Gifting your way to a Southwest companion pass. Experiments in progress

UPDATE 12/1/2014: The offer that this deal was based on has expired earlier than advertised. The advertised offer said that code RR57 was good until December 31, but it turns out that the code actually expired 11/30/2014.  I will report back once a new, working code is found.

Two weeks ago, I posted a way to earn 50 Southwest points per dollar by buying flowers and other goodies from 1-800-Flowers.  In that post, I said I would follow up next week with my thoughts about the best ways to use this promotion to get the Southwest Companion Pass.  So, this post is a little late, but we still have plenty of time…

1800Flowers_SWA_1500

Background Info

  • 1-800-Flowers is running a promotion in which they are offering 1500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for each purchase of $29.99 or more.  You must use code RR57 at checkout to qualify.
  • If you plan to earn miles by shopping at 1-800-Flowers I highly recommend signing up for their Passport program (found here).  For $29.99, you’ll get free shipping for a year.  You can stack deals by going through a portal to purchase this, and you can pay for Passport with a gift card.
  • With free shipping (thanks to Passport) and a $30 1-800-Flowers order, using code RR57, you will earn 50 points per dollar (1500 points / $30).
  • The Southwest Companion Pass requires earning 110,000 points within one calendar year.  Once achieved, the companion pass is good for unlimited flights booked with points or cash for the rest of that calendar year and all of the following year.  Purchase one ticket with cash or points and add a companion for free.
  • The best timing for earning the Companion Pass is to earn the 110,000 points as early as possible within a calendar year in order to use the pass for almost two full years.
  • The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is to sign up for two 50K Southwest Airlines credit card offers (found here, when available).  That will give you nearly all of the required points once you meet the minimum spend requirements for those cards.  Currently, each offer requires $2,000 spend.  If you signup now and complete all $4K spend after your December statement closes (or in early January), then you’ll get 104K in January, so you’ll only need 6,000 more Southwest points to get the Companion Pass.
  • This 1-800-Flowers offer can be used either to get the Companion Pass from scratch with 74 separate orders, or better yet, can be used to get the additional points you need if you have another way to earn points (such as the credit card offers mentioned above).  If you go the credit card route and need 6,000 additional points, you would only have to place four 1-800-Flowers orders to get 6,000 points.

Questions to answer

Since writing the earlier post on this topic, I’ve done a lot of research.  My goal was to answer questions such as:

  • Do points earned from this promotion really count towards the Companion Pass?
  • How can we time these purchases so that points are accrued towards the Companion Pass next year?
  • How can we time these purchases so that points are accrued towards the Companion Pass this year for people who are close to earning the pass?
  • The offer expires December 31st. What happens if we order before that date, but schedule shipment for after that date? Will we still get the points?
  • Are we eligible for the promotion even though we didn’t receive the offer?
  • Can we reduce costs or increase rewards by buying and using gift cards?
  • Can we increase rewards by going through a portal?
  • Can we increase rewards by linking credit cards to Sears Shop Your Way Rewards which offers 30% back in points at 1-800-Flowers?
  • If we gift stuff to charities, can we make these purchases tax deductible?
  • Is there a better promotion code we can use?

While I have tentative answers to all of the above questions, I don’t yet have final confirmation on any.  I placed a number of orders, but have yet to receive any Southwest points for any of the orders.  Is that because I’m not eligible for the promotion or, more likely, the points simply haven’t posted yet?

Here’s what I think I know

Despite the fact that I don’t have confirmation about any of this, I’ve put together a set of “facts” that I believe to be true.  Please keep in mind that on any and all of these, I could be wrong.

Points will count towards the Companion Pass

Several readers who have done this before have confirmed that points have counted towards the Companion Pass.

Points take from 2 days to 8 weeks to post and you may have to call

This is based entirely on comments in my previous post and in this Big Habitat post.  Apparently it is common for points from these promos to not post automatically so people have to call to get the points posted.

Points are backdated to the delivery date

Regardless of when you make the purchase and regardless of when the points are finally awarded, the points are dated based on the day the flowers (or whatever) were delivered.  If this is true, then a December 31, or earlier, delivery should result in points counting towards the 2014 Companion Pass total.  Similarly, a January 1st or later delivery should count towards a 2015 Companion Pass total.  Why do I think it works this way?  My primary evidence is actually with Alaska Airlines MileagePlan miles.  Earlier in the year I made a number of 1-800-Flowers purchases using a promo code for 30X MileagePlan miles and I found that all miles were dated to the exact date of flower delivery.

