Today only, the United MileagePlus Shopping portal is offering increased payouts of as much as 15 miles per dollar at a number of popular stores. Shopping portals represent one of the most lucrative ways to earn miles without flying, but are these increased offers truly exceptional? Let’s take a look…
Earn 15 miles per dollar spent at the following list of retailers:
- Old Navy
- Banana Republic
- Neiman Marcus
- Under Armour
- Sunglass Hut
- Rosetta Stone
- H&R Block
- Saks OFF Fifth
- Lord & Taylor
This promotion ends tonight — 1/22/17 — at 11:59pm ET.
Are the prices any good?
As always, it pays to shop around to be sure you’re getting the best possible deal. If you can find a significantly better deal elsewhere, it may not be worth sacrificing your cash savings for extra miles on the dollar. That said, a price match may enable you to get both the best price and the best payout. Price matching policies and possibilities vary by merchant. Finally, remember that best practice is to do your price comparison shopping in one browser, but do your portal shopping in a totally separate browser. Avoid adding extra buttons and search bars to the browser you use for portal shopping to ensure that you get the payout from the portal you intended.
Stackable with Discover Cash? You betcha!
A number of today’s merchants have gift cards available via Discover Cash. You can stretch the value of your Discover Cash beyond face value by redeeming for gift cards effectively offering the following percentages off:
- Groupon & Neiman Marcus: 10% off
- Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Under Armour: 20% off
- Nike: At least 20% off, potentially 25% off
- Sunglass Hut: 33% off
Is 15 miles per dollar special?
It always feels great earning double-digit miles without flying, but are these offers truly extraordinary? We can use CashBackMonitor to peek at the historical best portal rates for each of the 15 stores offering 15x:
Ebags.com: Not bad, but not amazing
Ebags pretty frequently has high payouts. In fact, through 3/31, the British Airways portal is also offering 15x Avios, which you may value more or less than United miles depending on your travel patterns. Payouts occasionally spike as high as 18x or 20x, though 15x seems to be the more common “special” for this merchant.
A few things to keep in mind:
1) Though gift card orders arrive instantly, the Frequent Miler Laboratory shows that in most instances, miles will not be paid out when purchasing gift cards. In my experiences, gift card purchases sometimes initially track in the portal but are later clawed back. Purchases made using gift cards usually track as expected.
2) Many portals now specifically exclude cash/miles earning on eBags.com purchases of merchandise from select brands. The United portal lists the following exclusions:
Not eligible on the following brands: AAXA Technologies, Amazon Products, Ankr, Asante, August Home, Canon, Fujifilm, iBoost, Merkury Innovations, Microsoft, Nest, Optoma, Panasonic, Rivacase, Samsung, and Seagate.
3) eBags sometimes prices items higher when you shop through a portal. Make sure to check eBag prices from another portal before buying.
While we know that terms aren’t always enforced as written, my recent experience purchasing products from several of the listed brands from eBags indicates that these exclusions are being enforced.
Old Navy: Great Deal!
You may remember that Old Navy was offering 15x through Alaska MileagePlan’s shopping portal the other day. That one-day offer is the only other time that Old Navy has offered 15x in the past 15 months. Normal payouts are only 3 or 4 miles per dollar. Old Navy may represent a great opportunity to double-dip! While there isn’t any experience in the Frequent Miler Laboratory on the success or failure of buying egift cards through a portal, readers have pointed out that you could buy Old Navy egift cards through the MileagePlus X app. Those gift cards are delivered instantly in the app. The current payout is 10x on Old Navy gift cards in the MPX app. United MileagePlus Explorer credit card holders earn an additional 25% bonus in the MPX app for an effective 12.5 miles per dollar. Stack these deals by using those purchased GCs through the MileagePlusShopping portal for a total of as much as 27.5 miles per dollar! 27.5x on Old Navy is a phenomenal payout compared to the norm!
Banana Republic: Great deal!
Very similar to the Old Navy deal above. While we did see a number of 10x one-day specials last summer and fall, the typical payout for Banana Republic is 3-4x. You can also buy GCs through the MPX app and potentially earn as much as 27.5x at Banana Republic.
Groupon: Great deal!
While Groupon has occasionally offered as much as 12x, this 15x offer marks the highest it has been in the past 15 months. Groupon typically offers 3-6x. Improve the value of this offer with coupon code OFF for $5 off $15, $10 off $20, $20 off $60, or $30 off $100. Earning 15 miles per dollar while saving 30% can make this deal hot for the right Groupon deal!
