The mysterious case of the secret gift card rack

Since Sears owns Kmart and Lands’ End, it comes as no surprise to find Sears, Kmart, and Lands’ End gift cards on display almost everywhere you turn within a Sears department store.  In some Sears’ stores, though, there is a special gift card rack – one that holds other gift cards: various restaurants, sometimes BP, and recently Visa & MasterCard gift cards.  We’ll call this the secret gift card rack.

Last year, I bought a few thousand dollars worth of Sears gift cards when Sears offered 10 points per dollar in the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  I found at the time that it was possible to use those gift cards at Kmart to upgrade to other, better gift cards.  Now, to be clear, Kmart doesn’t sanction this.  If you ask if it is allowed you’ll be told no.  However, if you pile a few gift cards onto the belt along with a cart full of staples, I’ve found that most (but not all) cashiers will allow you to pay for everything with your Sears’ gift cards.

Finding the rack

I wanted to do the same thing at Sears.  I had a vague memory of having seen an interesting gift card rack in Sears’ electronics section, so I returned to Sears to look for it.  It wasn’t there.  I scouted around the store, but could find only Sears’ own gift cards. 

Weeks later, I went to Sears for some other reason (maybe even to buy something) and I entered via an entrance I don’t usually use.  Voilà!  The secret gift card rack was there!  It was positioned so that only people entering the store from outside could see the interesting gift cards.  On the other side of the rack, facing the store where most people walk by, were the standard Sears, Kmart, and Lands’ End cards.  Over the next few months, I used my Sears’ gift cards regularly to buy BP and EBay gift cards (EBay gift cards have since disappeared from Sears and Kmart).  I found that I didn’t even need to add any other items to the purchase.  I never had a single cashier complain.

The disappearing rack

After using up my Sears’ gift cards (only partially through gift card upgrades), I didn’t visit Sears again for quite a while.  I returned recently, though, after buying more gift cards when Sears again offered 10 points per dollar in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (see “Sears 10X: Leveraging the Deal” and “Sears 20X“).  This time, though, the secret gift card rack was gone.  Uh oh.  I was afraid that they had completely stopped carrying interesting gift cards. 

I began a new search.  I checked the electronics section.  No dice.  I swept the store, aisle by aisle.  Nothing.  When I was close to giving up, I spotted a suspicious looking gift card rack near another exit.  This one was angled such that whether you were entering or exiting the store, you would only see one side of the rack.  That one side, of course, held the standard Sears’ gift cards.  I clawed my way past a display of jackets to get behind the gift card rack to see the other side.  And there it was!  I had once again found the secret gift card rack!

The re-disappearance

Last week, the secret gift card rack disappeared again.  This time, I knew what to look for.  I had learned the gift card rack’s habits and knew where it was likely to hide.  Sure enough, I found the secret rack at the next exit over.  Once again, the rack was positioned so that those entering or exiting the store would see only the Sears’ gift cards.  One needs to brush past the cobwebs to the other side to find the gold.

11X (or more) through the secret rack

When Sears offers 10 points per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, you really earn at least 11 points per dollar: 10 points come from the shopping portal, and at least one point from your credit card.  If you can find the secret rack and upgrade your Sears’ gift cards, this is an amazing opportunity to earn 11X for many types of purchases!

From gas cards to bank cards

In my last trip to the secret gift card rack I discovered both bad and good news. The bad news was that they had apparently stopped selling BP gift cards.  I was hoping that they were just temporarily out of stock, but I couldn’t even find a place-holder for BP cards, so it wasn’t encouraging.  Up until now I had been indirectly getting 11X for gas fill-ups by using Sears gift cards bought at 11X to upgrade to BP cards.

The good news was that Sears has started selling $100 Visa and MasterCard gift cards. These cards open up a new option for earning extra points for all purchases. The cards each come with an annoying $5.99 fee, but that’s not bad if you pay with Sears gift cards for which you earned 11 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Even if you value Ultimate Rewards points at only a penny each, you are 5X ahead with this technique. This is something to consider for those unable to take advantage of other “5X everywhere” techniques (e.g. “One card to rule them all“). By stocking up on Sears’ gift cards and upgrading in-store at Sears (or Kmart) to bank gift cards you can earn 5X, indirectly, for all of your purchases.

When will 10X return?

