Sears 15X: Free Southwest Companion Pass

Today and tomorrow, the Southwest Airlines shopping portal (Rapid Rewards Shopping) is offering 15 points per dollar when shopping at Sears. In the post “Sears 15X: Leveraging the deal” I showed a number of ways to capitalize on this promotion. In this post I’ll show step by step how to get a Southwest Companion pass for free!  The trick shown here involves buying and selling gift cards.  It is also possible to do this by buying and selling merchandise, but that will be left for another post…

Background

Southwest has a fantastic program in which a designated companion can fly free on all flights you take. To qualify for a companion pass, you must earn 110,000 points within a calendar year. Once you qualify, you designate a companion, and that person then can fly free anywhere you go on Southwest for the rest of that calendar year and the next calendar year. You may change your companion up to 3 times during the validity period of the pass. Full details of the pass can be found here: rapid_rewards_program_terms_and_conditions_faq.

Million Mile Secrets has written about how to earn a Companion Pass through credit card sign-ups. However, if you are already maxed out on Chase sign-ups (who isn’t?), don’t want to blow your valuable Chase sign-ups on Southwest credit cards, or have other reasons not to sign-up, then this 15X deal may be the way to go.

Step 1: Calculate how many points you need

To earn the pass, you need to earn 110,000 points in a calendar year.  Check to see how many you’ve earned so far this year and calculate the difference needed to get to 110,000.  Personally, I’ve earned 0 points so I would need the full 110,000.

Step 2: Calculate how much you’ll have to spend at Sears

Divide the number of points needed by 15 in order to figure out how much you need to spend.  Example:

110,000 points needed / 15 = $7333.34 needed to spend

If you plan to use a Southwest Airlines points earning credit card for these purchases, then divide by 16 instead of 15.

Step 3: Log into the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal

If you don’t already have a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account you’ll need to sign up for one first.  Then go to rapidrewardsshopping.southwest.com.

Step 4: Click through to Sears

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Step 5: Buy gift cards

Take the result of your calculation in step 2 and buy that amount of gift cards.  Buy physical cards (card type “mail”), not e-cards because the physical ones are easier to sell.  If you need all 110,000 points, then you would need to buy $7335 worth of gift cards.  Don’t do this unless you have plenty of available credit and the ability to pay off your credit card bill in full.

Step 6: Sell gift cards

Once you receive your cards in the mail, sell them as follows:

  1. Log into TopCashBack and click through to Plastic Jungle.
  2. Sell your gift cards to Plastic Jungle

Currently, Plastic Jungle offers 83% cash back for Sears gift cards and Plastic Jungle adds another 3.32% (4% of 83%).  If you sell $7335 worth of gift cards you should get back $6088.05 from Plastic Jungle and $244.19 from TopCashBack.  In my experience Plastic Jungle pays very quickly.  TopCashBack takes longer because they can’t pay until they get paid themselves by the merchant.  In total you should get $6332 back.  At this point you would be out $1003.

Step 7: Wait for your points to post

Once your points post, you should have enough points for a Companion Pass!

Step 8: Liquidate your points (optional)

First, consider keeping the points so that you and your companion can travel for free for a long time!  If you really need your $1003 back, though, then do the following:

  1. Log into your Southwest account and go to “Redeem Points”.
  2. Find the option to redeem points for gift cards.
  3. Buy Walmart gift cards with your points.
  4. Once you get the Walmart gift cards, sell them in the same manner described in step 6.

110,000 points would get you 22 $50 Walmart gift cards. Plastic Jungle will currently buy them for 92% of their value. By going through TopCashBack, you will get another 3.68% of their value for a total of 95.68%. In other words, 110,000 points should translate into $1052.48 cash back.

Add it up

If all of the above works, here is what you will get for the effort (assuming you went for the full 110,000 points):

  • One Southwest Companion Pass
  • About $50 in profit
  • $7335 in credit card spend.  If you’re working on meeting minimum spend requirements or liquidating gift cards, this could be a huge win.  At the very least this means 7335 points or miles depending on what credit card you use.

Cautions and Risks

Everything written in this post carries some risks. Don’t do this unless you are prepared for the worst. Here are a few obvious risks:

  1. You shop through the portal, but don’t get any points. To minimize the chance of this, please see my post “How to ensure your portal points”.
  2. Purchases of gift cards don’t receive points. I think this is unlikely, but it is possible since I’ve never tested this portal.
  3. Southwest may change the redemption rates for gift cards.
  4. Plastic Jungle may reduce the payout amount for Sears or Walmart cards, or TopCashBack may reduce the cash back amount.
  5. Gift cards may get lost in the mail or improperly cataloged by Plastic Jungle.

