Sears and Kmart offer great options for extreme stacking because it’s possible to stack:
- Discount gift cards
- Bonus gift cards
- Credit card category bonuses
- Portal rewards (multiple times per purchase!)
- Shop Your Way Rewards points
- Shop Your Way VIP status benefits
- Free shipping
Sears and Kmart Extreme Stacking Overview
At a high level, it is often possible to stack Sears’ purchases as follows:
- Shop through portal to Sears or Kmart to buy Sears or Kmart e-gift card
- Pay for e-gift card with credit card offering category bonus
- Receive Sears / Kmart bonus gift card (during special promotions)
- Shop through portal to Sears or Kmart to buy items for 100% back in points (during promotions)
- Apply coupon offering extra points in order to get more than 100% back
- Pay with gift cards
- Items purchased for 100% back in points can be donated to charity, resold, used, or gifted
- Shop through portal to Sears or Kmart to buy stuff you want
- Apply coupon offering discount (e.g. $5 off $50, 10% off, etc.). Do not apply coupon offering extra points
- Pay with your Shop Your Way Rewards points.
When all of the above options align, it is possible to save 30% to 80% without even counting the value of items purchased for 100% back in points. See, for example, “Sears Quintuple Dip Results, and why I should have bet more on Discover.”
Sears and Kmart gift cards are interchangeable. They can be used to buy things at Sears, Kmart, Lands End, and a number of other affiliated brands (e.g. Sears Outlet, Kenmore.com, etc.). Note that even though Sears and Kmart gift cards can be used at Lands End, the opposite is not true. You cannot use Lands End gift cards at Sears or Kmart.
Buying gift cards
There are two general ways to get a discount or rebate when buying Sears’ gift cards. One option is to look for gift card sales. It’s not unusual to see 10% to 20% off through eBay, for example. Another option is to click through a portal to Sears or Kmart to buy gift cards. Most portals state that gift card purchases are excluded, but in practice that’s not always true. Sometimes physical by-mail gift cards do not earn portal rewards, but in my experience e-gift cards and gift card reloads usually do earn rewards despite portal terms stating otherwise.
You will not earn Shop Your Way Rewards points when buying gift cards.
Caution: Portal purchases do not always track correctly. If you make a purchase that goes against the portal’s terms (such as buying a gift card), then you probably won’t get help from the portal’s customer support team if things don’t work.
Using gift cards
Sears allows up to 15 gift cards to be applied to each order. You cannot use Sears’ gift cards to buy other gift cards online (although it is sometimes possible in-store to do so). You will earn Shop Your Way Rewards points when using gift cards to buy merchandise.
Caution: When using gift cards to make purchases, you will not receive any of the automatic purchases protections that are commonly offered by credit cards (e.g. price protection, extended warranty, etc.).
Bonus gift cards
Approximately once a year (usually nearing the Christmas holidays), Sears and Kmart offer bonus gift cards when you purchase Sears or Kmart gift cards of certain denominations. For example, you may get a $20 promotional card when you buy a $100 gift card. The terms of these offers usually state that the promotional cards are valid for a limited time. In practice, Sears and Kmart sometimes give out regular gift cards, with no date restrictions, instead.
Some credit cards offer category bonuses at department stores. In general, I expect that you’ll earn these bonuses at Sears but not at Kmart because Kmart is usually classified as a discount store. You can find a list of such credit cards here: Best Category Bonuses — Department Stores.
Similarly, look for Discover, Chase Freedom, and/or Citi Dividend to offer 5% back at either department stores or home improvement stores. Sears should work in either case.
Another option is to buy a Home Improvement gift card at a store that gives you a great category bonus, and then use the Home Improvement gift card at Sears. For example, Office Depot stores have been known to sell Home Improvement gift cards. So, use a Chase Ink card (which offers 5X points at office supply stores) to buy a Home Improvement gift card at Office Depot and then use that Home Improvement gift card at Sears. Important Note: Sears treats the Home Improvement gift card as a Discover credit card. Therefore, this is one situation in which it is possible to buy gift cards with a gift card, even online. Make sure to register your home zip code with your Home Improvement gift card first.
