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Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Small-Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Christmas. New Year's. Love or hate the consumerism of the season, it's upon us, with all the torrid spending it implies. The National Retail Foundation expects holiday shoppers to spend $630.5 billion this November and December, a healthy 3.7 percent increase over last year's spending. The outlook for online sales is even brighter, with an expected increase of between 6 and 8 percent.

Big numbers, which represent big opportunities for consumers to earn large quantities of loyalty points for their purchases by using their travel-rewards credit cards, shopping on the airline and hotels' mileage malls, and leveraging their earning by taking advantage of shopping bonuses. Do it right and you may even earn enough to pay for next year's vacation....  

Getting the Most from Holiday Shopping

Whether you view loyalty redemptions as rewards or rebates, they inarguably make any good deal an even better deal. To get the most miles for your shopping dollar, take advantage of every available mileage-maximizing opportunity this holiday season. And there are likely to be many of them, depending on your circumstances.

To illustrate, let's assume you're an American AAdvantage member who has one of the AAdvantage co-branded credit cards in his or her wallet, such as the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. There are multiple combinable ways to earn shopping miles: 

  • Earn three miles per $1 in purchases at Macy's, well above the standard one mile per $1 spent, when shopping through the AAdvantage Shopping portal.
  • A recent offer, now expired, granted 3,000 bonus miles after spending $500. That's an extra 4.3 miles per $1 for the first $500 of spend. This kind of offer is common for AAdvantage shopping-mile promotions.
  • Earn one mile per $1 spent by charging your holiday purchases to your Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard.

If all the above steps are followed, you'd be earning more than 10 miles per $1 spent. That's twice the rate non-elite Aadvantage members earn when buying American tickets, and almost as much as top-tier elites earn when flying American.

For the average household spending close to $1,000, that means a 10,000-mile windfall—half the miles needed for a free domestic ticket in some airline programs. Because travelers tend to have higher household incomes than average consumers, their spend is likely to be even higher, generating even more miles.

Tip: When shopping via an airline’s mileage mall, you must first stop at the mall’s landing page to log in with your loyalty-program credentials. Thereafter, purchases at any of the mall’s hundreds of participating merchants can be tracked and credited to your mileage account.

If you don't already have a travel-rewards credit card, take advantage of one of the lucrative sign-up bonuses on offer from many issuers. For example, there's currently a 30,000-mile bonus for new customers with the  Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard when you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Add that hefty sign-up bonus to the miles earned for holiday purchases and you'll have enough miles to fund a luxurious post-holiday getaway. You know, to unwind after all that stressful shopping.

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