Doubling portal promos, and more. A 50X example

While researching a post from a couple of days ago (“Sears 25X via an interesting confluence of events“) I realized something that probably should have been obvious to me all along.  When double dipping through a portal (e.g. buying gift cards to get points and then using the gift cards to buy merchandise and get more points) you can not only double the portal’s bonus for that merchant, but you can also effectively double points offered from portal promotions that are independent of specific merchants.  Here’s an example…


Through December 22, the AAdvantage eShopping portal is offering bonus miles for $75, $150, or $250 of spend through their portal.  If you spend exactly $75, or exactly $150, the bonus points amount to an extra 13.33 miles per dollar (strangely, it amounts to only 12 miles per dollar if you spend $250).

Through a double-dip, it should be possible to double the effective portal bonus from 13.33 miles per dollar to 26.66 miles per dollar!  And, that’s in addition to the points earned from the merchant!

Neiman Marcus example

Not all merchants give portal points when you buy or use gift cards, so this won’t work with all merchants.  Recently, though, a number of people have reported success with earning portal points when buying Neiman Marcus gift cards (both e-gift cards and physical gift cards seem to work).  And, with most merchants, buying merchandise with a gift card results in the same portal points as if you paid with a credit card.  If you’re in doubt about a particular merchant, see the Frequent Miler Laboratory to find out if people have reported success with that merchant.  In general (but not always) if something works at one portal it will work at all portals.

As of the time of this writing, the AAdvantage eShopping portal is offering 6 miles per dollar for shopping at Neiman Marcus.


While its true that the terms & conditions say “Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents,” those terms are in place for most merchants but are not always enforced (it is up to the merchant to enforce those terms, not the portal).

It’s also true that the AAdvantage eShopping promotion says that gift card purchases are not eligible, but in my experience, as long as the merchant awards points for a transaction, the portal will recognize that transaction as a qualifying purchase.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

So, assuming that both buying and using gift cards will result in miles earned, we can double both the merchant 6X offer and the portal 13.33X offer as follows:

  1. Go through portal to Neiman Marcus.  Buy a $75 e-gift card.  Earn 6 miles per dollar = 450 miles.
  2. Go through portal to Neiman Marcus again.  Buy $75 worth of merchandise with your e-gift card.  Earn 6 miles per dollar = 450 miles.
  3. Qualify for $150 worth of spend through the AAdvantage eShopping portal (keep in mind that this offer ends very soon: 12/22/2013).  Earn 2000 bonus miles.

Total spend: $75. Total miles earned: 2900.  Miles per dollar: 2900 / $75 = 38.66.

Going further

You can increase your rewards or savings even more by using the best credit card to pay for the gift cards.  For example, the Chase Freedom card is currently offering 5X this quarter for select department stores.  Even better, American Express has a Sync Offer for Neiman Marcus: Spend $200, get $50.  If you have two AAdvantage accounts you can use (maybe a significant other account? Parent? Child?), you could do the following:

  1. Go through the portal (logged in as yourself) to Neiman Marcus and buy a $200 gift card with your Synced Amex card.  Total spend: $150 (after Amex gives you $50 back).  Earn 6 miles per dollar = 1200.
  2. Earn 150 points from your Amex card (assuming you are using a card that earns 1 point per dollar).
  3. Go through portal again to Neiman Marcus and buy $50 worth of merchandise with your gift card.  Earn 6 miles per dollar = 300.
  4. With the above two purchases, qualify for the $250 spend bonus through the portal.  Earn 3000 mile bonus.
  5. Go through the portal yet again to Neiman Marcus, but this time log in with someone else’s account.  Buy $150 worth of merchandise with your gift card.  Earn 6 miles per dollar = 900
  6. With the above purchase, qualify for the $150 spend bonus through the portal.  Earn 2000 mile bonus.

Total spend: $150.  Total miles earned: 7550.  Miles per dollar: 7550 / $150 = 50.33.

