Everything I’ve written until now is all about how to get free travel points by just spending on the shit you’d be spending on anyway. This post is now the effort round, where you can earn extra Chase Ultimate Rewards points and United Miles proactively, as opposed to passively charging away like a goddamn lemming hurtling off the cliffs of capitalism. (If you’re not a Chase/United person, there are probably equivalents for whatever crap you prefer. This is America.)
Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal: You can get bonus points for shopping at all sorts of online stores, if you get to those stores by clicking the links on the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. Like if you were gonna go to Apple.com, you might as well go there via the portal, because when you do, you get an extra 2 points per dollar on whatever shiny thing it is you buy, and points mean travel, amirite? Some vendors offer up to 25 bonus points per dollar, and you can sort by earn rate if you’re looking to scam the man (by spending money, which is how the man wants it).
Retailer gift cards: If you have an Ink Plus for Business card, you earn 5 points per dollars when buying from office supply stores. It turns out you can buy all kinds of gift cards at Staples for all kinds of retailers and restaurants and things, enabling you to get 5 points per dollar for things that would normally earn 1 point per dollar if purchased directly. (And if you get to Staples through the Chase shopping portal, then you add on even more points.)
United MileagePlus online shopping portal: United has their own shopping portal (who knew?) just like the Chase one, and it’s pretty much works the same way except you earn miles instead of Ultimate Rewards points. Miles aren’t as useful as points, of course, but It’s got a shitload of stores, at least three times the number that Chase has.
United MileagePlus X app: This is a weird one. It’s like a retail shopping portal. It also benefits you at Amazon and eBay. You install the “MileagePlus X” app on your phone, and it lists stores and movie theaters and whatnot near you, where you can earn 1-5 bonus miles (and another 25% on top of that if you have a MileagePlus Explorer or Club card). Like if I want to go see some dumb movie at an AMC theater, I go to the theater, pay through this app, and then I earn 6.25 extra miles per dollar spent, on top of the 1.5 points I get for charging it on my Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Whoo hoo. It works by buying an eGift card instantly, which in turn you redeem at the cashier. This app is also fanfuckingtastic for Amazon; by combining these bonus miles with what you get on your credit card, you could end up receiving 3 or more points per dollar spent, which is better than a hole in the head. Amazon gift credits don’t expire, so there’s no reason to buy at Amazon without this app that I can think of. You could even just use the app to buy a $500 gift credit, then leave that sitting in your Amazon account. It’ll get used by default for purchases, including for stuff like an Amazon Prime subscription. When it runs out, fire up MileagePlus X again and throw in another $500. Consume, rinse, repeat. (Of course, you might just prefer to get the Amazon Prime Store Card instead for 5% back on all purchases.)
United MileagePlus Dining: Considering what they serve on the planes, I was a little put off by this concept, but it’s really just receiving bonus miles when you eat at restaurants on their list. I don’t know that I ever will make a point of that, but signing up was free, and I get 2000 bonus miles when I spend $25 in the first month. So that’s one delivery from Spice, and we’re done here. Otherwise I might stumble into extra miles by accident if I happen to eat at one of their restaurants, since it’s automatic when you use a registered card. But I’m not too impressed by their list. It’s hard to impress a New Yorker when it comes to food.
United other crap: Also on the MileagePlus Earn Miles page there’s a link for Retail, LifeStyle, and More, and that lists a surprising array of other products and services for earning bonus miles. Some of the more interesting ones are the United Digitial Media Store, which is, I shit you not, apparently an iTunes or Amazon alternative for music and movies (is there a single person that uses it?); ScoreBig, which lets you earn lots of bonus miles when you buy event tickets; ThanksAgain, which gives you bonus points when patronizing airport concessions; Audience Rewards, which offers bonus miles for Broadway and off-broadway shows. For me, too much of a PITA to worry about, but check them all out in case one of them strikes you as relevant.
United Partners: United has various partners such as other airlines, Amtrak, hotels, cruise lines, car rental agencies, and car services, including Carmel Limo. If if you specify your United MileagePlus account number when you book, you can earn miles.
Of course, it’s better to get points than miles, but it’s better to get miles than nothing, every day of the fucking week.