that…while staying within a budget, of course.  As a result, earning points while shopping is almost second nature to me, but that was something that developed over time.  This week one of the questions I received via email was about this very topic, so I want to address it here in the hopes it will help some of you newer to this concept.  Grant asked:

Quick question…my wife has to do some spring/summer clothes shopping for our little girls. She shops mostly at places like Old Navy, Kohl’s, Target, etc.

I’ve read some about discounted gift cards, stacking deals, online shopping portals, store rebates etc, but am trying to figure out for in-store purchases, how to get the most bang for the buck.

Many of us are cleaning the winter items out of our kid’s closets and making way for some new summer items.  Like it or not, young kids outgrow stuff pretty much every year, so it has to be replaced somehow.  Grant hinted at many different ways to earn points while shopping, but it seems he is most interested in ways to do that in the store, as opposed to online.  You can make this process as complicated or as simple as you want, but I’m going to stick to the simpler ways to do this.

  1. Buy retailer gift cards in retail stores.  Currently the easiest solution for earning some points at stores like Old Navy, Kohl’s etc. is to take your handy dandy Chase Freedom card to Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and visit their gift card rack.  Lowe’s is one of the 5x bonus categories for this quarter via the Freedom card, so just purchase the gift cards you think you need and earn 5x Ultimate Reward points on the purchase – up to $1,500 max this quarter.  Then go spend those gift cards at stores like Gap Kids and Old Navy.  If you don’t have the Freedom, you can do the same with other cards that give bonus points at certain retailers.  For example, the Ink Bold® Business Card or Ink Plus® Business Card come to mind for their 5x potential via office supply stores.  Many cards also give bonuses at grocery stores, which usually have a decent selection of retail gift cards.

  1. Buy a gift card online via online shopping portal.  Another option is to buy the gift card you want online via a shopping portal.  You can then use the card to shop in an actual store (or “double dip” place the order online back through the shopping portal).  Here is a post on the “ins and outs” of my favorite online shopping portal In some cases you will get up to around 10x points per dollar when going through a shopping portal like the Ultimate Rewards portal for purchasing the gift card.  However, there are some nuances to this, and while it will work with some retailers, it won’t work with all.  Who it works with also changes over time.  Sometimes it only works with physical gift cards, but not e-gift cards.  In other words, this is not an exact science.  That said, you can check out The Frequent Miler’s Lab to see recent reports with various retailers on whether or not this approach will work.
  2. Register your credit cards to earn points in-store.  This one isn’t near as useful as the first two suggestions, but it does have some use so I will include it.  Certain online shopping portals, like United MileagePlus Shopping, will allow you to link your credit cards to your profile so you can earn bonus miles when shopping in participating retail stores.  This sounds great, but there are a very limited number of stores that actually participate – none of which are on your list.
  3. Buy gift cards at a discount via a site like  This won’t actually help you earn points, but it will help you save money.  You can buy gift cards to popular retailers such as the ones mentioned via online sites like GiftCardGranny.  I personally don’t use this service, but I know some others do.  I would rather buy the gift card myself and earn points than trust someone else’s re-sold gift card, but that is just me.

Grant, I hope some of these tips are useful.  I know we have tons of other shoppers in our mix, so please feel free to chime in with additional tips!


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  1. You should also get a browser extension that helps you compare prices. I got carried away once and got a toaster oven from Kohl’s online through the UR Mall. It was pretty exciting to get 10x on a $100 toaster oven. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized I forgot to price compare and found that Macy’s had it for far less money. Luckily Kohl’s made a price adjustment for me. I use the browser extension Priceblink.

    Also, don’t forget to go to sites like to get the best coupon codes.

    Sometimes saving real money is better than getting a few more points (sacrilege I know 🙂

  2. Lawrence, totally agree with all of that. Price comparison is a little tougher when you want to buy in the store as this reader did, but still agree. I also love retailmenot. My opinion is find where you want to buy the item and what you want to buy and then find out how to maximize that purchase from a points point of view. Best of both worlds! 🙂

  3. I can’t remember if it was on your blog or another, but someone mentioned a web site that shows how many points you earn per dollar going through different shopping portals. I could have sworn it was EV…something. ??? Do you know what I’m talking about? 🙂 I’m about to make some online purchases and I would love to try to earn some points for it.

  4. One trick I will sometimes use is that I go browse in a store in person, and once I find something I like, I use a bar code scanner app on my iPhone to scan the item and see where it’s sold online. For example, I can find a pair of shoes I like in Macy’s, try them on so I know they fit, and then go home and order them through a shopping portal. Granted, this only works better if you don’t need something right away, and if the cost of shipping doesn’t negative the value of miles earned.

  5. FYI- I recently spent $200 on Amazon cards that I bought at Lowes. I did not get the bonus points. I did get bonus points for all other restaurant purchases.

  6. @ Wayne What card did you use to buy the Amazon cards at Lowes? Did you call the bank to ask for those points to be credited?

  7. I am testing this: buying gift cards from via the UR mall and earn 4 points per $, granted I have to pay $1.99 for each card and I pay with Sapphire preferred (don’t have freedom or ink cards right now). Then I use the gift card and make purchase on AA or BA’s shopping portal and earn more points, anywhere from 3X to 12X depending on the merchant. While I would love to use the gift cards to buy via UR mall. I am not sure it would work as the chase rep told me I must pay for the purchase with the chase card. The sapphire pays 2x on dining, or at Flemmings Steak House, but gift sells Flemmings gift cards and I can earn 4x instead of 2x! It does take a bit of planning/juggling!

  8. Kristina, nice!
    Wayne, did you buy them near the end of a billing cycle? Toward the end of the billing cycle those points don’t post until the next cycle with the Freedom (assuming that is what you used).
    Robert, I have had success buying gift cards at Lowes with the Freedom, so hopefully this is just a delayed posting or something. I would follow-up for sure.
    SC, you don’t have to use a Chase card to get points via the UR portal. When you get the Ink cards, 5x + 2x or more for Staples via the UR portal is a great way to get some gift certificates as well!

  9. Speaking of Flemings, most AMEX accounts I’ve seen in our family have at least one card with an AMEX offer on-line for $50 back with a $100 spend at Flemings. In addition, Flemings is currently running a “buy a $100 GC and receive an additional $20 bonus card (with restrictions)” offer. We just each got one, and they’re spendable in the whole family (Flemings/Bonefish/Roys/Outback/Carrabbas). I didn’t have the offer on my Amex account, likely because I have a card that I had already “synced” to the offer via twitter.
    Sorry for the off-topic ramble.
    Bottom line, $120 for $50. The statement credits came 3 days after purchase.

  10. Colleen, I got the $50 statement credit and used it already! They gave us $25 gift card for our anniversary, and $25 off for next meal for completing a survey. Just don’t know if they would combine all this discount in one meal, plus the $20 bonus card on $100 gift card.

  11. I’d be interested to read what you imagine you will tell your daughter someday about the ethical considerations of showcasing, which is mentioned in one of the comments above. Might be a good touchstone on what to tell kids in general about where to draw the line (for those who have a line).

  12. MP thanks
    I bought them right before the billing cycle ended with the Freedom card. I did get 1 point for buying them, but no bonus points. The next billing cycle ends in a week. It will be interesting to see if I get the bonus points. I have not contacted Chase yet. Thanks for the help.

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