How to double or triple-dip when shopping, dining, and even Ubering
One of the easiest ways to earn lots of points and miles is by using shopping portals. Airlines, hotels, and even Chase Ultimate Rewards have shopping portals that will give you bonus points or miles on online purchases just for shopping through their portal. This is in addition to any points you earn on the credit card used to make the purchase. There are hundreds of retailers on these shopping portals. In addition to a shopping portal, United has a unique app that allows you to buy giftcards that you can instantly use to make purchases online or in a store. This is called the United MileagePlus X app.
What is the United MileagePlus X app?
Like Shopping portals, there are hundreds of retailers available on this app and each time you use it to make a purchase, you earn bonus United miles. Instead of purchasing the item through the app as you would on a shopping portal, you use the app to buy a gift card in the amount you need for the purchase. You can instantly use the gift card to make purchases online or in a store/restaurant.
How many miles can I earn with the MileagePlus X app?
The amount of points you earn depends on the retailer. It can range anywhere from half of a mile to 20 bonus miles per dollar. Remember that miles earned with this app are in addition to any miles or points you earn with your credit card.
Huge bonus tip: Amazon is not currently an option on any shopping portal, but it is an option on this app!! The current earn rate is only half of a mile per dollar, but it adds up quick and there is absolutely no reason not to use it! Another example: while some shopping portals used to have Nordstrom as an option, I have not seen it lately. But the good news is, Nordstrom is an option on this app!! The point is, even if a retailer is not available on shopping portals, always check the Mileage X Plus app for bonus opportunities!
Bonus mile amounts are subject to change so don’t be surprised if you go to use the app and the amount earned is different than what you remember it previously earning. This can be good or bad. Sometimes earnings increase, and sometimes they decrease.
- Using the MileagePlus X app- you earn United miles by using this app.
- The credit card you use to make the purchase on the app also earns points.*
*Usually, the amount of points earned on your credit card depends on how the merchant codes the transaction. For example, if you’re using a Chase Sapphire Preferred card to purchase a restaurant gift card, you will earn the 2 Ultimate Rewards you would earn if you were paying the restaurant directly.
The triple dip:
Same as above, but instead of using the gift card directly through the merchant to make the purchase, you can go through an online shopping portal to make the purchase. So now you’re earning:
- Miles from United for shopping through the MileagePlus X app
- Points or miles from using your credit card
- Points or miles from the shopping portal (it does NOT have to be the United shopping portal. You’re using the gift card purchased from the app to make purchases as you would normally use a gift card)*
*Note that if you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, their terms state that you must use your Chase card to make the purchase. This would suggest that using a gift card to make a purchase would disqualify the purchase from earning Ultimate Rewards. There are plenty of data points that suggest this policy is not enforced. In other words, many people have used other credit cards and/or gift cards and still received points from Ultimate Rewards. I personally do not care to take this risk, especially if it is a larger purchase because I would risk not getting the points. Fortunately, airline portals do not care what card you use to make the purchase, so if you want to use a gift card or a credit card that is not a Chase card, the safe thing to do is use an airline portal rather than the UR portal.
How much does it cost?
Using the MileagePlus X app costs nothing. You must have a United loyalty account to sign up but if you do not already have one, you can sign up for free at United.com. You have absolutely nothing to lose, but lots of miles to earn!
Do I have to have a United credit card to use the MileagePlus X app?
You do NOT have to have a United credit card to use the MileagePlus X app. You can use any credit card you choose to make purchases through the app. Actually, you do not even have to use a credit card. That’s right. You can still earn miles even if you pay with a debit card! But why would anyone do that?!
Although you do not have to have a United credit card, if you happen to have one, you earn 25% more points than what is listed in the app. But wait, it gets better. You do not even have to use the card to make the purchase. Simply being a United credit card holder earns you the bonus 25% no matter what card you use to shop.
How long does it take to receive the gift card?
Giftcards tend to show up in your account immediately. The whole idea behind this app was to be able to use it at the time of the transaction, so it makes sense that the gift card value would need to be available immediately. See below for step-by-step instructions. I recently used this at Nordstrom and I purchased the gift card while at the register. It posted immediately and I was able to use my gift card directly from the app.
Do I have to use the entire gift card value in one transaction?
No. These gift cards function the same way a normal gift card would. Actually, it’s more convenient than having a physical gift card because any remaining balance will be available to view and use by going to the ‘Purchases’ tab on the main menu of the app.
When do miles post to the United account?
Quickly! Usually right away, but almost always within a week.
Tip: Since they post so fast, this is also a great way to top off your account if you’re close to having enough United miles for an award ticket you want to book.
Another Tip: This is also great for keeping your miles from expiring. United miles expire if there is no earning or redeeming activity for 18 months. Simply making a purchase through this app resets your 18 months!
Do other airlines and loyalty programs have this sort of app?
How is this different from shopping portals?
This is a unique way to shop, because unlike other online shopping portals, you can use the MileagePlus X app to make purchases at brick and mortar stores and restaurants in addition to using the gift cards for online purchases.
It is also different from shopping portals because you are basically buying gift cards. While a few stores allow gift card purchases to count in a shopping portal, many explicitly state that gift card purchases will not earn bonus points. With the MileagePlus X app, you can only buy gift cards!
For example, I am almost out of some of my makeup and need to do some shopping at Sephora.
Typically I would order it online, especially since Sephora is a retailer that is available on most shopping portals. This has the potential to be a triple-dip situation.
