American Express reported outstanding 2021 Q4 earnings on Tuesday driven by profits from record consumer spending on its cards. I guess their executive staff used some of the profit to buy a few happy pills, because they’ve really gone on a bender:

1. Multiple reports across multiple forums share that the Marriott and Hilton Business cards have an offer for a $200 statement credit when adding an employee card and spending $2,000 within 60 days, for up to 99 employees. That’s a total of $19,800 in statement credits if you choose to maximize this deal. That’s literally the price of a new Subaru Impreza with a few add-ons — so with some work, you can drive away with a brand new car on AmEx’s dime.

As with the other versions of the 99 employee card offer, you have to call in and ask the customer service representative if there are any offers for adding employees on to your account to see if you’re targeted, because reasons.

2. There’s a new targeted offer for adding an authorized user to a Platinum card for 20,000 Membership Rewards after spending $2,000 in six months. This offer is different than the prior ones so it should track even if you’ve already gotten another version in the past. (Thanks to LL)

3. Today is probably the last day you can play the AmEx airline selection trick, which is:

  • Select an airline for your incidental credits
  • Turn them into future airfare credit
  • Switch to another airline for the rest of the year (especially useful for the 35% Membership Rewards rebate on Business Platinum cards)

If you try after today, you likely won’t be reimbursed for your original airline’s incidental credits before the end of the year.

Now go out there, seize the day, and strive to act like an American Express Executive (prolly before the happy pills though).

American Express’s executive staff went on a bender at “Churning Geyser” for inspiration. (Special thanks reader Ryan for the image, and for bringing “avgas and confidence” into my vernacular.)

1. Do this now: Register for Marriott’s stupid targeted promotion. You’ll earn 1,000 extra points and an extra elite qualifying night for each night’s stay between February 8 and April 20. The points are worth about an extra $5, and you have to stay in a Marriott to get them so there’s that.

2. Do this now: Register for Raddison Americas less stupid promotion. You’ll earn 30,000 bonus points for each three nights; stay through April 30. The promotion works up to three times for a total of 90,000 points.

3. now sells Gift of College gift cards for $200 each with a $5.95 fee. They won’t code as a grocery because they’re processed by Black Hawk Network. You will earn fuel rewards points though. The street value of Kroger fuel points is somewhere north of $19.00 per thousand and you earn 2x with gift cards. If you have a seasoned Kroger account to avoid insta-cancellations, this is a good manufactured spend opportunity:

  • Buy $1,000 in Gift of College cards for $1,029.75 with fees
  • Load to a 529 savings account in your own name
  • Use or sell the fuel points for around $38 (or more)
  • Withdraw the funds from your 529, which you can probably do without tax consequence (I’m not an accountant, and I’m definitely not your accountant, so take this as a starting point for your own research and not at as advice)
  • You’ll get $1,038.00 back on your $1,029.75 in spend, so $8.25 in profit plus credit card rewards

4. Capital One has a monster credit card offer for $3,000 after spending $50,000 in the first six months. There is an annual fee of $150 that isn’t waived for the first year. I’d care more about this except that it’s highly unlikely that anyone with recent credit card churning history will be approved for this card. I think yesterday’s $4,000+ in US Bank shenanigans is more attainable, it has a lower spend threshold even with five cards, and the annual fees are waived for the first year.

(Thanks to DoC)

I meant “monster credit card offer”, not “scary monster credit card”. At least you can distract it with a Gift of College card.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are starting in a week and a half, which means Olympics related deals and product tie-ins will start zooming across our TCAS for the next month. The first one showed up yesterday:

US Bank has a sign up bonus between $825 and $900 after spending $7,500 in four months on the Business Leverage Visa card, and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year too. (The bonus depends on on how many gold medals the US Olympic team wins, but not to the same extent as it has in years prior.) How to play this:

  • Freeze your SageStream and ARS credit reports before applying
  • Lower the credit limit on existing US Bank cards and wait one business day after doing so before applying
  • Apply for multiple cards on the same day, hard pulls are combined
  • Pending applications are likely to be approved, keep going if you’re not explicitly denied
  • Park at least $1,500 in a US Bank personal checking account for better approval odds, and this is almost a must-do if you don’t have a physical US Bank branch in your city
  • Set a reminder in your phone to cancel or product change the cards to something else in 366 days
  • Consider going for a personal card after your business card applications too, but realize that card will impact 5/24

US Bank cards are more friendly to shenanigans than most issuers, so there’s value in having these cards beyond the sign-up bonus. If you play this right and you’re a bit lucky, you could be looking at four to five approvals, or somewhere north of $4,000 in sign-up bonuses. Not bad for a Tuesday eh? Too bad there’s no churning event at the Olympics.

Note: There’s also an increased bonus on the US Bank Altitude Connect card, but don’t let anyone sell you on it. The points can’t be transferred to a premium card for any uplift so they’re just worth a penny a piece. You can do better with other US Bank cards.

Maybe a Churning event at the Olympics wouldn’t be as exciting as shopping cart racing, but it’d be a little fun, right? Right?

Kroger has been running a 4x fuel points promotion on Happy branded gift cards since about a week and a half ago, and mid-last week a promotion for 2x fuel points on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays showed up too. To everyone’s surprise:

  • The 4x and 2x coupons stacked to earn a total of 5x on Happy gift cards
  • Variable Visa and Mastercard gift cards earned 1x
  • Money order purchases earned 1x

The 2x coupons aren’t new, they show up every couple of months and have standard language that excludes earning on gift cards and money orders (amongst other things). Typically that language is enforced, but obviously not always. There’s another piece of good news too: the current 2x coupon is running through January 30. That means you’ve probably got another Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for shenanigans assuming no one fixes it.

Lessons learned:

  • Always clip all coupons related to grocery points
  • Always enter your rewards ID at checkout even if you wouldn’t normally earn points
  • Pay close attention to the rewards earned on your receipt to spot anomalies

Finally, remember that this sort of thing isn’t just a Kroger phenomenon; it happens at other chains too (and there are gems to be found out there right now).

Clearly some of you have more fuel points than you know how to use.

As I’m sure you know, many applications and techniques in our hobby require a mobile phone and maybe a particular application running on that phone. When it’s time to scale a deal that needs a mobile platform, don’t let the hardware you carry around with you be a limiting factor. You probably already know that I’m a big fan of burner cell phones, but that doesn’t mean that I carry six phones everywhere I go (even though I might use six phone numbers to scale a deal).

Even if you’re not trying to scale, even a single cell phone is annoying for lots of reasons: copy and paste are hard, you don’t have a full size keyboard, sometimes you get a phone call in the middle of a transaction, or your toddler wants to play a game on your phone.

Scaling and working around mobile phone limitations is easy with three Android emulators that run on Windows, Mac, or Linux:

Each one of these will let you:

  • Emulate multiple devices
  • Have multiple profiles
  • Set your “GPS location” to hide that you’re on The Skies over Texas for the fourth time
  • Use your computer’s keyboard, mouse, and monitor
  • Cut and paste like a human

I’ve heard from a couple of you that a barrier to using emulators is two factor authentication: when you get a text message code as part of logging into a service or for transferring a big dump of cash. Don’t let that stop you from scaling though, there’s no reason you can’t have the physical phone nearby to receive the code and then type that directly into the emulator.

Have a nice weekend friends!

Pictured: An interactive map to set your location in an Android emulator.

After a legion of deals earlier in the week we’re off to a slow Thursday, but there are a couple of items worth looking at:

1. A new no-lifetime language (NLL) offer for the American Express Blue Business Cash has surfaced. This offer has a $500 sign-up bonus after spending $15,000 in the first 12 months which is quite a long time to knock out spend. The card is a 2% cash-back card for up to $50,000 in spend per year, which is a big shrug for me. Personally I prefer the Blue Business Plus card which earns Membership Rewards instead. (Thanks to SagittaandiEstVita on reddit)

2. I missed this in December but there’s a Best Western 50% back on hotel stays through February 6. Normally I consider Best Western hotels to be a slight step up from Econolodge hotels, in that I don’t expect a fire to break out during the course of a normal stay. That said, there’s value to be had in Best Western Premier and Signature hotels in high cost markets. The Lazy Traveller has a great writeup on more sweet-spots in the program too. If you have dangling Best Western points that you never think about (this very much describes me), now is a great time to burn them.

