Recently, I was introduced to a dandy little piece of tech. Initially brought to my attention via a spammy looking email from American, was a Chrome plugin simply named the AAdvantage eShopping Button. At first, thinking it was a bit gimmicky, I dismissed it. However, upon a bit of internal reflection, I realized that shopping buttons could serve a couple very important functions. To remind one that earning potential exists, and to instantly compare rates.
What Exactly is a Shopping Portal?
For those new to the game, a shopping portal is something like a rebate engine. The merchant pays the airline/hotel/someone else an advertising commission for referring one’s sale. In turn, the referrer passes a bit of that commission back to the customer in the form of miles, points or cash.
It can add up to quite a bit, though earn rates vary greatly by merchant. For example, the Chase Ultimate Reward Shopping Portal is currently rebating 5 UR’s per dollar spent at the Under Armour store. This is in addition to the 1 point earned from everyday spend. Most recently we assigned an ACR Value of 2.19¢ per Ultimate Reward. By shopping Under Armour via Chase’s portal, you’d earn an effective 13.14% ROS. That’s really quite good, considering the only cost to use a shopping portal is the minute it takes to log in to a 3rd party site.
With that explained, lets talk for a second about what a shopping button actually is; a browser extension that initiates a portal referral. It takes you through a shopping portal, without the hassle of having to actually visit a 3rd party website.
How Does a Shopping Button Make a Portal Better?
The shopping button doesn’t provide an additional way to earn, it just makes the process simpler. Instead of logging in to a program’s site, then navigating to a merchant, one simply goes to the merchant of one’s choice. The shopping button then indicates if the site is a partner. Furthermore, it presents the award rate. This little tidbit of information is actually quite valuable.
As mentioned above, I believe the ability to compare earn rates across multiple programs is one of the shopping button’s greatest assets. In my opinion, it’s simply unrealistic to think that the average consumer would research each portal’s award rate before every purchase. With a shopping button, you can simply query a couple programs at once. In the example presented above, I have both the AAdvantage and Rapid Rewards buttons installed. Without leaving Newegg, I can see that American will pay me 1 mile per dollar spent, while Southwest would only pay half that.
The second big advantage a shopping button offers, is that it serves as a very handy reminder. Often times, I’ll purchase something via a merchant, and forget to check if any of my preferred programs include them in their referral programs. Because of these oversights, I’ve missed out on valuable points. Adding a shopping button to one’s browser helps mitigate this risk. By simply visiting a partner merchant, both American and Southwest render a reminder that it’s time to earn.
How Does it Work?
Above, we talked about why shopping portals generate revenue. But how does a shopping button fit in to the equation? It’s quite simple, and pretty clever. I’m almost surprised merchants allow it. The plugin temporarily takes one to the portal’s website, then immediately redirects back to the merchant. Thus, generating a referral. Assuming a sale subsequently takes place, the portal will earn a commission.
How Can One Get in on This?
It’s very easy to add a shopping button, especially if one is a Google Chrome user. Just head over to the Chrome Web Store and click “add to Chrome”. As of this publication, I was able to quickly find extensions from United, Alaska, American and Southwest. Of course, one will need to then log in to their program of choice.
I honestly think they’re a great addition to an award traveler’s playbook. The cost is a couple square millimeters of browser real estate. The benefit is always knowing if one is potentially missing out an an award opportunity. Now if only Chase or Amex could get to work on their own…