Gift Card Harvesting

With a green gift card thumb, you can grow the value of your gift cards over time.

Buried deep in the comments section of an old, no longer viable Frequent Miler post, a reader tossed out a little nugget of information that I found quite amazing. He had bought Sears gift cards and had found a way to grow their value over time. I didn’t publish his idea right away for a few reasons. First, I wanted to try it out myself to make sure the technique works. I’ve tried it, and yes I can confirm that it works! Second, I was concerned that publishing the idea would destroy it. Fortunately, I believe I have a solution to that issue, which I’ll explain at the end of this post.

Overview

The idea is to buy Sears, Kmart, or Lands’ End gift cards (they are interchangeable) and get bonus miles for the purchase. Next, upgrade the gift cards to EBay gift cards (details below). Then, on EBay, buy discounted Sears, Kmart, or Lands’ End gift cards. Rinse and repeat. Details of each step follow:

Step 1: Buy Sears, Kmart, or Lands’ End Gift cards

Since Kmart and Lands’ End are owned by Sears, their gift cards are all interchangeable. The best way to buy these gift cards is through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall. The UR Mall gives 6 extra points per dollar spent at Sears and Kmart, even for gift card purchases. Even better, on December 9th, the UR Mall will give 10 extra points per dollar for Sears’ purchases! If you value UR points very conservatively at 1.5 cents each, then this is like a 15% rebate! So, my recommendation is to buy Sears gift cards on December 9th through the UR Mall.

Fine print:
1. When shopping through the UR Mall, Sears will give you points for either buying or using gift cards. Kmart will give you points for buying gift cards, but not for using them. Lands’ End claims that it will not award points for gift card purchases, but is silent on whether the use of gift cards qualifies. The bottom line is that I can vouch for the fact that Sears and Kmart will award points for buying gift cards and I can vouch for the fact that using them through Sears will also get you points. Try any other combination at your own risk. Also note that these rules may change at any time.

2. No tax, delivery, or service fees are charged for gift card purchases

3. This technique will work with either physical or e-gift cards, but physical cards are a bit easier to use at Kmart (see step 2).

Step 2: Upgrade to EBay Gift Cards

Take your Sears/Kmart/Lands’ End gift cards to Kmart and search for their gift card rack. Note that Kmart often has multiple gift card racks and they’re not all created equal! Some racks have better selections than others. Your goal is to find the rack that has EBay gift cards. If your local Kmart doesn’t sell these, then you’re out of luck. If you do find them, take them to the checkout counter and pay for them with your Sears/Kmart/Lands’ End gift cards.

Fine print:
1. A number of people have told me that they have called their local Kmart and were told that you can’t buy gift cards with gift cards. All I can do is verify that this has worked at my local Kmart (Ann Arbor, MI), but it depends which cashier I go to!  It’s worth noting two things: Amex gift cards do not work (the register will reject gift cards as payments for them), but others I’ve tried (EBay and BP cards) do work. Also, I once had a clerk say “ooh, I don’t know if this will work”, but when she swiped my gift card in the register, it worked fine. So, if you’re at the register and you are told that you can’t buy gift cards with gift cards, ask them to give it a try just in case.  If they refuse, try again another day with a different cashier.

2. If you use e-gift cards, Kmart requires a manager override for using them at the store. This can cause a long delay which can be especially painful if you have irate customers waiting in line behind you. I highly recommend going to Kmart early in the morning or some other time when few customers are there!

Step 3: Buy Sears / Kmart / Lands’ End Gift Cards at a Discount

Now that you have a pile of EBay gift cards, you can shop online at EBay.com and use the gift cards as payment. The trick here is to find Sears, Kmart, or Lands’ End gift cards being sold at or below face value, and with free shipping. Make sure you are signed up for the “EBay Bucks Rewards Program”. This way, 2% of all of your purchases will be rebated to you in the form of EBay bucks. You can use the EBay bucks to buy more gift cards!

Step 4: Repeat

Go back to Step 2 and do it all again. You can repeat this process indefinitely. With each cycle, your gift card stash will grow by 2% or more. This may seem like a lot of effort for very small gain, but I would estimate that once you get used to this you can earn a minimum of $20 for a half hour of work (harvesting $1000 of gift cards). If you are able to find gift cards through EBay for less than face value, then your half hour income will be considerably more. This could be a great part time job for a teenager if you have a nearby Kmart and if you’re willing to let them use your EBay account (EBay users are required to be at least 18 years old).

Step 5: Cash Out

Once you have grown your gift card stash high enough, you can cash out in many ways. The best is to use the EBay or Sears gift cards directly for purchases you would make anyway. If you would rather get cash, I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but some ideas can be found in this post: Buy Miles for 1.2 Cents or Less.

Supply and Demand

Some of you have already realized a potentially fatal flaw in this whole scheme. The fact that I have published this process means that more people will start doing it and will therefore drive up competition for Sears gift cards on EBay. Pretty soon it will be impossible to find any gift cards at or below face value. So, what is the solution? Tomorrow I will publish a complimentary scheme in which people will profit from selling Sears gift cards on EBay. This way, we will hopefully simultaneously drive up both supply and demand. In fact, it should be possible to team up with a friend or relative to ensure that both a buyer and seller exist. Stay tuned for more!

