How to ensure your portal points

Since I started blogging last September I’ve been a heavy user of online shopping portals that give points or cash back when shopping online at certain merchants.  In all of that time, I can only remember two times where I should have received points but did not.  I frequently hear stories from readers, though, who have lost out on points many times.

One reader recently contacted Chase about her missing points from the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  Chase told her that her purchase was not captured via the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  To help with future purchases, they told her the following:

The following are the possibilities that prevent you from earning the bonus points.
1. The purchases could have been made directly from the
merchants website.
2. Please note that using Microsoft Windows 7 may not
receive bonus rewards for purchases made via the Ultimate
Rewards Mall website.
* Microsoft Windows 7 provides the ability to launch
multiple windows in Internet Explorer during the same
session.
* You may encounter this situation when shopping on highly
utilized websites.
* If you open the Shopping mall tab in the first window
and complete the ?checkout” process in a new window, then
the bonus points earned will not transfer from current
window to new window.
* You should use the same window/session while completing
the checkout process in order to receive the bonus points.

I don’t recommend that you dump Windows 7 based on the information from Chase (I use Windows 7), but there are some things that you can do to make earning points more likely.  The recommendations below are half based on my own superstition (but they work!) and half based on a helpful BigCrumbs page.

  • Use Google Chrome for portal shopping.  OK, really I have no reason to believe that Chrome is any better than any other browser for portal shopping, but it is the browser that I’ve used and I’ve had great luck with.
  • Comparison shop with a different browser.  After you click through from a shopping portal to an individual merchant it often makes sense to browse other sites to see if you’re really getting a good deal.  When you do this, you risk losing the magic tracking info that is needed for you to get portal credit.  Note: using a new tab or window of the same browser is not the same thing as using a different browser.  For example, if you used Chrome to go through the portal, use IE, Firefox, Safari, etc. to comparison shop.
  • Empty Shopping cart. Let’s say you click through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears.com and you find that there are already items in your shopping cart (from prior shopping you did).  I recommend that you start all over:  1) Empty the shopping cart; 2) Close all browser tabs and windows for the browser you are using (e.g. Chrome); and 3) Go back through the Ultimate Rewards Mall.
  • Be Paranoid.  If I’m shopping through a portal and something happens before completing the purchase, I start all over from the beginning: 1) I empty the shopping cart; 2) I close all browser tabs and windows; and 3) I re-launch the portal and start again.  Is all of that really necessary?  I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t want to risk losing my points!  Typical things that will cause me to start over: I get interrupted for 10 minutes; I accidentally click on an ad that takes me to another site; or I visit other pages within the same browser (even though I go to a different tab or window).
  • Uninstall toolbars.  Shopping toolbars can “take over” credit for shopping such that you won’t get credit from the portal you started with.  If you want to use toolbars, install them in a different browser.
  • Enable Javascript and enable cookiesBigCrumbs says so.
  • Allow popups within your shopping portal.  Again, BigCrumbs says so.
  • Avoid ad blockers, spy ware, parasite ware, and BigCrumbs rivals (BigCrumbs says so).  BigCrumbs specifically says to beware of the following:

Norton products: The “Ad Blocker” feature of certain Norton products can interfere with the BigCrumbs.com purchase credit technology and should be turned of.

  • BargainBuddy
  • BearShare
  • BuyerSport
  • CommissionMaker
  • e2Give
  • eBates (MoeMoneyMaker)
  • Gator
  • GreenThumb
  • HuntBar
  • iGive
  • JambaFind
  • Kazaa
  • LimeWire
  • Morpheus
  • MyPoints
  • NowBox
  • SchoolCash
  • ShopAtHome
  • StreamCast
  • SupportShopping
  • Technology4Kids
  • TopMoxie
  • Upromise
  • WhenU
  • Wurld Media
  • Many people recommend taking a screenshots as records while you use portals.  I’ve mostly been too lazy to do that.  And, in the few situations where I didn’t get credit, I was neither asked for that information, nor would it have been helpful.  Usually a copy of the emailed store receipt is enough.  What I’ve started to do is file those receipts in a folder in my email program under a title like “waiting for portal points”.  That way I can go through the folder to check up on my purchases later on since it can sometimes take weeks for portal points to show up.  I should also record the number of points / amount of cash back I’m expecting, but honestly I haven’t done that either.

