New online shopping notes: bonus miles/points for Forever 21 and Gilt Groupe

The most recent mailing I received from AAdvantage eShopping lists Forever 21 as a new retailer, thus you can earn 2 bonus AA miles per dollar on Forever 21 purchases made through the AAdvantage portal. I cross-referenced this with United’s MileagePlus shopping and they are now offering 1 mile per dollar 2 miles on the dollar ( mistakenly has Forever 21 listed as earning only 1 United mile per dollar). (Updated 1/24/2012 but United is also offering 500 bonus miles for $75 spent on a single purchase through Jan 31.)  This is excellent news for me. I shop at Forever 21 far more often than is dignified and acceptable at my age but at least now I can use the earning of bonus miles as an excuse. (Did they really need to name the store Forever 21? How about Forever 27? Or Forever 40? That buys me a lot more time.)

On another note, when I made my two initial purchases on Gilt Groupe in order to garner 1500 bonus United/Continental miles for both me and my boyfriend, I had shopped through the Marriott shopping portal and also received 4 Marriott points per dollar spent. Double-dipping works in this case because you don’t have to shop through the United MileagePlus portal in order to receive 1500 bonus miles AND 5 miles per dollar spent. Register here. They’ve imposed a $50 minimum purchase requirement since I made my purchase of a single jar of powdered ginger.

So on one Gilt Groupe purchase, I received

1. 1500 United Miles for signing up

2. 5 bonus United miles per dollar spent

3. 4 Marriott points per dollar spent (these took forever… about 3 months… to post, but just in time to boost my account for my next Marriott points-stay).

This little jar of ginger powder earned me a boatload of miles and points.


Virgin Atlantic coming to PHL

Yesterday, the Awesome Nerd and Adam from Food from Scratch were exceedingly excited to share with me the news that Virgin Atlantic was going to start serving Philadelphia later this year. The press release is here. While Virgin Atlantic isn’t a part of a global alliance and unfortunately, its relationship with Continental ends February 13th, this is nevertheless some exciting news for PHL and a reason to rack up frequent flyer points through Elevate. I’ll be looking forward to cheap flights to SFO and LAX.

1. Earn points by shopping through Virgin’s Red Store.

2. Link your Elevate account with TopGuest and for every Facebook or Foursquare check-in (or location-based tweet) at a Virgin location (airport terminal, baggage claim, etc) get 25 bonus Elevate points.

3. Check out more of Elevate’s partners (they have a ton of hotel ones) here.

4. Enter the Next Stop Sweepstakes here for a chance to win free roundtrip tickets between SFO/LAX and PHL.

How to keep miles from expiring

You don’t need to fly to keep your mileage account current, you just need to exhibit some activity, some sign of life. Each of the ways (purchasing or transferring miles works too) listed in this post counts as activity and can reset your mileage clock for however long a particular program sets it. With each promotion adding bonus miles to your account, the lifespan on your account is extended. The same goes for purchases, no matter how small.

For instance, since partners with travel programs such as American Airlines, Amtrak, Choice Privileges, Delta SkyMiles, Hawaiian Airlines, Marriott Rewards, Priority Club, Southwest, US Airways and United Airlines, buying a single song off iTunes can reset the clock on any of those accounts. Plus you earn an extra point or mile for buying through the associated shopping portal. You MUST make the purchase through the portal.

Even if you live in a cave and have never heard of iTunes, surely you could find something worthy of purchasing from the myriad of retailers that partner with AAdvantage eShopping, MileagePlus shopping, etc. For example, Groupon (leave your cave and take a cheap salsa dancing class or streamline those neanderthal whiskers with some discount laser hair removal while earning 8 AA miles per dollar) or (I love how I get cash back on purchases and avoid having to drag myself to one of Philly’s remarkably depressing chain drugstores. I also just spent $12.15 in cash back on motion sickness remedies. It was mildly thrilling.).

The same logic applies to using a credit card associated with a specific airline or program – your mileage clock would reset every month, as miles from purchases are posted to your mileage account.