Ultimate Rewards

Many schemes I have (and will) publish require access to the Ultimate Rewards Mall. In my opinion, the best option for getting access to the mall is the Chase SapphireSM Preferred Card. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up with this link. Even if you don’t want to try any Frequent Miler schemes, this is a great card. The signup bonus alone is worth $500 in cash back, or $625 in travel booked through Chase, or more than $1000 in travel if you convert the points to United Airlines miles and/or Hyatt points. That last point is really key to the value of this card: Ultimate Rewards points earned with this card are instantly transferable to a number of airline and hotel programs. So, you can shop around to find the best miles and points redemptions before transferring your points and in that way get some incredible values from these points! I will get a small commission if you use my link, but you’ll get the same best offer available anywhere. I promise I would recommend this card with or without the referral commission. In fact, I have recommended it many times prior to my signing up for a referral network.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

    • gpapadop: I was able to upgrade two $500 gift cards yesterday. I spent $850 to buy out all of the EBay $50 cards and spent the rest on BP cards. When I left there were still plenty of $25 EBay cards, but to tell the truth it was painful enough checking out with 20 items — I would hate to double the number! I’m hoping that they replenish the cards weekly. Time will tell.

      Susan: Yes there are PPM opportunities here. Once you have EBay cards, there are many options, but here is one: Buy Sears cards, harvest them a few times, sell them, buy new cards, harvest, sell, etc. Regarding no-value “collectible” gift cards: my guess is that there is some other money laundering scheme going on there. Anyone know?

  1. I am new to the whole PPM concept – it appears that this is NOT a PPM because you don’t go back to UR mall to earn more points.

    Is it possible to take the Sears gift card you purchased off eBay and use it on UR mall to buy more gift cards and earn more points that way? Obviously you could use it to buy merchandise, right?

    I do wonder about all the no-value “collectible” gift cards on eBay currently – do people actually PAY to collect gift cards? I pick them up for free from various stores and use them to entertain my almost-3 yo – he loves to pull them out of a wallet I surrendered to him and we talk about the pictures on them (his favorite is an Old Navy card with a giant goldfish on it).

  2. I have heard the no-go on the AMEX gift cards before. After doing some field research at Kmart, what about the green dot rechargable V & MC cards using gift cards? Has anyone tried those? Could be quite the deal at 10 points per $, and repeatable…

    UR points got as cheap as 1 cent a few days ago when Staples offered 5 points thru the mall + 1 for the SP card use when purchasing V gift cards. Don’t know if the new ink business card with 5 points per $ at office supply stores can be combined with the UR Mall points, but that could be another future opportunity.

    • Steelsnow: I haven’t tried buying Visa/MC gift cards at Kmart with Sears gift cards. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work, but it’s worth a try! Staples: I’ve probably asked you this before, but are you sure the UR mall gives points for gift card purchases? I’ve been thinking along the same lines with regards to the new Ink Bold. It could be quite a gold mine if the UR mall really comes through for those purchases!

  3. I agree on the green dot cards, but thought it might be worth a try… Those cards are ‘rechargeable’ so only one would need to be purchased… And I’m not sure what the normal process to ‘recharge’ them in store entails, and if gift cards could be used. There have been other opportunities the last few days keeping me busy but tempted to try it out…

    Staples T&C on UR Mall says nothing about excluding gift cards like most other vendors do now. I have not tried it yet to verify, have been waiting to get the point cost down lower on that one – 1 cent/point would be good if there was a need/use in mind, but I don’t currently. The new ink bold card terms made me think about it again with that bonus though, might be worth a trial balloon…

  4. BTW, did you take advantage of the latest AMEX offer here: https://giftchain.amexnetwork.com/

    It hasn’t gotten any publicity from the point community, but purchasing a $25 gift card qualifies as a purchase (and can earn points). The 9 I have back do far include 8 AMEX bill credits from $4.50 – $20 per purchase, and a free ShopRunner membership. Enjoy!

  5. Buying and selling gift cards on ebay is something I’d avoid at all costs. I have been defrauded on ebay multiple times (as seller and buyer) and Paypal buyer protection hasn’t really covered that. This PPM is prone to make your live miserable 🙁

    • TJ: Thanks for the warning. I’ll propose an option tomorrow that eliminates that issue. Stay tuned.

      Steelsnow: Yep, the giftchain thing is another great opportunity. Thanks for sharing!

      Everyone: I just now tried upgrading some cards at KMart, but this time was shot down. It was a different cashier than I’ve had before and she refused to try to swipe my gift card. She called the manager who said it was against their policy to allow it. So, if you’re going to try this scheme, make sure you start small, and once you find a cashier you can work with, stick with him/her. 🙂

  6. Wouldnt it be easier to buy Amex gift cards and use amazon payments to get the money right back into your account? Im new to this…

  7. No go for me…I went to my local Kmart to buy a $25 Kmart gift card and then turn around and buy a $25 ebay card. They wouldn’t even let me purchase a Kmart gift card using a credit card.

  8. Hey all, a quick question about the UR Mall, I see several transactions in my Earn Activity but my points total hasnt changed. Is there a lag between reporting and points posting?

    Thanks!
    Greg

  9. How many e-bay GCs can you use at one time? My Kmart only has $50 GCs and I want to combine into a single purchase of more than that.

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