How To Use Big Shopping Portal Bonuses To Buy Miles Cheaply! - Running with Miles
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How To Use Big Shopping Portal Bonuses To Buy Miles Cheaply!

Using big shopping portal bonuses is a great way to pick up extra miles, but you can also do more with them. Like use them as a way to “buy” miles cheaply and here is how you can do that.

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With credit card companies limiting the ability to churn cards as easily as they could be years ago and with the death of Bluebird/Serve for so many, it is more important than ever to diversify your miles and point earning methods. Just relying on new card bonuses may work for you now, but it always helps to pick up some extra miles and big shopping portal bonuses can help you do just that.

How To Use Big Shopping Portal Bonuses To Buy Miles Cheaply

big shopping portal bonuses

Expired now but big shopping portal bonuses like this are a great way to buy miles cheaply!

Shopping portal bonuses are a great way to pick up miles and points for shopping you are already doing. All you do is add a simple step in the process – instead of going directly to the retailer’s website, check out a site like Cashback Monitor first to find what shopping portal bonuses are available for that retailer. Then, simply click through that particular portal (making sure you have signed in with your account info) and start shopping!

When a big shopping portal bonus comes out, like the one for 18X AA miles, it is a good time to see what you may have been waiting to buy or what you can buy and resell. In this way, you are essentially buying the miles at a very cheap price and being able to get closer to that big award you have been saving for!

For this post, I will be using the big shopping portal bonus from the other day as an example so feel free to read the post – here. It was for American Airline miles and their portal was paying out 18 miles per dollar spent at Backcountry.com

Using Shopping Portal Bonuses As A Means For Reselling

Check out this post on how to save quite a bit of money when reselling on eBay.

Even if you have never done any reselling before, it can be a good time to experiment with it when big shopping portal bonuses pop up. You could buy one thing from a retailer with a good return policy and try to sell it and see how you do. If it doesn’t work, you can always return it (or keep it, if it is something you are interested in) for just the penalty of return shipping.

Buying something to resell is great, but know that you will likely be taking a loss when you buy from a retailer to resell. Obviously, if you can buy it at that price, anyone can! But, that is okay since we are just trying to buy miles for cheap!

Learn About Your Items

For me, I like to buy/resell tech items as they are something I can know the value of right away. I know that if something is on sale at just one vendor, chances are pretty good that many people buying on eBay won’t know it is on sale at that vendor and I can sell for close to what I paid. This is especially true if there is some kind of flash sale. If I know the items well, I can buy quickly before they sell out and I am in a good place to resell at little cost.

GoPro HERO4 Session

Know your items so you can tell if it is a good deal and easy to make money on or lose a little

In my situation, I like to buy things that were just recently released. The reason is that most people are not selling used versions of them yet and some retailers may still have not received enough to cover all of their orders yet. That means that people turn to eBay and are willing to pay close to retail for a new item. This way, I can lose as little as possible.

Count Your Cost

Unless you get an item on sale or with bonus items (like gift cards or accessories), it is important to realize going in that you are going to take a loss. But, rather than think of it as a “loss”, think of it as buying miles for cheap. You still do need to do the math to make sure it is worth it, though!

Example – $400 Item

So, one of the items I bought this weekend from Backcountry was $400. I know that similar items on eBay are being sold for $380-$385 so I will list it at $380. That is an automatic $20 loss. But, I also have to subtract 5% for the eBay fee and 2.9% +$.30 for the PayPal fee (make sure you see the post above about saving money on eBay fees or read it here). That puts me at a total loss of $50 on this item.

However, I picked up 7,200 American Airline miles with that item. So, I paid $50 to get those miles putting my cost at .7 cents per mile. Pretty good! If I were to multiply it up, that means a first class ticket on Cathay Pacific would cost me $468 at this rate! Not bad at all!

In fact, I know that I could even lose another $20 and still be okay with that. It would put my cost at just under 1 cent per mile and since I need them quickly as part of a larger award, I can live with it.

Time: I know this will come up! When you are buying something brand new to resell, there is actually very little time involved with flipping it. That is because it has already been shipped in a box to you and all you need to do is take a couple of photos with your phone and do the auction from your phone! After that, it is just dropping the item back in the box and putting a label on it! I have timed it out and such a transaction takes me a total of 10-15 minutes to do it all.

Identify The Price Of Miles/Points

Make sure you find out how much it costs to buy miles/points from the airline itself before you begin! That gives you an absolute baseline of what you have to deal with. AA sells miles at for 2.95 cents each with a $30 fee per transaction and a federal tax on top of that. If I were to buy only 1,000 miles, I would pay a total of $61.70.

big shopping portal bonuses

The cost for AA miles right now is a little lower because of the bonus but you can still do better with portals!

