If you have an American Express personal card, or a bunch of them like me, today is a great day to give them a call or chat with them online and ask for a retention offer. In the last week I’ve been offered or seen widespread offers for:

  • 50,000 Membership Rewards on the Morgan Stanley Platinum, Schwab Platinum, and some regular Platinums
  • 30,000 Membership Rewards on the Gold and on some Platinum cards
  • 20,000 Membership Rewards on the Everyday Preferred
  • 50,000 Skymiles on the Delta Reserve

Conversely, the other co-brand cards seem to be offering nothing but a wasted couple of minutes on the phone. As always, YMMV though.

My usual language is “I’m thinking of closing this card due to its high annual fee, but before I make a decision, I wanted to see if there were any spend bonuses or retention offers available.” If there’s no offer and I want to keep the card anyway, I’ll usually say “Hmm, I think I’m going to think about it some more and call you back later.” Sometimes there are multiple offers too, so after being presented with one offer, it never hurts to say “Hmm, are there any other offers?”

Obligatory caution: If you take an American Express retention offer, keep the card open for a year to stay in their good graces. You can get retention offers with American Express at any point during your card member year, but I like to wait until the annual fee posts since cancelling the card mid-year usually won’t offer a pro-rated refund (except in Massachusetts, go Sox I guess). Big bonuses like this make me second guess that strategy though.

A picture of a barefoot Tip O'Neill on the beach in khaki pants rolled up above the thighs, a sweater with a yellow polo underneath, sunbathing under an american flag styled umbrella.
Tip O’Neill, another example of Massachusetts being just a bit different.

End of month housekeeping has turned into an American Express show. The new MO over there seems to be to offer as many benefits tied to the calendar as possible. They count on most people not using the benefits (breakage) to boost the marketability of the card and to subsidize the few that take advantage of the benefits. Be one of the subsidized in this case, not the subsidizers. I’d suggest you be like Tom Hanks and check the following:

1. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by Monday night. The holiday weekend should make this one easy on the Eats side.

2. Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post this month and call the bank for a retention offer. I suggest saying: “I’m thinking of closing this card given its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” You’ll earn 100 MilesEarnAndBurn bonus points if you add “COVID has made it really hard to use the benefits, I wish it would end soon”.

American Express specific caveat: If you take a retention offer, plan on keeping that card for 12-13 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses in the future.

3. If you have an American Express co-branded personal card (Marriott, Delta, Hilton), make sure you’ve attached the dining offer to your card and that you’ve spent it by Monday night. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value DoorDash gift card on Fluz. Amazon Meals is another decent option. As always, find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already, they’ll earn something and so will you.

4. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits before Tuesday, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one, and at this point I’m prepaying into 2022.

5. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits by tomorrow. My go to is the local coffee shop; a couple of lattes and a muffin jump just north of $10 on GrubHub. Not personally, but I know ShakeShack works for a lot of you.

6. Cancel any cell phone burner accounts that you’re done with (and for which you didn’t use a virtual credit card number that already expired).

7. Spend your AmEx Personal Platinum $30 PayPal credits. The easiest way to get these out under the wire is with PayPal Digital Gifts which has been paying the credit even though the T&C says that it shouldn’t. If you’re set up as a gift card reseller, you can alternatively buy gift cards for resale on Fluz or eBay gift cards on Slide. This benefit goes away after June, and honestly that’s not a moment too soon. I’m sick of dealing with it.

8. The time remaining for Q2 bonused spend is already two thirds over. Check the current Q2 categories and reassess your strategies. Hopefully on the Chase Freedom side you were able to knock it out at Lowe’s.

9. If you’ve got the time, look for a nice miles & points related podcast. There are a few good ones out there and they’ll boost your skills and learning.

Have a nice holiday weekend, and grill until you drop (or something).

Memorial Day celebration with Tom Hanks. The man on the left is exhausted from dealing with American Express benefits.

It continues to be a great week for manufactured spend and miles earning and with Memorial Day weekend coming up, I think it’s just going to stay great through Monday, keep your eyes peeled. For now:

  • Amazon is giving between 40% and 60% back on purchases of up to $100 when using one or more Membership Rewards points at checkout (of course, you should only use one point). This round seems to be widely targeted, everyone that I’ve talked to has had an offer. Buy a BestBuy e-gift card and resell at 96%, and stack with an American Express offer for +2 Membership Rewards per dollar at Amazon if you have it. I knocked this one out more quickly than I typed this paragraph.
  • The American Express random number generator is at it again — there’s a Hilton Surpass 200,000 American Express offer floating around after spending $10,000 in three months. The annual fee on the Surpass card is $95, which makes this a great deal in-spite of the underlying currency. To find it, search for “Hilton Surpass Credit Card” on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, and try different browsers in incognito or standard mode. You’ll get it eventually; for me I pulled it up in Safari’s private mode using Google.
  • Check your inbox for targeted offers for Delta SkyMiles American Express cards that lack once per lifetime bonus language. Delta miles are worth a little more than 1.1 cents a piece, so do the math if you get one.

