The strange economics of Kohl’s Cash

Kohls Cash

Every few weeks, Kohl’s runs a sale where Kohl’s charge card holders get up to 30% off with a coupon and everyone gets $10 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent.  In fact, a sale like this begins today and runs through October 5th.  For this sale, charge card holders can use code SAVING30 to get their 30% off discount.

Even though the Terms & Conditions say otherwise, it has long been the case that one could stack the above mentioned savings with Ultimate Rewards Mall 10X bonus earnings.  And, physical gift card purchases earn points too.  And, Chase Freedom often offers Kohl’s as one of it’s 5X categories.  So, one could do the following:

  1. Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall (10X)
  2. Buy physical Kohl’s gift cards and pay with the Freedom card (5X)
  3. Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall again (10X)
  4. Select charge card as form of payment
  5. Input 30% off code
  6. Enter in up to 4 gift cards for payment (before the charge card is invoked)
  7. Earn $10 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent.

In total, with the above steps, one could earn 25 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, save 30%, and earn up to 20% in Kohl’s Cash.

Unfortunately, Kohls.com lately hasn’t been working quite right so some people have suffered from reduced Ultimate Rewards Mall payouts and cancelled orders.  Hopefully, that will all be cleared up soon.  But, this post isn’t really about that.  It’s about Kohl’s Cash…

Earning Kohl’s Cash

When Kohl’s Cash is offered, you get $10 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 of merchandise purchased ($50 is after coupons but before sales tax).  If you come within $2 of the first level of Kohl’s Cash, Kohl’s will round up for you.  For example, if you spend $48 (pre-tax), Kohl’s will round up and give you $10 of Kohl’s Cash as if you had spend $50.

The value of Kohl’s Cash

Kohl’s Cash is sent in an email when you order online, or given as a paper certificate when you make purchases in-store.  Either way, there is a set date range within which the Cash can be used.

When using Kohl’s Cash, the dollar amount of the Cash is taken off the total merchandise order before other coupons are applied.  This has a few negative consequences: 1) The portion of your merchandise paid for with Kohl’s Cash is not discounted by any coupons; and 2) Coupons that require a certain dollar amount to activate are harder to use.  For example, if a coupon gives you free shipping for orders of $50 or more, you need to have more than $50 of stuff in your shopping cart to account for the amount of Kohl’s Cash you want to use.

There is one positive aspect to the way Kohl’s Cash works:  The portion of your purchase paid for with Kohl’s Cash is not subject to sales tax.  For example, I had $40 worth of Kohl’s Cash that was about to expire so I visited Kohl’s in person and found an item that was on sale for exactly $40.  The cashier rang it up, I paid the $40 Kohl’s Cash, and all of the sales tax disappeared.

Since Kohl’s Cash prevents you from applying coupons to that portion of your purchase, and since they are only valid for a limited amount of time before they expire, I like to think of Kohl’s Cash as worth about half of its face value.  A $20 Kohl’s Cash certificate is, to me, worth about $10.  It’s a convenient way to conservatively estimate savings when Kohl’s Cash is offered.

Returns

If you return something that was paid for with Kohl’s Cash, you are given store credit for the purchase price.  If you then go to buy the exact same thing and pay with that same store credit, you’ll be charged sales tax.  That’s the bad part.  The good part is that the store credit doesn’t expire and you can apply discount coupons to the portion of the order paid for with that store credit.  Store credit is treated exactly like a gift card.

Where things get really weird is if you return something that was in an order that generated Kohl’s Cash.  For example, imagine buying a watch for $100 and earning $20 Kohl’s Cash.  Now imagine that you’re unhappy with the watch and want to return it.  If you don’t use the Kohl’s Cash before returning the watch, you get your money back and the Kohl’s Cash is understandably invalidated.  If you do use the Kohl’s Cash before returning the watch, though, they will deduct the Kohl’s Cash value from your refund.  So, if you buy something where there’s a high likely hood of a return, you might be better off not using the Kohl’s Cash.

Bottom Line

If you have a Kohl’s charge card, the frequent 30% off plus Kohl’s Cash sales are really a great way to save.  It’s important, though, to understand the limitations and strange behaviors of Kohl’s Cash.

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

  1. Thanks for this post. I just realized that I have $30 of kohls cash sitting in my inbox that is expired from.. 6 months ago. Yikes! Is there a time limit for using expired kohls cash in the store?