However, while jumping on various promotions is a good way to keep your mileage account healthy and active, if your miles are close to expiring, miles from purchases (or dining through an airline dining program) post to accounts a lot faster. Miles from promotions can take 6-8 weeks to post. The 1500 bonus miles I received from a first Gilt Groupe purchase I made on Dec. 1 have JUST posted to my Continental account.

American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines and Hawaiian Miles have clocks that are set for 18 months. Your miles do not expire so long as you exhibit some activity in an 18-month period.

You can also worry less about your miles expiring if you use, as it tracks the expiration date for each program you put on there.

This all applies only to redeemable miles, as elite qualifying miles usually reset at the beginning of each year. Explanation of United Airlines’ new and old mileage programs here.

To reinstate expired miles is not impossible, but plan ahead and you won’t be caught in such a situation.

Keep your miles from expiring so that this does not happen to you. This is only funny if you know Cantonese.

This is Sparta

This was actually Athens.

1500 almost-free but Gilt-ridden United/Continental miles

If you’re on an academic budget, chances are you haven’t signed up for and aren’t springing for the $252 mahimahi steaks I recently ogled (they’re on sale! They’re usually $315). Good for you, but now is the time to sign up. For new Gilt Groupe members, there’s an offer for 1500 bonus award miles. Register with Gilt Groupe through this link by entering your email address and either your United or Continental number. If you have registered for Gilt Groupe at some point in your shady past (I confess, I actually was a member — the Noisy Nerd had Gilt-ed me into it long ago), just put in a different email address. The miles are supposed to post in 6-8 weeks (I keep a list of miles I’m supposed to earn for promotions, just in case miles don’t post. Screenshots help a lot, too).

I registered both myself (under a school email that I never use since my primary email wasn’t an option) and the boyfriend I keep mentioning and then I made a purchase under each account. I won’t talk about one purchase since it’s going to be a Christmas present for another boyfriend (just kidding, same one), but the other was the cheapest item I could find: a jar of Whole Spice ginger powder, which I plan to sprinkle liberally into my breakfast congee when I’m too lazy to haul out my ginger-chopping cleaver. The ginger was $5.95 and shipping was $5.95 (yeah, for a stupid jar of ginger), so I essentially paid $11.90 for 1500 United miles (I’ll also earn 5 miles for every dollar I spend at for the next 6 months).

Let’s put this into perspective:

1500 is just under half of what a non-elite member would earn for a direct, one-way flight between the East and West Coasts.

1500 is what I would earn on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card if I spent $750 on travel or dining and then converted Ultimate Rewards points to United miles.

If one were to inexplicably buy United miles under normal, non-promotion circumstances, they cost $35 per 1000 plus a 7.5% tax and you need to buy at least 2000 in one go. And you get no powdered ginger to put in your congee.

I would have to check into United-associated airports 30 times on Facebook in order to get 1500 United miles (more explanation in an upcoming post).

1500 miles gets you about 1/27th of a one-way coach ticket from Singapore to the East Coast.

Unfortunately, the same offer is not available on Ruth Bourdain’s site, Guilt Taste. A real pity. I would have considered springing for the $499 ortolan.


12.15.11 UPDATE! There’s now a minimum purchase for $25 for the Gilt promotion for new members.

Shopping through portals to earn miles 101

Isn’t “portal” a lovely word? Sure it just comes from L. porta but it still makes me think of Delphic oracles or something. Mystique has been loaded onto the word, I believe primarily through the constant usage of the term in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It also just so happens that more wonder can be added onto the word “portal” in regards to airline shopping mall portals. Now the airlines don’t run these online malls themselves, other companies buy miles from the airline and then the mall encourages you to shop through them and then you earn those miles. Sometimes it is the same company that runs multiple malls and if you register your card through one shopping mall (to get some discounts at retail locations), you can’t have it registered with another mall. But if you’re just shopping online, then you don’t have to worry about this. Anyway, essentially you can make so very many miles so easily just by 1. participating in your favorite airline’s mileage program, 2. signing up for an account with the mileage program’s associating shopping mall portal, 3. when you’re going to buy something, logging into that shopping mall portal and then clicking on whatever store you want to shop through.

