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Middle Age Miles

AA Shopping Portal Summer Bonus – Is It Worth Buying a GC to Get the Bonus?

aadvantage aa shopping portal summer bonus 500 aa miles strategy purchase gift card gc vgc mcgc

AAdvantage Shopping Portal Summer Bonus

From now through Monday, June 15, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time, the AAdvantage shopping portal is offering a “Summer Bonus” – earn 500 AA bonus miles when you spend at least $200 through the portal. Terms and conditions are standard for this type of airline shopping portal bonus:

  • One-time bonus of 500 AA miles
  • Requires at least $200 in purchases, which may be cumulative during the promotion period
  • Promotion period is 6/8/20 through 11:59:59 pm on 6/15/20
  • Allow up to 10 weeks after the end of the promo period for the bonus to post

The terms and conditions say that gift cards are excluded, but in our experience GCs have always triggered these types of portal bonus offers. This makes sense, as merchants that only sell gift cards, such as GiftCards.com (GC.com) and Raise.com participate in the AAdvantage shopping portal.

If you have $200+ in organic online spend where the AA portal (including the bonus) would be best-in-class, by all means do that. Be sure to use Cashback Monitor to compare portal rates. But in the rest of this article, we’ll focus on whether manufacturing spend through an online GC purchase is worth it.

Should I Buy a Gift Card to Trigger the Bonus?

For this analysis, let’s look at purchasing a Visa or Mastercard gift card (VGC/MCGC) through GC.com. We’ll make some assumptions, to illustrate how the math shakes out, but you’ll want to substitute values that reflect the payment card and liquidation method you’d actually use.

For starters, we know that purchases of VGC/MCGCs from GC.com earn 1 AA mile per dollar:

For our examples, we’ll use a Citi Double Cash card as our purchase card. Citi DC earns 2x ThankYou Points (TYPs) per dollar on all purchases. We’ll also use our baseline value for TYPs, which is 1.25 cents per TYP. If you’ll be using a different card, you’ll need to substitute your own rewards value.

For these calculations, we’ll also use our baseline value for AA miles, which is 1.25 cents per mile.

Example 1: $500 Virtual VGC

GC.com sells virtual VGCs for up to $500, with a processing fee of $5.95 and no shipping fees. (Note that virtual MCGCs are capped at $250, so they won’t work for this example.)

Virtual VGCs will need to be redeemed online. We’ll assume 2% liquidation through Bravo, which will result in a fee of $9.81.

Thus, fees will be $5.95 processing + $9.81 liquidation for a total of $15.76.

Next, let’s look at our earnings:

  • AA regular portal earnings = 1 * $506 = 506 AA miles ($6.32)
  • AA bonus portal earnings = 500 AA miles ($6.25)
  • Credit card rewards = 2 * $506 = 1,012 TYPs ($12.65)
  • TOTAL REWARDS = 2,018 miles/TYPs with a baseline value of $25.22

In this scenario, we’re making a total “profit” of about $9.46. Or, looking at it differently, we’re purchasing 2,018 AA miles/TYPs for $15.76, which means that we’re effectively paying 0.78 cents per AA mile/TYP.

In normal times, we’d certainly pay 0.78 cents per AA mile/TYP. These, however, are anything but normal times, especially in the travel world. We’ll leave it up to you as to whether this makes sense in your own situation. We’re on the fence, especially about tying up more cash in the form of AA miles.

Example 2: $200 Virtual VGC/MCGC

In Example 1, we looked at a $500 VGC purchase. But the promotion only requires a purchase of $200 to earn the bonus miles. How would our example change if we purchased a GC for only $200 instead? Would we be better off or worse?

For starters, our processing fee would remain $5.95. GC.com charges the same $5.95 fee for a virtual VGC/MCGC regardless of the amount of the GC.

Liquidation fees, though, are lower. At 2% via Bravo, we’d pay $3.93 to liquidate.

Total fees would be $5.95 processing + $3.93 liquidation for a total of $9.88.

