As I’m sure you know, credit card companies frequently offer huge sign-up bonuses. NerdWallet, for example, lists seven current bonus offers worth at least $500 for signing up for credit cards and meeting minimum spend thresholds. Signing up for the cards is the easy part. Meeting the minimum spend thresholds can be harder. Recently I posted a way to meet minimum spend thresholds without breaking a sweat. In that post I detailed how to easily buy and liquidate American Express gift cards in order to meet your spend requirements. For some, this will still be the best way to go, but in this post I’ll offer up another option that will let you meet the spend requirements and earn huge numbers of extra bonus miles.
In previous posts I’ve talked about how the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall offers 10 extra points per dollar spent at Sears. See, for example, this post or this one. What I didn’t know at the time was that you do not need to use your Chase card when making purchases through the Ultimate Rewards mall. A reader named Scott pointed this out to me yesterday. He has reported success in going through the mall to buy Sears gift cards, and then going through the mall a second time to make Sears purchases using the gift cards. What this means is that he was able to get not just 10 extra points per dollar spent at Sears, but 20! This amounts to, at minimum, a 20% rebate on Sears’ purchases since Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for cash for a penny each. Better yet, use the points to purchase travel via Ultimate Rewards and the same points amount to a 25% rebate. And, best of all, if you value airline miles at 1.5 cents each, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points directly to airline miles, which then amounts to a 30% rebate! As if that wasn’t enough, remember that if you have the Chase Sapphire card, you will get an annual bonus of 7% for all points earned during the year. So, those 20 extra points earned for Sears’ purchases will net you an extra 1.4 points per dollar spent at the end of the year! Or, if you have the Chase Ink Bold card and a Chase checking account, instead of a 7% bonus, you can get a 20% end of year points bonus!
So, the basic idea here is to use this trick to meet your minimum credit card spend and get huge numbers of extra miles! For the purpose of this example, I will assume that you signed up for the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card which requires $5000 in spend to get the full 25000 points. I’m purposely picking a non-Chase card just to show that it is possible. Adjust the directions below to your situation. Wherever I say to use the SPG card, use instead whatever card you have for which you need to meet spend requirements. Also, this example assumes you need to spend $5000. For your card, you may need to spend less, which is perfectly fine. OK, so with that out of the way, here is how to do it, step by step:
NOTE: AS OF NOVEMBER 2011, SEARS PURCHASE BONUSES HAVE DROPPED TO 6 POINTS PER DOLLAR
Step 1: Make sure you have access to the Ultimate Rewards Mall
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card or the Chase Ink Bold business charge card, then you’re good to go. If you don’t have either, I highly recommend signing up for one (or both) since they offer great sign-up bonuses, and they offer great rewards for day to day spend as well. Once you get one of these cards, make sure you can sign into your account at chase.com. From there, you should see a link to Ultimate Rewards.
Step 2: Sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card (or any new credit card offering a big bonus)
If you haven’t already picked out which credit cards to sign up for, or if you’re still wondering whether it’s a good idea, you’ll find a few useful links here.
Step 3: Browse to the Ultimate Rewards Mall
Browse to www.ultimaterewards.com/mall and login with your Chase ID and password. Find and click on Sears to shop at the Sears online store:
Step 4: Buy $5000 worth of Sears gift cards using your SPG card
Sears has a limit of $500 per card, so you will need to buy at least 10 cards. I’d recommend, though, getting a mix of different value cards since smaller denomination cards can come in very handy as gifts (and, the holidays are coming up, you know!). I also recommend ordering the physical cards rather than the e-cards (or a mix of both) because if you need to it is possible to sell the physical cards to PlasticJungle for 83 cents on the dollar. People have reported having trouble trying to do the same with e-cards. But, only sell the cards if you need the money immediately for paying off your credit card bill. Otherwise, there are much better uses for the card (as I’ll show later in this post).
Note that you will most likely get a call from Sears’ fraud department. That’s OK! You haven’t done anything wrong, and they are just doing their job. Be polite and answer their questions and you’ll make it easily through this step.
At this point you will have now met your minimum spend requirements AND earned 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points! Remember that you can transfer these points instantly into valuable airline miles or hotel points!
Step 5: Use the Sears gift cards wisely
The reason this trick works is that Sears gift cards are incredibly versatile, and they never expire. So, if you can afford to, take your time and spend the cards for purchases you would have made anyway. The cards can be used at Sears, Land’s End, or Kmart. As much as possible, you should use the gift cards online because you can go through the Ultimate Rewards mall a second time in order to make these purchases! This means that it is possible to turn the $5000 purchase of gift cards into an additional 50,000 Ultimate Reward points. In total, you will have earned 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points from this trick and that’s before counting your annual extra bonus of 7% (for Chase Sapphire card holders) or 20% (for Chase Ink Bold + Checking account holders)! Also, remember to sign up for Sears’ Shop Your Way program which will give you an extra 1% rebate on all purchases.
If you’re still scratching your head about how you can possibly make good use of $5000 in gift cards, here are some ideas:
As mentioned earlier, you can give the gift cards away directly as gifts. A better use, though, is to order gifts through the online store so as to earn bonus points a second time!
Shop for clothing:
Land’s End sells terrific clothes, and they accept Sears’ gift cards!
Whether you need shampoo, tissues, detergent, etc, it’s all available at Kmart.
Automotive needs, home improvements, appliances, tools, electronics:
It’s all available at Sears.
Consider buying (online, of course) new toys and warm clothing to give to the needy for the holidays. Keep your receipts and take deductions at tax time!
Sell the cards:
If you really need cash, you can turn the gift cards into real money through PlasticJungle. While this deal is currently available, I can’t guarantee that it will continue (especially if this hack becomes popular!). They currently pay 83 cents for each dollar of Sears gift card value. On the PlasticJungle website, make sure to select “Get Paid” rather than selecting either of the Instant Funding options:
If you can afford to have your money locked into Sears gift cards, you can earn amazing amounts of extra miles and points. Remember that all of these points are in addition to the miles and points you will earn from credit card signup bonuses!