Neiman Marcus: Good Deal + Great Timing + Double Dip = Great Deal (maybe Smoking Deal for some)
Note of caution: Deals We Like is reporting egift card orders that were initially fulfilled and then retroactively canceled. While I haven’t yet found similar reports elsewhere, and have ordered many Neiman Marcus gift cards without issue in the past, I would suggest waiting a few days to resell if that is your intention to be sure that your orders go through successfully.
While regular payouts for Neiman Marcus are 6-8x, offers for 12-15x are fairly common with this store. However, according to data reported in the lab and my own personal experience, Neiman Marcus pays out on both the purchase and redemption of gift cards. If you bought gift cards the other day to take advantage of the 15x offer from Alaska MileagePlan (and you also got your $50 back on $200 Amex offer for Neiman Marcus), now is the time to put those gift cards to use! If you haven’t yet used the Amex offer or haven’t used it on all of your cards, today is a great day to take advantage of it. Even if you don’t plan to purchase products today, you could buy a $200 Neiman Marcus gift card to trigger your $50 Amex statement credit and also earn 15 miles per dollar on the full $200. Then, wait for another increased payout offer to double dip on miles when you use your gift card!
Sweetening the pot further, Neiman Marcus is running a gift card event through Tuesday whereby purchases (of merchandise, not gift cards) meeting the following thresholds will earn a free gift card with coupon code NMSHOP:
Qualifying items are marked with gold type that says “Up to a $500 Gift Card”. Note that the coupon code will not work on the purchase of gift cards, but it will work in combination with the use of gift cards. Note also that the free gift card arrives via email in approximately 8 weeks and must be used within about 60 days of the day you receive it. The expiration date of the gift card is clearly indicated on the promotional gift card and those promotional gift cards otherwise work the same as any other gift card. In my experience, there is almost always another gift card event within the period of validity of the promotional gift card. That is to say that if you spent $2,000 today and received a $500 gift card, you would likely get an opportunity to use that $500 gift card during an event where you could then earn another $100 gift card, etc. These gift card events vary a bit in value and are sometimes a bit better than today’s deal (e.g. Spend $2k, get $600) but rarely less. Full terms of this deal:
ONLINE THROUGH TUESDAY ONLYEARN UP TO A
$500 GIFT CARD*Promo code NMSHOP
Spend Gift Card $500 $100 $750 $150 $1,000 $200 $2,500 $500
*Promotional Gift Card Details:
When can I use:
• Use code NMSHOP online at checkout before 01/24/17 at 11:59 PM CT.
Where can I use it:
• Domestic online orders only.
Promotional Gift Card Offer:
• The value of your select regular-price order must total at least $500 before shipping, tax, and gift packaging. Sale and reduced-price merchandise do not qualify.
• Your promotional gift card and redemption instructions will be sent within 8 weeks of the promotion expiration date via the email address used when placing the order. The card expires within two months of the issue date indicated on the award email.
• We recommend adding firstname.lastname@example.org to your contact list.
• By participating in this promotional gift card event, you agree to have your award emailed to you via the email address provided when placing your order.
• Not valid on prior purchases, gift registry, NM Gift Cards®, catalog orders, Bergdorf Goodman®, Last Call®, or CUSP®.
• Canceled orders do not qualify.
• International orders do not qualify.
• GiftNow purchases are excluded from this promotion.
• One gift card per customer is allowed; amounts spent above the qualified level will not apply.
• Offer cannot be combined with other gift card offers.
• Select designers excluded. Qualifying items are marked on the site with colored type on their product page.
• Neiman Marcus employees are not eligible for this offer.
• For further assistance, please call 1.888.888.4757.
What happens if I return merchandise:
• Applicable returns will be subtracted from the qualified submitted sales, and any gift card earned may be forfeited or the value reduced. Store returns or exchanges may cause the award to be delayed or forfeited.
Nike: Good Deal
Nike often offers 15x for one-day offers like this (and the offer has reached as high as 21x), usual rates are actually about 6x.
For a chance to really stack your savings, redeem your Discover Cash for more than face value in Nike gift cards. You can currently redeem $40 in Discover Cash for a $50 Nike egift card (20% off). Plus, Discover currently has a special offer to get a $20 Nike egift card for $15 (25% off). I believe you can redeem multiple gift cards on a single Nike purchase, meaning that this deal allows you to stack 20% to 25% off with 15 miles per dollar for maximum savings.