Earnings would be as follows:

  • AA regular portal earnings = 1 * $206 = 206 AA miles ($2.57)
  • AA bonus portal earnings = 500 AA miles ($6.25)
  • Credit card rewards = 2 * $206 = 412 TYPs ($5.15)
  • TOTAL REWARDS = 1,118 miles/TYPs with a baseline value of $13.97

In this example, we’d make a total “profit” of $4.09 – or effectively purchase 1,118 AA miles/TYPs for $9.88, which means that we’re effectively paying 0.88 cents per AA mile/TYP.

This example shows a lower overall “profit” and a higher per-point cost than Example #1 with a $500 GC. If you’re doing this deal anyway, then it looks like you might as well go for a $500 GC.

Example 3: $500 Physical VGC/MCGC

How about if we purchase a physical VGC/MCGC instead? Many people prefer to liquidate GCs in-person rather than online for lower liquidation fees, if that option is available to them. But for online liquidation, we’ll need a physical GC, which comes with an additional shipping fee.

GC.com charges $1.99 to ship a single card via regular USPS mail, no tracking. The other option is trackable shipping for $8.29, but that’s not going to be cost-effective for a single GC. Thus, we’ll use the $1.99 regular shipping method for this example, with the caveat that it introduces an additional element of risk of non-delivery or mail theft.

So, in this example, estimated fees will be:

  • Purchase fee = $5.95
  • Shipping fee = $1.99
  • Liquidation fee = $0.88 (we’ll assume a money order purchase at WalMart)
  • TOTAL FEES = $8.82

Earnings will be:

  • AA regular portal earnings = 1 * $506 = 506 AA miles ($6.32)
  • AA bonus portal earnings = 500 AA miles ($6.25)
  • Credit card rewards = 2 * $508 = 1,016 TYPs ($12.70)
  • TOTAL REWARDS = 2,022 miles/TYPs with a baseline value of $25.27

Here, we show a “profit” of $16.45 and a per-mile/point cost of 0.44 cents per AA mile/TYP. If you have a good in-person liquidation method and don’t mind spending the additional time required for in-person liquidation, this is clearly a better value than the virtual GC examples. But not all of us have this option, and each person has to make his or her own evaluation of whether the additional “profit” is worth the extra time expenditure.

Wrap-Up

We hope this article helps you size up the new AA shopping portal Summer Bonus promotion and how you might best use it if you don’t have $200 in organic spend where the AA portal is the best option.

As we mentioned in the article, we’re very much on the fence about this promotion. Although we have little doubt that we’d eventually use the AA miles and credit card points to get more value than we paid, the uncertainty surrounding future travel and amount of time before we’d actually redeem these points makes us wary.

What’s your strategy for the AA Summer Bonus promotion? And what are your thoughts on the trade-off of cash versus miles/points at the moment? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!


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10 thoughts on “AA Shopping Portal Summer Bonus – Is It Worth Buying a GC to Get the Bonus?

  1. HoKo

    Hey Craig, I’m a little bit confused on the liquidation Costs via bravo. Can you post bravos fee structure? I tried to Google it but I can’t find it posted anywhere publicly

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi HoKo – Here’s the section from Bravo’s FAQs regarding fees:

      “For gratuity or sub-merchant payments (payment by tipper to service professional/tippee or seller), the following convenience fees shall apply: 2% of the amount of the applicable payment per transaction of less than $499.99 (generally referred as less than $500.00). For transactions over $500.00, a 3.5% + .30 cents fee applies.”

      Hope this helps! Thanks for reading Middle Age Miles, as always. ~Craig

  2. B

    I’m also confused by the Bravo liquidation fees. You mention bravo charges 2%, but then your fees are a bit off – i.e. liquidating a $200 gc you list as $3.93 instead of $4?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi B – Thanks for the comment. Think about the problem you’re trying to solve for. You need the total amount to come out to $200 so you can liquidate the entire GC. The total amount includes your payment + the 2% fee. With that explanation, can you see how the fee for a $200 GC comes to $3.93?

      I hope you continue to read and enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

          1. B

            If going the $200GC route, any reason not to buy $194.05 gc instead of $200? Would think to aa shopping portal it’s still a $200 purchase after fees? math doesn’t change dramatically, but just – like the idea of complete minimal spend to achieve the bonus miles.

          2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi B – I think this should work fine. The shopping portal does consider the $5.95 activation fee as part of your “purchase.” I like the ultra-optimization 🙂 ~Craig

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