PS: Notice how I didn’t write about the Citi DoubleCash changes? That’s because there’s effectively no real difference so don’t waste your time reading long articles about it.

Happy Thursday!

A typical weekday at a Best Western. As advertised, it’s not on fire.

A few quick hits for today:

1. Sign up for a free baby registry through Babylist via the AA shopping portal and earn 1,000 bonus miles. Of course you should do this for everyone in your family with an AAdvantage account too. The whole process took me about a minute and the miles posted the next day.

2. If you have an American Express offer on a business card for $75 back at Verizon after spending $75, sign up for a new Verizon Prepaid line via the AA shopping portal for 6,200 AA miles at a minimal cost.

The “Unlimited” bring your own device prepaid plan with Mobile Hotspot came out to just about $78 for me when taxes were included, so the net cost is about $3, and I got a notification from AmEx about redeeming my offer a few hours after the purchase. I’ll cancel the plan in about 15 days after the miles have posted. (In case you want a treatise on this deal, see Frequent Miler)

Bonus: I got a new phone number that I can port somewhere else as part of another deal, probably for an iPhone SE because, well, trust me when I say that you can never have enough Apple Wallets around.

3. There is a new targeted no lifetime language (NLL) business gold card offer at this link courtesy of the venerable @nutella. The bonus is 90,000 Membership Rewards after $10,000 in spend and another 10,000 Membership Rewards for adding an employee card and spending $1,000 on that card. As usual, if you get a blank page after logging in and clicking on the link, you’re not eligible.

4. Register at this link for a 8,000 Choice points after two stays by March 12. Yes, Econolodge is one of Choice’s brands and even if the nights were free I wouldn’t stay at an Econolodge twice for 8,000 points. I could however find myself staying at a hotel in the Choice Ascend collection now that Citi ThankYou Points transfer to Choice at 1:2.

A typical weekday at Econolodge.


Incidental credits (not to be confused with generic travel credits which are much easier to liquidate) show up on the PenFed Pathfinder Visa, the American Express Platinum family, BoA Premium Rewards, the Hilton Aspire, and UnionBank Rewards cards. Now that we’re in the middle of January, we’ve had enough time in 2022 to figure out what’s working with turning airline incidental credits into airfare instead of using them as intended, so here’s the 4-1-1 (cool kids still say that, right?).

If you want to be low maintenance, United gives by far the easiest option with its TravelBank wallet, which so far works for all card issuers. There’s bad news with TravelBank though: you’ll be flying United, which means it’s automatically worth somewhere around 90 cents on the dollar.

The Deets

  • United: Buy TravelBank credit directly. It expires in five years and can be used to pay for United flights; if you get an error during checkout at TravelBank, add your card to your United profile as a saved payment then try again [more info]
  • Delta: Buy airfare and pay partially with a gift card or travel credit, pay for the remainder with your card (don’t go over the incidental credit amount though). Alternatively if you have a co-branded American Express Delta card, pay partially with miles and the remainder will be credited [more info]
  • Alaska: Buy a seat upgrade after booking or buy a flight less than $100, then refund to your wallet after 24 hours [more info]
  • Southwest: Buy a flight less than $100, or book an international flight with taxes under $100 per ticket, then refund to a travel credit [more info]
  • American: Buy cheap airfare, then change it to a flight that you really want that costs more and pay with your credit card (don’t go over the credit amount though). If you want to gamble, you’ve got roughly even odds that award taxes and fees will count [more info]
  • JetBlue: Buy a flight less than $137 then cancel the flight after 24 hours and refund to your JetBlue wallet [more info]

Other Options

Of course you could use these incidental credits as intended if you’re basic, like for checked bag fees or pets flying with you [more info, but boring].

Why are United travel bank credits worth 90% on the dollar? Allow me to reference my favorite graph about United’s domestic fleet.