If you order this year for next year delivery, you’ll still get the points

Despite the fact that the offer for 1500 points expires at the end of this year, I think that you can schedule delivery for next year and still get the points.  How do I know this?  I spent hours on the phone with many different 1-800-Flowers representatives trying to get the answer to this question.  While I would never trust one call center agent to know the answer to something like this, it is encouraging that every single person I talked to said that it would work.  So, maybe they’re right.

If you use the promo code RR57 at checkout and the system accepts the code you are eligible for the points even if you weren’t targeted for this offer.

There appears to be two levels of confirmation when checking out.  First, when you put in the code and press “apply”, the system tells you that your 1500 points are good to go:

1800Flowers_SWA_PromoCodeApplied

I also tried an expired promotion code.  When I pressed “apply” it said that the code was successfully applied to the order (like in the picture above), but when I tried to complete the order the system told me that the code could not be applied after all.

I take all of the above (along with the fact that I’ve earned miles with previous promos in which I wasn’t targeted) to be evidence that everyone who uses the code is eligible.

Gift cards don’t work, unless they do, or unless you call.

In my prior post on this topic I mentioned that you can use a promo code or a gift card, but not both.  A reader commented, though, that they were able to use both a gift card and a promo code just two days before I posted.  So, I tried again, but still couldn’t get it to work.  Other readers have confirmed the inability to apply both gift cards and promo codes.  That said, I asked 1-800-Flowers call center reps if I could apply both and they all said yes.  I guess the key is to call in your order.  That’s not for me, though.  I think there are simply too many details to be conveyed over the phone to make it practical to place many orders in this way: order details, delivery address, billing address, gift card number, Southwest Rapid Rewards number, etc.

The Spend $50, get $15 Amex offer works across multiple transactions

If you’re lucky enough to have the 1-800-Flowers “Offers for You” offer on one or more of your Amex cards, you can earn the credit by making multiple purchases of less than $50.  The sweet spot for the RR57 promotion is to spend exactly $30 (or $29.99).  If you do so in two separate purchases with a registered card, you’ll still get cash back from Amex.

1800Flowers_AmexOffer

You can’t combine portal rewards and promo rewards

For small purchases (e.g. $30), the RR57 promo code which gives you 1500 points per order is better than any current portal promotions.  Still, it would be fantastic to double up.  I tested with the FatWallet cash back portal.  It wasn’t the highest paying portal, but I like its reliability in posting quickly and in showing full detail of each transaction.  Within a few days I received confirmation of cash back:

1800Flowers_cashback

I did the same experiment with the AAdvantage eShopping Portal, with the same results:

1800Flowers_AAPortal_Pending

So, that seems to contradict my statement that you can’t do both the promo code and a portal.  However, many people have reported in the past that portals have initially shown cash back (or points) but have later reversed them out.  I think that once 1-800-Flowers processes the promo code points, they reverse out the portal payouts.  So, at this point, I have no new evidence one way or another.

You can’t combine Shop Your Way Rewards points and promo codes

I’m basing this on past info from readers. I haven’t actually tried it yet.  If you want to give it a try, try to figure out how to earn 30% back in points here and/or enroll your Visa or MasterCard here.

Charitable gifts over $250 require gift receipts

Based on conversations with my accountant, I believe that 1-800-Flowers deliveries would be valid charitable donations (assuming your charity of choice wants them!).  One key “gotcha” though is that donations of $250 or more require a gift receipt.  You cannot legitimately get around the requirement by making many small donations.

If you find a charity that would like to receive food, plants, or flowers from 1-800-Flowers, and if you plan to donate more than $250 worth, then make sure there is a way for them to know the packages are for you so that they can send you gift receipts.  With a few test shipments I placed, I didn’t see anything on the package to indicate the name and address of the person who sent it.  You could add your name and address to the gift message, I suppose, but there’s no guarantee that the receiving organization would even notice that.  Worse, if you send many packages, that would require a lot of extra work on part of the charity’s employees or volunteers.  A better solution might be to send the packages to yourself and then hand deliver them to your charity of choice.  Of course, whatever you do here, consult with your tax advisor to determine whether you can deduct these gifts from your taxes.

If you plan to donate less than $250, or if you don’t care about deducting donations from taxes, you can have shipments go directly to your charity of choice.  I’ve been working with a great charity, Food Gatherers, to setup a process for people to make donations such as these.  I’ll follow up very soon with full details.