Shoebuy: Decent Deal
Shoebuy normally offers 10-12x with occasional spikes in the 15-20x range. Tyically cash back rates are 12-15%, with offers of 18-21% coming around fairly regularly. That said, 15x is decent for this retailer.
Coach: Good Deal
While I don’t know how their prices compare to what you can find by shopping around, 15x is more than double the best mileage rate offered at Coach in the past 15 months. Typical mileage payous are 3-4x. That said, Discover Deals has paid out 10% a number of times in the past year. If you are in your first year of a Discover It card, this will eventually be doubled, meaning that you can earn an effective 20% when a 10% payout is offered. However, the current Discover Deals payout is only 5% — meaning that if you intend to make a purchase now, this deal might be the best you’ll see for a while.
Under Armour: OK Deal
Under Armour has offered as much as 20 United miles per dollar, but that’s extremely rare. Usually they’re closer to 6 miles per dollar. That said, 15% cash back via Discover Deals is fairly common, and if you’re in your first year of card ownership, you’ll eventually get that amount doubled. So, for those with first year Discover It cards, Discover Deals is a better deal.
Rosetta Stone: Maybe OK deal?
Unfortunately the Best Rate History shows the Hilton portal as being best at 14X most of the time, so we don’t know what the usual best airline mile rate is. We did see one day in the past year when British Airways was offering 16X and they also offered 15x Alaska MileagePlan miles the other day. The usual cash back rate is 10%, but we’ve seen as high as 24%.
Sunglass Hut: Great Deal
15x is much better than normal for Sunglass Hut. Typically, the best miles & points payout is 7 Hilton points per dollar, so 15x airline miles is significantly better than average. While cash back has reached as high as 16%, it is more commonly in the 8-10% range, making this payout a solid deal.
However, the real steal here is stacking this with Discover Cash. You can buy a $30 Sunglass Hut gift card for just $20 in Discover Cash, yielding an effective discount of 33% + 15 miles/dollar. With numbers like those, it might be a bright idea to buy some shades :-).
H&R Block: Run, don’t walk! Bad deal!
British Airways typically offers more miles per dollar and is currently paying out 24 Avios per dollar on H&R Block. Cash back rates are commonly 20%. 15 miles is not a deal.
Sleepy’s: Great Deal
We’ve only seen 15x one time in the past 15 months (from AAdvantage), but typical payouts are only 3-4 miles or 8-10%. 15x doesn’t come around often here.
Lord & Taylor: Good Deal
Lord & Taylor often offers 1 day deals for 12X United miles, but 4X seems to be the most commonly available rate.
Saks Off Fifth: Good Deal
Saks Off Fifth now and then offers 15X United miles, but 4X seems to be the most commonly available rate.
Can you earn 15X miles when buying gift cards from these stores? Check for recent reader reports on the Frequent Miler Laboratory. As noted above, the MPX app gives you a reliable way to buy GCs for a doule-dip at Old Navy and Banana Republic.
Portals often state that the use of coupons not found on their site will invalidate the offer. In my experience, that’s usually not true. With a couple of exceptions, I always try to use the best coupon I can find and have earned the portal miles anyway.
Best of luck maximizing this one-day bonus! Note that these increased payouts end at 11:59pm ET tonight!
[…] Marcus did result in earning portal rewards. Then, last weekend, first the Alaska portal and then the United portal offered 15 miles per dollar at Neiman Marcus, and at a number of other stores. And, many people […]
Did the 15x on Alaska points on 1/20 which tracked and even posted to Alaska Mileage plan (was shocked it was so fast). And was somewhat less shocked when they were all clawedback other than one physical item purchased. I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
I did the 15-20x United offers around Christmas. They were very slow to post NM-I got nervous and emailed United but everything came through on merchandise paid with gift cards after about three weeks. I did a small trial purchase of a gift card and did not receive points.
Nike limits payment online to ten gift cards.
Seems like a bad omen. You tout the 15x United and nobody gets any points through the portal.
The T&Cs state it can take 30 days or so. Patience…
I haven’t received my 15/$ Alaska miles from my NM merchandise purchase yet either. I did not purchase any gift cards.
Please let’s keep each other in the loop on this. I believe it said it could take up to 30 days (although Alaska portal itself says typically 5 days.) I placed a few orders and have received some orders in full and others not yet. So I would have expected the filled orders to have posted already even if the pending ones haven’t, but nothing yet on either…
Has anyone received miles from UA Portal for purchases at Neiman Marcus? I did it in the late evening (before midnight EST) of 22 January 2017, but still haven’t seen one single tracked purchase.
