Thursday morning I posted a Quick Deal: Sears offering 9X through Southwest portal. Greater than 18X returns possible. In this post I’ll describe options for getting outsized value from this offer. This offer is good through Father’s Day (Sunday, June 15).
Online shopping portals provide a way to earn extra points, miles, or cash back when shopping online. There are many different portals and most of them regularly change the rebates they offer for each merchant. Occasionally we’ll see a much better than usual deal that’s worth writing about. This one (9 bonus points per dollar through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal) is very good, but it’s not amazing. We have previously seen Sears as high as 16X through the United MileagePlus Shopping portal (last October), and 15X through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal (two years ago).
In some rare cases, merchants will give the customer portal points (or miles, or cash back, depending upon the portal) both when buying gift cards and when using gift cards. When this happens, it is possible to “double dip”. Buy gift cards to get points and then use the gift cards to buy merchandise and get more points. In the case of this 9X deal, it is possible to get 19 points per dollar (or more):
- 1X points from your credit card (or more, since some credit cards offer 2X points or more).
- 9X points from buying gift cards.
- 9X points from buying merchandise with the gift cards.
- Total: 19X (or more)
One of the more interesting opportunities in the points & miles game is the Southwest Companion Pass. Anytime you earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year, you get a pass which lets you bring along a companion at no extra charge (other than security fees) for an unlimited number of flights (paid or award flights) for the rest of this calendar year and all of the next calendar year. And, significantly, points earned from the Southwest shopping portal do count towards the 110,000 points needed.
Why am I so sure that points from the portal count? For one, two years ago I earned a companion pass by double dipping through the portal to buy (and then later sell) tablet computers from Sears. And, I know that it is still working based on recent experience. Notice that SWA shows that I’ve earned 1,260 qualifying points so far this year:
All of those points came from an $84 purchase I made through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal (during the JC Penney 15X deal):
Gift cards allowed
Sears has flip-flopped often about whether or not they allow gift card purchases to count towards portal bonuses. Fortunately, Sears has recently flipped back (or flopped back?) to allowing gift cards, at least through Cartera run portals (which includes most mile-earning portals). Big Habitat broke this news here. Regarding buying gift cards at Sears, the portal now says:
“Eligible for rewards on purchase of gift cards effective from and after June 1, 2014.”
If you plan to buy gift cards to get points, make sure that text is still there before you buy (see the last sentence, above). During a past deal, Sears changed the T&C mid-stream, twice. For details, see: Sears gift cards and the mysterious case of changing terms and conditions.
Types of Gift Cards
There are four ways to buy gift cards from Sears.com and I believe they will all work towards earning points:
- Gift cards by mail (physical gift cards): When buying these, text on the screen says “Sold by Kmart and Fulfilled by Kmart.” This often makes people nervous about whether or not they’ll earn portal points. In my experience, this approach always earns points even when the portal terms & conditions say no to gift cards. Of course, this could change at any time, but that has been my experience as recently as October 2013. Note that if you have any kind of automatic bonus from your credit card for shopping at Sears (such as a current Bank of America 10% offer), this will not count since your credit card will show the purchase as being from Kmart.
- Gift cards by e-mail (e-gift cards): These are sold by Sears. In past experience, if the portal says no to gift cards then e-gift card purchases do not result in points earned. So, only buy these as long as the T&C explicitly states that gift card purchases are allowed.
- Printed gift cards: I believe these to be identical to e-gift cards in terms of whether or not they’ll result in portal points.
- Reload gift cards: If you have an existing gift card, you can reload it at Sears.com up to $500 maximum value. At times this has worked for getting points even when the T&C says no. That said, I don’t have any recent experience with this option to give a recommendation about it.
Thursday morning I started a small experiment to make sure each type of gift card works. I bought one of each type (except for the printed type since I believe those to be the same as e-gift cards). Unfortunately, it will probably be a week or so before I receive confirmation of points earned so it will be too late for this particular promotion. However, it will be useful information for the next promotion that rolls around.
Gift card order verification
With most gift card orders, Sears calls to verify your identity before releasing the purchase. If the process takes too long, you can expedite the process by calling Sears first. Have your order number(s) handy and call this number:
Be prepared to answer a number of questions to prove your identity.
