I recently did a post on using online shopping portals to earn airline miles without flying. That post was followed up with an article on earning cashback via shopping portals. In this article I share my current shopping portal strategy and why I’m choosing this approach.
Over the years I’ve earned both airline miles, and cashback. My current focus is this: Earning Membership Reward points through the Rakuten shopping portal. Rakuten (formerly called Ebates) is best known as a cash back site, but now offers the option to earn Membership Reward points. Membership rewards are the flexible point currency of American Express, and great for what I like to do, use them for travel!
Two reasons I’m earning Membership Reward points instead of cash or airline miles.
1. I value Membership Reward Points at more than 1 penny a piece.
Until recently I used Rakuten to earn cash back, so why the switch to Membership Reward points? The reason is: I value membership reward points at more than a penny a piece. If Rakuten gives me the option of earning $10 cash back or 1000 Membership Reward points, I’ll chose the 1000 points.
Here’s an example of how I find value. I booked a business class ticket from Los Angeles to Paris. The flight cost 40,000 Membership Reward Points. Rakuten gives me the option of earning either one penny in cash back, or 1 Membership Reward points. The same amount of spending it takes to generate 40,000 Membership reward points, could have earned me $400 in cash back. I value the flight at more than $400, so 40,000 Membership Reward points are a better deal for me. I’ve chose to earn Membership Reward points rather than cashback.
2. I value flexible points more than fixed airline points.
I’ve also chosen to earn Membership Reward points instead of traditional airline miles. The reason is flexibility. I have a credit card issued by Citibank which earns American Airline miles (thanks Citi). The AA points earned by my AA credit card can be transferred to my AA frequent flyer account. Once the AA points earned by my AA credit card are in my AA frequent flyer account, I can use my AA points to book flights through…you guessed it… AA. American Airline points are used to book flights available through the AAdvantage program. I like the AAdvantage program, and I like the non-AA partners that are available for the AAdvantage programs, but at the end of the day, I’m limited to one program. Membership reward points, on the other hand, can be transferred to over fifteen airline programs. This list currently includes:
- Delta Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- British Airways
How I use the points.
My primary use of Membership rewards points is transferring the points to partner airlines in order to book long-haul flights in business class. A ten-hour flight to London sure feels better in a lie-flat seat! The cash prices for business class seats, especially in the case of a one-way ticket, can be ginormously expensive. That’s where airline points come in. Opportunities exist to book business class tickets with a reasonable number of Membership Reward points.
Steps to Start Earning Membership Reward Points through Rakuten
1) To get started you’ll need an eligible American Express Card that Earns Membership Rewards Points. Not all American Express Cards earn Membership Rewards Points. If you have an Amex Card and are not sure, contact Amex first. If you plan to sign up for an Amex card, make sure it earns Membership Rewards points and is eligible with Rakuten.
2) Open a Membership Rewards earning Rakuten Account. The next step is to navigate over to Rakuten.com and open a Membership Rewards earning Rakuten account. Rakuten also offers a cashback account, so be sure to sign up for the Membership Rewards earning account. If you want to help out the site, you can sign up via our referral link. Using the link will earn a bonus of membership reward points for both you and us. The current offer is that we both earn 2500 bonus Membership Reward points. Here is our referral link.
3) Link your Rakuten and Membership Rewards Account. During the sign-up process, you’ll provide information regarding your eligible American Express credit card. Rakuten will verify your Membership Reward account, and once successfully validated, your Rakuten account will be linked with your Amex Membership rewards account. You’re now ready to earn Membership rewards.
4) Start each online shopping trip at Rakuten. Get in the habit of starting each site a Rakuten. Make sure you are signed into your account, then search the Rakuten website for the store at which you want to shop. For example, if you want to shop at Target.com. Search Rakuten for Target, then click on the “shop now” link. Clicking the link will send you to target.com. Once there, you can complete your purchase as normal
5) Follow up to make sure your purchase tracks. Each shopping trip that successfully tracks, will earn Membership Reward Points. See below for successful tracking tips.
6) Wait for your earned points to be transferred. Rakuten transfers points on a quarterly basis. Below is the transfer schedule.
7) Use your points! Once the points are deposited into your American Express account, they can be transferred to any of Amex’s airline partners. Membership reward points can also be used to redeem for merchandise, gifts cards, transferred to certain hotel programs, and more. I don’t find solid value in these other redemptions, but your mileage may vary. Check out the Membership Reward site for a plethora of redemption options.
Wrapping it Up
When I shop online, I try to use a shopping portal. In the past I’ve used cashback portals, airline portals that earn single program miles. My current strategy is earning Membership Reward points through the Rakuten shopping portal. If you plan on using a shopping portal for online shopping, and you like the idea of earning Membership Reward points, consider using Rakuten to rack up extra points.