The importance of stacking, when earning points

One of the coolest aspects of points and miles is the opportunity to earn bonus points through purchases that you may have planned to make anyways. For instance, a few weeks ago I wrote about how I got 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards miles for a mattress that I was already planning on buying.

Maximizing large purchases, and even just maximizing regular daily spend is often overlooked by my (ahem) “generation.” It is easy to be attracted to the monstrous sign-up bonuses, and I am definitely no exception, but I try to stress to many of my peers the importance of earning the most you can per dollar spent daily.

Think about it, if you spend $200 a month on travel and $200 a month on dining, which I think is a very conservative number, your total spend for the year on those categories would be $4,800. In a world where you don’t care about points or miles, you’d be getting 4,800 points. But think about doubling that, or even tripling it!

With a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, that $4,800 would equal 9,600 points! (!!!!) With the Chase Sapphire Reserve that is 14,400 points! Sheesh!

I’ve talked extensively elsewhere what transferring those points to one of Chase’s travel partners can do for you, but what I want to talk about here is about stacking those awards even further. In other words, “stacking” earning opportunities from multiple different avenues.

What it means to stack reward points

I think many people who read this may find this explanation a bit elementary, but I want to explain the idea of stacking in points and miles. If done correctly, there are a ton of points to be had. But more importantly, if you don’t even consider it, you’re losing out on such easy money.

The basic idea of stacking is earning points from multiple different sources off one purchase. The easiest example is earning points from a credit card bonus, like the travel category above, as well as miles from using that travel.

So if you buy a $300 flight on Southwest you’d get 900 Ultimate Reward points. Then, down the road, whenever you take the flight you’d get something like 1,500 Rapid Rewards points.

If you “stack” your points, you transfer those 900 Ultimate Reward points to Southwest and you now have 2,400 Southwest Rapid Reward points from a $300 purchase. Easily a free flight!

That is probably one of the more obvious ways to stack awards, but what is really fun to me is finding the more quirky stacks.

Setting up for stacked awards

Most “stacking” that I am able to do is online — whether it’s utilizing shopping portals or targeting specific online shopping opportunities, I’ve found that being lazy can actually be a positive thing. Or, positive in a certain, very specific sense of the word.

Shopping online will almost always provide you the best opportunity for “stacking” points across all rewards and cash back opportunities. So first I want to go over the different methods I’ve found to best stack awards.

Of course, these are no where close to all of them.

Credit Card Shopping Portals

It’s probably no secret that I’m a huge fan of credit card points — no matter where I’m spending my money, I’m always trying to double, triple, or even crazier, quadruple my earnings.

So while daily spending in stores is fun, most credit card companies offer their own version of a shopping portal. These are essentially online shopping bonuses that the company offers with select retailers. Essentially you get a bonus on top of whatever your credit card earns, and the points earned from the shopping portal are applied directly to your account.

If we look at the above options, let’s break down a potential example. Let’s say you want to buy an iPad, so you go through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal to apple.com. You select a $600 iPad and purchase it with your Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Not only would that purchase be earning you 1.5 points per dollar based on the normal Freedom Unlimited earning, but you’d also get the 2 points as mentioned above. In total you’d get 1,500 Ultimate Reward points from the purchase — 900 points bonus! If that’s not crazy good I don’t know what is.

And to be honest, I would maybe even wait for that 2 points/$1 to go up — Apple offers some great heightened bonuses.

You do have to log in through the credit card you’d like the points applied to, but the shopping portal “site” is a carbon copy of what you’d see if you were shopping online regularly. So there are a few more steps, but overall it is almost a seamless process.

Hotel/Airline Shopping Portals

Similar to the credit card shopping portals, hotels and airlines offer shopping portals of their own. So instead of earning credit card points per dollar you’d be earning airline or hotel points.

I would almost always choose to earn credit card points over airline or hotel points, but maybe you don’t have a credit card that earns shopping bonuses. Or maybe, you shop at such a random retailer that they only offer bonuses at an airline or hotel portal. Which happened to me very recently.

I was searching around for a new mattress, and knew that I wanted to invest in one of the mattress-in-a-box foam mattresses. With a pretty significant purchase, and all online, I was trying to figure out any way to get some more juice out of the deal.

The company that I decided to use was offering a flat bonus of 1,800 Southwest Rapid Reward points per purchase. There were no credit card points available to earn, and I found 1,800 Rapid Reward points to be the best value.

So, for a $750 mattress, I got 750 Ultimate Reward Points (didn’t have my Chase Freedom Unlimited yet — which would have got me 1,125 UR points) and 1,800 Rapid Reward points. If I transfer my UR points to Southwest we’re looking at 2,550 Rapid Reward points in total. 

That can take you pretty far on Southwest.

AMEX Offers & Benefits

Most of these “stacking” opportunities are relatively broad. All sorts of credit cards have shopping portals, and just about every airline or hotel has a shopping portal. But I wanted to specifically point out the AMEX Offers that provide some really incredible value.

These “offers and benefits” can be similar to what I’ve talked about before — “one additional Membership Reward per dollar spent” at Best Buy — but they can also be in the form of basic coupons. Get $60 back after spending $300 or more at Marriott.

Depending on your value of certain points, and ultimately whether you’d spend more or earn more, I think these offers make for some incredible value.

Once again, though, you have to ensure that you”Add to Card” that specific benefit before actually taking advantage.

Cash Back Sites

One thing that I have been more involved with lately has been the cash back sites. The value is hard to see at first site, but my hope is that this is one of those things that I’ll forget about, and all of a sudden a year later be $30 richer.

And oh, how that $30 extra dollars will feel.

Seriously, though, for anyone that spends a decent amount of money online, you might as well be trying to build up some cash back. And with Amazon offering rewards on cash back sites, you almost have to (because they don’t offer benefits elsewhere).

The two popular sites that I use are ebates.com and mrrebates.com — both require you to similarly log-in, then go to the retailer website through the cash back site.

I found a ton of value recently when I took advantage of the incredibly lucrative Iberia promo. Everyone heard about the 90,000 possible points to earn, for less than $300, but not many knew about the $3 cash back you could receive from each purchase.

So while so much of that value spoke for itself, lets summarize. For about $290, I got 90,000 Iberia Avios, 870 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (290 x 3 for Chase Sapphire Reserve travel bonus), and about $27 cash back. 

What a stack!

Use evreward.com to pick the best one

So finally, I want to give you the hack to figure out the best site to use to stack your rewards. This is the one site to visit, no matter what, whenever you are making a purchase online.

Evreward.com makes the process almost too easy. So let’s quickly take a look — in the event you once again wanted to buy an iPad, but because you are a big fan of Steve Jobs you want to stay true to form and buy directly from Apple. (Of course, I’d recommend utilizing this site to see not only which points bonus site it best, but also which retailer would offer you the best deal).

Simply type in “apple” on the homepage of the evreward website and the picture above gets returned. So obviously there are a ton of options — and based on the “Ultimate Rewards” row, we can confirm the site stays up to date.

It breaks down the options that I walked through, between credit cards, frequent travel rewards, and cash back, and tells you exactly how much you’d earn per dollar spent. Even better, you can go directly to the respective shopping portal by simply clicking on the orange arrow above.

Bookmark evreward.com, place a note on your laptop, and never forget to first check the website to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Final Thoughts

Like I say with so many other things on this site, this comes down to just a bit extra time and so much more in savings. While in some scenarios it doesn’t seem totally worth it to spend the extra time and effort, but taking a look at the bigger picture and it can represent some really incredible value — and more importantly, some awesome travel.

 

 

Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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