  2. They also release the 20% off coupons to the general public as long as you are subscribe to their mailings. Do you think it’s worth it to have the charge card for he extra 10% off?

    • Maury: I do think it is worth having the Kohls charge card if you buy a lot from them, but I’d recommend waiting first to see if they fix their computer system issues.
      .
      tim2: Thanks. Great suggestion.

  3. I figured out an easy fix to use kc for giftcards. It depends on what you buy and return. Let me preface this by saying this was a legitimate return. Anyway, I had $50 kc that was expiring. I wanted to see if they would let me buy giftcards. Negative. So I I bought a george forman for $50 with the kc and used a credit card to buy the gc all in the same transaction. My wife didn’t like the grill so I took it back. I was expecting store credit but they refunded my credit card $50.

    • Seems to me you ended up with the same thing as everyone else. You could have left out the GC. Bought the grill with KC, returned it and got a Kohls merchandise credit, which is the same as Kohls GC. Net your the same thing. You turn KC into GC.

      Unless you are talking about buying some other GC, such as Shell and not a Kohls GC. You didn’t specify type of GC.

  4. Funny I had my order canceled earlier this week and I had no idea why! I was trying to use Ultimate Rewards Mall and pay with my freedom to stack. At least I am not the only one.

  5. COMPLETELY agree about returns with Kohl’s Cash. You will want to return EVERYTHING on the ticket and then rebuy it. Their math in their system is ridiculous. They apply it all weighted instead of just giving you straight Kohl’s cash back. I’ve had to argue with many call people and store managers over this…

  6. Found same problems with Kohl’s Cash. If you want to return something, it becomes a big hassle. I haven’t tried it yet, but I did read somewhere if you buy something with Kohls cash and return that item, you will receive store credit. Much better than taking a hit on the items you return.

  7. My wife showed me Tuesday that even though her KC was expired they took it with out any questions. It was only out of date by a couple of weeks but she said she’d never had a problem with out of date KC.

  8. What do you all buy at Kohl’s? Where does it fall in terms of quality and style of clothing?

    FM is definitely the leading Kohls blogger!

  9. I find kohls is seriously overpriced, but their discounts make up for it. It’s all one big gimmick really. More people will buy an item regardless of price as long as it is “on sale” or if they have a coupon.

    As far as their clothes go, I don’t really dig them. Their homeware stuff is pretty good though.

    • Honestly does not matter what store you go to, they all have gimmicks and coupons that look good to draw us shoppers in . Personally I love Kohls merchandise and you can get good deals and I find them reasonable on returns and using outdated kohls cash and coupons.

      • This day and age I’ll shop any where that has good customer service and pretty much stay away from everywhere else. Nothing worse than not liking an item and getting frustrated by “policy” or people that really don’t care. (Cough, cough, I’m talking about you Petsmart)

  10. Kohl’s might be worth it if your getting a ton of points and buying something on clearance at like 80%. Otherwise you’ll do better somewhere else on average. Why do you think they use the electronic price tags on many things?
    They overprice stuff then mark it down on a weekly basis. The Kohl’s cash gets you to come back. Oh no my Kohl’s cash expires I better go back.
    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/06/fake-sales-can-cost-you/index.htm
    http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/consumeralert/2013/04/kohls_purchase_shows_why_its_i.html

  11. I’ve never applied for the Kohl’s charge card because I was still able to get 20% off paying with gift cards. I figured the UR points I get for buying Kohl’s gift cards would more than make up for the 10% lost. However, from what you state, we can pay with gift cards if we’re charge card holders and still get the 30% off? If so, can we pay the entire balance with gift cards, or does a small portion have to be paid with the charge card to get the 30% off?

    • Dave: i’ve been able to pay entirely with gift cards and still get the 30% off. I’m not sure how reliable that is right now, though, due to their cancelling orders and sometimes displaying errors when you try to check out.
      .
      Jane S: Great to know!

  12. I’m 27 and up until a few months ago had never stepped foot in a Kohls store but in furnishing my new apartment and due to the chase freedom bonus I checked the store out. They definitely have good home goods however aside from the basics their clothing isn’t exactly what I’d buy. We bought about $60 worth of home goods and Ill definitely be checking them out in the future. Didn’t realize the Kohls cash isn’t all the time. I earned $10.

  13. I have always loved Kohls, their sales and their Kohls Cash. They will redeem your Kohls cash even if it is out of date just like Bed, Bath and Beyond will always redeem their coupons even if out of date.

    Some items in Kohls are overpriced but if you wait long enough, everything goes on sale.

