700 miles per dollar. Too good to be true?

27

Ever since I declared that CashBackMonitor was the king of portal finders, I’ve relied on their website to find the portal offering the best rewards for whichever online store I intended to shop at.  Over the years, CashBackMonitor has just gotten better.  And recently they added a great new feature: Stores Sorted by Rewards.

On the CashBackMonitor home page, you’ll now see a list of the best portal payouts overall:

If you’d like to filter the list, you can click “Customize Your Own Sort” to go to the page: cashbackmonitor.com/sort-stores-by-rewards.  On that page you can filter to a specific portal, select reward type, and/or include “Up To” rates.  If you then filter to the Hawaiian Miles Online Mall, you’ll see the same top 8 list as above.  This is because the Hawaiian Airlines portal is currently advertising ridiculously high rates for certain merchants.

Let’s Dream a Little

Imagine if you could really earn 700 miles per dollar.  Granted, Hawaiian Airlines miles are not the most valuable miles out there (our current Reasonable Redemption Value for Hawaiian Miles is only 0.81 cents per mile), but still…

When a portal advertises 700 miles per dollar that means that they are promising to give you 700 miles for every dollar spent with that merchant as long as you start your purchase by clicking through the portal.  They don’t include shipping or taxes in the calculation, so the effective rate is often less.  So, let’s arbitrarily knock 20% off the rate for discussion purposes.  In that case, you’re still looking at 560 miles per dollar.  If you bought stuff you didn’t want, just for the miles, you’d then be buying miles for 0.17 cents each (about one-sixth of a penny).  That’s an outrageously good price, even for Hawaiian Airlines miles.

Take for example a round-trip non-stop Hawaiian Airlines flight from New York to Honolulu.  On arbitrary dates in the future (October 10th to October 16th), I found that Hawaiian advertised the cash price of this ticket at $5,236.79.  But the price, in miles was “only” 190,000 miles plus $11.20 in fees.

If you could buy Hawaiian Airlines miles for 0.17 cents each, then the round trip first class flight shown above would cost you only $323 + $11.20!  And, of course, economy flights would be much cheaper.

If flying isn’t your thing, you could exchange your Hawaiian Airlines miles for Hilton points at a rate of 1 mile per 1.5 Hilton points.  In other words, if you buy miles for 0.17 cents each, this is a way to buy Hilton points for only 0.12 cents each.  Since Hilton awards average award value is 0.44 cents per point, this amounts to a median 70% discount on Hilton stays.

You could also redeem Hawaiian Miles for car rental, FoodLand, or Maui Jim gift certificates for a value of a half cent per mile (found here).  When buying miles for 0.17 cents each, this is like getting car rentals, food, or sunglasses for 66% off!

Reality Bites

Each of the outrageously high Hawaiian Airlines portal deals are for subscription services.  Most of them offer free trials.  How can you earn any miles for a free trial if miles are calculated per dollar?  My guess is that free trials don’t result in miles until the first actual payment, and that only the first payment counts.

This means that each of the deals has a hidden cost: you need to remember to cancel the service after the first payment.  Keep in mind that some services can be difficult to cancel.  For that reason, scaling up these deals (to buy more miles) may be inordinately difficult.

It gets worse.  All of the Hawaiian portal pages have this disclaimer:

Actual earning rates may vary and are subject to change without notice

Um, what? Paraphrasing: “You might get the advertised earning rate or you might not.  We’re not going to tell you.“.

And worse… A reader named Matt noticed these high portal rates last year and bought thousands of dollars of annual subscriptions from WorldBookLearning.  The result?  Zero miles.  Fortunately, he was able to cancel for full a refund. Portal support told him that he purchased the wrong product: the product shown in their screen shot was the monthly subscription.  For the record, I don’t see any mention of monthly subscriptions on the portal’s screenshot (found here).

Still interested, despite all of these caveats? Let’s dig into each of these Hawaiian Airlines portal deals…

Bluum 700 miles per dollar

When browsing directly to Bluum.com I see that it is a subscription service that delivers books and toys for babies and toddlers.  They offer the following plans:

  • Monthly plan – $34 billed monthly, automatically
  • 6 month plan – $186 billed every 6 months
  • 12 month plan – $348 billed yearly

Awesome.  I’ll gift a 12 month plan to Nick’s Baby Rey and I’ll earn $348 X 700 = 243,600 miles!  I’ll just have to make sure to cancel before they charge me again next year since I won’t earn miles for the renewal.

But when I clicked through from the Hawaiian portal to Bluum, I ended up at a totally different site: Moolah.  I tried again.  This time I ended up at a site called HealthyLivingFreebies.  Subsequent attempts brought me to: WholeMom, savings-galleria, epollsurveys, creditdawn, …

Sorry Baby Rey.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to get from here to there.  Moving on…

Shareasale 500 miles per dollar

500 miles per dollar isn’t 700, but it is still ridiculously awesome.  Oddly, the Hawaiian portal shareasale page advertises something called GreenBlender Farm.

Fortunately, the “Shop Now” button actually does bring you to the GreenBlender website.  This site is for everyone who needs superfood smoothies delivered weekly (who doesn’t?).

GreenBlender charges $49.90 weekly.  I think it is fair to assume that you would, at best, earn 500 miles per dollar for the first week only.  So, best case is that you can buy 49.90 x 500 = 24,950 miles for $49.90.  That’s a great deal if it works.  The question I have is whether it would really work?  If you cancel after the first week, would they really payout the miles?