But, if I’m already at the mall and I need the products right away, I can use the app and still double dip!
I will use $50 to keep it simple. Let’s say I need $50 worth of makeup from Sephora.
Scenario 1: I go to the mall and use my credit card to make the purchase.
So, I am at the mall and want to go ahead and buy the makeup rather than waiting to have it shipped. This actually happens all the time when I am about to leave for vacation and realize I need more makeup but don’t have time to have it shipped!
Since most cards will only earn 1 point per dollar at a retailer such as Sephora, I will assume that the purchase will earn 50 points or miles. In other words, Sephora is not a restaurant or other category that typically earns bonuses. Since I use my Starwood Amex for purchases that do not have a category bonus I will earn 50 Starpoints.
Scenario 2: I go to the mall and use the MileagePlus X shopping app before making the purchase.
The current rate for Sephora through MPX is 5 miles per dollar. So, I can buy a 50$ gift card with the app then use that gift card to complete the purchase while I am at the mall. By going through this quick and easy process, I can earn 250 United miles (5 x $50) in addition to the 50 Starpoints.
Scenario 3: I use the MileagePlus X app to buy a gift card, then use the gift card to pay for the merchandise on an online shopping portal.
Assuming I can wait a few days to have the products shipped to me, I can score even more miles. This scenario actually has the potential to earn points and miles in 3 different programs. First, I will earn 50 Starpoints by using my SPG Amex to purchase the gift card. Then, I will earn 250 United miles by using the MPX app to buy the gift card. Next, I can go through an airline shopping portal and earn even more! I can use the gift card from the MileagePlus X app to pay. For example, I can go through the Southwest shopping portal to earn an additional 3 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar.
This process yields a total of 450 points and miles!*
- 50 Starpoints
- 250 United miles
- 150 Southwest miles
I know 450 may not seem like much, but that is a total of 9 points per dollar. If you can remember to use the MPX app and shopping portals when you’re making purchases, you will see your points add up quick!
*If I am a United credit card holder, I will earn an additional 25% of the United miles ( 62.5 miles) on this transaction. That’s over 500 points and miles on a 50 dollar purchase, which is a grand total of more than 10 miles and points per dollar!
Quick summary: either I use my Starwood Amex and earn 50 Starpoints on this purchase, or I do less than 2 minutes worth of tapping and clicking to turn it into 450 points and miles! Many people ask me how we earn so much, so this is a great example. These extra steps can easily turn $10,000 worth of annual spend* into 100,000 points and miles rather than just 10,000.
*Please note that I do not spend $10,000 annually on makeup! I am just trying to demonstrate how everyday spending translates to big earnings.
Another great way to use the MileagePlus X app is at restaurants
Restaurants earn bonus points on one of my favorite credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This means I can actually double-dip at restaurants by using the MPX app!
The MileagePlus X app has several restaurant options in addition to other retailers. For example, Chilis earns 4 miles per dollar. Don’t judge. I have always and will always love Chilis.
As I stated above, most purchases made with this app will code the same way a purchase directly with the retailer or restaurant would code if you use your credit card. In other words, if I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve to purchase a Chilis gift card through the MPX app, it should count as a restaurant purchase. That means that I would get 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar in addition to the 4 United miles per dollar.
One more merchant to note: UBER!!
Currently, the earn rate is only 1 mile per dollar through the MPX app but it’s better than nothing, right?
Is there any reason not to use the MPX app?
For the most part, no. You should take advantage of this when possible! However, if you are buying something such as electronics or appliances, here is a warning. Since you will be using a gift card rather than your credit card to pay for the merchandise, you would not get the same purchase protections and/or extended warranties that a credit card would offer.
Also be aware that gift cards are generally non refundable. While you should be able to return or exchange merchandise subject to the retailer’s return policy, refunds are usually given in the form of the original payment. For example, if I buy $100 worth of clothes from Nordstrom with a gift card purchased from the MPX app and I decide I want to return them, I can. But instead of $100 being refunded to my credit card, it will be refunded to the gift card.
How to use the United MileagePlus X shopping app
1. Download the app
If you have not yet linked your MileagePlus X app to your United MileagePlus account, you will need to do so. If you do not have a United MileagePlus account, you can sign up for free at United.com
2. Select the merchant
Once your account is linked to your MileagePlus account, nearby stores and restaurants will be shown upon opening the app.
If you would like to search for a retailer, tap on the white lines (menu icon) in the top left hand corner. This menu will appear.
Tap on ‘All’
I will use Nordstrom as an example in honor of the Anniversary Sale that every fashion blogger is talking about! As you can see, I only have to type the first few letters in the search bar for it to pop up.
Tap on ‘Nordstrom’
3. Tap ‘Pay now’
4. Tap on your saved credit card or ‘add new card’.
5. After selecting your payment method, tap ‘Done’
6. You will be returned to this screen. Tap ‘Pay now’ to complete the purchase.
You can access your purchased e-giftcard under ‘Purchases’ under your main menu. Either type in the card number and PIN if you’re making the purchase online, or show the barcode on your phone to the cashier if you’re in a store or restaurant.
When this app was first introduced, I was admittedly pretty bad at remembering to use it. So I moved the MileagePlus X app to my home screen, and I have been constantly reminded to use it ever since. You should too. Let me know if you have any questions. You can email, comment, or message on Facebook!