Sears 15X: Leveraging the deal

15 Southwest points per dollar is a fantastic return for Sears purchases.  In this post I’ll list numerous ways to leverage this deal including some opportunities for people who don’t like to fly Southwest.  I may write a series of posts on this subject today, but this will be the master post.  Please return to this post for updates and comments.

Background

The Southwest Airlines shopping portal (Rapid Rewards Shopping) is offering 15 points per dollar when shopping at Sears.com (hat tip to Ford Prefect). The deal is only good through 5/23 (Wednesday).

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Leveraging the Deal

There are many ways to capitalize on this opportunity.  In this post I’ll give highlights of a number of ideas and then I’ll follow up with in depth posts to flesh out some of the ideas.  When I do so, I’ll update this post with links to the new ones.

Shop
This is almost too obvious to write down, but I need to put it here for completeness.  If you have Sears’ purchases you were going to make anyway, shop through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal before the end of day tomorrow.

To get free shipping, you can get a free 3 month Shop Your Way Max Membership with the promo code MAXFREE4.  Make sure to cancel before 3 months are up to avoid potentially getting charged $79 for the membership.  Great tip, thanks Nikki O!

Buy gift cards
If you do not currently have a need to buy stuff from Sears, consider buying Sears gift cards instead.  The beauty of this is that you will get 15X now and have plenty of time to make purchases later.  The other big advantage is that Sears’ gift cards can be used in a variety of additional shops: Lands’ End, KMart, Sears outlet, My Gofer, etc. 

Does the purchase of gift cards count for 15X?  I believe the answer is yes.  See the accompanying post “Sears 15X: do gift cards count?

Buy gift cards and upgrade
I have used Sears gift cards many times in Kmart and Sears to buy other gift cards.  In the past I’ve bought BP cards and EBay cards, although I noticed recently that my local Kmart no longer carries those.  Kmart does still carry Marriott and Southwest cards though…

Double Dip for 30X
This is one of my favorite tricks which I’ve done successfully at Sears.com many times (but not previously with the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal).  The idea is to go through the portal once to buy eGift cards, then go through the portal again to use the gift cards for buying merchandise (no, you can’t buy gift cards with gift cards online).  The net effect is that you end up earning 30 points per dollar for your purchases!  The downside is that you won’t get purchase protection or extended warranty coverage that is given by some credit cards.

Buy points for less than a penny
Southwest points are worth a penny each when used for anytime fares and are worth 1.67 cents each for highly discounted “Wanna Get Away?” fares.  So, any opportunity to buy points for less than a penny each is a good deal if you fly Southwest.

There are two primary ways to buy points for less than a penny with this deal:

  1. Buy and sell gift cards.  Buy physical (not electronic) gift cards for 15X, then go through TopCashBack to PlasticJungle to sell the cards.  Plastic Jungle currently offers 83% cash for Sears gift cards (physical cards only) and TopCashBack will add 4% of 83% = 3.32%.  Your total cash back will come to 86.32%.  Your cost per point earned will be .912 cents.  And, that doesn’t count points earned from your credit card!  If you use a basic 1X rewards card, your cost per point goes down to .855 cents.  If you use a trick to get 5 points per dollar, your cost per point goes down to .684 cents!
  2. Double dip, buy and sell merchandise.  By finding deals at Sears.com for merchandise that can be easily resold via EBay, Amazon Marketplace, or Craigslist, you can potentially do even better than buying and selling gift cards.  The idea is to first double dip (buy gift cards for 15X), then buy re-sellable merchandise with the gift cards (for another 15X).  When Sears was last at 10X in the Ultimate Rewards Mall, I earned almost 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points by doing this trick.  See “Mileage Run Shopping: Buying 162,000 Miles for $500” and “Mileage Run Shopping Results.”  In that escapade, due to the costs of buying and selling (taxes, merchant fees, shipping, etc.) I lost 17% of the money spent, but the points earned more than made up for that.  With this 15X deal, even a loss of 25% will result in such a large number of points that you will have effectively purchased points for .83 cents each.  Again, your take will be even better if you use a valuable rewards credit card for the initial purchase.  Also, if you are a member of Sears’ Shop Your Way Rewards program, you’ll earn 1% back in the form of Sears credit!

Buy a Southwest Companion Pass
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.

To earn the pass, you need to earn 110,000 points.  To get that many points through this deal, you will need to make $7334 worth of Sears’ purchases or $3667 of double-dip purchases.

Do points earned in the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal really count towards the Companion Pass?  Yes!

For details of how to buy a Companion Pass for free, see “Sears 15X: Free Southwest Companion Pass.”

Using points

If you’re thinking of amassing huge numbers of points with this deal, you might want to know ways to use them first…

Using points for Southwest flights:

For tips on how to get the most out of your points for flying, see MileValue’s post “How to exploit the Southwest-Airtran Merger.”  If you don’t want anything so complicated, using Southwest points for “Wanna Get Away?” fares is a great option which gives you 1.67 cents per point of value.  If you combine this with a Companion Pass (see above), each point doubles the amount of travel it gives you.  So, 110,000 points can give you $3674 worth of flights!  If you buy 110,000 points for as much as .91 cents each, your total cost will be barely over $1000.  In other words, $1000 can result in almost $4000 worth of flights!

