Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tech Column: A Better Way to Shop

Photo by Bill Adler
by Bill Adler

You're probably expecting a column entitled "a better way to shop" to be about using smartphone apps, but it's not. There are a lot of wallet-saving shopping services --in particular price comparison apps and websites -- but what I want to talk about this week is something very different: shopping portals.

If you're like many people, you have not enough frequent flyer miles scattered among a random collection of airline program. While it can take eons to build up enough points to actually go somewhere --and even longer to negotiate with the airline so that you can get a seat-- there's no time like the present when it comes to acquiring miles.

Flying from Washington to Cape Town will earn miles, but why not earn miles for regular online shopping? Many airlines have shopping portals. If you start your online shopping day through a portal, you will earn miles with that airline. Air Canada, for example has portals to numerous online stores, including iTunes. Next time you buy a movie from iTunes, you can get miles, too.

During off-peak times of the year, US Airways sometimes offers bonus miles when you buy flowers: Right now US Airways is giving 25 miles for each dollar spent through Teleflora. (Off-peak when it comes to flowers means not around Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.) A $50 bouquet will earn you 1,250 US Airways points. Why not thank yourself for a job well done with a $100 flower arrangement and get 2,500 miles at the same time?

Other airlines offer similar bonuses: Shop wisely and you can get double, triple or even more miles per dollar spent. Shopping at Drugstore.com through American Airline's portal gets you four miles for every dollar spent. On Delta you can get 30 miles per every dollar spent at 1-800-Flowers, two miles for every dollar spent at Crate & Barrel, and three miles for every dollar spent at Brookstone. On Southwest Airlines you can get four miles for every dollar spent at the Nike Store and three miles per dollar spent at Anthropologie.

Shopping through an airline's shopping portal costs the same as going directly to an online store. The only difference is that there's an extra click or two involved.

You can use any credit card when shopping via an airline portal site, including a credit card that's affiliated with an airline: that's even more miles.

Online shopping through an airline portal is smarter shopping.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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