Better promo codes are not currently available

Early this year, for Valentine’s Day, 1-800-Flowers offered 1750 Southwest points per purchase with promo code RR42.  The offer was sent to people on February 6th and was valid only through February 14th.  Orders placed after that date were offered 1000 points per order according to the terms & conditions.

I tested out this code with a new order, and was shown that I would receive 1000 bonus points.  When I tried to fully check out, though, the system decided that the code wasn’t valid.  So, no, we can’t use expired promo codes for better offers.  However, there’s a chance that this offer will come back…

If 1-800-Flowers offers the 1750 point Valentine’s Day deal again in 2015, it would be a significantly better offer than the current one.  Instead of needing 74 separate orders to earn the Companion Pass, you would need “only” 63 orders.  I’m sure they’ll run another Valentine’s Day promotion, but, we have no way of knowing whether the points awarded will be the same.

Note: Thanks go to Daraius at Million Mile Secrets for providing me full info about the 2014 Valentine’s Day promotion.  There was also a similar Thanksgiving promotion in 2013 that he forwarded to me that offered 1750 points with code RR26.

Summary: Questions tentatively answered

Here are the tentative answers to the questions I posed earlier in this post:

  • Do points earned from this promotion really count towards the Companion Pass? Yes.
  • How can we time these purchases so that points are accrued towards the Companion Pass next year? Yes, order before the end of this year for delivery in 2015.
  • How can we time these purchases so that points are accrued towards the Companion Pass this year for people who are close to earning the pass? Yes, make sure that delivery occurs in 2014.
  • The offer expires December 31st. What happens if we order before that date, but schedule shipment for after that date? Will we still get the points? Yes.
  • Are we eligible for the promotion even though we didn’t receive the offer? Yes.
  • Can we reduce costs or increase rewards by buying and using gift cards? No.
  • Can we increase rewards by going through a portal? No.
  • Can we increase rewards by linking credit cards to Sears Shop Your Way Rewards which offers 30% back in points at 1-800-Flowers? No.
  • If we gift stuff to charities, can we make these purchases tax deductible? Yes, but see details above.
  • Is there a better promotion code we can use?  Not at this time, but there is some chance of one appearing prior to Valentine’s Day.

I will post more about this offer and how to take advantage of it soon.

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

    • You can buy anything as long as the order comes to $29.99 or more and doesn’t explicitly say that “promo codes can’t be used with this order”. I’ll give specific suggestions tomorrow.

  1. Regarding your ethically dubious suggestion to deduct the cost of overpriced and relatively useless fruit baskets ‘donated’ to charity on your tax return, you keep in mind that the tax code allows for deductibility only exceeding the value of any benefit received. Since the value of Southwest points would be valued by the IRS at the cost of acquiring them (i.e., 2.75 cents/each), 1,500 points would be valued at $41.25 and far exceed your $30 ‘donation.’ In other words, this is NOT tax deductible — and ironically the $11.25 difference may be taxable should the IRS ever decide that points are income, and, therefore, taxable.

    Charities can acquire food at wholesale and can do the most good when given cash (assuming those with low administrative overhead, not those raising money specifically to raise more money). I applaud your suggestion to remember those less fortunate, but as a taxpayer, your ulterior and selfish motive is distasteful. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • All I can say is that I checked with my accountant first and he stated that since the benefit (the points) are not coming from the charitable organization, we can deduct the full price. I’ve recommended to people that they check with their own tax advisers about this. Whether it is ethical depends upon your perspective and what line you draw for these types of things. I’m not against lowering my tax burden in exchange for donating overpriced things as long as those things can be put to good use. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

    • I think calling this stuff “useless” is a little over-reaching. Even if you donate flowers to a nursing home, I know the residents appreciate it.

  2. My tax guy agrees with your tax guy.

    I can pay with VGC’s reducing my cost by 5%. I think I will see if my son (18) can get Chase to give him 1 new card and top him up to 110k points with this (unless something better happens along). Thanks for gathering the info!

  3. Question on the two 50K points cards for Southwest Airlines companion pass:

    In the link, are you referring to the first two on the list (British Airways and Rapid Rewards)? Do both cards give you the same type of points to count towards the Southwest Airlines companion pass?

    Thank you for maintaining this site.

    I enjoy reading it.

    Also, instead of doing the 1-800-FLOWERS thing, why not use the CCs to add the remaining 10K points to your Target RedCard? That’s my plan.

    • Unfortunately, 3 of the 4 Southwest 50K offers have ended. The deal was to signup for two of them. No, the British Airways card won’t help you get a companion pass.
      .
      For the final 10K points, yes you can absolutely do that through credit card spend / REDbird.

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