Planning ahead

I realize that the examples presented above are ending too soon for many readers to take advantage of them.  So, instead, think of this as a thought experiment showing what may be possible during future portal promotions.

Notes and cautions

  • Portals are never perfect.  There is always a risk that expected miles won’t materialize.  And, if miles aren’t awarded automatically, you won’t have much chance of getting help from customer service since the terms & conditions of the promos claim that they are “not eligible on gift cards”.
  • The numbers calculated above assume that purchases total exactly the amount needed to maximize the promotions with no tax or shipping charges.  In reality, you’ll probably spend more than that, and there will be sales tax that won’t earn miles through the portal.  So expect your miles per dollar results to be something less than the amounts shown above.
  • Merchandise purchased with gift cards do not get the purchase protections automatically given by many credit cards.

Vacation Notice

Greg (Frequent Miler) is currently on vacation. Posts have been scheduled for most days, but emails, comments, and Tweets may go unanswered for a while.

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  1. […] Doubling portal promos, and more. A 50x example. By Frequent Miler. This comment by reader JustSaying sums it up all: “Do you get up every morning and blindfold yourself and then lock yourself in a Houdini suit before you type these maze stories? I am in awe of the strategies“. Indeed! […]


  1. Oh portal God you are giving me a cold headache…………..and it really feels so good! Needless Markup is my fave so I greatly appreciate the post………….Do you get up every morning and blindfold yourself and then lock yourself in a Houdini suit before you type these maze stories? I am in awe of the strategies………….And I think I might grab that FRA-HND LH FC just as a reward for all your posts…………

  2. Why too late? Still 2-3 days to get this done. As long as the card shows up tomorrow, and the order is placed the same day, seems likely the 2nd order would post within the time period.

    One alternative: JC Penny. There’s currently a $10 off $50 Amex Sync promotion you may be able to sync to multiple cards. So you could buy JC Penny eGift cards thru AAdvantage $50 at a time using different Amex cards to get $10 back for each one. So buy $50, $100, $150 or whatever you can/need this way. Then spend enough of the gift cards to hit your number and keep the rest for later.

    Sure JC Penny is only 5X rather than 6X but you can probably find more normal things you need at JC Penny than at Neiman Marcus. And you won’t overpay quite so much.

    Using tricks like this you just might get the points you should have gotten from the portal but they screwed you out of for one reason or another.

  3. Great post. Surprised I haven’t seen this out there yet because it is, as you say, pretty obvious. However, I certainly hadn’t thought about it. This is why you’re at the top of my favorite blogs!

  4. I recently bought a Kohls GO for $200 using my chase freedom and received an email letting me know I had been awarded 1000 points. Also I went through my sapphire URL but used SPG Amex to get $10 after spending $50 and got 500 UR points. Well, since UR pays X 10 on Kohls, I should have get 2000 points on the first purchase. I have mixed feelings about claiming those points since, according to the rules , I shouldn’t got any because I got a GC . I also had the same experience before with North Face when I bought 2 $300 GC at X2 but only payed me 6K.
    How would you go about trying to claim those points?

    • I’ve reported that issue with Kohl’s before. Orders of gift cards over $100 often are only credited 1000 points (but some people do get the full points — its a mystery). Anyway, chalk it up to a loss. Customer support will most likely just point to the terms that say that gift cards are excluded

    • I posted this same comment on FM lab.

      There is a pattern i have noticed at 2 different Vendors. I ddon’t know if it is a glitch on the cartera system or something deliberately done.
      case 1 . I bought $750 gc at The North Face at 15 miles/$ and got all my miles at AA shopping. Then a month later i bought 2 $300 gc on the same order but only got points as if i had bought only 1 gc (300 x20=6000).
      Case 2. Bought 1 $50 gc at kohls and got 500UR points. But when I bought 2 $100 GC y only got 1000 ur points.
      I am thinking that is not good idea to buy more than one GC per transaction because only one gets detected only by Cartera or by the vendoror wwhoever detects purchases.
      Does this ring any bell to anybody?