Portal rebates are available for Sears, Kmart, and other affiliated brands. Offers fluctuate, so you can find the best portal offers here:
With Sears and Kmart, it is usually possible, despite portal terms stating otherwise, to earn rewards for all of the following:
- Buy e-gift cards or reload existing gift cards
- Use gift cards to buy merchandise
- Use Shop Your Way Rewards points to buy merchandise
- Apply coupons, regardless of whether or not they were found on the portal’s site
Lands End is different. With Lands’ End:
- You can earn portal rewards for buying merchandise or for buying gift cards as long as you pay with a credit card. Reminder: Gift cards purchased from Lands End can only be used at Lands End whereas gift cards purchased at Sears or Kmart can be used at Sears, Kmart, or Lands end.
- Any portion of an order paid for with a gift card or with Shop Your Way Rewards points will not earn portal rewards.
- I have no idea whether or not applying coupons affects portal rewards with Lands End.
Shop Your Way Rewards (SYWR)
Sears and its affiliated brands share a rewards program called Shop Your Way Rewards. This is frequently abbreviated to SYW or SYWR. For most purchases, SYW rewards are modest: you get 1% of the purchase back in the form of points. Often, though, there are opportunities to earn many more points. You can earn extra points through the use of coupons, or through bonus point promotions, or both.
To find bonus point promotions, go to Sears.com or Kmart.com, log into your Shop Your Way Rewards account, then (at Sears) select “Deals… Member Exclusives”. At Kmart.com, click “Deals & Coupons” and then “Weekly Member Deals”. If you’re lucky, you’ll find items for 100% back in points, like this:
Even if you don’t want those items, it may make sense to buy them in order to triple your portal rewards. For more details, see: Roll gift cards into points for triple rewards.
Problems with Shop Your Way Rewards (SYWR) points
Sears and Kmart offer many ways to earn lots of points, but there are significant downsides you should be aware of:
- Points Expire: Points earned on regular purchases are usually good for a full year, but bonus points from 100% back in points deals often expire within 90 days. If you don’t have a near term plan for spending those points you could lose them entirely.
- Points can’t be resold: If you get stuck with Sears gift cards that you can’t use, you can always resell them instead. Use a site like GiftCardWiki to find the best resale rates. You’ll probably get less than 85 cents to the dollar, but that’s much better than nothing. SYWR points, though, can’t be resold directly.
- Points can’t be used to buy gift cards: You can’t use points to buy gift cards so there’s no easy way to “upgrade” from points to gift card credit. Technically, you’re not supposed to be able to buy gift cards with gift cards either, but in-person some cashiers allow it.
- Points can’t be used to earn more SYWR points: Most of the time, any part of an order that’s paid for with points won’t earn any additional SYWR points.
- Points can’t be used to buy Marketplace items: Sears lets other merchants sell things through Sears.com. Often, those items are ridiculously overpriced, but sometimes they can be competitive. Unfortunately, even though you can earn portal rewards when buying these items and you can pay with gift cards, you can’t pay with SYWR points.
- Points could become worthless if Sears goes under: This is true of gift cards too, but maybe more so. If Sears declares bankruptcy it seems possible that SYWR points could lose all value overnight.
- Items purchased with points (or with gift cards) are not covered by credit card purchase protections: If you’re counting on your credit card to give you an extended warranty or price protection, you won’t get it if you pay with points or with gift cards.
Shop Your Way VIP Status
If you spend enough at Sears and Kmart, you can earn VIP status. Click here to find a list of perks and requirements for earning status.
My favorites VIP perks are:
- VIP Choice Benefits. Each quarter, you can go to this Choice Benefits page to pick out one VIP benefit and any number of VIP Bonus Deals. The best VIP benefits are those offering 100% back in points. The bonus deals are often additional coupons that you can use when buying stuff. A typical example is “$10 back in points when you spend $50 or more at Sears or Kmart”.
