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Middle Age Miles

Airline Shopping Portal Bonuses Until 12/22 – Our Analysis and How We’re Playing Them

airline shopping portal bonus holiday Christmas eshopping american airlines aadvantage alaska airlines mileage plan united airlines mileage Plus

Introduction

Earlier this week, American, Alaska and United eShopping came out with “Last Minute Bonus” offers for holiday spending through their portals. Each of the bonus offers runs through Sunday, December 22, so you have a few days left to use them.

In this article, we take a quick look at each of the offers, analyze them, and let you know how we’re using them (or not).

The Portal Bonus Offers

American

The American AAdvantage shopping portal has a two-tiered bonus offer (shown in the featured image at the top of this article) on spend from the beginning of the promotion on December 16, through December 22, 2019:

  • Spend $150+ and earn 500 bonus AA miles
  • Spend $500+ and earn 2,000 bonus AA miles

At our baseline value of 1.25 cents per AA mile, this promotion gives you the opportunity to earn up to an extra 5% in points rebates by going through the AA portal and spending exactly $500.

Alaska

The Alaska Mileage Plan shopping portal has the an offer to earn 500 bonus Alaska miles when you spend at least $200, from the beginning of the promotion on December 16, through December 22, 2019:

At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per Alaska mile, this promotion gives you an opportunity to earn up to an extra 3.75% in points rebates by going through the Alaska portal and spending exactly $200.

United

The United MileagePlus shopping portal has the same offer as Alaska – earn 500 bonus United miles when you spend at least $200, from the beginning of the promotion on December 16, through December 22, 2019:

At our baseline value of 1.4 cents per United mile, this promotion gives you the opportunity to earn up to an extra 3.5% in points rebates by going through the United portal and spending exactly $200.

Analysis and How We’re Using the Portal Offers with Gift Card Purchases

For starters, if you have organic purchases that you can make to collect these portal bonuses, that’s probably the way to go. As always, be sure to check Cashback Monitor to compare rates by going through different portals.

For us, we don’t really have any organic purchases to make, so we’ve analyzed the portal bonuses for purposes of buying gift cards through GiftCards.com (GC.com). Current rates on each of the portals for GC.com are:

In our opinion, the only one of these deals that’s worth doing if you’re purchasing a gift card to hit the bonus is the American deal. The bonuses and return rates on the Alaska and United deals are enough to turn a small “profit” (at our own personal values and return rates), but frankly, they’re too small for us to spend our time on.

American Bonus Deal

On the AA deal, we decided to go through GC.com to purchase a $500 virtual Visa Gift Card (VGC). (We will be able to liquidate this VGC at 2%; same as a physical card, and fees for the virtual VGC ($5.95) are lower than fees for a physical VGC ($6.95 + $1.99 shipping = $8.94.) Relevant details are:

  • Fee for a virtual VGC (any amount from $10-500) = $5.95
  • Liquidation fee using a 2% online method = $9.81
  • Portal earnings on AA for GC.com = 1 mile / $ = 506 AA miles
  • Bonus earnings on AA = 2,000 AA miles
  • Credit card for payment = Citi Double Cash, earning 2x TYPs / $
  • Credit card point earnings = 2 x $506 = 1,012 TYPs

Using these numbers, we’ll incur a total of $15.76 in fees and earn a total of 2,506 AA miles plus 1,012 ThankYou Points (TYPs). That means that we’ve purchased a total of 3,518 AA miles/TYPs, at a cost of 0.45 cents per point/mile. That’s well below our baseline value for AA miles and TYPs, which is 1.25 cents each.

Looking at it another way:

  • AA miles baseline value = 2,506 * 0.0125 = $31.32
  • TYPs baseline value = 1,012 * 0.0125 = $12.65
  • Total points/miles value = $43.97
  • Total fees = $15.76
  • “Profit” (in terms of baseline points/miles value) = $28.21

For us, that’s a deal worth doing.

Alaska & United Deals

For Alaska & United, the numbers aren’t as good, so we’ll pass.

In short, if you purchase a $200 virtual VGC from GC.com with Citi Double Cash to hit the Alaska or United bonuses and liquidate at 2%, you’d incur $9.88 in fees ($5.95 purchase + $3.93 liquidation) and earn 1,015 points/miles (103 portal miles + 500 portal bonus + 412 TYPs). (You’d earn a few more United miles if you hold a United co-branded card.) Cost per point/mile would be 0.97. If you gave each of the points/miles a value of 1.25 cents (understanding that we value AS and UA miles a bit higher), your points/miles “profit” would be $12.69 – $9.88 = $2.81.

How about if you purchase a $500 virtual VGC instead? Fees would be $15.76 ($5.95 purchase + $9.81 liquidation). You’d earn 753 miles (253 + 500 bonus) and 1,012 TYPs, for a total of 1,765 points/miles. Cost per point/mile would be 0.89. At 1.25 cents per point/mile, your “profit” would be $22.06 – $15.76 = $6.30.

None of these deals are quite good enough for us to bite. That said, the AS bonus with a $500 card is somewhat tempting (given that AS miles can be more valuable), and the UA bonus with a $500 card might tempt us if we were regular United flyers with a United co-branded card that would up the return on that deal.

Wrap-Up

We’re really like the AA bonus deal with a GC.com purchase, and we’ve done it on Philly’s AAdvantage account and mine over the past 2 days. Be sure to do your own calculations to see if these deals make any sense for you to earn a few extra points and miles over the holidays!

What do you think about the airline portal deals? Any tips on how to use them better than what we’ve suggested here? Please share with us and other Middle age Miles readers in the Comments!


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