  14. Most Kohl’s stores do accept expired Kohl’s cash. This practice does seem to change from store to store without notice, however. Simply ask the cashier at the nearest register when you enter a store and they will advise you. Some say no. Some say yes, regardless of the expiration date. Some will do it if it within the past two to three weeks. I’m still using $10 off of a $30 purchase received at Staples that expired weeks ago. I had a whole stack that a Staples cashier pulled out of her trash when I inquired as to why Kohl’s and Staples were offering coupons for each other. I’ve been using them for weeks!

    • Maureen: Great suggestions, thanks.
      .
      Matt: I have ordered many times at 30% off and paid with gift cards without putting anything on the charge card. That said, the computer is acting flaky right now so I can’t promise it will work for you (but it’s worth a try).

  15. I used to buy lots from Kohls. With the change in returns and Kohls cash, I just don’t buy as much. Even if I do earn Kohls cash, I don’t usually spend it because I don’t like the way they handle the returns.

  16. Do you need to put at least something on your Kohl’s charge to get the 30% off? I ask because my wife needs to buy something at Kohl’s, and I have a GC I bought online, but it’s a $100 GC, and we don’t want to buy *that* much.

    I know if you buy in store they can only put a certain amount on the GC, but I don’t think you can do the same buying online.

  17. I made a purchase for 59.89 from Kohls.com website thru the UR portal and charged it on my Kohls card. I had a 30 percent coupon. I didn’t receive any points so I sent a secure message to Chase today. They said that I can not receive the points because they have no record of the purchase and I didn’t use a chase card. So are we going to have to use Chase cards from now on to ensure we get credit??

  18. There are still problems with the system. UNBELIEVABLE! Who handles their IT?

    Tried purchasing some merchandise using a coupon code and gift cards and I get the following error: “Problem with committing the order.” It’s a different error than the fiasco a few weeks ago–that’s progress for Kohls, I suppose.. But it still prevents me from making a purchase.

  19. @Kathy C: That’s strange that you didn’t get any UR points by paying with your Kohls card. I wonder if it’s a fluke. I made 4 Kohls purchases in the last 2-3 weeks, 1 of them paid entirely with gift cards, and all of them gave me UR points. The most recent one was less than a week ago, but I did top off the balance with my Chase card.

  20. Our Kohl’s will always take Kohl’s cash after the expiration date. They say it never expires in store. Online you can’t use it.

  21. The weirdest thing happen to my UR points. Placed 2 orders (worth $100 each) with Kohl’s but cancelled right away because I changed my mind. Got two 1,000 UR points for those 2 orders. I’m not complaining. 🙂

  22. Their “jumping beans” clothes are good for little kids. They fit well and hold up well. It’s where I always bought my kids’ play clothes.
    I’ve also bought other things there and found them to be good about returns. I had a Dutch oven that I got after thanksgiving and when the paint flaked off months later, I took it back and they gave me store credit for the full amount. I think that it had earned kohl’s cash and that’s why she had to give me store credit.

  23. One thing to note about using expired Kohls cash (Sorry if it has been discussed already): You will not get anything back if you use expired kohls cash. I have noticed this recently and there are reports about this in SD too. So be careful about stuff bought with expired Kohls cash as you will lose the part paid with the expired Kohls cash. It acts like a coupon in their system and you will only get what you paid with cc or cash. This is for part of the order using expired Kohls cash. I have no idea about what happens if the entire order is bought with expired kohls cash.

  24. FM, you seem to always have success getting your UR points shopping at Kohls, but I always have a problem. Which browser do you typically use when linking through the UR Mall portal?
    ****
    The last time I shopped at Kohls I did not get my UR points. I think that maybe the problem was that I started in my Chase UR portal but then used my wife’s Kohls charge card, therefore the names did not match. Do you think that would cause the points to not post?
    ****
    Also, you said that you used a Chase card to top off the balance after gift cards? But doesn’t that prevent you from getting the 30% off since you need to use a Kohls card to get that?

  25. Last week I went through the Ultimate Rewards portal to Kohl’s. I used my Freedom card to by $145 worth of Kohl’s gift cards(2-50s, 1-25, and 1-20) all in one transaction. Today I got the email from Chase saying I got 950 extra points from that Kohl’s purchase. Shouldn’t it have been 1450 points? Its like one of the $50 cards didn’t count.

