One of my favorite free ways to earn airline miles and points is by starting my online shopping at airline shopping portals. By simply clicking through to the website where you’ll be doing your shopping, you earn airline points or miles for each dollar you spend on items you would be purchasing anyway.
The problem with the shopping portals is that I often forget to use them, and I don’t think I’m alone.
To help with our forgetfulness, Southwest, American, United and Alaska airlines have added buttons (which are really Chrome browser extensions) that help us remember that we can be raking in rewards whenever we are shopping online.
My family usually makes the most of airline shopping portals around the holidays, but there are plenty of opportunities to use them through the year, like back-to-school shopping, birthdays or for baby or wedding shower gifts.
One reader of my GotoTravelGal.com blog even orders her groceries at Target through the Southwest portal and then picks up her order in the store so she can earn more points.
How the browser extensions work
When you install an airline’s online shopping button to your Google Chrome browser (I’ll explain how to do it below), a box will pop up on your screen when you are shopping at an online retailer that has partnered with the airline.
The box will tell you how many points per dollar you can earn. If you want to earn those points when shopping, simply click “Activate” on the box.
You can have multiple airline buttons installed on your browser, and each will pop up when you are on a partner retailer site. Simply “activate” the button for the airline on which you’d like to earn your miles or points (or the one offering the sweetest points offer).
I always strive to use the Southwest shopping portal because online shopping through Rapid Rewards helps my family rack up the 110,000 points to renew our Southwest Companion Pass, which lets one of my family members fly for nearly free with me. (Those flying on a Companion Pass must pay any mandatory government or security fees.)
Once you have activated an airline shopping button, you’ll earn your miles or points as usual upon payment at the website. It typically takes a few days to up to eight weeks for points to arrive in your frequent flyer account for use in booking free flights.
Another nice feature of the shopping buttons is that when you search Google for a specific product, you’ll see the number of miles and points you can earn with each airline above the retailer listings.
You also will notice a little icon for each “button” on the top right of your browser bar. If you click each button, it also will show your recent shopping activity and total points earned on that airline’s shopping portal.
How to install an airline’s button
Each of these shopping tools, which the airlines call “buttons,” are actually extensions that you are adding to your Chrome browser and then activating.
To activate the button for your favorite airline shopping portals, start by clicking the links below to each airline’s shopping button:
Then simply click “Get the Button” on each shopping portal page. A box will pop up asking you to click “Add Extension” to install the button.
Google Chrome extensions need to be activated, but this should happen automatically when you install the button. If the button is not working for you, click More Tools/Extensions on your Google Chrome browser, find the button and slide the button to the right to “activate.”
Favoriting is another way to score bonus rewards
All of the airlines with buttons for their shopping portals also now let you “favorite” online stores or retailers. The airline shopping portal then will alert you when your favorite retailers are offering increased miles or points.
How to set up your favorites: Click on Favorites at the top of an airline shopping portal, and then either search for a store and click “Add to Favorites” or click the heart shape next to a store name to “favorite” the retailer at any point.
Then the shopping portal will email you whenever there is a bonus points offer.
Shopping online through airline portals was already an easy way to earn free miles and points, but with these new features, it just got even easier – even for forgetful folks like me!
See related: 5 ways to earn airline miles – without an airline rewards card, 2 ways to earn airline miles by shopping in stores, 4 easy ways to stack your card rewards