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I write frequently about earning miles by shopping online, but there are a few ways to do in while in a physical store, too. With most of the holiday shopping deadlines in the rearview mirror, here are some ways you can earn airline miles if you need to run to a store to make a last minute purchase though these methods aren’t limited to the holidays and actually work year-round.
Earn United or Alaska miles shopping in-store
Both United and Alaska Airlines have programs where you can register your Visa or American Express credit card with their online shopping portal and then earn miles while shopping in select retailers.
There aren’t tons of retailers to choose from if you want to earn miles in-store, but there are a few popular options including:
- American Eagle
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Buy Buy Baby
- Johnston & Murphy
- Saltgrass Steakhouse
- Under Armour
The retailers and payouts vary slightly based on which airline site you go through, but the 2.5x United miles per dollar awarded for in-store purchases at Macy’s is a pretty solid midpoint for what is available. The program is easy to use in that you just swipe your registered card like normal in the store, but you do have to register for each retailer individually online and that time-limited registration has to be redone at least every 30 days or so. That part is hardly consumer friendly, but is easy enough for a one-off last minute in-store shopping trip.
Earn United miles in-store with the MileagePlusX app
Another option to earn miles in-store is via the United MileagePlusX app that has been around for a couple of years. With this option you use the app as soon as you are ready to check-out at a participating retailer by entering the exact amount you plan to spend. This then generates an immediate e-gift card which the retailer then scans on your phone to cover the purchase. I use it frequently from home to pay for online Panera orders, but you can use it in-store at retailers such as Kohls, Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, JCPenney, Sunglass Hut, Sephora, Best Buy, and more.
Most of those retailers are in the 3x – 5x miles per dollar range, though occasionally I have seen retailers in the MileagePlusX app jump to 10x miles per dollar.
Order online to pick-up in store
While it is generally too late at this point to earn miles for online orders that are guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas, you can often still order online for in-store pick-up. The online payouts for orders are often much higher than the in-store offers. For example, right now Saks Fifth Avenue is at 15x miles per dollar via United MileagePlus Shopping, so if you needed something from there and can order it online for in-store pick-up, that would net you lots of additional miles. Many, many retailers offer this “pick up in-store” option, so it may be worth looking into if you can identify what you want online and then just pick it up from the store.
Pay with a credit card that earns a bonus
This isn’t super creative, but remember to earn miles or save money by paying with the best rewards credit card for that purchase. Assuming you registered your Chase Freedom in time, it will earn you 5x points per dollar at department store and Walmart purchases this quarter, up to $1,500. Your Discover Card will save 5% in Target or at Amazon.com.
Purchase and use gift cards
A final way to rack up miles on in-store purchases is to purchase a gift card somewhere you earn bonus miles and then go use that gift card in-store at your retailer of choice to buy a last minute gift. For example, if you have a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express that awards a bonus at US grocery stores, you could buy a retailer gift card such as Nordstrom, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s, or Bass Pro Shops in the grocery store and then use that gift card in-store at those retailers to purchase a last minute gift.
If you have any other tips for racking up miles on last minute in-store purchases, I’d love to hear them!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.