    What about you?  Do you have strategies that help ensure getting portal points?  Please share in the comments below.


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    About Greg The Frequent Miler

    Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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    Comments

    1. My problems seem to be merchant related specifically I had a lot of problems in December with Macy’s. Only one out of 3 purchases earned the bonus and they were the slowest merchantto post.

    2. My issues have been hit or miss. Usually UR mall is pretty good at tracking purchases, but I would say at least one purchase a month is not recorded. All I do to get the points is secure message Chase with the order data and within an hour or so they do a “courtesy adjustment” for the missing points. I’m actually missing an order for about 900 points now…but I usually wait until the statement closes before I request the points beause they’ll ask you do that anyway. Also, to ensure that all purchases are recorded, I clear all my cookies, history, etc from my browser and then to go to the UR mall…

    3. Long before Chase UR Mall started, I was using shopdiscover. Like you I am paranoid and will start over when in doubt. If a shopping site requires an account, I create an account, close all windows, and restart the whole process (I do not want the click tracking to be lost while I am creating a new account).

      For my last homedepot.com purchase through UR mall, I did not receive points. I used Chrome (I believe). Chrome treats each tab as a separate process. I am not sure if they talk among each other and the click tracking travels through each window/tab that opens. I did use a gift card for the purchase. I am not sure what (chrome or gift card) was the reason for me not receiving the points. I have used chrome several times in the past for shopping and cannot remember not getting rewards. So I think it is the gift card use.

    4. I keep a spreadsheet where I track the purchase date, portal I used, merchant, order number, dollar amount, s&h separately since some portals don’t include that, and the bonus offer amount the day I made the purchase, since that fluctuates and by the time you go looking for your points, the offer then isn’t the same as the offer now. I also log when those points post, and a running calculator of how long it’s been if they haven’t posted. This makes it easier to track everything at a glance.

      Granted, it’s also a lot of additional work, but it works for me, especially for MR mall where they don’t tell you what the posted points were for, and the points themselves typically don’t post for 6 weeks after the transaction.

    5. I never have any Holiday Inn points to post on cash back websites. I think that there is something that breaks the link when you log-in.

      MR rewards is pretty good about posting for purchases through their link, even if it doesn’t register.

      I finally have decided that for my piece of mind to not worry about chasing these points. If I get them, I get them, if I don’t, I don’t. I have too many other things that I need to focus on.

    6. Or you can set up a Virtual Machine for each of the shopping portals that you use and only use that VM when making purchases from the portal. The VM route is going to be one of the cleanest ones. You can have a base OS running with all the ad blockers, pop up blockers, and security tools that you need and switch to the VM’s when you want to do purchases.

    7. Chrome’s tabs are going to have the same problem with Windows 7’s Explorer tabs. The issue there is user error: you must use the same tab.

      Generally what I do (and it has never failed) is do all my shopping, close the window, then go to Ultimate Rewards or some other portal. When I click through, the items are already in my cart, and I just complete the purchase.

    8. Slightly off topic but how do you track pending bonus points for purchases made via the Amex Membership Rewards portal? Amex used to have that feature but they yanked it more than year ago.

    9. Ah. Perhaps my use of adblock plus has been blocking the UR mall credits for many sites. Usually only drugstore.com registers automatically. Next time, I’ll open an incognito session as that turns off all plug-ins and uses a clean cookie cache.

    10. I went through UR to Stapes and make a purchase with my amex card, I was under the impression that ALL purchases made through UR would give me points but Chase told me that I HAVE to use my Chase Freedom card (I don’t have Ink or Sapphire) in order to actually get the points.

      Is this true?

    11. So, will they most likely just show up after a few weeks or will I need to call Chase and put some pressure on them to give me my points?

