December 30, 2013
I’ll be on vacation until January 6th. Until then, I’ll publish a series of “mini posts” with an occasional regular post if something interesting comes up. I may or may not answer blog comments or emails during this time. Thanks for understanding!
Over the weekend I suggested that it was possible to earn “5X everywhere” until the end of this year by buying and using Amex gift cards (for full details see “5X everywhere Amex is accepted, until the New Year“). A part of the plan was to go through the Delta SkyMiles portal to get 3 miles per dollar when buying Amex gift cards. A number of readers pointed out that, in addition to getting 3X Delta miles via the SkyMiles Shopping portal, you can also get 3X Alaska Airlines miles via the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping portal. Alaska miles are generally considered to be quite a bit more valuable than Delta miles, so this is a fantastic alternative.
Unfortunately, a number of people have reported that they have bought gift cards through either the Delta or Alaska Airlines portals, but have not received miles from the portal. The Alaska Airlines portal claims that “miles typically post within 3-5 days” (and the Delta portal has similar language). Keep in mind, though, that the Alaska portal also says “however, depending on the merchant, can take up to 45 days for the miles to post to Mileage Plan™ Shopping.”
For those who have not yet received miles, what’s going on? There are a number of reasons miles might not be posting:
Slow posting: In my experience, it is very common for larger purchases (e.g. $500 or more) to take longer to post to mileage portals. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see these purchases take 3 weeks or so to show up in the portals.
Technical glitches: Lately TopCashBack has been reliably and quickly posting cash back from Amex gift card purchases, but there was a period about a year ago when technical glitches prevented the transactions from posting properly. It’s certainly possible that the mileage malls have encountered similar problems.
Coupons voiding transactions: For American Express gift cards, each portal has terms & conditions that state: “Not eligible on purchases made with coupon or discount codes that are not found on this site.” In my experience, this clause has not been enforced via cash back portals and so it is unlikely to be enforced by mileage portals, but I can’t rule out the possibility.
User / computer issues: A number of things can go wrong on the purchaser’s side of things that can keep a purchase from tracking correctly. See “How to ensure your portal points.” I don’t think that this is the reason for the recent reports, though. Some who have reported issues are very experienced portal shoppers.
My best guess
My guess is that it simply takes longer for miles to post for very big purchases. We’ll know in a few weeks whether or not this is true. The second most likely explanation, in my opinion, is that there are technical glitches. If that’s the case, it should still be possible to earn miles, but it might require filing complaints with whichever portal you used. And, don’t be surprised if it takes months to resolve. To protect yourself when making purchases, I’d recommend the following:
- Take screen captures of the portal and the check-out screen.
- Do not use coupon codes. I don’t really think that they cause problems, but if you use coupon codes, it may be harder to get customer support to help you when needed.
- Be very careful to click through the portal prior to each purchase. If you check-out multiple times, make sure to go through the portal each time.
Have you bought Amex gift cards through the Delta or Alaska Airlines portals? If so, how large was your order? Did you receive miles? How long have you waited?