Only 15 gift cards per order
Sears.com will accept no more than 15 gift cards per order when using gift cards to buy merchandise.
Combine with recent promo deal
Don’t forget that Kmart and Sears are still running a promotion in which you get a free $5 promo gift card when buying either $25 Kmart gift cards at Kmart or $50 Sears gift cards at Sears (both in-store). Full details of this promotion can be found here: A deal that’s better than it looks.
Using gift cards
Sears gift cards can be really handy for general use. They can be used at Sears for merchandise, car maintenance, eye care, etc. They can also be used at Kmart, Crafstman, Kenmore, PartsDirect, Sears Outlet, and even with My Gopher for online grocery purchases. So, if you don’t have an immediate need for Sears’ merchandise, it may be worth stocking up on gift cards to get rewards now, and then use the gift cards later.
It’s even possible to buy travel (airfare, for example) with Sears gift cards, but its not easy. For full details please see: Earn more miles (many more) for any flight, any hotel, any cruise.
Gift card upgrades and sales
If you’re not interested in Sears’ products or gift cards, another option is to buy Sears’ gift cards and then upgrade them to other gift cards at Sears or Kmart. At Sears, you would have to find the gift card rack containing gift cards other than for Sears and Kmart. This gift card rack often has $100 Visa gift cards available for $105.95 as well as a number of merchant gift cards with no fee. I’ve never had any trouble using a physical Sears gift card or a printed e-gift card to buy other gift cards at Sears.
Kmart is a different story. Kmart’s rule is that you cannot buy gift cards with gift cards. In practice, though, some cashiers allow it. Some store registers are hard coded not to allow Amex, Visa, and MasterCard gift cards, though, so go for merchant gift cards instead. Maybe throw a few into your cart with a bunch of groceries just to be safe. Also note that Kmart requires a manager override to apply e-gift cards, so stick with physical gift cards if you plan to go this route!
Another option is to sell your gift cards to a reseller. Physical gift cards often sell for more than e-gift cards. Either sell Sears gift cards directly, or upgrade them to more valuable gift cards (such as gas gift cards) first. You can find current resale rates at GiftCardGranny.com.
Don’t forget to earn Shop Your Way Rewards points
Sears’ has its own loyalty program called Shop Your Way Rewards (SYWR) which typically offers the equivalent of 1% back for purchases (but sometimes offers even more). Shop Your Way Rewards points can be used to pay for future purchases. When I have several Sears’ purchases to make, I do them one at a time (when practical) so as to earn SYWR points that can be applied to the next order.
Don’t forget coupons
First, go to ShopYourWay.com, click on “coupons”, and click “Load to My Account” for each coupon that you may want to use. Also check out the coupon codes listed in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. Currently, they show the following:
- SAVE15: $15 off tool orders of $75 or more
- SEARS2014: $5 off orders of $50 or more
- SEARS35OFF300: Extra $35 off Sears.com orders of $300 or more
Putting it all together
Here are a few opportunities that are made possible with this deal:
- Buy things you need: This is the obvious option. If there are things you were planning to buy anyway, you might as well earn lots of points doing so. One caution: if you double dip and buy items with gift cards, you will not get an extended warranty or other protections from your credit card. Sears does have a price matching policy so it is possible to do well even when they don’t appear to be competitive.
- Buy gift cards for future use: If you know you’ll spend money at Sears, Kmart, or other related brands in the near future, you could buy gift cards now in order to earn the extra 9X points and then use those gift cards later either online or in-store.
- Buy and sell merchandise: Example: buy $6,111 worth of merchandise to earn a companion pass. Resell items that you don’t want or need. If you lose 20% of your money through buying and selling, it will cost you $1,222 for 110,000 points (1.1 cents per point) + a companion pass. Personally, I think that buying and selling has too much risk to go for it at this price point, but some might want to consider it.
- Buy and sell gift cards: Example: buy $12,225 worth of gift cards to earn a companion pass and 110,025 points. If you sell the gift cards at a 16% loss, your total cost will be $1956. Better, would be to upgrade the gift cards to $100 Visa gift cards (each with a $5.95 fee) in-store. Unfortunately, that means finding 115 $100 gift cards to buy. That’s extremely unlikely.