 

Related Posts and Links

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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Pingbacks

  1. […] As mentioned above, one of my first ever posts was about portal double-dips.  The idea is to click through a portal to a merchant to buy a merchant gift card, then click through a portal again in order to use the gift card.  We call this a double dip because you can sometimes earn portal rewards both when buying and when using gift cards.  When portals have especially high rates, double dips can be amazingly lucrative.  In fact, one of my top 10 posts of the year was when I showed how to earn a Southwest Companion Pass by double-dipping when Sears offered 15 points per dollar thr…. […]

Comments

    • Mrredskin: Done.

      Stubtify: Thanks for the extra words of caution. I agree with you that this deal is quite risky. To address your particular items: Sears will call to verify large orders. According to their site they will sell up to $10K worth. PlasticJungle has a volume seller option in case they won’t buy that many from you as an individual. As to flooding the market, I doubt very many of my readers will really do this, but it is certainly a possible issue. When Sears has had similar promotions in the past, though, I never saw PlasticJungle change their Sears gift card payout.

      Ryan from MA: I can’t find an explicit return policy on Sears.com for their gift cards. Do you see anything?

  1. While I applaud your creativity and always having the latest promotion on your page, I think a word of caution is in order. Most, if not all possible schemes do not scale up to infinity. Speculating on the resale value of $7,335 in gift cards could end up with you holding huge amounts of Sears giftcards.

    -Would Sears even ok such a large giftcard purchase?
    -Would cardpool/PJ buy that many giftcards from you? (doubtful)
    -As you flood the secondary market for Sears Gift Cards ncreasing supply, with steady demand,should cause the price of those cards to fall, costing you an unknown total amount.

    I applaud you having the latest promotions on here, and working with topcashback, but most deals are like alcohol, great in moderation, terrible at the extreme.

  2. I must be missing something. How does this get you a free southwest companion pass? Or is there a typo in the title? Sounds more like a $1000 companion pass (with some riak you may not get a companion pass if the shopping portal points don’t post for GC purchases).

  3. @HikerT – In step 8 FrequentMiler shows how to liquidate the 110,000 points earned to yield $50 in profit. Otherwise it’s a $1000 for the companion pass plus $1833 worth of SW points.

  4. @FrequentMiler, got it. Sounds like you don’t need to use the points to buy a companion pass – it’s basically a status perk and you can still use the points for anything you want. That’s one heck of a double dip! Instead of mileage running for status, it’s gift card churning.

  5. The companion pass is non-transferable. The person who earned the companion pass must travel with the companion.

  6. Even if one doesn’t go all out on 7K, you can always do a little bit to meet minimum spent.

    I don’t see a lost in this equation.
    Risk yea, lost no.
    Risk on SW points, Risk in Plastic Jungle, Risk in TCB.

    I just want to add to this equation, that if you used the AMEX prepaid card you got from OD, you actually “make” a little more

  7. putting that much spend on a credit card has another big perk: credit card companies calculate the retention bonuses they can give you based on how much you’ve spent.

  8. Cartera runs the SW Shop Mall. They are terrible about working with Sears for points. For 3 years straight I have had to chase points for any and all regular Sears purchases. Doesn’t matter if I use AA, United or SW shop mall. I have had discussions about this with Cartera. They state that Sears has to report it back to them in order to get credit. They have problems with Sears confirming orders. It usually takes me 5 to 8 months to get missing Sears points. Right now I have a Sears order from August 2011 still missing. Yep..you read right. Almost a year now. Cartera has promised me many times they will give me a courtesy credit. Last string of emails was back in March and I was promised it had been manually adjusted and should show on my end in a week. Nope. Hasn’t happened. Just sent me 8th email on it. And it is less than 50 miles. I have also had phone conversations. I am chasing this one and a Groupon from August. Don’t take a chance with Sears…

    • kelly: Sorry to hear you’ve had so much trouble with Cartera/Sears. That hasn’t been my experience, but I know that many people have had lots of trouble with Cartera in general.

      Jerry: As Sam said, that message has been there for a while, yet points have still posted correctly from other portals. Obviously it is a risk though, until we get proof with this portal.

      Sam: Good luck with this! And, thanks for helping with the comment replies.

