The mysterious case of the secret gift card rack

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Since Sears owns Kmart and Lands’ End, it comes as no surprise to find Sears, Kmart, and Lands’ End gift cards on display almost everywhere you turn within a Sears department store.  In some Sears’ stores, though, there is a special gift card rack – one that holds other gift cards: various restaurants, sometimes BP, and recently Visa & MasterCard gift cards.  We’ll call this the secret gift card rack.

Last year, I bought a few thousand dollars worth of Sears gift cards when Sears offered 10 points per dollar in the Ultimate Rewards Mall.  I found at the time that it was possible to use those gift cards at Kmart to upgrade to other, better gift cards.  Now, to be clear, Kmart doesn’t sanction this.  If you ask if it is allowed you’ll be told no.  However, if you pile a few gift cards onto the belt along with a cart full of staples, I’ve found that most (but not all) cashiers will allow you to pay for everything with your Sears’ gift cards.

Finding the rack

I wanted to do the same thing at Sears.  I had a vague memory of having seen an interesting gift card rack in Sears’ electronics section, so I returned to Sears to look for it.  It wasn’t there.  I scouted around the store, but could find only Sears’ own gift cards. 

Weeks later, I went to Sears for some other reason (maybe even to buy something) and I entered via an entrance I don’t usually use.  Voilà!  The secret gift card rack was there!  It was positioned so that only people entering the store from outside could see the interesting gift cards.  On the other side of the rack, facing the store where most people walk by, were the standard Sears, Kmart, and Lands’ End cards.  Over the next few months, I used my Sears’ gift cards regularly to buy BP and EBay gift cards (EBay gift cards have since disappeared from Sears and Kmart).  I found that I didn’t even need to add any other items to the purchase.  I never had a single cashier complain.

The disappearing rack

After using up my Sears’ gift cards (only partially through gift card upgrades), I didn’t visit Sears again for quite a while.  I returned recently, though, after buying more gift cards when Sears again offered 10 points per dollar in the Ultimate Rewards Mall (see “Sears 10X: Leveraging the Deal” and “Sears 20X“).  This time, though, the secret gift card rack was gone.  Uh oh.  I was afraid that they had completely stopped carrying interesting gift cards. 

I began a new search.  I checked the electronics section.  No dice.  I swept the store, aisle by aisle.  Nothing.  When I was close to giving up, I spotted a suspicious looking gift card rack near another exit.  This one was angled such that whether you were entering or exiting the store, you would only see one side of the rack.  That one side, of course, held the standard Sears’ gift cards.  I clawed my way past a display of jackets to get behind the gift card rack to see the other side.  And there it was!  I had once again found the secret gift card rack!

The re-disappearance

Last week, the secret gift card rack disappeared again.  This time, I knew what to look for.  I had learned the gift card rack’s habits and knew where it was likely to hide.  Sure enough, I found the secret rack at the next exit over.  Once again, the rack was positioned so that those entering or exiting the store would see only the Sears’ gift cards.  One needs to brush past the cobwebs to the other side to find the gold.

11X (or more) through the secret rack

When Sears offers 10 points per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, you really earn at least 11 points per dollar: 10 points come from the shopping portal, and at least one point from your credit card.  If you can find the secret rack and upgrade your Sears’ gift cards, this is an amazing opportunity to earn 11X for many types of purchases!

From gas cards to bank cards

In my last trip to the secret gift card rack I discovered both bad and good news. The bad news was that they had apparently stopped selling BP gift cards.  I was hoping that they were just temporarily out of stock, but I couldn’t even find a place-holder for BP cards, so it wasn’t encouraging.  Up until now I had been indirectly getting 11X for gas fill-ups by using Sears gift cards bought at 11X to upgrade to BP cards.

The good news was that Sears has started selling $100 Visa and MasterCard gift cards. These cards open up a new option for earning extra points for all purchases. The cards each come with an annoying $5.99 fee, but that’s not bad if you pay with Sears gift cards for which you earned 11 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Even if you value Ultimate Rewards points at only a penny each, you are 5X ahead with this technique. This is something to consider for those unable to take advantage of other “5X everywhere” techniques (e.g. “One card to rule them all“). By stocking up on Sears’ gift cards and upgrading in-store at Sears (or Kmart) to bank gift cards you can earn 5X, indirectly, for all of your purchases.

When will 10X return?

There’s really no way to know if or when Sears will be 10X again.  Each month I check the latest Ultimate Rewards Mall specials (with help from HikerT’s web site) and report the best of them.  In addition to these monthly specials, last year the Ultimate Rewards Mall held special holiday bonus promotions for one day each.  Sears 10X was one of those specials.  It’s too early to know if they’ll repeat this, but I hope they do!

Reader explorations

Have you tried to hunt down the secret gift card rack in your local Sears?  If so, were you successful?  Is it as sneaky as the one near me?

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