Using points for other stuff:

Southwest lets use use points for international flights (any carrier), hotels, gift cards, and a few other options.  I examined a few of these options:

  • Using points for International flights: Using points for international flights looks to be an OK option.  In a few examples I looked at, I would have received about .93 cents value per point.  Not great, but not horrible.
  • Using points for hotels:  I looked at a couple of hotel bookings to see if I could get good value when using points in this way.  Unfortunately, the answer was clearly no.  Points were worth less than .7 cents each in the two options I looked at.  Your mileage may vary.
  • Gift cards: Southwest has a surprisingly complete selection of gift cards you can buy with points and in most cases points are worth exactly a penny each when used this way.  That’s pretty good!  It’s not nearly as good of a deal as using points for “Wanna Get Away” fares on Southwest, but it’s just as good as using points for their “Anytime” fares.  Gift cards available include Alamo, Avis, Hertz, Amazon, Best Buy, Carnival Cruise lines, Lowes, Marriott, Sears, Starbucks, Walmart, and many more.

Cashing out points:

If you just want your money back, you can do that too!  Use your points to buy Walmart gift cards.  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 will translate into $1052.48.

Meet minimum spend and cash out bank gift cards

Another twist on this deal is that you can combine opportunities listed above to meet credit card minimum spend requirements and get all of your money back AND get a companion pass!  If you have Visa or Amex gift cards you bought in the past, you can also use these opportunities to cash them out!  See the sections above: “Buy points for less than a penny”; and then “Cashing out points”.  By doing both of those things, you could theoretically spend lots of money on your credit card, get it all back (eventually), and earn a companion pass.  How sweet is that?

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 devalue their points at any time.
  4. Southwest may change the redemption rates for gift cards.
  5. If selling gift cards, Plastic Jungle may reduce the payout amount, or TopCashBack may reduce the cash back amount.
  6. If selling gift cards, cards might get lost in the mail or improperly cataloged by Plastic Jungle.
  7. If selling merchandise, you may have trouble finding buyers, you may find merchant fees and other costs to be higher than expected, etc.

 

Reactions

OK, so that’s an overview.  As I mentioned, I expect to dive into a few of the options above with detailed posts.  What do you think: will you jump into this deal?  Did I miss any big opportunities?

I’m not a Southwest flyer, but I’m strongly considering the double-dip, buy and sell merchandise play…

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Comments

  1. As always thanks for the insightful analysis. I have stayed away from Cartera run schemes ever since my run-in with them last year on the AA Sears bonus (though I can say that in the end, that one actually worked out even better than I expected). When I saw your preview post I was going to pass on this but the companion pass could really make it worthwhile. I already have 50k from one sign up (managed to screw up and have 50k biz post in Dec 11 and then 50k personal in Jan 12, d’oh!) so would only need to make $2k purchases double dip to get me up to 110k. I think I already found a nice item that I’d only need to buy/sell three of to get there and I reckon AI will cost about 0.5 cpm. Great value for 1.67 cpm value and then doubling it up with companion pass!

  2. Bestbuy is offering 100$ iTunes gift card for 80$ only today 05/22. May be combining it with other online portals might give more discounts.

    • domino007: thanks for the tip. Others: note that iTunes gift cards don’t appear to have any real resale value so I would only do this BestBuy deal if I were interested in that much itunes credit.

  3. The problem with buying stuff thru Sears are the prices are so much higher than Amazon, it’s hard to justify making a purchase, even with the 15X points. I’m looking to buy a GE Cafe cooktop and it’s $150 more at Sears (plus tax) vs Amazon.

    • Randall: That’s true for many/most things at Sears. I have found some things in the past, though, that sell at or below the Amazon price.

      Conway: Yes, definitely YMMV (your mileage may vary). Some people haven’t even found gift cards for sale at their local Sears/Kmarts.

  4. If you are ordering actual items (I need new patio cushions) you can get a free 3 month Shop Your Way Max Membership with the promo code MAXFREE4. This will give you free shipping on your items. I believe it is $79 if you don’t cancel after the 3 months, but I’ll probably cancel it on Thursday 😉

  5. How long does it take for the points to post to your sw account? Would it be possible to do a small test today with a $50 gift card to make sure it works, and then hit it hard for $4k tomorrow? I am new to this and just want to make sure… Thanks!!

    • Sean: I don’t know how long this portal takes, but most take several days to several weeks to post. So, unfortunately, we don’t have time to test this.

      Ali: Yes, that’s the idea.

  6. hmmm..could I get a companion pass for free by doing this:

    Buy $7350 Gift Card, earn 110,250 southwest points.

    Sell $7350 Gift Card via plastic jungle and topcash back to get $6344 back. So far net spend $1005.

