Online shopping saves you the hassle of fighting the crowds at the mall. It can also earn you miles toward a free flight if you know where to shop. Eight U.S. airlines have online shopping centers (called mileage malls) that allow you to shop at Internet retailers and earn one or more miles per dollar spent. If you're planning on going shopping, you'll get more value from your spending if you earn miles from your purchases.
How it works
Mileage malls work in several ways. Some, such as American's and Northwest's, only require that you enter your frequent flyer number before you can click over to the retailer's website. Others, such as Delta's and United's, require you to register and then log in with a password before you can begin shopping.
The only difference between regular online shopping and using a mileage mall is that you must click through to the retailer's site from the mileage mall website. You won't earn AAdvantage miles if you walk into a Barnes & Noble store or if you go directly to Barnes&Noble.com. However, you will earn three miles per dollar spent if you go to the AAdvantage eShopping mall and click on the Barnes & Noble link. Once you've entered a retailer's site through a mileage mall, you must be sure to stay in the same browser window until you've completed your purchase. If you open up a new window, your connection to the mileage mall will be lost and your purchase will not earn miles.
US Airways' Dividend Miles Online Rewards Program is unique because it has both a regular mileage mall and a Dividend Miles Bonus Bar that you can install onto your computer. The Bonus Bar will appear at the bottom of your browser and will alert you to shopping deals and exclusive Dividend Miles opportunities. From the Bar, you can also go directly to a merchant's website and begin shopping.
Compare before you shop
If you only earn miles with one airline, your choice of which mileage mall to use is clear. However, if you earn miles in several programs, you will want to compare retailers and earning rates for the various online retailers before you begin shopping. Although most malls have between 80 and 200 retail partners, not all stores are represented in each mall. Check to see which airlines partner with the retailers you frequent the most.
Though online stores participate in more than one mileage program, they often have different earning rates for each airline. For example, you can earn three miles per dollar spent at Target.com when you shop through Delta's SkyMiles Shopping mall or Alaska's Mileage Plan Shopping program. But if you go through Continental's ShopOnePass, you'll earn five miles per dollar spent at Target.com. Or if you are looking to buy books at Barnes&Noble.com, you'll earn two miles per dollar spent at Mileage Plan Shopping, three miles per dollar spent at AAdvantage eShopping and United's Mileage Plus Mall, and five miles per dollar spent at ShopOnePass.
More shopping options
Mileage malls aren't your only options for earning miles for shopping. Many airlines have retail partners that are not included in their malls. Visit SmarterTravel.com's Mile Finder to find out how many miles you can earn from these partners.