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'Tis the Season to Buy Gifts, Earn Frequent Flyer Miles

If you're not earning frequent flyer miles for your Christmas shopping—at least for those purchases made at online retailers—you're not getting full value for your money.

Most of the larger airline and hotel loyalty programs have established extensive networks of online retailers—unofficially dubbed mileage malls—that award miles or points for purchases. And many of the retailers participating in those mileage malls are offering bonuses for purchases made through the end of the year.

To make your shopping—and mileage-earning—easier, here's a summary of the miles-for-shopping promotions on offer from the major airline and hotel programs:

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Air Canada
At press time, Aeroplan members could earn triple miles for purchases at Lands' End, and double miles at MyJewelryBox.com, Ice.com, Indigo, and Forzieri. Most offers remain in place through the end of the year.

Alaska
Through January 15, 2011, Mileage Plan members can earn double miles for shopping at 11 online retailers at Mileage Plan Shopping: Magazines.com, Shoes.com, Red Envelope, ProFlowers, Nordstrom, Harry and David, Sephora, Sharper Image, Barnes & Noble, Sears, REI, and Best Buy.

American
Through December 31, AAdvantage members can earn double miles at 15 online retailers: Walmart, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Lands' End, Nordstrom, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, Eddie Bauer, Omaha Steaks, Athleta, Kmart, eBags, Barnes & Noble, and Gap. In addition, program members earn a 500-mile bonus when total spend reaches $500 during the promotion period.

Choice Hotels
Through December 31, members of the Choice Privileges program can earn triple points on purchases at Sears, Dell Home, and Kmart, and double points at Finish Line, Home Depot, Lancome, Walmart, Macy's, Ghirardelli, Microsoft, Sharper Image, North Face, HP, Lands' End, Omaha Steaks, Cheryl's, Kiehl's, Barnes & Noble, Harry and David, and JCPenney.

Continental
Continental doesn't have a holiday-specific bonus, but OnePass members can earn double miles any time of the year when shopping at ShopOnePass merchants and charging their purchases to a Continental Airlines Chase credit or debit card.

Delta
There's no single bonus or discount on offer for purchases at SkyMiles Shopping. Rather, there's an assortment of offers from various merchants, ranging from free shipping to price discounts to mileage bonuses.

InterContinental Hotels
Through December 31, Priority Club Rewards can earn triple points for purchases at Dell Home, Sears.com, and Kmart.com, and double points at 18 other Priority Club Rewards Shopping merchants: Barnes & Noble.com, Cheryl's, Finish Line, Ghirardelli, Harry and David, homedepot.com, HP, JCPenney, Kiehl's, Lancome, Lands' End, Macy's, Microsoft, Omaha Steaks, Restaurant.com, North Face, Sharper Image, Restaurant.com.

JetBlue
TrueBlue members can earn double points through January 5, 2011, for purchases made through ShopTrue at Walmart, Toys R Us, Overstock, Nordstrom, Macy's, and Barnes & Noble.

Marriott
Marriott Rewards members can earn triple points through December 31 at Dell, Kmart, and Sears, and double points at the same 18 online retailers participating in the InterContinental promotion described above.

United
Through December 31, Mileage Plus members can earn double miles at 10 Mileage Plus Shopping retailers: Walmart, Sears, eBags, Macy's, Eddie Bauer, Barnes & Noble, Lands' End, Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. In addition, program members earn a 500-mile bonus when total spend reaches $500 during the promotion period.

US Airways
Dividend Miles members can earn up to four bonus miles for every dollar spent at the Dividend Miles shopping mall through December 30, up to a maximum of 100,000 bonus miles, as follows:

  • Earn one bonus mile per dollar spent on purchases totaling $100 - $249
  • Earn two bonus miles for purchases totaling $250 - $999
  • Earn three bonus miles for purchases totaling $1,000 - $7,999
  • Earn four bonus miles for purchases totaling $8,000 or more

Bagging the Best Deals

If you're unwaveringly loyal to a specific program, look for the merchants offering the most miles for the same or similar items. That new laptop, for example, might be sold by a range of retailers, all of which feature different mileage payouts. If the price is the same, opt for the deal with the most miles.

If you're looking to earn the most miles or points regardless of the program, you'll want to do some comparison shopping. While the list prices of merchants will be the same at all mileage malls, the rewards may be different.

Many of the larger online merchants participate in multiple programs, but their award policies can differ significantly from program to program. Barnes & Noble, for instance, awards four miles per dollar in Delta's program, including the holiday bonus, but six miles in American's program, and 10 miles in Continental's. So in this case, if you're not wedded to a particular program, you could earn more than twice as many miles by earning Continental miles over Delta miles.

Whether you stick to a preferred program or target the most miles, it pays to take advantage of overlapping offers.

So, for example, to maximize the mileage impact of the American and United promotions (which are very similar), you'd make it a point to spend $500 at retailers that offer double miles—earning the 500-mile bonus on the total, plus double miles for the individual purchases—and earn one extra mile per dollar by charging the purchases to the credit cards affiliated with those programs.

And to be sure you're getting the best possible deal overall, look for vendors that are offering discounts and free shipping, as well as mileage bonuses.

There's still plenty of time to be a smart Santa and get mo', mo', mo' as you ho, ho, ho.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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