Shopping: Stacking Rakuten (formerly Ebates) & MileagePlus X

Part I: Signing up for Rakuten
Part II: Signing up for MileagePlus X
Part III: Stacking Rakuten & MileagePlus X for HUGE points

Part I: Signing up for Rakuten
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is a “shopping portal” that gives you additional points for online shopping. Rather than going directly to a retail website, you just have to click on Rakuten’s link to get to that website, and you’ll earn bonus points on every dollar you spend.

Previously, Rakuten was strictly a “cash back” website. But in February 2019, Rakuten partnered with American Express, which allows users to now earn valuable Amex Membership Rewards points rather than cash. If you have a cash-earning account you CANNOT switch to a points-earning account (in which case, you must delete your old account before creating a new one using a different email address).

There are four steps to setting up a points-earning account on Rakuten (DON’T SKIP ANY OF THESE STEPS OR YOU MAY END UP WITH A CASH-BACK ACCOUNT):

  1. Click this LINK but do NOT sign up using the page it takes you to.

  2. In your website browser, change the domain to https://www.rakuten.com/american-express

  3. You will be re-routed to a website indicating you can earn American Express Membership Rewards points through Rakuten. Enter your email address and American Express login details to link your account. You will receive an email to set up your Rakuten password.

  4. You are all set to earn points instead of cash. Anywhere you see a percentage of cash back, you will instead earn 1 Membership Reward point for each penny of cash back you would earn (e.g., 4% cash back = 4x Membership Reward per $ spent).

Part II: Signing up for MileagePlus X
MileagePlus X is an app that allows you to purchase virtual gift cards on your cell phone. In addition to the credit card points you will earn for buying the gift card, you will also earn a bonus of United miles (ranging from 0.5 to 5 miles per dollar). Plus, if you have a Chase United credit card, you will earn a 25% bonus on all miles earned (so a store offering 5x United miles through the MPX app will actually earn 6.25 miles per dollar.

Signing up is simple. You don’t need a specific credit card - all you need is a United MileagePlus frequent flyer account. If you don’t have one, you can create an account at United.com. To begin:

  1. Download MileagePlus X onto your iPhone or Android device

  2. Create an account using your United MileagePlus frequent flyer credentials

  3. The app will appear to be working, but you need to wait about a week for the app & your United account to link. If you try to make a purchase in the first 7-10 days after creating your account, it will error out. Just wait and eventually the app will begin to work.

Part III: Stacking Ebates & MileagePlus X for HUGE points
It’s time to do some shopping, so let’s maximize your earnings. We’ll use a hypothetical trip to GAP as today’s example, but this concept works with many different stores.

Step 1:
Head to Rakuten and search GAP in the dropdown. Today, it is showing 6% cash back, which we know is going to be equal to 6x Amex points per $ spent. On Rakuten, click ‘Shop Now’, which will redirect you to the Gap website. (Pro tip: you can purchase anything from GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta off of one another’s websites, so if one of those other stores had a better offer, you could use that ‘Shop Now’ button instead and still make a purchase from GAP).

That’s all you have to do with Rakuten. Now, you can make your purchase using any payment method, and you’ll still earn the 8x American Express points just by using Rakuten to get to the GAP website.

Step 2:
Do your shopping. Add everything into your cart just like you normally would.

Step 3:
It’s time to pay. Go to the checkout page. Instead of paying direct with a credit card, grab your phone, open up the MileagePlus X app, and find GAP (or Banana Republic/Old Navy/Athleta - their gift cards are all interchangeable) through the ‘Nearby’ or ‘Catalog’ search feature. You will see that GAP generally offers 5 United miles per $ spent, which is going to be 6.25 miles/$ if you have a Chase United credit card. Enter the amount of the total GAP purchase into MileagePlus X, select your credit card of choice (see below for best card options), and buy purchase the gift card on your phone. Back on the GAP website, choose to pay with a gift card and enter the information of the virtual gift card that is now on your phone’s screen.

Best credit cards to use on MPX:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: 3x on dining gift cards
- Default Card (Chase Ink Unlimited, Chase Freedom Unlimited, or American Express Blue Business Plus): 1.5 to 2x on other gift cards
- Citibank AT&T Access More (discontinued): 3x on all MPX purchases (the app codes as “online” category)

It’s that simple! After you do this process once or twice, it will become habit. Now go earn those points!