A frustrating yet successful morning rolling points


Yesterday morning, I checked Sears and Kmart to see if there were any new 100% back in points offers.  I hit the jackpot at Kmart in the Weekly Member Deals section of their website, and  I reported my findings via Quick Deals.

rolling points

In the post “Roll gift cards into points for triple rewards” I explained in detail why deals like these can be worth pursuing.  The basic idea is that its possible to get portal rewards three times: once when buying gift cards, a second time when using those gift cards to buy 100% back in points items, and a third time when using those points to buy stuff you actually want or need.  The fact that my Discover It card is enrolled in Discover’s Double Cash Back promotion, makes this all the more appealing.

It is often the case with 100% back in points deals that few items are available for shipping.  Instead, you have to get lucky and find that the item is available at a nearby store for pickup.  This time, though, I found that nearly all of the Vivitar items were available for shipping.  And, there were a lot of them.  I started adding items to my cart, but soon found that there was far more available to buy than I had available in Sears gift cards.  I went ahead and bought what I could, then turned my attention to buying more Sears gift cards.

Items offered for 100% back in points always sell out quickly.  I had to hurry.

Buying Sears gift cards… quickly

Sears offers a number of ways to by gift cards: by mail, by email, printed, and by reloading existing gift cards.  In the past, I’ve found reloading existing gift cards to be the fastest option.  I did the following:

  1. I clicked through Discover Deals to Sears.com
  2. I found the option to check my gift card balance and reload.
  3. I added $500 to a gift card.
  4. I paid with my Discover card (which is registered to this quarter’s 5% Home Improvement and Department Store category).

After going through the above steps, I decided that I needed more than $500, so I repeated the entire process and loaded up a second gift card.  As expected, after that process, the gift cards still had no value.  It takes a while for Sears to process these orders and they usually call to verify your identity with large gift card orders.  As recommended in the Frequent Miler resource page “The complete guide to Sears gift cards,” I called 1-888-396-5299 to expedite my gift card order.  Still, almost an hour passed before the gift cards were actually loaded up.

Loading up my Kmart cart

Luckily, even though I had to wait a while to get my gift card credit, the 100% back in points items were still available.  I found that Kmart would let me add up to 3 of each item to my cart.  So, I systematically went through all of the Vivitar items and added 3 of each to my cart.  On the shopping cart page, I verified that the value of the points I would earn was equal to the pre sales-tax cost of items in my cart.  Then, I proceeded to try to add lots of Shop Your Way coupons to my order.  At first, a couple of coupons seemed to apply, but later it looked like they didn’t apply.  I was bummed about that because I had a coupon to get 15% back in points for electronics.  That would have been an awesome way to get more than 100% back in points.

Trying to check out

After playing with coupons for a while, without any luck, I clicked through to the payment screen.  There I noticed that Kmart was going to charge me about $27 in shipping.  That didn’t make sense: all of the items in the cart were SYW Max eligible (that’s the Sears/Kmart free shipping plan, which I belong to).  I tried to return to the shopping cart page to see what was wrong and got stuck in hourglass land…  That is, the screen showed an indicator that it was refreshing, but the page never seemed to load.  I tried other browsers.  No luck.

Finally, I found that I just had to wait about 10 minutes until the page finally loaded.  I tried removing one of the items in my cart to see if that would fix the shipping cost issue.  I waited another 10 minutes for the page to refresh.  No luck.  I removed another item.  Waited…  And, another item.  Waited…  After what seemed an eternity, the shipping fees finally reset to zero.  Yay!

Trying coupons again

I thought that maybe whatever was wrong with my free shipping settings had also caused problems with my coupons.  So, I clicked the link to Apply my Shop Your Way coupons.  I unloaded the 15% back in points coupon and then reloaded it.  And… the shipping fees returned.  That was not what I wanted.

I clicked the Apply my Shop Your Way coupons link again.  This time I noticed that I had loaded a coupon to get a discount on Shop Your Way Max Shipping.  Aha! Maybe I was inadvertently buying another year’s subscription?  I unloaded that coupon.  Success: the shipping fees went away again.

Then, I tried one more time with the 15% back in points coupon.  This time it worked!

I went back and added one of the items that I had previously removed and to my relief I found that shipping was still free and my 15% coupon still applied.  Then, I decided that I had pushed my luck too far.  So, rather than try to add the remaining items, I went ahead and checked out.

I think that I clicked through from Discover Deals again before the final checkout.  I hope I did.  A lot of time had gone by between the initial click through and final checkout and so it would have been easy for Discover & Kmart to lose the tracking info in the process.  Hopefully I was careful (I usually am).

A small points profit

It appears that the 15% points bonus coupon had a $50 limit (even though the details said that the limit was $150).  Overall I earned $50 (about 8.3%) more in points than I paid, pre-tax:

rolling points

I’ll take it.

Math time (or, “Maths” time for those from the UK)

Here are the rewards I can expect:

  • 5% from Discover It card for current 5% category bonus
  • 5% from Discover Deals for clicking through the portal to reload gift cards
  • 5% from Discover Deals for clicking through the portal to buy 100% back in points items
  • 15% from Discover after 12 months of the Double Cash Back promotion

Total expected Discover Cash Back rewards: 30%.  On $600 spend, that’s about $180!  Plus, as you can see above, I was able to use a coupon to earn $50 extra in points.  Later, when I click through the Discover Deals (or any other) portal again to use the SYW points I earned to buy stuff I need, I’ll earn even more rewards.

Some may point out that the value of the process appears to be diminished a bit by the application of sales tax to this order.  That’s not the case, though.  When I actually use my SYW points later, I won’t be charged sales tax.  So, this was, in effect, a way to pre-pay sales tax.  Please see, Roll gift cards into points for triple rewards, for more details.

What about the junk great stuff I bought?

I expect that the items I bought will be handled in a number of ways:

  1. I may use one or two of the items
  2. I may sell some at a yard sale
  3. I may gift some (some of these can make great stocking stuffers)
  4. I will probably donate many of the items to the Salvation Army or to a similar organization for resale

How will I use those points?

Unfortunately, SYW points can’t be used to buy gift cards so there’s no easy way to turn them into cash.  The best use for them is to buy things that you actually want or need.  So, don’t do these tricks unless you know you can spend the points at Sears, Kmart, Lands End, etc.

In my case, I’m ignoring my own advice.  I don’t have a concrete plan for using the points, but here’s my general approach:

  1. Whenever I have to buy anything, I’ll check to see if I can buy it with SYW points.
  2. I’ll regularly look for ways to liquidate or extend the life of points (and I’ll report those options on this blog, if applicable).
  3. As a last resort, I’ll use points to buy and sell items.  Most likely I won’t get all of my money back, but if I get something like 90% to the dollar, I’ll consider it a win.
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