Published on October 27th, 2017 | by Chuck18
United MileagePlus Shopping Now Offers Miles for In-Store Purchases
United now offers bonus miles for in-store purchases by linking a Visa or Amex card and using it to shop in-store.
United MileagePlus Shopping is one of dozens of shopping portals who offer free bonus rewards for online shopping when you click through to your desired store from their website. Most shopping portals won’t give you any credit for purchases made in-store; Ebates is an exception and offers cash back at select stores.
United now rolled out rewards for in-store purchases as well. Currently there are 20 available merchants, I’m sure the list will evolve over time. The biggest name on this list is Macy’s at 2.5 miles per dollar. Check out the full list here.
- You have to link a card first before the purchase, save the specific offer you want to use, and then use the linked card in-store
- Only Visa and Amex cards work on this program
- For debit cards, be sure not to use the PIN during store checkout, let it run like a credit card
- “Offer not valid for gift card purchases”
- You can link an offer to multiple credit cards
- Once saved, you’ll typically have 30 or 45 days to use; check offer details (when initially linking your card, you’ll see a message about offers being valid for just 4 hours; this seems to be some sort of error – the offer details clearly show a longer timeframe of 30 or 45 days)
Similar to Ebates in-store cash back, United makes it a pain to earn rewards: you have to save each offer separately, and even then you have to save it again to use a second time. If you shop at the same store multiple times in the same 12-24 hour period, all those purchases will track without saving again. But after that, you have to save the offer again. It’s not like the set-and-forget dining programs.
I checked around other mileage shopping sites, like Southwest, Alaska, Delta, AAdvantage, and Jetblue, and the in-store option is not showing. It won’t be surprising if others follow United on this path. More importantly we’ll have to see if the list of available retailers expands; the options for in-store are always much less than the online options.
Interestingly, I would have pegged United to be the last to adapt in-store rewards since it sorta’ conflicts with their MPX shopping program. That program targets the in-store shopper (though online shoppers can use it too) and offers them bonus United miles for paying through the MPX app, essentially purchasing a gift card from United and using that to pay at store checkout. (See our full review of MPX here.) If you use MPX, you won’t get your card-link rewards since the charge is run through MPX, not directly at the store.
When comparing MPX rates versus card-link rates, usually the advantage goes to MPX. Macy’s, for example, gets 3x United miles when using the MPX app and only 2.5x when using the card-link program. Under Armour gets 5x on MPX and 4x with card-link. There are times card-link gets more, like Claim Jumper gets 5x on MPX and 10x with card-link.
Note, there’s a major difference between using MPX and using the card-link program: the card-link program goes on your regular credit card which gives both credit card protections, plus if you make a return the money comes straight back to your credit card, you’re not stuck with an unused gift card. I’d probably end up using the card-link program in most cases for those reasons, even if the earnings are a bit less.
According to the fine print, the United in-store rewards program is being run through Rakuten Card Link Offer Network, Inc. (RCLON) which is the same backend as Ebates In-Store cash back (Rakuten owns Ebates). Oddly, I was able to add the same card to Ebates and United, an anomaly among overlapping programs. That’s awesome since most of the United merchants are found on Ebates too, and it seems possible that users will get rewards for both. We’ll add this to our Complete List of Card-Linked Reward Programs.
Thanks to reader ChennaiSuperKing for letting us know about this.