You can generally make around 5 miles per dollar spent (again, this is on top of whatever miles you get from spending with a mileage earning credit card), and oftentimes a lot more. Miles amounts are not uniform, so it’s worth using to compare the deals at portals.

The portals I use most frequently are the United MileagePlus Shopping and AAdvantage Shopping, as I am most committed to those mileage programs. Since I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I also try to shop through the Ultimate Rewards mall, but you need a Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards to access it and pay for purchases through it. There are also Delta’s Skymiles Shopping and US Airways’ Dividend Miles Storefront, among others. The Points Guy has a post that explains holiday bonus deals at these places and more.

I haven’t had much of a problem increasing the miles I earn for online purchases as the places I shop at most often are represented at these portals:, Sephora, Apple (I made a ton of miles with this laptop), Amazon (see below with Hawaiian Miles), Vision Direct (this nerd wears contacts), Steve Madden, Best Buy and so on.

Unless I’m shopping for groceries or on a trip outside the States (I don’t shop for clothes in the States much. It’s next to impossible to buy pants here.), I’ll restrain myself from buying stuff in stores and just wait to get the same items online. This is usually not too hard to do as shopping in Pennsylvania can really stink and the malls here can be some of the most depressing and frustrating places on earth. I can usually find a free shipping coupon somewhere or I’ll stock up to meet the free shipping requirement.

In anticipation of the weight I’ll gain over Christmas and Chinese New Year, I bought a $25 Groupon that will get me ten Pilates classes at a nearby gym (I hate gyms, I’ve never belonged to one and I refuse to ever actually join one). Since the Ultimate Rewards mall is offering 15 points per dollar spent (in addition to the 1 point per dollar I’ll get by using the card), I’ll garner 400 points from a single purchase. These points I’ll eventually convert to United miles. and earning Hawaiian Miles on Amazon

As I mentioned before, you should definitely be earning miles by with each dollar you spend on a credit card. But you can earn even more miles on top of those same dollars spent by buying through the shopping mall portals of various award programs. I kept a post-it list on my desk of which portals to shop through that matched the portals up with my favorite online stores until I stumbled upon Basically, when you get to the front page, type in your store (Sephora, Amazon, whatever) into the search box below the question “where are you shopping?” and out pops a list of associated deals and coupons and where you can shop through to earn miles or points. I pretty much buy everything I need for school through Amazon since if you’re not careful, school bookstores will rob you blind and then try to rob your sweet old grandma, too (the last time I bought a book at a school bookstore, it was to photocopy a part of it and then immediately return the book). Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t a partner with the shopping portals I usually shop through (MileagePlus or AAdvantage). It is however, and as will tell you, a Hawaiian Miles partner and you can earn one Hawaiian Mile per dollar spent. And this is regardless of whatever credit card you’re paying with. No, it’s not a super generous deal but that’s one Hawaiian Mile more than nothing. You need to log into your Hawaiian Miles account, go into their eMarket, click on the Amazon link there and then proceed to shop as normal. As with shopping through any portal, make sure cookies are enabled in your browser. isn’t perfect and it doesn’t really update extra miles that can be earned during shopping portal promotions, but it’s a good place to start.

I cringe at the thought of all the Hawaiian Miles I missed out on before this discovery. So about a week and a half ago, I decided my road to recovery would begin with doing some Christmas shopping on Amazon through the Hawaiian Miles eMarket. So far only 6 Hawaiian Miles have posted to my account and I am anxiously awaiting the others (I guess miles accrued for different items post individually?). I had ordered up a whole range of spy gear for my nine year old godson. Night beam goggles, sunglasses that allow you to see behind you and a spy watch (not sure what makes the watch a spy watch). Rather unsurprisingly, once I mentioned this to my nerdy boyfriend, he immediately demanded that I duplicate the order and get him the same things for Christmas.