In another part of my online life that’s not travel hacking related, the community has a tradition of summarizing the year in GIFs. It’s glorious my friends, trust me. Here’s my attempt for the us. Maybe this will be a New Years Eve tradition? Without further ado, here is travel hacking in 2020 in GIF form:

AA Shuts Down Mailer Churners

The AA Playbook:

  1. Suspend your account, but don’t tell you (whack)
  2. Error when you try and book a ticket, with no reason given (whack)
  3. Corporate didn’t tell CS agents what’s up, so they couldn’t help you (whack)
  4. Finally, they kill your account right before you’re scheduled to fly (big whack)

PayPal Key

PPK runs as a debit card pretty much everywhere, works with AmEx backed card, and worked with Plastiq, Melio, and tax payments.

Rakuten Pays out 15x on

The 15x deal that lasted for a few hours was clearly not intentional, but Rakuten paid at the end of Q1 2020.

Brian Kelly/TPG Expose in Business Insider

Cocaine, harassment, intrigue? No one, I mean, no one saw this coming.

Citi ThankYou Points can be Redeemed for Gift Cards

Get your $25 Walmart gift cards here I guess. But only if they’re in stock, and only if the system is working, and only if you have the right type of ThankYou Points.

FQF Launches a Podcast

Now when does the IndyFinance alter ego come out? That’s where the literal money is.

George Popadopoulis is Pardoned

Ok, so the TravelBloggerBuzz supreme overlord wasn’t that George, but still.

Vinh Sells a Garage Full of Kayaks

Literally a garage full. Vinh shows us that there’s always someone reaching further than you.

Being lol/24 when Chase Offers are at an All-Time High, Watching Newbies get the Bonuses

It sure looks warm inside the Chase house, with their Freedom Flexes, World of Hyatts, and Sapphire Reserves.

Amex Unicorn Platinum

  • 10x at Gas and Grocery
  • 100,000 point sign up bonus, even for people who already had the bonus in the past

I still can’t believe that deal.

Air Canada Refuses Refunds for Cancelled Flights

They even ignored the DOT for a moment.

US Mint WWII Gold Coins Resells for over $1,000 Profit

… and $1,000 is on the low end of the spectrum. The flip side of the coin (hah!) is you probably couldn’t buy them because their website was running on a Raspberry Pi 3 which was spec’d to handle approximately 12 requests per minute.

Saverocity Observation Deck Records its Last Episode

I was late to the game on this podcast for no good reason, but I’m still sad none-the-less. At least there are the archives.

BestBuy Gift Cards Reselling Magic, until Black Friday

You could sell BestBuy gift cards for most of the year at 98% or more of face value. That is, until the Black Friday hiccup smacked us in the face. The market was performing so perfectly until…

… at least now it’s going again, but we’ve all got a black eye and a bruised ego.

Cancelling a Dozen Trips due to COVID

Shoot ’em down, one right after the other.

Road Trips are the new Black

Corona meant more time on the road with the family, in makeshift RVs (or real RVs if you’re bougie).

I get my First PingBack to a Blog Post

Sorry, you’ll have to find it yourself. I guess if someone links to you on the internet it means you’ve arrived though, right?

Alaska Airlines Travel Bank to Miles

Alaska Airlines let you convert banked travel wallet funds to miles twice this year.

AmEx RAT Seeing Plastiq Payments with PPK/AmEx

Yo dawg, I heard you like AmEx, so I let you pay your AmEx with an Amex, so you could earn points while you get shutdown. Bad news though, the Rewards Abuse Team (RAT) didn’t like it.

I have to summarize 2020 travel hacking in about a dozen GIFs.

I didn’t plan on this until last minute, and I had no notes about what happened in 2020.

I’m sure I missed plenty of significant 2020 events, but hey, this was a last minute post that ended up taking a few hours to put together, so hard cheese if I missed your favorite. Next year I’ll take notes though.

1. Register for the Asia Miles Citi TYP Bonus. The transfer bonus is either 10% or 15% for transferred miles that post before Jan 31, 2021. After you receive the confirmation email, you can transfer Citi ThankYou Points and get the bonus. If you were shutdown by AA, the Asia Miles program is a good backup option for US to Asia flights, and the transfer bonus makes it better.

2. Register for Hilton’s Q1 2021 Promotion. If you happen to stay in a Hilton property, you’ll get 2,000 bonus points per stay between Jan 1, 2021 and May 2, 2021. Register now in case that happens. You’ll also get an extra 5,000 points for each 5 nights in aggregate.

Don’t go out of your way to book a Hilton property though, especially because of this promotion — most hotel rates are too low right now for it to make sense to target a single program, and this bonus is too small to change what you’d already do. Just let it happen naturally, and be happy if you get bonus points for something you’d have done anyway.

