How My New Laptop Earned Me a Flight Home — Reader Success Story

Aug 31, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Adam, who used a shopping portal to boost his rewards on a recent purchase. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m entering college this fall and I knew I needed a new laptop for the upcoming school year. I was looking at a new MacBook Pro, which runs a few thousand dollars, and was about to order it on July 31 when something caught my eye.

As I always do before making a purchase, I checked a few shopping portals to see what I could earn, but didn’t find anything special. I figured I would just use the United MileagePlus portal, but when I loaded the homepage, there was a banner ad saying I would earn 6 miles per dollar at Apple on August 1 only. So I waited one day to place my order and earned about 23,000 miles.

I also timed it with a back-to-school bonus for another 3,000 miles, and on top of all that, I earned another mile per dollar by paying with a United credit card. By purchasing the laptop I was already going to get one day later and carefully reading the shopping portal, I earned about $400 worth of United miles — enough for a free trip home from school!

Just like you might wait for a sale to save on a large purchase, you can earn a lot of extra rewards by waiting for a portal bonus. MileagePlus Shopping typically offers 1 mile per dollar spent on Apple purchases, so Adam would have missed out on about 19,000 miles if he had bought his laptop the day before. Like sales, portal bonuses tend to pop up around holidays and other peak retail periods, but you can find elevated offers throughout the year. Check the best rate history on Cashback Monitor to see whether current rates are worthwhile. If they’re not and you can afford to be patient, then wait for a better deal.

Another key to maximizing rewards is making sure you use the right credit card. The United Explorer Card earns 2 miles per dollar on United purchases as well as at restaurants and hotels, but it earns just 1 mile per dollar otherwise. While Adam did a great job getting extra value through the shopping portal, he could have earned even more rewards by using a card that offers a better return on everyday spending. If nothing else, I recommend using a 2% cash-back card over one that earns a single airline mile for each dollar spent.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Adam for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by @criene via Twenty20.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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