May 8, 2014
One of the best ways to earn extra points, miles, or cash back for things you plan to buy anyway, is to shop online through shopping portals (they’re great for manufacturing spend too, by the way). Depending upon the portal, you may earn bank points (e.g. through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall), or airline miles (e.g. through the United MileagePlus Shopping portal), or hotel points (e.g. through the Marriott Shop My Way portal), or Amtrak points (Amtrak Guest Rewards Shopping), or cash back (e.g. through Big Crumbs), or miscellaneous other points (e.g. MyPoints). You can think of these portal earnings as automatic rebates offered simply by starting your online shopping at the portal’s site.
The hardest part about shopping through portals is finding the best one for your situation. Different portals offer different rebates for the same merchants, and rebate amounts change frequently. Fortunately, there are a number of online “portal finders” that can help. Portal finders let you search for a merchant and then show you the current rates each portal offers for that merchant. That way, you can quickly find the best option for you.
While portal finders offer a great service, they are often wrong. In the past, I’ve run a number of comparisons across popular portal finders and I found errors in all of them. In my most recent comparison, though, I found that CashBackMonitor was significantly better than others for the merchants I selected (see “The best portal finder. A new king is crowned.”). And, now, thanks to the release of two new features, CashBackMonitor is even better.
CashBackMonitor’s “My Monitor” feature let’s you pick your favorite merchants and your favorite portals so that you can see the current rates all at once. Here’s an example:
If you need to adjust your settings, click on the gear icon at the top-right of the screen and then select “Configure My Monitor” (see image):
Even better than the My Monitor feature, is the new “My Alerts” feature. This lets you pick merchants to watch so that you’ll receive an in-app message or email when any portal increases its rates to the amount you specify.
For each alert, you can pick your threshold based on %, miles per dollar, etc. I’ll explain each option briefly:
- %: Most merchants offer % cash back through cash back portals. The % is based on the amount you spend at the given merchant after clicking through the portal. For example, if you spend $100 and the portal rebate is 5%, you can expect to get $5 back. Most merchants do not include shipping and handling costs when calculating the sale amount.
- Dollars: Some merchants offer fixed dollar amount rebates rather than percentage based rebates. For example, a cell phone provider might offer $50 or so for clicking through a portal to signup for new service.
- mi/$, pt/$: Many portals offer miles or points rather than cash back. In those cases, the rebates are usually measured as miles per dollar, or points per dollar.
- Miles, Points: Some merchants offer fixed numbers of miles or points rather than miles/points per dollar. For example, a subscriptions service might offer 2000 miles for clicking through a portal and signing up for a premium service.
Testing the new features
The My Monitor feature clearly works to show my favorites, but only time will tell how well the My Alert feature works. Both features are brand new so it wouldn’t surprise me to find some bugs in the short term. If so, hopefully they’ll be squashed quickly.
- Top 6 shopping portal myths
- The best portal finder. A new king is crowned. (October 4, 2013)
- The best portal finders get better (Jan 30, 2013)
- The best portal finder (March 26, 2012)
- Portal finder fight! Round 2 (Sept 6, 2012)