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Jan 28

Shopping Portals

Are Shopping Portals Worth it?

There’s a plethora of shopping portals out there, and you’re probably not only getting bombarded through e-ads when you’re surfing the net but they’re also on TV, all trying to offer you what seem like amazing deals in terms of cash-back.

It could be tempting to start doing this coupon-cutting of the digital world but if you’re chasing specific deals you’ll drive yourself crazy. As I previously wrote in one of my posts, about trying to find the best deal for a hotel in New York City, it is sometimes easiest to follow the straight path without trying to find a discounted deal that in the end is unattainable.

But, sometimes there may be value in them. My personal philosophy on shopping portals is to never shop around based on an advertise deal, but instead figure out what you want to buy and then check to see if there’s a lucrative bonus available.

Which Portals to use?

This again is a personal preference but something you should definitely consider before you make your choice, specifically it’ll come down to two things:

  • Do you value points?
  • Do you value cash-back?

And even though I am confident that I can always extract more value out of point than I would out of a typical cash-back I still appreciate having options and will sometimes cross reference one against the other.

I’ve put a simple exercise together how to extract the best value out of already good values offered by Booking.com for hotel reservations. I’ve compared a few of my credit card portals vs. TopCashBack and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Delta’s SkyMiles Portal:

Shopping Portals

What a complete bust, but honestly I’m not surprised, Delta usually offers very little value for their points and considering that Delta tries to promote their own Vacation booking service I see them not participating in such cross-overs for a long, long while. So in this case if you used your Delta co-signed credit card you’d receive 1 mile for every dollar spent and I value Delta miles at around 1.5cents/mile so you’re effectively only getting 1.5% reward.

Chase Ultimate Rewards:

Chase, like Delta, seems to have completely eliminated any cross-over rewards with 3rd party booking services since they’ve invested in their own travel portal. The good thing is, that if you’re using something like Chase Sapphire card this would be considered a travel category and you’d be earning 2 points per every dollar spent. I value Chase points at around 2 cents/point so effective reward rate for Chase comes out to be ~4%.

Barclay Arrival Portal

Barclay has arrived in the scene and have built a shopping portal that’s very similar to Chase and in some cases similar to the old Chase portal which used to offer cross-over rewards to 3rd party booking services and I was able to find what I was looking for:
Shopping Portals

With the Arrival card you typically get 2 points for every dollar spent and this portal doubles would double your ward to 4 points. Barclay points are at a fixed value of 1 cent/point so this would seem like a flat 4%, but with Barclay if you redeem points against travel expenses you’ll be given another 10% bonus, so you’re actually looking at a 4.4% effective reward rate.

Top Cash Back

I was actually surprised by the result here, as typically I find this portal to offer a lot of bait-and-switch type of promotions, something will be listed as 8% cash-back rate actually ends up being a 2% rate instead:
Shopping Portals

A whopping 4.5% cash-back rate, but with a nuance: You actually have to complete your stay and then you’ll have to wait typical 4-6 weeks for the cash-back to post to your account.

Summary

On the surface Top Cash Back portal offers the best value at 4.5% discount, but you’re booking today for a trip around Thanks Giving you won’t be seeing your money until late December. If you’re booking for the immediate future then it’s the best deal around.

The second best deal, and the one that I actually would chose, is the Barclay portal that will get me 4.4% return that I literally can use on my next credit card cycle since my Barclay points usually post very quickly, and for the 0.1% difference I can feel an almost-instant gratification.

Perhaps the main point that I was trying to make in this post that it’s important to understand the options and the small print behind all of the offers out there, scratching the surface will allow you to understand all the implications and will allow you to make the best decision about your family travel itinerary.

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