Stacking Points Online — AKA Why You Should Never Earn Only 1 Point Per Dollar
Stacking points online is the greatest way to earn even more points for something you’re buying. Shawn posted about using shopping portals to maximize cash back or points. You can even use Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to earn American Express Membership Rewards points when shopping online. We’ve looked at using the best card for your purchase, depending on what it is, through various articles. What if we combine these ideas of shopping portals, cash back sites, and using the best card for the purchase? The points can really add up when we start stacking points online.
Example 1 – Airfare From Azul
I went to visit my parents in Florida for Thanksgiving and some Black Friday shopping in November. Thanksgiving is a tough time to find award seat availability. I’m not keen on spending double the amount of points if I can find a good cash price. I ended up finding a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale FLL airport with Azul for a good price.
Here’s where a little extra time for maximizing points really helped me out. I chose the Azul flight because it was direct and had a low cash price: around $550 for a round-trip ticket in economy between Brazil and Florida. However, I could do better than that. From an incident we had with Azul on a prior trip, my wife and I both had $100 vouchers for Azul. That brought the price down by $200 for me. $350 ticket now.
Since I was reducing the price, I looked at how much extra it cost for economy plus. United shows me that I will earn points at a 150% rate when flying on Azul in economy plus. The cost difference was $69 to upgrade. I spent $419.45 for a round-trip flight to Fort Lauderdale from Brazil. $69 dollars netted an extra 3,982 points with United. I paid 1.7 cents per point to get those, but I’ll use them at a value above 2 cents per point, so I’m coming out ahead. (and it was also more comfortable!)
Check For Online Rebates
Before paying, I spent 5 minutes checking to see if I could add any more points or cash back. I always check CashBackMonitor.com (you can even install a browser toolbar from them), Rakuten, and Rebates Me (also has a toolbar). Just clicking on a button in my bookmarks tells me if the site I’m on has any points or cash back to earn. Simple!
Use The Best Card When Paying
None of those sites had anything to offer for Azul (you can’t hit a home run on everything), so it was time to pay. For a purchase directly from an airline, my best card is the Platinum Card from American Express. This earns 5 points per dollar. If you don’t have this, consider using the American Express Gold Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve (both earn 3 points per dollar on airfare direct from the airline).
I spent a few minutes working to maximize my purchase, and it paid off. Even though I didn’t get cash back or rebates from stacking, I was happy with the outcome. I could have earned 419 points (from paying with a credit card that earns 1 point per dollar) and 7,964 MileagePlus miles from United. Instead, here are my final earnings:
- 2,095 Membership Rewards (5x earning on $419.45)
- 11,946 United miles (3,982 miles each way x 150% earning in economy plus)
For $419.45, I’m happy to get this amount of points and a round-trip flight in economy plus between the US and Brazil at Thanksgiving. This was a better deal for me than spending extra points at a time when availability was low and points requirements were much higher than usual. Changing which card I used and paying $69 extra dollars earned me a lot more points.
Example 2 – Buying Gift Cards To Make Purchases Elsewhere
We previously mentioned buying discounted Disney gift cards to save money on a trip to Disney. What if I can combine that idea with stacking points online for even better points earning? Enter Amex offers.
What Are Amex Offers?
Amex offers are found at the bottom of your credit card portal on AmericanExpress.com. Some are good, some are useless to me. If you find one that works, add it to your card and then use that card when paying at the merchant. You’ll earn the cash back (statement credit) or extra points as described in the offer.
I had an Amex Offer on my American Express Gold Card for an extra 4 points per dollar (meaning a total of 5x) at Sam’s Club. I added it to my card and bought $50 Disney gift cards for $47.98 each. That’s a savings of 4.04% each. I got 4.04% off my Disney tickets and meals at the park through paying with these gift cards, PLUS I earned 5x points on the purchases through Sam’s Club.
I made several purchases with Sam’s Club online during this period. The usual 1 point per dollar posted first and then the bonus points 3-4 days later.
Check Portals For Further Stacking Points Online
Since I’m shopping online, it’s time to check portals and cash back buttons on my browser before paying. It’s an extra step that takes less than 5 minutes but yields more points on the same purchase you’re already making. Again, having browser buttons installed makes this super simple for me.
I’ve got a wide range of choices on Cash Back Monitor. The overall best offer is 3.75% cash back from Dollar Dig. For points & miles, you could get 3.5 points per dollar from Hawaiian Miles.
Rebates Me (a toolbar on my browser that automatically pops up and asks me if I want to activate the offers when visiting sites it has offers for) has different offerings. Since I’m not buying a new membership, it can offer me 3% cash back. This isn’t as good as what we found with Cash Back Monitor, so I’ll shop through them instead.
If I had just gone to Disney and bought my tickets, I’d earn 1 point per dollar. At $100 per person for the day we went in January, I’d earn 100 points on my credit card from this ticket. By shopping online and clicking a few buttons, I did much better.
- 4.04% savings by buying discounted gift cards from Sam’s Club
- 5x points by using an Amex Offer when shopping at Sam’s Club
- 3.75% cash back by using shopping portals
We used Hilton points to stay at the Disney-Affiliated DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, right near Disney Springs. I used Hilton Honors points at 50,000 per night for 2 nights to cover 3 adults while getting free breakfast and free shuttles to the park.
I needed 3 adult tickets, since we were taking my mother-in-law for her first trip to Disney World. 3 x $100 per person plus meals and snacks at the park means I bought $500 in Disney gift cards from Sam’s Club. Here are my final costs:
- $479.80 for $500 in gift cards
- $17.99 in cash back from shopping portal
- Total of $461.81
- 2,400 Membership Rewards points earned
By adding a few buttons to my browser and thinking before hitting the ‘purchase’ button, I can earn more points and get discounts. Stacking points online accomplishes 2 things: pay less for an item you’re buying anyway and earn extra points towards your next trip. If you’re making a purchase, why not earn as many points from it as possible? While this can sound like a lot of work, it really isn’t. The portals and cash back sites do most of the work for you. Add their browser extensions (a little button on your web browser) and click on that while looking at the site you’re shopping from. Use the best card for the purchase and check offers from Chase and Amex to see if you can get extra points or additional discounts.
If you’re new to the idea of stacking points online, I hope this helps. If you’re more advanced, what’s the best stack you’ve ever gotten? What was the most points per dollar you’ve ever earned?