    Use the recently earned 110,250 southwest points to get $1100 in walmart gift cards. Sell Walmart Gift cards via plastic jungle and topcash back for $1055.

    My net gain is $1055 – $1005 (assume I pay for shipping on gift cards) so let’s assume net cash is ZERO, but I get the companion pass for free. Is that right?

    I probably won’t do this, but it’s fun to think about.

  7. Wish I had waited to buy $2.5K fridge at Sears Outlet! Also, what stops the multi dip? I.e. do the double dip again and again?

    • econjon: Sears Outlet purchases don’t count for 15X, but you could have waited and bought $2.5K worth of gift cards and used them. What stops the multi-dip? You can’t buy gift cards with gift cards at Sears.com.

  8. FrequentMiler, do you think Ali’s plan to buy $7350 worth of gift cards? Wouldn’t that flood the market and probably cause Plastic Jungle to give less?

    • Ryan from MA: I was already finishing up a post with the exact idea when he added that comment! Would it flood the market? It’s possible, but I’ve written similar posts in the long ago past and Plastic Jungle never changed the payout for Sears or Walmart gift cards in those situations. It’s definitely possible that it will be different here since this is potentially a much bigger opportunity.

  9. You mention not to do the electronic gift cards in the post, but I notice that plasticjungle does accept electronic gift cards from Sears. What is the reason you dont want to do this?

    • Sean: To test this, I tried to sell a $500 Sears gift card to PlasticJungle last night. Even though the site says they accept electronic gift cards from Sears, PJ wouldn’t give me that option for my card. Maybe they only allow smaller face value cards as e-cards? Or, maybe they somehow knew that the card I had was a physical card. I don’t know.

  10. Lets say that you went and bought $7500 in gift cards from sears, and then PJ’s rate dropped. Does Sears accept returns on gift cards? I looked at their terms and it doesn’t mention gift cards specifically, so I don’t see why not.

    I would like to do this to get the free companion pass, but don’t want to mess up and be out $7500 :)

  11. Miler-I did a test purchase of pizza hut gift cards back in the beginning of April. The transaction posted on the shopping portal, but I still haven’t received the points in my southwest account and it’s been more than a month. So a word of caution to those who use this portal…it’s EXTREMELY so getting your points to post to your RR account. **HUGE CAUTION**

    • Sean: I don’t know if Sears accepts returns of gift cards. I can’t find any evidence one way or another.

      Mark: Thanks. That’s probably the case. For me, they wouldn’t even allow that option for some reason.

      Joshua: Thanks for the warning. Yes, it’s definitely the case that points can take a long time to post to your account. If you’re planning on using the Companion pass soon, this won’t help!

  12. Alrighty temptation was too much and I am in… and in pretty big as with the AA Sears offer. $2100 worth of cameras on their way to my house courtesy of double dip. What is good is that the current total selling price on ebay is around $2025, and the price on amazon is the same as the price on sears, so I am hoping the overall cost wont be too much ($2025 sales proceeds would be about $1800 in pocket so $300 cost for the 63k points I should get out of this)

    Joshua – I would chill – if the points are showing pending you have IMHO gotten over the hard bit. The hard bit is making sure the darn things reach the portal at all. When I did this last year with AA, I had to escalate to several people in Cartera. But I got there in the end. I was very close to filing in small claims court. Indeed I am aware of people who have successfully done that. But my hope is it won’t come to that and while it may take a couple of months the points will post.

    Fingers crossed and hope this pans out nicely for everyone!

  13. fortunately my only plans for the companion pass are for next winters ski trip to co and spring break to florida so all the time in the world for this to post

  14. I earned 73,293 miles/points using my Sears Citi card this year which pays one pt/mile for every dollar spent. Last month I spent over $13,000 on my card, and paid the balance off as usual so I do not accrue any interest, with the intention of requesting an iPad II next month which was approx. 90,000 pt. I wanted the iPad to use as a baby monitor because we our expecting our first child in September, a baby girl! Well, low & behold Sears & Citi bank cancelled my card two days ago for absolutely no reason other than to avoid paying me the miles/points I had accrued. Is this legal? Do I have any recourse? Consumers please be leery of this shady practice. It irks me beyond disbelief that two reputable companies such as Sears & Citi bank would participate in such a wrongful practice; talk about blind-sided. Here is they’re fine print which basically gives them the opportunity to screw you if they want to by cancelling your account at anytime… If your membership is terminated (including if your Account is closed), or if you decide to cancel your membership in Sears Choice Rewards, all accumulated Points will be forfeited. —All I can say is Wow, & ouch!! Terribly unethical, unjust, & wrong. Another case of big banks and big industry bending over the middle class. I’m going to try to take this to my local news outlets and see if I can alert the rest of my community here in Austin, TX or better yet nationwide.

  15. I’m wondering how often the 15x Sears promotion comes around? I have some Sears shopping to do before the end of the year (and I need about 4,000 more points to earn CP). Should I wait?

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