  9. I just tried to check out, was going to buy 3k in Sears Physical GCs. I chose the generic blue Sears GC design, then when I added to cart, it says those gift cards are sold by Kmart.com. On the Sears click-thru terms and conditions page shown when u click thru, it says Kmart purchases are paid via Kmart cashback. So i think this deal is dead as Kmart cashback is only at 2 points/dollar spent. And i just added all the diff gift card designs, it says they are all sold by Kmart and not Sears.

    ONLY the eGiftcard says its “Sold by Sears” in the shopping cart. This will reduce cashback by PlasticJungle/Cardpool drastically since its e-giftcard.

  10. My partner and I travel on Southwest about 30 times a year together. Each of us expects to accumulate only about 45000 points per year, so the companion pass was unreachable for us until now.

    I have earned 20125 Southwest points this year till now. For the sake of the companion pass, I have just bought $6000 worth of Sears gift cards for 90000 points in my account. Let me be the one to do this experiment to see if everything works out. Should it be successful, we are going to save more than $5000 on tickets!

    The only drawback is the loss of our potential A-list status. (Only 13 one-way flights were flown in 2012 till now, while we estimate to fly 12 more by the end of 2012.) Yet, we think that it is worth a try as this status is worth much less than $5000, even $1000.

    Call me crazy if you wish.

  11. @kelly: My experience on UR Mall was good. During the promotion of 10 points per dollar in late 2011, all my Sears gift card orders were reported correctly with no hassle. I used Incognito mode of Google Chrome every time I shop through UR Mall to prevent all previous cookies or cache to affect my results. Would it be the reason?

    @Jerry: I was shocked by the same message last year when I did Sears gift card purchases at Sears.com through UR Mall. The purchases were reported as Sears purchase as I wish though. As both portals are run by the same company Cartera, I assume that everything should be the same. Don’t panic! (Well, we are in the same boat.)

  12. One note. If you go to the trouble to get a SW companion pass, then presumably you are going to be flying Southwest, and should redeem those points for roughly $1700 of Wanna Get Away fares rather than gift cards. If you’re not going to spend four figures on Southwest anyway, then I suggest this scheme isn’t worth the trouble.

  13. Will a purchase from a Marketplace store while in the Sears portal qualify for the points the same as buying an item from Sears itself?

    • Chris: I believe that as long as it has “add to cart” and it is still on Sears.com that you make the purchase then you’ll be OK

      murtuza: I don’t have the credit card, but the website showed me the gift card option. I don’t have any points with which to actually try it though.

  14. @Benjamin: I agree partially. Infrequent flyers on Southwest may also want to save points for further redemption to maximize their return. However, some people may do this just to fulfill the spending requirement of credit card signup bonus. The thousands of dollars of spending may be worth much more than the companion pass.

  15. I think you can only redeem points for gift cards if you are holding southwest credit card. Can anyone confirm if this feature is available without Chase Southwest Credit card?

  16. @Sam, True. A lot of people that do these deals are young and have to manufacture there spends rather than just spending real money.

  17. Has it been confirmed that points earned through the SW shopping mall does indeed count towards the Companion pass?

    Sorry if this was addressed in a previous blog post.

  18. It appears that that it would be better to get the qualification for companion after June or July 1st so that the status lasts until 2014 otherwise will end in 2103. Am I correct?

  19. From personal experience bonus miles from renting a car through southwest don’t count towards the companion pass. Do bonus mile from the rapid rewards mall?

  20. Just read on the T&C on Sears.com site via SW Mall
    Sears Holdings Corporation limits gift card purchases to 19 cards per order

  21. Yes, points from the mall count.

    The companion pass is good for the remainder of the current year and the entire following calendar year.

    Jeff: you can get cards worth as much as $500 each

  22. @Jeff: I have ordered 12 gift cards of $500 each. Even if you want gift cards of total value $7333.34, you can do it with 15 gift cards, so the limitation on 19 gift cards per order does not harm.

    Frankly speaking, I did not notice the limitation before you wrote it here. Thanks for your notification!

  23. I don’t see anything on their website that return of gift cards is different for anything else: “Our goal is that you’re completely satisfied with your purchase. If you’re not satisfied, simply return your purchase in its original packaging, with your original receipt/email confirmation within 90 days of your purchase, 30 days from the purchase date for Consumer Electronics, Mattresses, air conditioners, gas powered equipment, jewelry and watches for a refund or exchange.”

  24. Just called them and they said that after delivery they don’t return e-gift cards unless there are some special circumstances.

