Sears. (Shudder). With apologies to the Sears Holdings Corporation, just thinking of the word Sears brings back an avalanche of blood-chilling memories, involving four-hour Saturday afternoons at the mall trying on hideous back-to-school clothing (or, at least, the stuff from the clearance rack in the back of the store). My mom, bless her soul, had an internal fashion clock that always ran about ten years slow, so that even in the early eighties, she was buying me butterfly collar shirts and corduroy pants that the Partridge Family wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
Fast-forward to the present-day and Sears is more closely associated with silverware, lawn furniture, and rotary saws. For the merchandise buying crowd, Sears represents one of the prime conduits of bonus miles and points into your frequent flyer accounts. Let’s look at a few ways to squeeze even more miles out of your Sears purchases.
Sears frequently offered 10 miles per dollar spent through shopping portals. Goosing that up to 20X was simple: First, you’d buy electronic Sears gift cards through a shopping portal, then use the gift cards to buy your actual stuff. Alas, like your favorite Genesis mix tape, that’s now a thing of the past. But you can still get close to 20X – you just need to make a little side trip to your friendly neighborhood office supply store first.
Still sore at said office supply store for dumping the popular brand of reloads and the $500 cards? Something that helped me get over it is the Home Improvement Gift Card, a new reloadable gift card that’s good for use at many hardware and paint stores – because, lo and behold, among the list of stores that accept this card is Sears.
So we start off by buying a HIGC for $3.95 at a bonus category merchant – with a card offering the highest payout – and loading $500 onto it. This can potentially net 5 points per dollar.
Before using the HIGC online, you’ll have to go the HIGC website and register your zip code:
- Click on a prominent box labelled “Check Your Balance.”
- After entering your card’s digits, you’ll get a screen called “Card History”.
- On the right-hand side of that screen is a section titled “Card Balance.”
- Click on “Register Your Zip Code” – you can figure out the rest.
The next step is to go through a shopping portal to the Sears.com website, and purchase physical gift cards. The electronic ones won’t generate points anymore, so you’ll have to wait a week or so for the gift cards to arrive in the mail. At least shipping is free.
You won’t be able to actually buy a $500 Sears gift card – you can only use $499 of the funds from the HIGC, because the Sears website will place a $1 “test charge” on it to make sure you’re not a hacker up to some cyber-monkey business. That means you’ll have to choose a custom value of $499 for your Sears gift card, and, after you’re all done, you’ll still have One Big Fat Dollar sitting on your Home Improvement Gift Card. It’s still good. Take it to Ace Hardware and buy yourself an old-timey cold root beer.
Over the past couple of months, airline shopping portals have offered brief double-miles promotions for Sears: United’s MileagePlus and US Airways’ Dividend Miles portals offered 6X, and American AAdvantage’s portal offered 8X. So how do you find out about these double-mile opportunities? The short answer: You’ve got to sign up for all of the shopping portals’ promotional emails and look for a double miles promotion. I’ll talk more about in a future blog post.
You can also search EvReward for the best portal payout, though it may not pull up limited-time promotions.
Okay, let’s recap our Sears miles-maximizing strategy:
- First, we buy $500 Home Improvement Gift Cards at bonus category merchants, using a card with the highest category payout.
- We then go through an online portal (offering the highest payout) and buy Sears physical gift cards in increments of $499.
- Once the Sears cards arrive in the mail, we go through the Sears website a second time (using a portal) and buy our goodies – that’s a triple dip for the win, baby.
- Depending on which promotions are running, we’ve racked up anywhere from 13x to 21x on our spending so far.
So, what should we buy at Sears? I’ll talk about that in the next article. But you can safely assume it won’t be more corduroy pants (or as I called them, Girl Repellant. Sigh.)
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49