- Receive 20% in points on Alphaline Electronics and Computer Mice, Web Cams, Keyboards, Cases and Bags. The cool thing about this perk is that Sears and Kmart often offer Alphaline products for 100% back in points. In those cases, you’ll actually get 120% back in points! Similarly, when they offer 75% back in points for Alphaline products, VIP members get a total of 95% back.
Portals often list a number of coupons that can be applied to items in your cart. Commonly found coupons include:
- SEARS5OFF50: Extra $5 off Sears.com orders of $50 or more
- SEARS35OFF300: Extra $35 off Sears.com orders of $300 or more
- KMART5OFF50: Extra $5 off Kmart.com orders of $50 or more
- SPECIALK10: Extra $10 off Kmart.com orders of $100 or more
- KMART10PSAVINGS: Extra 10% off Kmart.com orders of $75 or more
A good source for additional Sears and Kmart coupons can be found here: www.syweverywhere.com/coupons.
Load coupons to your account
You can find more coupons by logging into your Shop Your Way Rewards account at Sears.com and then click “Deals… Member Coupons”; or at Kmart.com click “Deals & Coupons” and then “Member Coupons”. Load any coupons of interest to your account.
Sears, Kmart, and/or Shop Your Way Rewards may send you promotional emails with coupons inside. Frequently these require you to click a button to load the coupon to your account.
After making a purchase, look for the confirmation screen to offer up new coupons to add to your account.
After adding items to your shopping cart, go to your cart and scroll down. You’ll see an option to enter a coupon code. Alternatively, you can click “apply my Shop Your Way coupons”.
Coupons may or may not actually get applied depending upon their specific terms. For example, many coupons exclude “hot buy” items.
Which coupons should you use?
Ideally you’ll choose a coupon that gives you the most savings. That said, coupons come in a few forms:
- Discount: Save X% (example: save 10% off any fitness item).
- Discount: Save $X (example: save $50 off an order of $50 or more)
- Extra points: Earn X% back in point (example: earn 15% back in rewards for all eligible items)
- Extra points: Earn $X in points (example: earn $10 back in points when you spend $50 or more)
As a general rule, if your plan is to pay with Shop Your Way Rewards points, then you should go for the cash discounts rather than the extra points. You won’t usually earn points when spending points. So, as a general rule, I often do this:
- When paying for merchandise with gift cards, I’ll use the extra point coupons unless there are equal or better dollar off coupons available.
- When paying for merchandise with Shop Your Way Rewards points, I’ll use the discount coupons.
There are three ways to avoid shipping fees:
Spend $X promos and coupons: Sears and Kmart sometimes offer free shipping for orders over a certain threshold.
Shop Your Way MAX: This is the option I recommend. For $39 per year, you get free 2 day shipping on eligible items (your cart must include items for $10 or more each, or totaling at least $30 worth of eligible items). And, at the start of each month, you get $3 in bonus points which have to be used by mid-month before they expire. You also get an extra 5% back in points (up to $50 per year) when you select in-store pickup for eligible items. If you play it right, the free shipping program can pay for itself. Note 1: If you buy enough from Sears and Kmart to become an elite member, you may find a coupon in your account that let’s you buy or renew SYW MAX at a steep discount. Note 2: You may often find that items you want are not available for shipping. In that case, your only option is to pickup in-store.
Store pickup: You can often avoid shipping fees by selecting to pickup items in-store. Unfortunately, not all items are available for in-store pickup.
Sears and Kmart often a staggering array of options for stacking deals. When preparing for a purchase, consider these opportunities:
- Buy discount gift cards, or earn rewards by buying gift cards through a portal
- Earn bonus gift cards when available
- Pay with a credit card offering a great category bonuses
- Optionally shop through a portal to buy items for 100% back in rewards when available
- Shop through a portal to buy items with your gift cards (Sears portal offers, Kmart portal offers)
- Find and apply coupons. When paying with points, use dollar off coupons rather than extra points coupons
- Get free shipping via SYW Max or pickup in-store