We’ve been beating around the bush about fraud alerts somewhat repeatedly over the years, but it’s time to explictly call out a principle you should always be following:

Clear fraud alerts as fast as you possibly can.

– MEAB, prolly

Why? There are multiple reasons, but they all boil down to unwanted poking around on your credit card and deposit accounts by someone who’s job is to manage risk and shutdown accounts that feel risky. For specific examples, see:

When you get a fraud alert, clearing it quickly (hopefully) means no one ever looks at your accounts. Side note: If you have to talk to a person and can’t clear an alert in an automated way, you may have better luck with foreign call center customer service representatives who don’t understand exactly what thegiftcardshop.com is and how a bunch of purchases there may raise eyebrows.

Have a nice weekend!

Happy [Rebecca] Black Friday!

  1. PayPal has a 4% cashback deal for six more days at Safeway with apparently no transaction size limit. Even better, according to brykupono at reddit, you can cycle the deal repeatedly for up to an hour by re-adding the offer to your account after each transaction.

    To trigger the deal you’ll have to checkout with a PayPal QR code from your mobile app which is interesting for other reasons too, like for hitting Chase Freedom Q4 bonus categories or for other less obvious games.
  2. Vanillagift.com has fee free physical and virtual gift cards with promo code cyberdeals22. These cards are usually easy to liquidate, but watch out when purchasing because lately they’ve been charging as a cash advance on American Express cards.
  3. Nearside, the King George III of banks, accidentally announced on Monday via email that part of their business operations were shutting down in the near future. They quickly followed up with an “oops, sorry, ignore that message”, then yesterday sent a message saying essentially “actually guys, sorry, lol, mah bad, we’re dying on December 23 for Christmas, lmfao”. I guess unlimited 2.2% cashback on debit transactions may not be a sound business decision, but what do I know anyway?

    If you have money at Nearside, I’d transfer it out sooner rather than later (I did the moment the first message came in, I didn’t need to wait for the rest of the drama to play out).
  4. Dell is 15x and Saks Fifth Avenue is 10x at Rakuten’s shopping portal for the holiday, so it’s a good time to liquidate American Express Platinum and Business Platinum credits. Even better, SideShowBob233 notes that Drop has 100 points per dollar or 10% back at Dell, and it stacks with portals too. If my math is correct that brings Dell prices down to about par with other retailers, except you still get the frustration of Dell’s order system for no extra charge.

Nearside wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving. No, wait, go away! Just kidding, Happy Thanksgiving.

  1. Giftcards.com has a promotional code (BFVIP) that in theory gives you $5 off of a $100 virtual Visa gift card, but in practice gives 5% off of $250 virtual Visa gift cards on up to $1,500 per order because reasons. The promotion runs through tomorrow evening.

    Since virtual gift cards at giftcards.com have a $2,000 per rolling 48 hour limit, I’d get $1,500 in one order and then another $500 immediately after. Don’t forget to use a portal.
  2. It probably should go without saying, but if you hold any serious cash at a crypto based FinTech companies it may be time to reconsider whether the manufactured spend bang is worth the increasing risk of loss, especially because Coinbase, a favorite FinTech of Christmas past, may become the next casualty. Tread lightly! (Thanks to George via MEAB slack)
  3. EDITOR’s NOTE: I wouldn’t normally write about a deal for a warehouse club because it’s not directly about travel, miles, points, or shenanigans, but this one is different because Sam’s Club is often a great vendor for a manufactured spender given its propensity for gift card deals and portal games.

    Sam’s Club has a holiday promotion for $50 back on your first in-store purchase with a $50 membership, making a new account fee free with promo code 27Y9X. Unfortunately though gift cards are excluded from the first purchase $50 back. If you sign-up, try and use a portal because it may track (usually with portals and stuff like this, the weirder the better).
  4. Bilt cardholders earn double rewards between Friday and December 1. I’d typically say go nuts on this deal like Sam Bankman-Fried did with corporate FTX funds, but with this card you’ll probably get the axe for too much MS if you do. So instead, maybe just go at the speed that Sam Bankman-Fried runs to keep your account alive.
  5. A new pre-targeted no-lifetime language American Express Business Platinum link has surfaced with a sign-up bonus of 150,000 Membership Rewards after $15,000 in spend within three months and another 10,000 Membership Rewards for adding an employee card and spending $1,000, also within three months.