  26. I’ve followed you for a while and enjoyed your experiments with Kohl’s especially in your million-miles-in-a-month experiment in which earned miles by purchasing Kohl’s gift cards and then buying products from Kohl’s with the gift cards through the UR Mall (while selling the products on Amazon for either a small profit or small loss). My question is how do you find the best products to buy/sell?

    I tried my own experiment with Kohl’s over several months by purchasing $20 speakers which I then sold on Amazon. But I found that once I started buying in bulk from Kohl’s (20 at a time), Kohl’s randomly cancelled some orders and then actually raised the speakers’ price by $1! As well, over the same period Amazon’s handling fees increased from $3 to $5 PER SPEAKER causing the whole venture to be an economic disaster.

    Any hints? (Maybe this is a good column idea?)

  27. No sales tax? Not sure that is legal. Or maybe Kohl’s eats the 6%? Either way it is pretty awesome because I hate government and taxes are government’s lifeblood!

  28. I recently returned a jean purchased with Kohls cash. They just took the jean back and didn’t give me any store credit. I was told I didn’t pay anything out of my pocket with that purchase and Kohls cash is like free money so no store credit would be issued.
    What exactly is their policy on returning product purchased using Kohls cash?

  29. My husband just tonight tried to return two sets of drapes that were purchased completely with KC. He was also told that he couldn’t receive a merchandise credit. He was offered the choice to “exchange them for a different color perhaps”…..which he declined and returned home with the items. Has anyone else had this issue?

  30. Are you returning merchandise that was purchased with Kohl’s Cash®?

    If you are making a return or price adjustment on an item you bought with Kohl’s Cash®, the value of the Kohl’s Cash® coupon will be returned as a Kohl’s Merchandise Credit.

  31. If I purchase something using kohls cash during a kohls cash earning period do I earn kohls cash on that merchandise that I just purchased?

  32. Question…Last week on Wednesday I made a purchase of $600 then the next day I find out they started the Kohls Cash deal…can I go back and get that or would I have to return everything?

  33. If I bought a Keurig for $150 and got kohls cash, but asked for a price adjustment online when the price dropped to $120, will my kohls cash be reduced? Thanks! This was done online btw.

  34. As a Kohl’s associate I can say this:
    In regards to expired kohls cash:
    ~if it was kc issued in the store, we will take it. However, it is in your best interest to use it when it’s active because if you return the merchandise you purchased with the expired kc, you are NOT going to get that back as in store credit. However if you use you kc in-store within the two days after it expires, it will still ring up as active

    In regards to expired kc issued through email, unfortunately we cannot take those

    Sorry if I repeated anything and hope I cleared something’s up

  35. I recently earned $20 kohls cash from an online purchase. I ended up having to return an item from that purchase and the lady at the service desk informed me that my kohls cash would be deactivated since the return was over $50. I understood, however the problem was that both kc were deactivated which didn’t make sense since the items I kept added up to over $50. the lady at the service desk said she couldn’t help and to call the number from the website. since my kc expired that day I didn’t bother with the headache of calling. now again today I have to return a few items from an online order however the remaining items I’m keeping are over $50 which warrants $10 kc however I’m guessing my kc will be deactivated because of a return. If I was purchasing items in-store then I would separate each $50 purchase to avoid this, but since I buy online I combine everything for free shipping and unfortunately even a 15 return on an order that’s over $100 deactivates kc.

  36. Here is a problem with Kohl’s Cash.

    At this very moment, I have in my “shopping bag” a subtotal (before shipping or tax) of 79.97. I then applied their current coupon of 25% off and it deducted 20.00, making my new grand total 63.97 (after 3.60 tax was applied). Don’t know what their norm is, but they are currently offering free shipping with 50.00 purchase, therefore, I am also getting free shipping.

    Everything good so far.

    Then I go to checkout. I have $60 in Kohl’s Cash to use towards my purchase.
    I went in and entered my Kohl’s Cash code. It was accepted just fine. However, when I go back and look at my shopping bag it adjusted everything.

    Now it reduced my $20 discount to a $5 discount. They are now, also, charging me shipping and saying that to get the free shipping, I need to spend 35.03 more. Really?? Does this seem fair?

    I am quite unhappy. Kohls.com has been a fiasco for me thus far. 2 other stories to add, but won’t bore you.

    • Kohls Cash is no doubt very frustrating. It works more as a discount than as a gift card. This can work in your favor (it reduces the amount of sales tax you have to pay), but more often it works against you (it makes your purchase ineligible for free shipping, for example).

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