Questions and Answers
Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, but please first read through these pre-written questions and answers:
Q: How can I make sure to get the miles from this promotion? I tend to have bad luck with portals.
A: Make sure to disable ad blockers, browser toolbars, and other plug-ins before shopping as they can interfere with the portal tracking. Please see “How to ensure your portal points” for more. Also, if you plan to buy lots of gift cards, spread the risk by making several separate purchases. Make sure to go back through the portal each time you make a purchase.
Q: Do I have to pay with a Southwest credit card to get 9X?
A: Nope. Pay with whichever card gives you the best rewards.
Q: What about physical gift cards? Can I get points for those? When I put a physical gift card in my cart, it says “Sold by Kmart and Fulfilled by Kmart” so I don’t believe I’ll earn miles for this purchase.
A: It’s true that physical gift cards are processed by Kmart, but many past experiments have shown that you will still get portal miles for clicking through to Sears and buying physical gift cards. Of course, they probably won’t be delivered in time for a double-dip.
Q: How long will it take for my points to post?
A: Most point earning portals show pending results between 3 to 7 days after a purchase. For very large purchases (>$500), it often takes longer. Sometimes it can take up to 4 weeks or so for the transaction to show up in your account within a portal. It will take considerably longer for the points to actually post to your account for use.
Q: Can you buy Sears gift cards online with other Sears’ gift cards?
Q: Can you use Sears’ gift cards in-store to buy other merchant gift cards?
A: Yes, it is possible, but it depends upon the cashier allowing it. Most Sears’ stores now have gift card racks with gift cards from multiple merchants. If you’re lucky, you may find $100 Visa gift cards available for $105.95. There have even been reports of Amazon gift card sightings, but my local Sears store doesn’t seem to carry those. I’ve never had any trouble using a physical Sears gift card or a printed e-gift card to buy other gift cards at Sears.
Kmart is a different story. Kmart’s rule is that you cannot buy gift cards with gift cards. In practice, though, some cashiers allow it. Some stores are hard coded not to allow Amex, Visa, and MasterCard gift cards, though, so go for merchant gift cards instead. Maybe throw a few into your cart with a bunch of groceries just to be safe. Also note that Kmart requires a manager override to apply e-gift cards, so stick with physical gift cards if you plan to go this route!
Q: Can you combine multiple Sears’ gift cards into one gift card?
A: Not online, but you may be able to do so in-store. I reported on my experience with this here: Combining Sears gift cards.
Q: Can I use Home Improvement gift cards to pay for items at Sears and get miles through this promotion?
A: Yes, that should work…. It used to be possible to buy physical gift cards from Sears this way too, but that stopped working. You might be able to buy e-gift cards this way, or reload an existing gift card. One caution: when using Home Improvement gift cards to pay, Sears’ fraud department may deny your order. Personally, I don’t think it is worth the extra hassle to buy and use Home Improvement gift cards.
Q: Is there anything worth buying and selling?
A: I haven’t researched this yet, so I can’t say for sure. Often, good bets are DSLR cameras where you get an additional discount if you throw in a camera lens. Also look for popular tablets or laptops that sell at a competitive price. Expect to lose some money if you do this. Hopefully, though, the value of the miles earned will far outweigh the loss of money.
Q: Are there any great sales going on at Sears right now?
A: Reader suggestions?
Q: The terms say “Not eligible on purchases made with coupon or discount codes that are not found on this site.” Is that true?
A: I’ve always received points from Sears when using coupon codes even if they were not shown in the portal, but there are no guarantees. It’s certainly safer to use the discount codes displayed in the portal.
Q: How many gift cards can I apply to one order online?
Q: Do Sears Marketplace items earn points?
A: Yes, as long as the “Add to Cart” button is there and you do not leave Sears.com you should earn points.
Q: Do tires count? The T&C says Not eligible on auto services.
A: Yes,tires are fine. I believe that the auto services exclusion has to do with making an appointment online for automobile services that you haven’t yet paid for.
Q: Can I get points for Craftsman or Kenmore products? The T&C says not eligible on Craftsman, Kenmore (and several other stores) purchases.
A: As long as you buy the item from Sears.com, you should get points. Those exclusions have to do with going to the other sites such as Kenmore.com, etc.