But, right now they are running a sale and the price gets better the more miles you buy. If you buy the at the sweet spot – 100,000 miles – you will receive a 50,000 mile bonus and your total will be $3,201. That means you are buying at a rate of 2.1 cents per mile.

Obviously, we want to do better than that! Plus, you should figure around .5 cent better anyway just because you could just buy the miles and be done with it instead of going through the hassle of buying and reselling. So, you should shoot for about 1.6 cents per mile as your maximum cost in this endeavor.

Your Friends!

Another little way to keep costs down is to keep up on what things your friends are looking for. If they wanted a particular item, like the one I bought for $400, give them a call and tell them you have a deal for them and will even give them a $20 break on the price. Chances are they will be happy with that and you have just reduced your cost to only paying .27 cents per mile! 🙂 Win-win for all!

Summary

This is just a little post, nothing exhaustive at all, to help give you some ideas about using big shopping portal bonuses as a way to buy miles cheap. It is not just a time to do your own shopping but also a great time to see what you can resell to take full advantage of the shopping portal bonuses available. Just make sure you do what you feel comfortable and experiment a bit to see if something like this will work for you.

In the case of American Airline miles, with the big devaluation date just 2 months off, I view those miles at a premium and will definitely take opportunities like this as a way to get miles on the cheap. Yes, it takes a bit of work but it is saving me money in the end, even after taking into account the time.

Do you use big shopping portal bonuses as a way to buy miles cheap by reselling or something similar? What bonus amount does it take to get you interested in that?

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

8 Comments

  • I ordered about $3.5k of product with I will sell on Amazon for a $300 loss. Net miles ~65k!! Cathay first class here I come!

  • Sellers beware: ebay fees are 10% not 5%, dont forget your shipping costs, which are also fee’d at a flat 10% even if you charged for shipping. Large item that wont fit in a mailbox? You have to drove it, more time and money. Then, god forbid: returns or lost? Have fun!

    pay pal is 2.9% + $0.30 per sale

    • @ Steve/Dan – That is why I said to read the other post about eBay. Having a store subscription for one month chops that fee in half for some categories, like the ones I sell in (though you have to figure the cost of the subscription – $20 – so is good to sell in excess of $400 to break even). Thanks for the reminder about the 30 cents (which is actually less than what I was saying in the example since I put it at 3% originally).
      Everything else you mentioned goes under knowing what you are selling. I choose things that fit within my area of what I am willing to put in and would expect others to do so as well. There are no returns when dealing with new products as there is nothing wrong with them and that is handled through warranties if something develops.

    • Also, using the self machines at the PO do not take much time at all. When I need to use them, I can take the detour and be done in under 10 minutes – even at midnight if I had to.

  • This is a bit off topic.I regularly buy stuff on Ebay. I bought a 3 items last November. They were classified as New but when I received them, they did not work.
    I did not return after I found that the shipping cost was more than the purchase price. I am livid. Sellers don’t normally pay for return shipping. Ebay 30 day warranty expires. I left one negative review for three items. Now the seller blacklists me. I found the practice retaliatory. Ebay cannot help because it gives seller free reign to block buyers. There are buyers who also wreck sellers’ standing with Ebay. Any idea how to get full refund without incurring extra costs?

    • Oh, man! So sorry to hear about that! Actually, if it is not as described or is broken, eBay will automatically force the seller to pay the shipping for that (I know as one of my items had a warranty issue and I had to issue a refund – buyer was great about it and I returned it to the company. Anyway, the return process put the shipping on me).
      That being said, if the warranty period has expired, I am not sure what could be done at this point. I have always had great success when I called eBay, as both a buyer and seller, and explained the situation to them. In some cases, they ruled in my favor right then on the phone.
      I agree about the blacklisting. I have only blacklisted one eBayer and it was because they were borderline harassing me while we were messaging about an item I was trying to buy from him and I decided not to. I blacklisted him to prevent him from buying something at some point just to leave bad feedback (that’s how nuts this guy was!).
      Anyway, give eBay a call and see what they can do. If the seller claimed it was new and it was not, it doesn’t matter what the seller says about a return/refund policy. That is a false listing and eBay will handle it.

  • I spent three hours on the phone with Ebay and PayPal. I don’t see how PayPal was responsible but they have 180 day warranty but I must pay return shipping. Ebay tried to shift the responsibility to PayPal. I got nowhere with them since it is outside the 30 day warranty. What’s your suggestion? They seem to wipe their hand clean after 30 day. I waited until now because I was at home for Thanksgiving and first ten days in December.

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