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Those who use their credit cards to earn free travel, merchandise and cash back know these rewards can be extremely valuable. At the same time, we also know that shopping online can be quick and convenient. But what few cardholders realize is that their credit card can allow them to earn bonus rewards when they make purchases online through their bank’s shopping portal.

How Online Credit Card Rewards Malls Work

Several of the major banks offer their cardholders an online shopping mall. These include:

  • Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall
  • Citi’s ThankYou Shopping Mall
  • Discover’s ShopDiscover
  • Wells Fargo’s EarnMoreMall

To use these malls to earn bonuses, holders of eligible cards must first login to their account. Next, they browse offers from various retailers which show the number of bonus points that are earned per dollar spent. For example, the ShopDiscover website offers holders of their Cashback cards 10% cash back from online purchases at Bloomingdale’s. If that merchant is selected, shopper’s web browsers are forwarded to that retailer’s own website. There, any purchases made are credited to the customer’s reward total.

In addition, the shopping mall itself might offer goods and services that can be purchased directly. These offers can include merchandise, travel and entertainment. Furthermore, these shopping malls tend to double as reward portals when it comes to making purchases directly from the mall. For example, visitors to Chase’s Ultimate Rewards website can make some purchases by redeeming their Ultimate Rewards points, by using their credit card, or both combined. So if you do not have enough points for an award, you can split the cost between points and dollars.

How to Maximize the Use of Online Shopping Malls

First, find out if the credit cards you have are eligible to earn rewards in one of these online shopping malls. For instance, holders of Citi’s cards that earn ThankYou points can participate in their shopping mall, while those with their other products, such as their American Airlines cards, cannot. Next, create a login and browse the different offers. It may even be helpful to print out a list of the offers from your favorite retailers. Finally, be sure to login to the shopping mall and use its links whenever shopping from these retailers.

Beware of the Drawbacks

Ultimately, users of these malls must be on the lookout for their two greatest pitfalls. The first would be spending more money in order to earn additional rewards. For example, many of the offers that return the most bonus points are for purchases with the highest profit margins, such as flower delivery services. If you were going to order flowers this way, it makes sense to take advantage of this offer. But in many other cases, cardholders can save even more money by shopping around for the best prices.

The other mistake would be spending too much time comparing offers just to earn a few cents cash back on a minor purchase. The proliferation of these shopping portals can make it too time consuming to choose the right portal just to earn a small bonus.

Bottom Line

Online shopping malls can be a great way to earn additional rewards from your credit card spending. But like all reward credit card use, the advantages can disappear when shoppers get carried away with their spending. By utilizing these malls only for purchases they were about to make anyways, cardholders can earn additional rewards without increasing their overall spending.

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Image: Michelle Lee, via Flickr

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