Did you know that you can rack up airline miles not just by starting your online shopping at the airline shopping portals but by shopping and paying for your items in a physical store?
Both United and Alaska now offer the potential to collect miles for in-store shopping, United by using an app and Alaska by linking a credit card to an online offer.
Angelina Aucello of Bergen County, New Jersey, who writes the Angelina Travels blog, says she started using United’s app in 2016 and can’t believe she didn’t start using it sooner.
“Earning miles online is nice,” she says, “but it’s also a great practice to earn them on-the-go during in-store purchases, too!”
Alaska Mileage Plan In-Store Shopping
Alaska Airlines, like many airlines, lets you earn up to 20 miles per dollar by starting at MileagePlanShopping.com before shopping at major online retailers.
In 2017, Alaska Airlines added a feature that lets you earn points when shopping in a store.
Here’s how it works: Go to MileagePlanShopping.com/InStore and review the available offers. If you find one that interests you, select Get Offer to activate it. Then follow the prompts to link the card you will use to purchase your items to your Mileage Plan account.
The offers I checked only allowed me to use a Visa or American Express card.
It’s that easy. Just pay for your item at the store, and the miles will be credited to your account.
If you are using a debit card, select the credit option when paying and do not use your PIN. You can also opt in to receive text notifications to alert you when you have miles pending after a purchase.
Worth noting: For in-store shopping, available offers are valid until the promotion end date displayed or within 30 days of activation, whichever comes first. Be sure to check the details for any minimum spend requirements, excluded products and the number of times you can use the card-linked offer.
Among retailers listed in the Mileage Plan In-Store Shopping program are Bed, Bath & Beyond, Express, Macy’s, New York & Company, Shoe Carnival and Under Armour and range between a half-mile to 4.5 miles per dollar.
Alaska says miles typically post to your account within three to five days, but it can take up to 30 days.
United’s MileagePlus X App
United’s in-store shopping program is not quite as easy to use and requires installing and using United’s MileagePlus X smartphone app. That said, in addition to in-store retailers, the MileagePlus X app works at restaurants and movie theaters, and you can earn up to 5 miles per dollar spent.
The app is available in both the iTunes and Google Play stores.
I recently used the MileagePlus X app when picking up a pizza at Domino’s and found it easy to use.
Aucello says she and her husband decided to give it a try when dining at one of their favorite restaurants.
“The app was offering 5 miles per dollar spent, so our $101.53 bill netted us an additional 507 miles on top of the 3 points per dollar we were earning on dining purchases by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve,” she says.
Here’s how it works: Open the MileagePlus X app and enter your ZIP code or a different location to find nearby participating merchants. In my search, I found major retailers and restaurant chains including Lowe’s, Starbucks, Walmart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Old Navy, AMC Theatres, Outback Steakhouse and more.
Once you select a merchant, the app lets you purchase a gift card from the store or restaurant by using a stored form of payment. At the store or restaurant, the cashier redeems the gift card by scanning the app to pay for your purchase.
Miles should credit to your account immediately upon the purchase of the gift card.
Bonus: Additionally, if you hold a Chase United MileagePlus Explorer or MileagePlus Club credit card and use it to pay for your gift card, you will receive a bonus of 25 percent more miles rounded down to the nearest whole number on your purchase.
Worth noting: Some merchants may require a minimum spend or cap the amount you are able to purchase with a gift card. You can also use your United miles to pay for items by clicking on Tap to Select and Use Award Miles.
One limit to this system is that cash returns may not be possible if you are buying items with a gift card. Additionally, you would be giving up any purchase protection benefits that may come with making a purchase directly with a credit card.
Aucello says the app can be a great way to keep your United miles from expiring or to top off your balance if you’re close to redeeming an award, since the miles post instantly to your account.
Bottom line: With both in-store options, using a credit card that earns additional miles or points on your purchase is a great way to stack even more rewards on top of the airline miles you’ll earn.
See related: 5 ways to earn airline miles without an airline card, Is it time for a rewards card reboot?