The New York Times carried a piece earlier in the week about loyalty programs’ online shopping malls.
You click through a link on their websites to get to the stores you are going to shop at, and earn miles and points (or cashback, depending on the site) for the purchases you make. It’s like the mortgage refinancing commercial tagline, “It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of earth.”
The one useful bit in the article, of course, is to check EV Reward before making any online purchase. That site will tell you what miles, points, or cashback you can get for the purchase you’re about to make it and puts the link you need to click in order to get the ‘rebate’ right in front of you. Plus it will often show you coupon codes for the online merchants as well.
Holiday shopping or any shopping, online purchases need to be made through a mileage or cashback mall — and the choice of mall is dictated by (a) which one partners with the online store you want to shop at, and (b) which one offers the most generous reward — for example, the same merchant may earn 3 American miles, 2 United miles, or 4 Continental miles per dollar spent. At that point I choose American — 3 AAdvantage miles are clearly worth more than 2 United, and Continental’s award chart is pricey and award availability is poor (though this should change when they enter the Star Allaince) such that the greater number of miles earned would get me less in my experience.