Why I shop in bursts, and how I made over 14,000 miles last week.

I grew up in Berkeley. During my childhood, it was not unusual for an adult to tell me to write down my intentions so that they would manifest in reality. My friends and I mostly rolled our eyes and ignored this advice, but occasionally we would conduct some sort of ceremonial inscription. I came across one of our lists recently, and it read:

1. My mom will change her mind about letting me get my ears pierced – BEFORE Julia’s party. (Kendra)

2. I will find my fuzzy skate covers. (Nicole)

3. I will get an A on my French test!! (Christa)

The list had been folded about twenty-seven times in an intricate pattern, and I found it in an old Yahtzee box. While I’m not sure if Nicole’s fuzzy skate covers ever surfaced, or what the outcome of Christa’s test was, I can tell you that my mom did indeed relent about the piercings. In other words, writing things down on paper has historically proven to be very beneficial for me, and although it might sound strange, I will bet that it can benefit you as well.

Say yes to the list.

Before I got into this hobby of points and miles collecting, my online shopping patterns were pretty typical: when I needed something, I would buy it. Of course, I would be thrilled to find the item on sale, or I would search for a working coupon code at RetailMeNot so I could get free shipping or a discount on my purchase, but as a shopper, I wouldn’t ever just make a list of what I needed, fold up the page, put it in a Yahtzee box and forget about it.

However, this is pretty much what I do now. The reason is because of points and miles.

Why I put my lists aside and wait.

Nowadays, if I’m in the market for something I don’t need right away – a new raincoat, a pair of boots, a new pair of jeans – I just write it down and walk away. Sure, I’ll spend a few minutes looking for a sale, or a coupon code, or free shipping, but unless I find an amazing deal, I don’t pull out my wallet, because I know something better is on the way.

What I am talking about is increased portal bonuses.

Last week (possibly in anticipation of Mother’s Day), the American Airlines shopping portal offered 15x miles per dollar at Saks (up from the usual 6x), while Macy’s was at 6x miles (up from the usual 3x miles). This deal paired nicely with another tiered spend bonus: if you spent $125 on the AA portal, you earned 250 miles, $300 got you an extra 1,000 miles, and a big spend of $700 netted 2,250 miles.

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Deals like this happen frequently, and I like to lie in wait for them. This means that I occasionally run out of makeup, don’t have the right shoes for an outfit, or have a non-working small appliance as I am waiting…but I don’t mind. It’s worth it to me.

I earned 14,000 miles!

I earned an extra 14,000 American Airlines miles last week, just by starting my shopping on the American Airlines portal. That is more than enough for a one-way Mile Saver fare (12,500 miles).

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It’s so easy.

Even if you don’t make lists and save up for a big increased portal bonus, you can still take advantage of portals anytime you shop online. I always start my search at CashBackMonitor, because I find it’s the easiest to use. (Tip: read this post by Frequent Miler for more info).

What are your portal tips?

Do you have any great portal-shopping tips to share? I would love to hear them!


  1. Rebecca says

    Thanks for the motivation! I’ll have to give list making another chance.

  2. This is GREAT advice. I am a list maker myself and keep things until the right deal comes along. I am still wishing Amazon had an airline partner (used to be Hawaiian) if they do let me know…but I’m going to start playing this part of the game for sure.

    • Points Pixie says

      Amanda – Yes, I have earned a TON of extra points this way! Memorial Day is coming up, and after that Father’s Day and 4th of July – I’ve noticed that portals tend to increase bonuses around major holidays, so the next couple of months should be good for points-earning.

  3. So awesome for you! Could you do a rough break down of how you got the 14,000?

    • Points Pixie says

      Julie – Yes! I spent $700 at Saks (a group of friends and I went in on a nice wedding gift together, plus I got a pair of shoes). Then I spent $200 at Macy’s (makeup and towels). So…while I cringe at the thought of spending $900 on a shopping portal in one day (YIKES), the fact that I waited until almost the last minute to buy the gift and was completely out of moisturizer definitely was worth it. 😉

  4. fauxblogger says

    double dip by ordering e-GC’s early the morning of sale, then calling customer service to nudge to e-GC approval along.. Sometimes need to threaten to cancel e-GC order to incentivize the approval. Then redeem before midnight same day

  5. Great inspiration…thanks!

  6. A much-needed reminder to pick up a very useful habit. Making lists (whether it’s stuff you need to buy or do) is the best way to get things done. I love that you’re posting again!

  7. yes….. I hadn’t thought about it this way, but I do this too now! Last week I went through the SWA portal to buy my husband a pile of dress clothing on JcP.com….(badly needed and waiting) at 10x points! plus the regular 1x points for using my fave Amex card for hotels….. oh such happiness in shopping….


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