This is the Hilton Q1 2021 promotion if it were a food.

Bank of America is offering $500 or $750 for opening a business checking account at this link. You need to keep either $20,000 or $50,000 on deposit for 60 days and make 5 purchases or payments to get the bonus. I’ll be using debbit for 5 purchases, but not just because I’m a one-trick pony.

The bonus is even better when paired with a BoA Business Cash Rewards card, which you should consider because there’s no annual fee, the 3x categories are bananas, and your 3x actually becomes 3.75x with this checking account. Side note: By holding assets (401k, IRA, brokerage, cash, etc) with BoA, you can work that 3x up to 5.25x. Bloggers don’t talk about it much because it doesn’t pay them any commission, but it’s a gem for MS.

“Trust me, I’m a Bank of America banker!”

1. Staples has fee free $200 Visa Gift Cards, in-store from December 27, 2020 through January 2, 2021, limit 5 per transaction. Call this the deal that just keeps coming back from the dead, probably because it was bit repeatedly by another deal which turned it into a zombie, repeatedly. Use a card that bonuses at office supply stores to goose the deal. (For me, Chase Ink Cash.)

If your normal play is money orders at Walmart, skip the Staples deal unless you have another liquidation strategy.

2. Safeway’s Just4U program (also for Albertson’s, Randall’s, Von’s, Tom Thumb, Acme, and other affiliated grocery stores) is offering $10 off of $100 or more in Visa Gift Cards. Hint: Some variants of the Visa cards sold here are easier to liquidate than others. Make sure to add the offer to your Just4U accounts. You do have more than one, right?

3. You can book a free companion flight on Alaska Airlines between Jan 12 and May 19, 2021 here, but you must book today. Watch out though, there are blackout dates and it’s coach only.

A Zombie holding a visa credit card with the text: Do you take credit cards?
The zombie bit the credit card, which bit the Staples deal, repeatedly.

Do this now: Unenroll your American Express charge cards from pay over time.

American Express quietly auto-enrolled cardmembers in pay over time during Q4 of 2020 and you could be forgiven for missing it, it wasn’t well publicized. Click the above link and deactivate pay over time for each charge card you’ve got (Green, Gold, Platinum, Centurion, Unobtainium, etc) because:

  • American Express periodically sends offers of at least 10,000 Membership Rewards points for (re-)enrolling in pay over time. We’ve seen re-enrollment offers just this week. I’m going to classify them as the strangest gift I’ve gotten this holiday season.
  • Paying interest from carrying credit card balances is bad-news-bears: The rewards aren’t worth the fees you’re paying. Don’t play this game until you’re not paying interest. Unenrolling from pay over time removes that possibility from these cards.

Once you’re unenrolled watch for offers for bonus points from American Express and take the bonus when it comes (then unenroll again after the bonus posts).

Billy-Bob Thornton telling you to unenroll your charge cards from pay over time, or else.

Use this link for 6 months of free Clear for you and your family. (Clear is an ultra-fast way to get through airport security at major US airports, except RDU for some reason.) Make sure you set a reminder in your phone to cancel 5 months and 20 days from now, otherwise they’ll bill you for a year’s service at the end of your trial. Don’t be that sucker!

True story: My partner doesn’t have Clear and I do. We always race to get through security, and guess who almost always wins? Does that count as an endorsement? Do I ever answer questions or just ask them?

A “clear sucker”

You never know quite what’s inside the PenFed enigma of a bank, but they can be an manufactured spender’s dream. If that weren’t enough, now they have a rather compelling credit card offer for $425 worth of points and $100 in travel credits, which can be double-dipped in 2020 and 2021 if you hurry (so, $625 total). There’s no annual fee for this card if you have an “Access America” checking account, which anyone can sign up for by paying $5 to join.

If you know someone who has a PenFed account of any type already, they can refer you to this credit card and earn $50. This works really well with a player two. If you don’t have a P2 with a PenFed account, find a friend who has one and ask them for a referral. They’ll appreciate the referral bonus I’m sure.

News headline with a pictured bottle of chocolate milk and headline: "Man goes to hospital after drinking unknown liquid from McDonald's chocolate milk container"
Just like with McDonald’s, you never know what’s inside with PenFed.

Now through 12/25/2020, you can get $500 Vanilla Visa eGift cards with no purchase fees using promo code EGIFT2020, limit of 10 per transaction. If you have a hard time getting orders approved, use guest checkout and PayPal Key. Also, remember PayPal Key is great for something like this for other reasons too (hint: coding).

Since these are eGift Cards, you’ll need to liquidate them online unless you’ve got an electronic credit card, or another way of getting the prepaid card info onto a physical card. There are a online few methods out there that work easily for eGift cards like this, do some research.

Vanilla “liquidation”, courtesy of Vanilla Ice