How much are you planning to spend on gifts before the end of the year?
Between now and the close of 2007, consumers will spend billions on holiday shopping. In the process of buying those Barbies and PlayStations and Cuisinarts, shoppers will earn more airline miles and hotel points for their purchases than ever before.
Most of those miles will be earned by shopping at the mileage malls now operated in conjunction with all the larger airline and hotel programs. Typically comprising a hundred or more online merchants, the malls allow program members to earn one or more miles for every dollar spent at the participating retailers.
Just as Main Street malls trot out discounts and other incentives to entice holiday shoppers, the mileage malls also ratchet up their mileage offerings at this time of year. To help you make the most of the mileage deals on offer, I've summarized the seasonal promotions currently in place from select airline and hotel programs.
Through the end of the year, American is offering AAdvantage members two ways to earn bonus miles when shopping at its AAdvantage eShopping Mall.
First, shoppers will earn double miles for purchases charged to a MasterCard at 25 eShopping Mall retailers. The participating retailers include Barnes & Noble, Blue Nile, Bose, Cabela's, Circuit City, Dell Home, drugstore.com, eLuxury.com, Eddie Bauer, eToys, Gap, GiftCertificates.com, Harry & David, JCPenney, J&R, Kodak Gallery, Lands' End, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Sharper Image, Overstock.com, RedEnvelope, Sears, Staples, and TigerDirect.
In addition to the double miles, shoppers will earn what American calls threshold bonuses for purchases at those same retailers: 500 bonus miles for charging $250 or more, 1,500 bonus miles for charging $500 or more, and 4,000 bonus miles for charging $1,000 or more.
Continental OnePass and Delta SkyMiles
Until December 31, members of the programs of both Continental and Delta can earn 10 miles for every dollar spent at SkyMall, itself a collection of retailers such as Brookstone, Hammacher Schlemmer, Frontgate, and The Sharper Image. Three thousand bonus miles could be just the extra incentive needed to seal the deal on a life-sized Elvis bust, programmed to sing "You Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog" on command, for $299.95 (batteries not included).
Another gift idea from Delta: frequent flyer miles. Through the end of the year, you can buy up to 30,000 miles for someone else's account and receive 20 percent more miles for every 1,000 miles purchased at the regular price of $0.0275 per mile.
Members of the Midwest Miles program can earn 500 bonus miles for their first purchase of $25 or more at the Midwest Miles Mall through December 31.
Members of Northwest's program can earn various quantities of bonus miles for purchases at select WorldPerks Mall merchants through the end of the year. Plus, for every $200 spent at most merchants, program members will earn a 600-mile bonus. To earn the Northwest bonus, pre-registration is required.
United Mileage Plus
United is offering Mileage Plus members up to 1,500 bonus miles for purchases at the Mileage Plus Mall—300 bonus miles after spending $300, 600 bonus miles after spending $500, and 1,500 bonus miles after spending $1,000 or more. United's bonuses are only in effect through December 18.
Through December 31, Marriott Rewards members will earn double points for purchases at the following Marriott Rewards Mall vendors: the Apple Store, Circuit City, Dell Home, DisneyShopping, JC Penney, Lands' End, Nordstrom, Overstock, Staples, and Target.
Priority Club Rewards
The Priority Club Rewards program is awarding double points for qualifying purchases at the Apple Store, Circuit City, Dell Home, DisneyShopping.com, JCPenney, Lands' End, Nordstrom, OfficeMax, Overstock.com, RitzCamera.com, and Target made through the Priority Club Rewards Shopping site. With the bonuses, program members can earn up to 10 points per dollar spent through December 31.
With the exception of United's, all the promotions listed are in effect through the end of the year. So that after-Christmas buying spree can be a mileage windfall as well.
As always when shopping at mileage malls, be sure to stop first at the mall's landing page, typically accessed from the "Earn Miles" section of the travel supplier's website, and register your membership number. If you proceed directly to the merchant's website, your purchases won't be tracked and points cannot be awarded, even after the fact. And these days, holiday shopping without a hefty helping of frequent flyer miles would be like Santa without his sack.