  25. Just bought $100 x5, all different designs. Will see what happens.

    I bought $100 x5 because I didn’t know if one single $500 gift card would be harder to sell? Not familiar with Plastic Jungle.

    Downside with SW shopping portal points is that they take forever to post to SW account. They post beginning of every month but lag two months. Feb purchases post in April, etc.

  26. Copied from xxxx:

    Scott Childers:
    I just wanted to let follow up. Previously I stated that spending at the rewards mall may be a way to get points for CP faster. My points from that spending just posted and unfortunately they DO NOT count toward CP.

    • TT_TRAVEL: It looks like you got the info from this Million Mile Secrets post here: http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/01/09/southwest-companion/

      If you read further, you will see a correction from the same guy. He writes:

      did some more researching. my points did not count however another poster in flyertalk said his does. turns out is is based on purchase date not postdate. since my purchases were made in late Dec they did not count toward 2012 CP, so theoretically my next round of purchases made in Jan should count. Base spending did count.

      So, the mall points do count.

  27. In the Companion Pass Rules and Regulations, it says “…Partner bonuses do not count toward Companion Pass status.” (at the bottom of the 1st para). Since Rapid Rewards Shopping is under ‘Partners’, doesn’t that mean that not all the 15 points/$ (3 is how many you normally earn at sears.com so it seems 12 is a bonus) count toward CP status?

  28. @jayk @FrequentMiler I just read through a thread titled “SW Shopping Portal Value” and there was similar speculation about whether bonus points counted. One poster confirms buying $2000 in GCs at Sears and the points posting for a Cyber Monday Deal at 8x but unfortunately posted in 2012 when he made the purchase in 2011. Other users confirmed shopping mall purchases counting towards CP but not necessarily in conjunction with point promotions.

  29. I should also add that his 16K points posted as a single line item and was not separated into a “bonus points” line item. Combined with what @JS’s observation, hopefully that is indicative that they will count.

  30. FM: thanks cardpool does take ecards. I just checked. They are discounting sears card at 22% which is greater than 15+1x we can get from this. If I can’t find items with max (& easy) resale, the risks outweigh value.
    thanks. this is fun though.

  31. Question, I have 16 credits for Airtran (they fly from my home airport) and I have 51,010 miles from Southwest. (they only fly from a airport 31/2 hrs away) Is there a way to combine and make this or what is a better credit/miles to do with these two? Thanks

  32. anyone who bought gift cards is dumb. there is no refund and they dont count for points, the offer is also not good on craftsman tools. you just wasted your time and money.

  33. I just got off the phone with Southwest and they told me 100% that the “partner bonus” miles (i.e. the x15 with Sears) do NOT count towards companion pass status. BEWARE!!!!

  34. I didn’t pull the trigger on this because I called 3 Kmarts and they all said that you can not buy gift cards with gift cards.

    Jeff

  35. Around 10am, I placed a gift card order under the 12 points. At 11pm, Sears fraud department called me. I said I am buying it for the 12 points. She said it is down to 3 points. I checked Southwest website, and it is down to 3 points. I called Sears back and cancelled the order.

  36. So I completed my online purchase yesterday (5/23) at about 1:30 pm. I wasn’t called by the fraud department until early this morning to clear the purchase – will the points I get through the SW Portal still be 15 since I initiated the purchase yesterday, or should I be worried it may only be 3 pts/$ since it wasn’t cleared until today?

  37. Omaha Steaks is at 20pts/$ through the SW portal. Can I do virtually the same thing with Omaha Steaks gift cards? I don’t see in the terms that gift cards do not earn points on that retailer.

  38. @Conway I see that I made a mistake you are right it was down to 12x at that point. I was thinking of using my SW credit card so it would have been 13x. Thanks for the correction.

  39. I didn’t go to crazy, but did a new dishwasher and air conditioner. Bought the gift card for edelivery and the items. Looked in my account today and I have 26549 sitting there. Thanks for the great tip.

  40. Any suggestions to make this work now? I’m almost halfway to a companion pass (need 56k miles) and looking for a fast way to earn the points at the least expense. I do not see any great promos for department stores at this time, but I am no expert! Any suggestions to a new point fanatic? Thanks a bunch!

    • Meghanb904: 56K miles is a lot to try to get quickly! Every now and then Chase offers a 50K bonus for signing up for a Southwest credit card so keep an eye out for that. Since there are 4 different versions of the card, you can probably qualify for one even if you already have one.

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