Anyway, this one seems promising enough to give it a try.  I went ahead and signed up.  For anyone familiar with services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, this works the same way: each week you can pick which recipes you want, or you can skip the week.  I chose to get week 1 and skipped several future weeks so that I’ll have time to see if I earn miles for week 1.  After signing up, the email said that I can cancel by emailing support@greenblender.com.  That doesn’t sound hard!  I will post again once I know whether or not this deal works.

GameFly 350 miles per dollar or 400 miles per dollar

The Hawaiian Airlines portal page for GameFly shows two options: 400 miles per dollar for Gamefly Movies (Start Your FREE Trial Now!), or 350 miles per dollar for video games (Start your 30-day FREE Trial Now!).

While the landing page for Gamefly Movies mostly showed free trial options, there were some DVD’s for sale at the bottom of the page.  There was also a “store” tab on the page, but when I clicked it I saw that the “adtrackingid” in the URL went away.  That made me think that I might not get miles for anything purchased from the store.

Back on the landing page, I tried adding the most expensive advertised DVD to my cart: Pirates of the Caribbean for $14.99.  I had to create an account to get the thing to show me the final price: $19.05 after shipping and taxes.

That’s not bad!  If they actually credit 400 miles per dollar, I would get 400 x 14.99 = 5,996 miles for $19.05.  That’s a price of only 0.31 cents per mile.  If I bought 32 of these, it would cost me only $609.60 to get more than enough miles for for that first class round-trip lie-flat flight to Hawaii.  Actually, it would be less expensive than that since additional DVDs added to the same order add less than $2.98 to the shipping charge.

The other GameFly option is less encouraging…  350 miles per dollar for a free trial.  What does that even mean?  When I clicked through, the only apparent option was to sign up for the free trial.  No thanks.

Back to movies… I doubt that DVD purchases will really earn 400 miles per dollar.  But for you, dear reader, I’m giving it a try.  I’ll report back soon.

Worldbooklearning 350 miles per dollar

This is another page that advertises a free trial.  This time, the Hawaiian portal’s page gives a wee bit more info.  It says:

World Book WOW World Book Wow – Where kids go for fun learning, reading, and homework support! 7-day Free Trial! If you cancel during the trial period we reserve the rights to remove your points/currency.

Hmm, OK, so this one is suggesting that even if you select the free trial, you’ll still somehow earn miles as long as you don’t cancel during the trial period.  In other words, you must pay for at least the first payment after the free trial.

Clicking through brought me to… Lyft.  That’s not good. I tried again, and ended up at… Moolah.  Next was a site advertising cute foreign girls at the URL russianwomansite dot com (I wish I was kidding).

This is all very strange since, as I discussed earlier in this post, a reader had previously succeeded in buying an annual subscription from WorldBookLearning.  So, in the past it was possible to get to that store.  Anyway, he didn’t receive miles for his purchase so there’s not much to see here anyway.

Moving on…

EarlyMoments 300 miles per dollar (or more)

The portal landing page for Early Moments shows a number of earning options: 300 miles per dollar for Baby Einstein ($5.95), or for Elmo’s Learning Adventure ($3.99).  Or, 400 miles per dollar for Disney Book Club (4 books for 99 cents each).  Or, 450 miles per dollar for 4 Dr. Seuss books (99 cents each).

After clicking through these links it became clear to me that all four were subscription deals.  Yes, you can buy 4 Dr. Seuss books for 99 cents each, but not without signing up for a book subscription.  Theoretically it should be possible to cancel before paying anything extra, but who knows how much effort that would be?

Scaling up this deal could be a nightmare.  If you bought these for every kid in your extended family, you would then have to make sure to cancel each of the associated subscriptions (unless you really want them to get new books every month).

Moving on…

Cocotique 250 miles per dollar

This is yet another subscription plan with the following pricing options:

  • Monthly: $25
  • 3 Months: $66
  • 6 Months: $126
  • 12 Months: $228

The service is described as follows:

COCOTIQUE is a deluxe beauty box subscription service for women of color. We find the best beauty and lifestyle products targeting your unique needs and desires and ship them to your door each month. Dana Hill, Founder and CEO, created COCOTIQUE to simplify the search and discovery process and save you time and money.

If you could use this stuff, great.  If not, the 12 month subscription would theoretically give you 250 miles per dollar for a grand total of 57,000 miles (0.4 cents per mile).  That’s a very good price, but I’m not confident enough that the payout would really happen to be worth the hassle.

Hooked on Phonics 250 miles per dollar

The Hawaiian Airlines portal page for Hooked on Phonics states:

Hooked on Phonics – Digital Edition Learning made fun! Sync with your mobile devices! Get a 1 Month Trial for just $1

That last part gives me pause.  A 1 month trial for just $1 suggests to me that the best you can do with this deal is purchase 250 miles for a dollar.  That’s a good price, but hardly worth the effort.

Next…

3dcart 150 miles per dollar

3dcart is yet another subscription service.  The homepage advertises:

3dcart has everything you need to build your online store; from real-time shipping to your choice of payments. Increase visitors and sales with the best ecommerce platform for SEO.

Start your 15-Day FREE Trial. No credit card required.

I don’t know how a free trial can result in any miles at all.  More likely, the first paid month would result in miles — if you’re lucky.  This one seems to be far to complicated to be worth the opportunity to buy miles for 0.67 cents each (I’m not sure I’m a buyer at all at that price anyway).

Conclusion

The Hawaiian Airlines shopping portal is currently advertising too-good-to-be-true rates for a number of merchants.  And, for the most part, I don’t think it’s worth wasting time or money trying to pursue these false promises (see the section, above, titled “Reality Bites”.

For the sake of the blog, I will try out a couple of the above opportunities, but I’m not expecting much.  Stay tuned.

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