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Take advantage of Shop Your Way Rewards at Sears and Kmart to get items for free or very cheap, like these items purchased for only $6 after using rewards.

Maggie Hensler, For the Quad-City Times

As more people move to online shopping, companies have to step up their game to compete, or they risk having to shut down physical stores. Sears Holdings has certainly seen some rough times as they’ve moved to close unprofitable stores in recent years. Locally, we have lost both Sears and Kmart stores. Even so, I’ve continued to shop at both stores because of the deals they offer. If you learn how to effectively shop at Sears and Kmart, you’ll certainly reap the rewards. Literally.

Join Shop Your Way Rewards

If you shop at Kmart and Sears and haven’t joined the rewards program, you have been missing out on lots of free money. There are so many offers throughout the year and it’s completely free for you to join. There is also a Shop Your Way Max program that for $39 annually, you get free two-day shipping, plus other perks, like free points. The Max program offers $3 in free points every month, almost paying for the program.

Shop online, pick up in store

I do love shopping online, and though I like to have items shipped to my home, I rarely get items shipped from Sears or Kmart. I have only done free trials of the Max program, and they do have a low $25 threshold for free shipping, but I honestly rarely spend that much actual money there in a shopping trip. Because Kmart is no longer conveniently located for me, I do as much free store pick-up to Sears as I can. But occasionally items are not available to be picked up at Sears, so I make the trip to Kmart on occasion. Sears even has free in-vehicle pick-up when you use their app, so you don’t even have to get out of your car. Max members also get 5 percent back in points for using store pick-up instead of shipping.

Earn rewards in store/online

Basically everything you buy will earn you points; as a regular member you earn 1 percent back in points, and a Max member earns 2 percent. This is a nice benefit, but the best deals are bonus offers that they often have. Recently I’ve seen offers for spend $20 in clothing, get $20 back in points, as well as a similar offer for fine jewelry. There was also an offer for buying the Kmart brand of household products. Take advantage of these types of offers and buy things you probably need anyway, then you have “free” money to spend later. Most offers are not “rolling,” meaning you cannot use rewards to buy items and then also earn the bonus rewards.

Use 'freecash' offers

Throughout the year, you’ll get plenty of offers under the “freecash” program. Basically, it’s just what it sounds like: free money. Often times it will be something like my current offer, $7 to use on a $40 purchase, but other times, it’s something like $8 off an $8 purchase. I’ve gotten even higher offers at other times. There are often lots of things excluded on these, like groceries and beauty products, but there are still plenty of things to buy. In August, I had a couple offers that allowed me to get soccer cleats and shin guards for my preschooler for just a couple bucks. Shortly after that, I had four different offers, and was able to get seven items for $6. Around Christmas, I also got some nice offers and got myself a scarf for a few cents. If you shop wisely, you can definitely find things to get for free or very cheap. You definitely need to watch your account though, because sometimes they don’t send you an email for the available offers.

Earn rewards elsewhere

There are Shop Your Way partners that allow you to earn points by clicking on partner websites from the Shop Your Way website. If you link your debit card to your Shop Your Way account, there are also a few local restaurants you can earn points at, like a couple Rudy’s locations and a Burger King location. That’s all you have to do; I always forget about this, so it’s a nice surprise when I have these points in my account.

Don’t give up on Sears or Kmart. There are still great deals at the stores if you know what to look for. Take advantage of those offers to really save yourself money on a range of products that you otherwise might not get deals on, like the shin guards I bought my son. You never know what awesome offers you might receive.