The Sears double dip is alive but hobbled

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I need more Sears gift cards like I need a hole in my head. However, Laboratory experiments must go on so I’ve recently bought no less than 5 new gift cards…

Sears has long been my favorite and most reliable double dip merchant.  Sears regularly offers fantastic point earnings through popular portals.  In the past, I’ve seen 10X through AAdvantage Shopping, 10X through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, and 15X through Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping.  Even better, it has usually been possible to double-dip: get points for buying gift cards and then get points again when buying merchandise using those gift cards.  This has meant that it was easy to double point earnings: 20X through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, 30X through Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping, etc.

A change in terms

On several shopping portals, a new phrase has appeared in the Sears’ terms & conditions:

Not eligible on gift cards, gift certificates or any other similar cash equivalents as of 11/1/12.

Uh oh.  Does this mean the double dip is dead?

Experiments

In addition to testing the Sears’ double dip, I wanted to test the limits of my new credit cards: the U.S. Bank Cash+ and the Discover More card (see “Cash+ Update” and “Discover More Experiments in Progress“).  Here is what I did…

Test 1: Go through ShopDiscover portal to Sears to buy a physical gift card and pay with my Discover card.  Would I earn portal cash back (10%) and Discover’s quarterly bonus (5%) for online purchases?  Result: SUCCESS!  I Earned a combined 15% cash back!

Test 2: Go through ShopDiscover portal to Sears to buy an e-gift card and pay with my Discover card. Would I earn portal cash back (10%) and Discover’s quarterly bonus (5%) for online purchases?  Result: MIXED.  I earned 5% back thanks to Discover’s quarterly online purchase bonus, but received nothing from the ShopDiscover portal.

Test 3: Go through ShopDiscover portal to Sears to buy a physical gift card and pay with my Cash+ card.  Would I earn portal cash back (10%) and 5% from Cash+ for department store purchases?  Result: MIXED: I received 10% cash back from the ShopDiscover portal, but only 1% back from Cash+.

Test 4: Go through ShopDiscover portal to Sears to buy merchandise and pay with a gift card. Would I earn portal cash back (10%) despite not using my Discover card?  Result: SUCCESS.  I earned 10% cash back for purchase made entirely with a gift card!

Test 5: Go to Kmart in person to buy a gift card and pay with my Cash+ card.  Would I earn 5% back from Cash+ for department store purchases?  Result: FAIL.  U.S. Bank did not count Kmart as a department store.

Test 6: Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears to buy a physical gift card and pay with my Sapphire Preferred card. Would I earn 6X from the Ultimate Rewards Mall?  Result: SUCCESS!  I earned 6X points.

Test 7: Go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to Sears to buy an e-gift card and pay with my Sapphire Preferred card. Would I earn 6X from the Ultimate Rewards Mall?  Result: FAIL.  No points earned.

Results Explained

The experiment results teach us a lot:

  • You can earn points or cash back when buying physical gift cards from Sears.com.
  • You cannot earn points or cash back (anymore) when buying e-gift cards from Sears.com.
  • You can earn points or cash back when using gift cards at Sears.com.
  • The ShopDiscover portal works regardless of how you pay.  That is, you can pay with a gift card or a credit card other than Discover and still get cash back.
  • The US Bank Cash+ card does not consider Sears.com or Kmart (in person) to be department stores.  I had picked “department stores” as one of my 5% categories this quarter in the hopes of finding a new double dip opportunity.

In other words, it is still possible to double-dip with Sears, but it takes more planning than before.  Previously it was possible to hop on a one day sale by buying e-gift cards in the morning and then using them to make your purchases in the afternoon.  Now, however, you need to figure in the delay in processing and shipping of physical gift cards (in my experience, it takes approximately 5 days). 

Currently, the best deals I know of are 10% cash back through ShopDiscover, 9% cash back through Ebates, 6X through the Ultimate Rewards Mall, and 6X through United’s MileagePlus Shopping portal.  As a side note, the Ultimate Rewards Mall started the month with Sears at 5X, but quietly updated to 6X mid-month.

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