    If you get one, don’t forget about the triple dip. (Thanks to TwelveBall)

The reason SBF was running away.

If you were a programmer at a bank and you had to code a bonus category for a particular vendor, say like earning 32x Membership Rewards points on flights to Mars booked through Deep Discount Mars Trips, how would you do it? You’ve got a few decent options for how you might award a bonus based on:

  • A particular merchant account and payment processor
  • A particular merchant category code (MCC)
  • A specific merchant name, like “DEEP DISCOUNT MARS TRIPS LLC”

Of course you don’t have to pick just one of those, good banks and good programmers will do two or all three. Of course, there are some FinTechs out there that take the easy way out and do the bare minimum, for example, searching for “MARS” in a charge’s name and awarding 32x if the letters are found in the charge description. When that happens you’ll earn 32x at:

  • Marsha’s Grab and Go
  • Cactus and Marshes LLC
  • The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium

Often the FinTech programmer figures out that they’ve made a mistake and will fix the bonus award by implementing a blocklist instead of fixing it the right way, so the logic is: Award 32x if “mars” is in the charge description, but not if the description is “The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium”. Because of course they do.

Well, in the cat-and-mouse game with FinTechs, there are often ways to name-mangle your merchant description to side-skirt blocklists, for example by paying with a service like PayPal which will prepend PAYPAL MARK* to the front of your charge description, leading to 32x again.

It should probably go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: bonus street cred if you use one FinTech product to mask the charge for another FinTech. Happy hunting!

The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium, ripe for earning 32x.

  1. Check your Chase Offers and Bank Of America Deals for 15% back at US Hyatt properties through December 10, up to $37.95 back.
  2. Do this now: Register for an Enterprise Car Rental elite status extension through February 2024 with any car rented in 2022 (even cars rented earlier in the year before registration). You’ll also get double points through January 21, 2023.
  3. Office Depot/OfficeMax has $100 gift cards on sale for $95.95 after activation fee, limit two per account. These are Metabanks and won’t get special office supply coding when buying online because they’re fulfilled by GiftCardMall. As a no extra fee bonus though, you get to solve some annoying cartoon captchas during redemption.
  4. Wyndham’s shopping portal is offering triple points through December 29. According to the language on the site, the 3x is already baked in to the displayed rate, so don’t expect to earn more than you see. (Thanks to FM)
  5. Staples has physical $25 Uber gift cards for sale at a 20% discount and it seems that no-one is enforcing any quantity limits during purchase so go nuts.
  6. American Express has a 15% transfer bonus to Avianca LifeMiles running through December 7 in addition to last week’s 25% transfer bonus to FlyingBlue. Sweet spots with the program generally involved geographically challenged routing rules, but their award chart is in general good for many redemptions.
  7. Xbox gift cards are back in stock at Dell, so liquidate second half 2022 American Express Business Platinum while you can. To avoid burning a Dell account, keep the number of transactions involving a gift card to five per year per account.
  8. Seats.aero, a community driven mainstay for close-in Star Alliance award alerts, now searches AA award space too. (Thanks to levelniner)

GiftCardMall’s devious captcha system. At least we can eliminate the pineapple I guess?

American Express Annual Credits

Many of American Express’s Platinum and Business Platinum credits famously reset at the end of the calendar year, providing the scrooges among us an alternative reason to like the holidays. For our purposes, the most relevant are:

  • Business Platinum
    • $400 Dell credit ($200 January – June, and $200 July – December)
    • $200 airline fee credit
    • $189 Clear credit
  • Personal Platinum
    • $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit ($50 January – June, and $50 July – December)
    • $200 annual airline
    • $189 Clear credit

The Triple Dip

When you combine the annual reset with the fact that American Express bills its annual fee at the close of the 12th statement for the card and its 30 day after annual fee posts refund policy, you’ve got a recipe for getting nearly three years worth of credits with a single annual fee. The procedure:

  1. Open a new card in late November or early December
  2. Call American Express as soon as you activate the card and push the statement date as late as possible
  3. Spend your 2022 credits before the new year
  4. Spend your 2023 credits next year
  5. Spend your 2024 credits on January 1, 2024
  6. Close the card within 30 days of the annual fee posting in late 2023 or early 2024

Earnings

There are other less valuable (garbage) credits on the American Express Platinum cards, but the big ones mean you’ll earn the following with a single annual fee:

  • Business Platinum
    • $600 in airline fee credits ($200 in 2022, 2023, and 2024)
    • $800 in Dell credits ($200 in 2022 and 2024, $400 in 2023)
    • $567 in Clear credits ($189 in 2022, 2023, and 2024)
  • Personal Platinum
    • $600 in airline fee credits ($200 in 2022, 2023, and 2024)
    • $200 in Saks credits ($50 in 2022 and 2024, $100 in 2023)
    • $567 in Clear credits ($189 in 2022, 2023, and 2024)

Of course the trick works for any other American Express card credits, or for triple dipping spend caps too; you can get the $25,000 4x grocery capacity on the Gold card or the $50,000 2x Blue Business plus capacity three times with a single annual fee, so be creative!

A favorite holiday treat completed with free mustard from Saks Fifth Avenue.

It’s a good-news, bad-news Thursday it seems. Let’s start with the bad so we can leave on a positive note:

The Bad

  1. Dell has stopped selling Xbox gift cards, which are a mainstay for cashing out American Express Dell Business Platinum credits after reselling the gift cards, or for loading a cash balance at Microsoft to buy an expensive laptop. It’s also been reported that orders placed Friday and later are either:

    – Not being charged, but being fulfilled
    – Being cancelled

    If you’re in the first camp expect Dell to come back in three to six months and ask you to pay up long after your AmEx Dell $200 credit expires.
  2. Stephen at GC Galore has been investigating Bitmo and reports that not only have they likely silently closed shop and aren’t redeeming card purchases any more, they’ve launched a new company called HungryFriend that seems to be a direct copy of the Bitmo code. So, prolly stay away from HungryFriend going forward.

The Good

  1. American Express has a 25% bonus for Membership Rewards transfers to AirFrance / KLM FlyingBlue. Sweet spots:

    Promo awards
    – Economy flights in Europe
    – Business class on SkyTeam to and from Europe
  2. H-E-B Grocery stores have a promotion for 20% off of several $100 third party gift cards, including a few popular brands for resale like Kohl’s, Adidas, and Macy’s with clipped digital coupon. There are reports that the discounts aren’t always coding correctly (in favor of the buyer), so try a few different combinations and see what you find.
  3. Kroger has another 4x fuel points promotion on third party gift cards running for the next couple of weeks through December 6. Fortunately, enterprising third party gift card resellers still have utility in the fuel points side of the game too.

Happy Thursday friends!

The Dell website with a gaping Xbox hole.

  1. American Express gift cards are fee free through the end of the year with promo code BUYMORE, which is useful when combined with the current American Express gift card offer (Thanks to reader Hamed)
  2. Now that yesterday’s super-secret Target gift card ship has sailed, let’s recap what happened so you have an example for future probing. There was a particular three pack of $20 Visa gift cards with an $8.50 load fee, but when you balance checked the gift cards, each actually had $60. So, you paid $68.50 and had $180 in Visa gift cards.

    Lesson: Always balance check gift cards after you buy them.
  3. Do this now (if you hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve): Register for two years of Lyft pink:

    – Open the mobile app
    – Set your default payment card to the Sapphire Reserve
    – Click “Lyft Pink” under the menu
    – Check “I agree” and click Activate Now

    Set a reminder in your phone to cancel the service on November 1, 2024 too to make sure that they don’t auto-bill you in two years.
  4. Check for an email from Capital One Shopping for a targeted offer of 24% back at Giftcards.com, up to $2,000 in spend.

The Capital One Shopping portal 24% back deal. (iykyk)