There’s really no way to know if or when Sears will be 10X again.  Each month I check the latest Ultimate Rewards Mall specials (with help from HikerT’s web site) and report the best of them.  In addition to these monthly specials, last year the Ultimate Rewards Mall held special holiday bonus promotions for one day each.  Sears 10X was one of those specials.  It’s too early to know if they’ll repeat this, but I hope they do!

Reader explorations

Have you tried to hunt down the secret gift card rack in your local Sears?  If so, were you successful?  Is it as sneaky as the one near me?

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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  1. FM, I grab eBay gift cards from Sears’ disappearing gift card rack occasionally because I know its tendency to disappear often, and returned another day to activate/purchase them and it worked. I still have a few in my possession so I’ll check tonight to see if they match the UPC of eBay gift cards that you can grab from grocery stores. If so, we can grab eBay gift cards from Kroger for example and bring to Sears to activate, thereby bypassing the need to hunt down the secret gift card rack. I hope this is not the case of BestBuy and their Amazon Kindle cards. The kindle cards at BestBuy have different UPCs than the Kindle cards at other stores, so BestBuy can’t activate ones from other stores when you bring them in.

  2. I thoroughly searched my local Sears twice but came up empty. When I asked about other types of cards I got blank stares. I happened to be at the Mall of America last week so I walked the entire store looking for other cards and came up empty again. Armed with FM’s new clues, I will return to my local Sears and try again. This could facilitate some nice maneuvers if I can find those darn cards.

  3. Hilarious! Loved this post. made me laugh out loud. I need to return something at Sears today so maybe I will stalk this elusive prey as well.

  4. so you had successfully buy Sears GC through UR Mall and got 10x ? I saw the special too but got discourage from the warning at the bottom so didnt go through with it. I ll try it next time when it comes back if it was successful with you .

  5. Great work FM!

    On the other side, why do retailers do this – they want to sell gift cards but do not want to be seen by all? May be because they don’t get much in terms of profit by selling them?

  6. Have you purchase the visa and master cards using sears/kmart gift cards or are you speculating ?

    I don’t think the registers don’t the sears/kmart gift cards
    to be used on prepaid gift cards , that’s the last i tried
    3-4 months ago, maybe things changed but that would really suprise me

  7. My Jo-Ann Fabrics and Safeway both have gift cards in unusual places. No Vanillas of course. A staff member at Jo-Ann told me that they were expecting an increasing selection of cards in the near future. Safeway has a mini rack behind the counter near the exit windows — they have $100 gift cards for sales at $80. Jiffy Lube, Barnes & Noble, California Pizza Kitchen etc… plus smaller value Restaurant.com gift cards on sale.

  8. This post was had me laughing out loud! I liked how you approached the story like a mystery novel. I was a big fan of Agatha Christie stories back in the day, so this was extra fun.

    Happy hunting.

  9. Bingo. I tried a different Sears this time. It was a small store that sells just Sears appliances. Lo and Behold, a Gift Card Mall rack in the back of the store with Ebay, Southwest, and Marriott cards among others. No Visa cards and no BP but I’ll take what I can get. Now, the next test is to see if they will let me buy Ebay cards using Sears cards. Thx FM.

  10. I’ve never found this mysterious rack in the 2 Sears closest to me, but then again, I never looked that hard. I’ll have to check the doors the next time I go. I did however find a small selection of Itunes gift cards at one of the electronics checkout lanes at one store, but decided to pass since they usually go on sale for 20% off at other retailers.

  11. I have found the gift card rack at various places in the Sears near me. I had success buying $350 in BP cards the first time with an emailed Sears GC and then some trouble in a different store when I bought $500 in BP GC with my 10X UR points but was successful! I LOVE getting 11X for gas!!! Today I went to a Family Dollar store because they have vanilla reload cards. They do not sell re-load cards but will load your prepaid right at the register. I didn’t bring it with me thinking I would be just buying the card. (wasn’t even sure if they had them) my thought was to scoop some up to bring to OD but that won’t happen. In any case I will be able to load my blueberry and prepaid AMEX’s and at least use the ATM option to help with minimum spending issues. I also intend to pay taxes and the like with this. I’ll let you know what happens when I finally go to load the card. I will know if they allow credit cards or need cash and will know if I am limited to 500 per day.