      • I bought 5 Needless Markup GCs thru UR and got credit for all with 4-5 days……..I bought a couple of Nordstrom cards on AA portal but they are so slow and I don’t want to keep a spreadsheet on shooping portal points due so I have stopped using AA for “ANYTHING” and am happy to have the “sure thing” on UR…….

  5. @luchex: You generally can’t. If the Terms & Conditions exclude gift cards, and you bought gift cards, and didn’t get credit, even if its a glitch and usually it works, you won’t get any support from the support team at Cartera. Normally I go to the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page and fill in the information requested. They’ll eventually email you and maybe ask you for a copy of your confirmation email. At that point they’re going to figure out you broke the T&C’s.

  6. For the Neiman Marcus deal – if you’re not buying merchandise but simply reselling gift cards, I suggest buying the $250 physical gift card rather than $200 since the handling cost is $5 either way. That way, you can just meet he AA $250 for 3k miles right away.

  7. T&C’s for the AMEX Sync deal notes:

    “If American Express does not receive information that identifies your transaction as qualifying for the offer, you will not receive the statement credit. For example, your transaction will not qualify if it is not made directly with the merchant. In addition, in most cases, you will not receive the statement credit if your transaction is made with an electronic wallet or through a third party or if the merchant uses a mobile or wireless card reader to process it.”

    Won’t the fact that you’re using a portal disqualify you from getting the AMEX statement credit?

    • Mav, no, a portal doesn’t affect Amex Sync offers. Ultimately what matters is how the purchase shows up on your credit card statement. It will look the same whether you go through a portal or not

  8. Reading this today just made me want to stop and say again how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog. You’re a very big part of why I was able to quit my job and travel the world full time. Thanks again, Greg.

    • How can you quit your job and travel? I mean, I understand that one can travel using CC bonus points/mileage and churning strategies, but you got to have a job for a steady income to pay bills, pay for the additional expenses while you are travelling right? I am trapped in rat race…:(

      • Christine, it can cost less to travel full time than to live in the USA. Imagine your life without rent, mortgage, car expenses, utilities, property insurance, income taxes and most of your other recurring bills. Once you get rid of all that everything gets a lot easier!

        • Thanks, can you please elaborate how can I quit my job and yet still making enough money to fund my travel , like you do?
          You can e-mail me at : iluvramen(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. I just raked on NM gift cards thru the Chase portal but only could do the GC bonus as I was buying clothing on last call at less than 50%….last year this same time I would have gotten 1/7 of the miles I got today…and when I looked at my UR combined points today and saw 330k I just shook my head and my wife and I are in total agreement that we wouldn’t have 1/10th those points without you and boarding area………Every day I discover what a nube I was yesterday……but with the bonuses that come with that I believe I can survive!

  10. Careful with Neiman Marcus physical gift cards… I got 4 x $250 and one of them turned up unactivated. Required a bit of back and forth with customer support; apparently they have been having issues with gift cards lately. I’m still waiting from the replacement e-giftcard they promised me.

  11. I bought 250 worth of Contacts from Walgreens when they have the X15. and that’s enough for the 3000 miles. I think that I cannot keep using this promotion. Is that right?

    • That’s right. Once you’ve completed the portal promo for 3000 bonus points, you can’t do more unless you log in with someone else’s account (and they’ll earn the bonus miles, not you)

  12. I’m tempted to get JCP gift cards using my Sync Amex using SW (x8) plus trying to get the 250 bonus for spending $100. Did anybody try to buy JCP GC?

  13. How long does it normally take for the AA mall bonus points to post? I received 1,200 from NM today for a $200 gift card, but no bonus. Also, I did a United Mall promotion in early November and haven’t received the bonus (they told me to check back in November).

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