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You’re likely familiar with your credit cards’ cash-back rewards, transferable points systems and sign-up bonuses.
But there’s another perk that can ease the burden on your wallet this holiday season: credit card shopping portals.
By using these portals to complete your online shopping, you can earn additional points and cash back — which means more money back in your pocket or more vacations on your calendar.
“I think that these portals are one of the best, most underutilized ways to get cash back and other rewards,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com.
As you ramp up your holiday gift purchasing this month, here’s everything to know about how to maximize your credit cards with shopping portals.
How credit card portals work
The good news is you already have all the tools you need to score great deals.
“What it is, is a kind of referral program,” Rossman says. “So you click through your credit card portal and go through to a retailer’s website. It’s the same site that you would get if you typed it in directly, but because of this referral they actually give you extra cash back. So it’s free money for something that takes 15 seconds.”
If you own a credit card that earns points or miles with each regular purchase, this is an easy way to build your rewards quickly through purchases you were already going to make.
Among the most popular shopping portals — including Chase’s Shop through Chase, Barclays’ RewardsBoost, Wells Fargo’s Go Far Rewards and Citi’s Bonus Cash Center — you’ll often see similar offers from retailers like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Etsy and even Apple.
For example, you can currently earn 2 percent from Wells Fargo, four points per dollar from Barclays or 4 percent from Citi on any online purchase at Kohl’s.
If you have cards from multiple issuers, you’ll likely find many comparable offers. In that case, you should decide which of your cards’ rewards programs you want to prioritize.
How to make your rewards work for you
For some people, using shopping portals to earn extra points and miles and cash back is a hobby.
On top of your credit cards’ regular bonuses, you can stack rewards, or combine discount codes, shopping discounts, shopping portals and cash-back, to save even more. Sites like Ebates offer cash-back rewards without being linked to a credit card issuer, so users can earn big savings and find coupon codes directly from a retailer’s website or on aggregator like RetailMeNot.
For instance, you currently can earn $100 cash back when you shop at department store Bergdorf Goodman’s online store and spend at least $500 using your American Express card. When you access the site through the Ebates shopping portal, you can earn an additional 10 percent cash back. And that’s on top of the 40 percent discount the store is offering on certain brands.
Using Ebates and a card with transferable points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can quickly turn your usual 1x points into 6x points, and then into hundreds of airline miles.
Even if your credit card provider doesn’t offer its own shopping portal, you can maximize your hotel points and airline miles through your preferred brands. Delta’s SkyMiles Shopping, United’s MileagePlus Shopping and Marriott’s Shop My Way all function in the same way as credit card portals but help their users earn bonus points and miles specifically for their brands.
Not everyone wants to play the points game, though.
“For somebody who’s just starting to dip their toe into this, it helps to have a goal in mind,” Rossman says. “If you know that you want a specific redemption — you really want to go to Europe next summer in business class or you’re planning a honeymoon — you can work backwards and say, ‘OK, it’s going to cost this many points and here’s how I get them.’”
Decide which of your cards you want to prioritize based on your personal goals, and then use the online portal that will allow you to reap the best rewards based on what you already plan to buy.
Maximize your holiday spending
The holiday season is a great time to use shopping portal bonuses and earn points that you can redeem throughout the year.
Rossman says issuer portals like Barclays and Citi don’t usually offer short-term holiday promotions, but sites like Ebates can be great if you’re looking specifically at Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers from retailers like Overstock.com and Shoes.com.
While they may not offer specific holiday-focused deals, your Chase or Wells Fargo portal can still help you save and collect points this season.
“These cash-back deals are in addition to any promo the retailer is offering,” Rossman says. “So if Macy’s has a 30 percent off one-day sale, you can do that and you can get 6 percent extra from Chase. So you can really stack these discounts, and it’s a great thing around the holidays.”
Once you’ve organized your shopping list, take some time to peruse your card provider’s shopping portal before diving in. With only a few extra minutes of time spent, you could jump-start your cash-back rewards or start saving for next year’s vacation.