    12. Ok, I just got an email from Chase telling me I got the points! Sweet! FYI, I made two purchases via the UR site with two different cards for the same rebate, the cards were registered in two different names and the billing addresses were set to two different addresses. Final result: I was able to file refunds for BOTH orders and I earned points for BOTH orders at UR. : ) I also made a purchase with my Discover which is also set at a different billing address and I filed the rebate and I got 6% cash back (5% for all purchases at Staples plus 1% cash back generally for all purchases made with the card).

    13. Has anyone had extra good luck with using Windows XP instead of Windows 7, I have an old Laptop I could use primarily for the UR mall. I really want to try out the B&N deal but want to do everything I can to get it to post. I have had 50/50 results with UR mall using chase cards.

    14. Just an FYI.. your operating system doesn’t matter.. XP, Vista, Win 7, Apple… It’s the browser that is the issue.

    15. I’ve had trouble with Capital One’s Perk Central. Most of my purchases haven’t shown up, but I’ve even gotten credit for 3-4 purchases that weren’t in my card transaction history which showed up in my perk central rewards bonus history. I’m using AdBlock Plus as well, so maybe I’ll turn it off. The one purchase I know worked was done on my wife’s Mac, using Chrome, so it is either the ad blocker, or Windows 7 as stated. I’ll try incognito browser with my next purchase to test it.

    16. Great post. I had only just now stumbled upon it.
      .
      I have never had a problem using Windows 7 (with FF) to make portal purchases and get points. If I have had trouble receiving what has been due, it’s been for many other reasons. In fact I have been moaning about such issues since I started using FT in 2002. I have tracked my purchases by printing most steps of the order process from shopping mall through to store order and email, and any screen shots (I take them wherever needed) and creating either a physical printout or PDF I keep in a folder much like you might.
      .
      If I see things credit normally, I recycle any printouts but may actually keep the PDFs (in case the merchant goes down hill with changes in the future and you need proof something used to work last time you ordered from them so why doesn’t it any longer?). If things turn into ‘issues’ that are ongoing (and some who know me know that this includes taking a certain portal entity to court) then I may hold onto it longer (others may need info for their own similar battles and I will freely give out what worked for me if it can be done).
      .
      I have not tried Google Chrome yet but your post here has turned me onto finally trying it. Thanks.
      .
      The shopping cart thing: I actually do tend to do the following… Say I need more wood and supplies from Lowes or Home Depot (where I use GCs to pay a lot of the time, btw). Well it can take time to sift through their websites and get everything you want into the card just so before actually ordering. In my past experience–and maybe things have changed but I dunno–if you were already on the store website via the portal, your click thru to get there could ‘time out’ if you are lingering too long. This may not make sense or be true, but I have seen it before in that in the past, there have been cases where I KNOW I entered a store site via a shopping portal but somehow, later on, it was claimed I never had. So what I do now is, I go into the store, futz around, find what I want to buy, put it into the cart and then close that browser.
      .
      Even if you never logged into that store (but cookies remember you in other ways) things ought to remain in your cart when you return. Now I start over, this time by going in through the portal I want, say it’s the Chase UR mall for example, and go to the store site. I do print to PDF the screen that says you are earning x points per $1 and are now leaving this mall… and then I log into the store and there’s my cart! I enter any coupons (generally, points will only credit off of the total net payment not including coupons, discounts, tax or shipping, as we know) and then in minutes, I am done! I print off the “Congrats, you ordered and here’s your order number” page, and the email(s) that come later. With stores that allow store pick up, I keep all their slips and tickets too. I could scan or snap a pic of those and convert to PDF to add to the folder if needed.
      .
      Generally speaking I always see Chase UR points post around the time I get their nice email saying I have earned points (which comes quickly as compared to other portals). With Chase I have had only one glitch and Chase helped solve it with ease. I will not use the airline ones unless it’s for under 100 miles and I really don’t care if it posts, because in my experience there’s more mess ups there than not.

    17. Is there anything you can do if the portal rejects your purchase? My click history on the portal shows the store and I provided the email confirmation. Unfortunately the store told them no. This purchase is for over 5k aa miles.

      TIA

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