A subset of the frequent flyer blogiverse has been lit up over the new US Airways shopping mall, and the changes that it’s implied – the Dividend Miles shopping toolbar no longer works to award frequent flyer miles (for online purchases or for internet searches), Amazon.com shopping no longer earns US Airways miles.

Here’s one typically take from Flyalog, “US Airways Drops Amazon.com as a Partner” … only that’s not exactly right.

US Airways hasn’t dropped Amazon.com because despite the shopping portal’s use of the US Airways name, it wasn’t before and isn’t now actually run by US Airways and neither US Airways nor the Dividend Miles program selects which merchants are going to generate frequent flyer miles.

Instead, US Airways works with Skymall who contracts out to a technology provider. Previously that vendor was FreeCause. That contract is no longer in place, so they have a new provider and a new name for the venture, Dividend Miles StoreFront.

The new provider is Cartera Commerce, which also runs the American AAdvantage and Delta Skymiles shopping portals.

FreeCause was responsible for a pretty colossal screwup where they didn’t just make an offer inconsistent to the terms under which they’d be paid by web hosting company EasyCGI, they stonewalled, pointed fingers, and were generally unresponsive to members’ questions — and even, as I understand it, to prompting by US Airways Dividend Miles. I have to wonder whether this experience had anything to do with US Airways and FreeCause parting ways.

The new vendor, Cartera Commerce, is hardly free from screwups — they were responsible for too-rich Verizon Wireless offers that they didn’t honor but that they handled much more promptly, proactively, and generously than FreeCause did with their EasyCGI offer. They communicated with members rather than stonewalling, arranged product refunds, and offered goodwill mileage awards and incentives for future purchases through their portal.

It’s important to understand that while these programs can be rich and rewarding — for activities and purchases you’re going to undertake anyway — that the process is hardly transparent and fraught with potential problems.

You aren’t really dealing with your favorite mileage program at all but rather with a separate company who gets paid by online merchants for the business they refer, and then they buy miles from the frequent flyer program to rebate to the consumers making those purchases, pocketing the difference.

And when the technology screws up, or the mileage mall merchant makes an offer inconsistent with the terms under which the online store will pay them, it’s the consumer that doesn’t get anything. The mileage mall only pays when they get paid, and consumers not only don’t generally know who they’re dealing with but don’t get especially good customer service most of the time from the mileage mall vendor, who makes money on a large number of small transactions with low margins (since they’re rebating much of their profits to the consumer in order to generate that volume). Customer service is an expense that the vendors often don’t invest in because the economics don’t support it.

FreeCause still manages the Hawaiian Airlines shopping portal. They still have a relationship with Amazon, which Cartera Commerce does not. So you can still earn 1 Hawaiian Airlines mile per dollar spent at Amazon, and those miles transfer 1:2 into Hilton HHonors. So earning for Amazon isn’t dead.

But it’s not really right to say that US Airways stopped offering miles for Amazon purchases, it’s just that they’ve changed relationships to another shopping vendor and that vendor doesn’t currently have an affiliate marketing relationship with Amazon.

  1. MHenner said,

    So, does Hawaiian or any other site let you earn miles when shopping at Amazon.uk or any of the other European Amazon sites?

  2. Jiml said,

    Are there any other portals besides free cause/Hawaiian that let you earn through amazon?

  3. NR said,

    Cartera also handles the United Mileageplus shopping portal. They will actually reply to emails after a few days when you have a problem.

  4. marc said,

    Wow Gary.. Cartera has done a HORRIBLE job dealing with the Verizon fiasco. Including lots of stonewalling and fingerointing at first. Surprised you would give them a pass like that. I personally will never do business with Freecause or Cartera ever again.

  5. David G said,

    What are the odds that Freecause will award miles to Dividend Miles members now that their contract is over? I have a lot of purchases that are in the “8 week” posting period.

  6. Oliver said,

    “But it’s not really right to say that US Airways stopped offering miles for Amazon purchases”

    Just like US Airways doesnt actually fly to a large number of their destinations, but rather uses an outsourced vendor (Mesa etc.) to provide those flights under the US Airways name.

    So frankly, while it’s insightful how the airline “malls” work, I think it’s ultimately not a big deal when people say that US doesn’t offer miles for Amazon purchases anymore. Because that’s what it ultimately boils down to. As an Amazon customer, all I care about is whether I get miles into my US account or not.

    (don’t get me wrong, I like your posts shedding light n the behind-the-scenes working of the industry)

  7. JimL said,

    @david G
    Mine are still regularly posting for purchases from before this change occurred

  8. Jim said,

    Cartera also does Chase UR shopping mall.

  9. marathon man said,

    Aside from the screw up with AA/VZN, UA’s MileagePlus, also run by Cartera, has done a horrific job with the United Months of Migraine’s promo – I mean Months of Miles promo. United also made some huge changes and strange moves but I am somehow less worried about them.

    My opinion now is that people should simple just NOT use these malls Period. Not for anything at all! Why? Well, the waiting and wondering and the screw ups and near rebate-scam-like issues that can mount are simply not worth it! To wait 3 months or more for 200 miles or to wait double that time for 1,000 or more is a pain in the you know what. These promos cannot be handled by those who put them forth and so it’s a scam.

    Some here may blame the users, others may decide to just buy with the mall anyway and not worry about the miles unless/until they post. I say don’t even do that: After all, why should you let Cartera or FC party off the commission YOU helped them earn when you aren’t even getting the miles offered by your online purchase promised to you? Don’t even give them a chance. Simplify your life and buy online for a while without even having this as an option for now, because this option is bad news. One day if we are lucky, a real solid shopping entity will surface. That’s where I will bring my business.

    I am currently fighting to get all my delayed and messed up miles from several summer time mall transactions from both malls on many airline portals, but after that my plan is to ask them to delete all accounts for my family and I, and tell my friends to do the same. I’ll go back to getting miles in my account the ways I know how to sans shopping. I urge you ALL to do the same. Put these people out of business by not utilizing them. If they cannot get it right, why are they even in business?

    If asked I can cite a gazillion big and small instances where their own mistakes, changes and non confirmed offerings have angered a lot of customers who make legitimate purchases. Ask yourself: Would your company allow that many gross mistakes on your part before they’d let you go?

  10. Lyssa said,

    I hope that the rest of my miles will post from my purchases from the old mall. I am also waiting on some things. Ugh.

  11. AM said,

    I actually had great experiences with FreeCause before and after the US Airways situation. I feel they offer significantly better customer service and better mileage offers for consumers. I also think the online shopping world is just super complicated, but the FreeCause technology was always the best in my opinion and that of my friends.

  12. wfb said,

    If you’ve decided to accrue Hawaiian Airlines miles for Amazon purchases (with the goal of converting to Hilton points) — there’s another vendor that has no award / rebate relationship with anyone but Hawaiian Airlines. It’s ibuyofficesupply.com. I find them the cheapest vendor for office supplies. I use them mainly for generic supplies, pens, post-its, thermal paper rolls, labeling tape, etc. Free shipping over $75.

  13. Hilton HHonors Launches New Online Shopping Portal - View from the Wing said,

    [...] I explained last year how these shopping portals function. [...]

  14. Jack said,

    IS US AIRWAYS GIVING MILES FOR AMAZON PURCHASES? No. WERE THEY GIVING MILES IN THE PAST? Yes, therefore US Airways stopped giving miles for Amazon purchases. Period. All the rest is background noise. It’s a very simple question.

  15. Gary said,

    @Jack with apologies, this post is from 2011…

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