  12. Smay: if you have a MyVanilla or Mio reloadable, it would be worth bringing that to Family Dollar too, just in case BB doesn’t work

    MileValue: I had tried your approach, but I found that success with that approach depended upon employees having a clue. That turned out to be a bad assumption. Everyone just pointed to the regular Sears gift card racks. They didn’t know that they sold other cards

  13. Smay, I tried to load a Mio at Family Dollar with a CC a few months ago but it wouldn’t work. I am interested to see if you have better luck. I do think that bank account tied debit cards will work at Family Dollar but the numbers don’t make a lot of sense.

  14. Ultimate Reward Mall is offering 10x/$ for Kohls, but once I click on the link, it states that promotion does not work on GC. Are you able to get the 10x points on GC purchase?

  15. Months ago, I looked in Sears for other merchant gift cards to no avail. I even asked at a checkout station and the cashier looked at me like I had two heads, stating they only sell Sears gift cards. I have to pick up an online order there tomorrow so I’ll give it another more thorough look thanks to your story. In other news, I’ve had great success in past months purchasing merchant gift cards from KMart using a Lands End gift cards. In each case, I didn’t throw in anything with the purchase. However, a couple weekends ago, I tried my normal routine there and was shot down by the cashier. He immediately asked me how I was paying for the merchant gift cards I brought to the register and I replied by stating gift cards. He said I’m sorry, but you can’t do that. Gift cards are cash only. I asked him since when because I had been able to do it for a long time. He said it’s a recent policy and pointed to a sign they had (for employees only) posted at the register stating that gift cards are only to be paid with by cash. I asked him why and he stated that it’s for everyone’s safety. I don’t know who everyone is, but that’s the story I got. I’ll try again with a different cashier at some point and try throwing some extra things in like toothpaste and whatnot to see what happens. KMart is more expensive IMO so I don’t like shopping there for goods, but if I’m able to get gift cards with gift cards, then I’ll give it a try.

  16. I laughed at this post as the one time I went to Sears, I was told there was no gift card rack. Now, I plan on going back and “hunting” a bit and leave no stone unturned…..

  17. You can get 10% cashback purchasing sears gift cards online with your DiscoverCard (5% quarterly bonus + 5% shop discover bonus)

  18. Anybody have been able to locate ebay gift cards at sears and kmart. They all seem to have dissapeared ? Also if any one on here knows if ebay cards from another retailer can be activated at sears based on serial number sequence or from experience

  19. I asked where the rack was at sears and employee said they didn’t sell gift cards. I piveted, yes, piveted around to see the rack opposite her register. Oh! Was her reply.

  20. You cannot buy Gift cards through the Ultimate Rewards shopping site.
    Before being redirected to their websites, all merchants have sometihng like this

    Sears’s Terms & Conditions
    Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents. Not eligible using promo codes that aren’t listed on this site. Any return, exchange or other adjustment made at a physical store location for an on-line purchase may result in your purchase being deemed ineligible for reward.

    How did you manage to buy the gift cards at sears and get the x10?

  21. Luchex: Its true that the UR Mall says “not eligible on gift cards”, but it is up to each individual merchant to report the sale or not and some do report gift card purchases as regular sales.

  22. FM: Just to be clear, have you actually tried to purchase Sears (or other) GCs through the UR Mall since the T&C change and gotten the 10x? (Apologies if you have, and I’ve just missed the post.)

  23. I am tempted to buy Lowes GC using the UR mall . Do you use it? I was thinking to go and pick it up at the store and also , on the same order buy something else. Do you have any recommendations?

  24. Sears locations in my area (northern VA) have removed third party cards. The mysterious rack is now filled with a variety of Sears, K-mart and Lands End new designs.

  25. I went into sears today to pickup an item i had purchased through UR portal yesterday. as the guy goes into the employees only area to get my item i peak in behind him and there is a huge gift card rack sitting there. when he returned i questioned him about it and asked him if i could purchase those cards and he said ‘no, they were not ready for sale, but they might be put out for the holiday season’.
    He proceeded to tell me that i could purchase sears GC at the registers. he did not really seem to know what he was talking about and i doubt the information he gave me was accurate. it seems like they pulled the GC rack and just stuck it in the stock room, but it was full of all kinds of GC

  26. David G: it’s so secret that they keep it hidden in the staff room! A few people have tweeted photos to me of these new fully stocked gift card racks (with Amazon!), but I have yet to see one in the wild

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