I haven’t received mine from UA portal. Did you buy gift card or anything else?
Great first post, Nick! Congratulations on the new position with Greg too- really looking forward to reading your stuff. Safe Travels!
Nieman Marcus hasn’t cancelled my purchased gift cards (yet) but Cardpool bought them from me (so I upped my buy and sell) only to get this message two days later:
We recently received your gift card code transaction but our processing center encountered an issue while processing your cards.
Our risk assessment team has determined that we aren’t able to accept the transaction at this time. We have cancelled the transaction and are returning ownership of the gift cards to you. Unfortunately, we’re not able to disclose any further specifics regarding this process.
We apologize for any inconvenience to you.
Anyone need a few grand in Nieman Marcus?
Any data point abou NM gift card promo? Can I make 5 $200 order and get $200 gc? Or it has to come in one order?
It has to be one order for qualifying merchandise and using the promo code. In your cart, each item should show “Qualifies for NMSHOP” or something to that effect in gold font after you apply the promo code. Note that while most items count, be careful to look for the indication that it does count as shown in the terms. If you’re looking to just maximize the Amex offer buying merchandise, you may be better off waiting. NM tends to offer regular promotions alternating between these gift card events and dollar-off coupons like $50 off of $200 or $100 off of $400. I have no inside information suggesting that one of those types of offers will happen before the Amex offer ends, but if I were a bettin’ man I’d say the odds are good. And I’ve been known to lay a wager now and again ;). Of course, the trade off is that the mileage payouts may not be as good.
neiman marcus is cancelling many of the gift certificate orders from a couple days back…
Has this happened to you? We’ve only found one blog report about that so far.
FYI back in October when Mileageplus had one of these offers I tried purchasing through portal 4inkjets.com, using the simultaneous amex offer. United would not give me the miles. I’m tempted to use the NM amex offer, but am going to hold off.
“However, according to data reported in the lab and my own personal experience, Neiman Marcus pays out on both the purchase and redemption of gift cards. ”
When you go through the United Shopping portal, it specifically states that purchase of gift cards do no qualify for miles. Has your experience been otherwise? Thanks for the post!
My experience has definitely been otherwise. You’ll notice that the language in portals often excludes the purchase of gift cards, though if you check the Frequent Miler Laboratory, you will find actual reader experiences often differ depending on the merchant. I always suggest looking at the most recent comments in the laboratory before placing an order and understand that as the terms exclude GCs, YMMV. It’s always possible that a store could begin enforcing terms today that were not enforced in the past – but based on plenty of personal experience, I have always gotten miles on both the purchase and redemption of eGCs at NM.
Warning: United hasn’t paid out any of my miles when I pay with a GC. Basically I only get miles for the amount I charged to a cc but not the part I pay with a GC.
I’ve called but only get uninformed CSRs that just tell me to wait and wait and wait. They never appear.
That’s odd. I find that posting times do vary, but I consistently get paid out when using gift cards at most merchants.
One thing I do find is that the amount of time a transaction takes to post does sometimes vary . It also varies from portal to portal. For example, most of my Neiman Marcus purchases track within a week or two through the United portal, but they take about 45 days to track on the British Airways portal and about 60 until they are confirmed. It also seems that there is a difference in tracking time between using a credit card and using a gift card, but both have tracked for me as recently as earlier this month.
At which site(s) have you had trouble? How long has it been?
Gap, Land’s End are the two hat come to mind. I was annoyed bc it was part of a larger bonus. It’s been several months and I never got my miles. I’ll try again bc this is too good. I needed to shop anyway so this perfect (it’s starting to feel like summer in Houston already! Kids need clothes).
Best of luck with this go-around! You’re right that the payouts are stellar on clothing this time around.
What a bummer on your previous purchases. While it certainly won’t help turn back the clock now, if you go to the Laboratory link in the bar at the top of the page and type “Lands” in the search box, you will find several similar reports about not earning miles on redemption of gift cards with this particular merchant. As I said, most merchants do pay out miles on gift card redemptions — but there are a few that do not and it appears that Lands End is one.
Laboratory experience with Gap is more limited.
Please keep us posted on your successes and failures so that we can keep information current, though I would expect success here. Thanks for the feedback!