Practice makes points

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This past weekend, Sears ran a promotion in which they offered 9 points per dollar through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal.  9X is very good, but the deal was particularly interesting because the terms and conditions for Sears within the portal had recently changed to now explicitly allow gift card purchases to count for earning points.  This meant that it was possible to buy gift cards to get 9 points per dollar, and then use the gift cards to buy merchandise for another 9 points per dollar to get a total of 18 points per dollar.  I wrote about this first via a Quick Deal post (here), and then through a more complete blog post follow-up (here).

I’m sure that some people went big with this deal in order to earn lots of points and, in some cases, a Southwest Companion Pass.  In my case, though, I saw this as a good chance to practice… to test the waters for the next bigger and better deal.  Given the new terms & conditions, would gift cards really earn points?  What about e-gift cards?  What about gift card reloads?  And, how quick is the turnaround?  If/when Sears does another big promotion will there be time to buy gift cards and use them within the deal’s time constraints?  Below is what I learned myself and what I heard from readers.  Please comment below with your own experiences as well.

Points were earned

Thursday morning I purchased a $10 physical gift card, a $15 e-gift card, and I reloaded $20 onto an existing physical gift card.  I checked yesterday morning and found points pending within the portal for all three purchases:

Sears_SWA_gc_results

And, on my credit card account, the purchases showed up as Sears for the e-gift card and for the gift card reload, and as Kmart for the purchase of the physical gift card.  This piece of data is important for situations in which credit card companies or other organizations automatically give rewards based on what merchant you buy from.  It’s also important for anyone with a Home Improvement Gift Card: those can be used to purchase e-gift cards or to reload gift cards, but not to purchase physical gift cards (unless you include other items from Sears in the cart at the same time).

Timing is everything

In order to double dip for 18X points, it’s necessary for Sears to deliver the gift cards before the promotion is over.  Here are the results showing how long it took for each of my gift cards to be delivered:

  • Reload gift card: Immediate.  As soon as I finished an online security verification process, I completed the purchase, and my gift card balance was available.  As long as this continues to hold, this is the way to go for future Sears deals.
  • E-gift card: I ordered the gift card on Thursday morning and it was delivered Sunday afternoon.  That’s a terribly long wait for an electronic gift card.  To be fair, I didn’t call to try to rush the order as I recommended in my previous post.  So, hopefully others received their e-gift cards much more quickly.  On the other hand, one Quick Deals reader says that he called and was told that it would take 5 to 7 days to process.  My guess is that the people he talked to were confused with the difference between e-gift cards and physical gift cards, but I can’t be sure.  I’m very interested in hearing from readers about your experience in ordering e-gift cards.  Please comment below.
  • Physical (by mail) gift card: Amazingly, the same day I ordered this card I received an email saying that it had been shipped.  Unsurprisingly, I haven’t received it yet.  Its rare for portal deals to last long enough to wait for the US postal service to show up with your gift cards, but I suppose that paying for expedited shipping might work in some cases.

Home Improvement sweetens the deal

While Office Depot no longer allows the purchase of variable load bank gift cards or reload cards with credit cards, they do allow the purchase of variable load merchant gift cards such as Whole Foods, Amazon.com, and the Home Improvement gift card.  This is important because: 1) You can pay with a credit card that earns 5X at office supply stores (Chase Ink cards and Amex SimplyCash, for example); and 2) You can use the Home Improvement Gift Cards for purchases as Sears.

So, with the right credit cards, it’s possible to sweeten these Sears portal deals by first buying Home Improvement gift cards, and then using them to buy Sears e-gift cards (or to reload an existing gift card), and then buy merchandise.  The downside?  Sometimes Sears’ fraud department won’t approve purchases of gift cards made with Home Improvement Gift Cards.  Yesterday, though, one reader tweeted that he had success buying 5 $500 e-gift cards this way.  My advice: only go this route if you’re willing to take the chance that you won’t be able to use the Home Improvement Gift Cards in this manner.  Yes, there is a chance of earning an extra 4 points per dollar through this extra step, but at best it is extra work and at worst it won’t work at all.

Reselling Practice

If your plan is to buy and resell to try to get most or all of your money back, it’s a great idea to start small and try out reselling services like Fulfillment by Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, etc.  If you’re interested in selling lots of items, I think that Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is the best way to go (since they do most of the work).  However, FBA can be very confusing, so please read this first: Tips for selling on Amazon.

What’s the chance of a new and bigger deal?

Sears has made a habit of running big portal promotions every so often for years now.  The best I can remember was last October when they offered 16 miles per dollar through the United MileagePlus portal (for MileagePlus cardholders) which meant 32X when double-dipping.  Soon after that deal, they offered 12X through the AAdvantage eShopping portal (or, 24X with the double-dip).  This past weekend’s deal was clearly timed to be a father’s day deal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 9X or bigger deal before the end of summer.

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