For both of the American Express offers, don’t forget that there’s a five credit card limit at American Express (and a 10-12 charge card limit). Both the Hilton and Delta cards are credit cards. Both programs are also severely devalued compared to their competitors, which may mean future devaluations are still a while out.

A computer program with the title "American Express Hilton Bonus Generator" with a minimum bonus of 85,000 and a maximum bonus of 200,000.
Exclusive screenshot of the American Express backend bonus offer generator fabricated obtained by MilesEarnAndBurn.

Remember AAdvantage’s 40th anniversary? United has tried several times and mostly failed to copy the buzz it generated; this time they came close, really close. Even I’m writing about it, and let’s face it, I’m not the biggest United fan. They’re giving away a year of free flights for two in any class of service to five vaccinated grand prize winners. To qualify:

  • Log in to your MileagePlus Account
  • Click Profile & Preferences
  • Click Personal Information
  • Upload a copy of your COVID-19 vaccine card under Saved travel documents & numbers

Don’t use your dog’s United account on this one, you won’t be able to explain it away if you win (unlike most instances of your dog’s account). Watch out for the 1099 tax form from United if you win too, and contest the valuation they give you. It’s not hard to do.

By the way, I personally “internet know” someone that one a million miles in the AA 40th sweepstakes, it does happen.

A cadet in United’s wheelchair assistance training program.

It’s a good week to be hacking:

  • Get a free year of TripIt Pro and access to an $800 First Republic checking account bonus ($50,000 deposit, 90 day lifecycle) by signing up for a free year of Founders Card, which is a glorified coupon book for … people. They have other coupons of dubious value in case you want to poke around too. Sign up with code VIPTRIALRIUN12, and use a burnt out gift card or a virtual credit card number when you sign up so they can’t charge you in renewal fee in a year.

    For what it’s worth, I really like TripIt and use it weekly despite its old, clunky, IE6 era interface. Deal from Holly at DoC.

  • Check your Southwest Rapid Rewards profile page for a few great earnings bonuses. So far, I’ve seen or heard of:
    • 10,000 points toward the companion pass
    • 10,000 points toward elite status (A-List or A-List Preferred)
    • 3x bonus Rapid Rewards points one or more flights, depending on the offer
    • 2x bonus points on flights to and from Southwest hub cities (I saw Houston)
  • Plastiq is offering a widely targeted offer for $10 in gift cards for each $1,000 in payments sent, up to $3,000 in total spend. Look for an email with the subject “Earn up to $30 when you make a payment this month”. Hint: If this feels like a snoozer, honestly it’s actually not. Try a few things!

Hack away!

A black and white photo of a woman in overalls with an axe slung over her shoulder, smiling.
Getting ready to hack away at Plastiq.

Like inflation of the US dollar, the deals this week have started out with a nice “up and to the right” graph shape:

  • SoFi will deposit $100 into your account if you set up a new direct deposit in the next 90 days, and deposit at least $1,000 in a 30 day period. This only works if you set up a new SoFi account or if you haven’t already had direct deposits into your existing SoFi account.
  • SoFi will also give you $20 for checking your mortgage rate by June 1. This only involves a soft credit pull, not a hard pull, so it won’t affect your credit score.
  • There is a Barclay AAviator credit card link floating around that gives 60,000 AA miles after making any purchase with the card within the first 90 days, and the annual fee is waived the first year. 60,000 AA miles for a hard pull and no annual fee is a great deal. I applied an my application went pending, probably because I haven’t put a ton of spend on my other Barclay cards and they care about that. I’ll call reconsideration in a couple of days and should be able to get it pushed through. #bonvoyed for now though.

    Don’t forget that this card is a personal credit card, and will thus impact your 5/24 status with Chase.

  • MileagePlusX is offering 25x United miles on Raddison stays of up to $330 spend by September 30, but only for a single transaction. I’d move to a Radisson for an upcoming stay for this deal if it had showed up in my MileagePlusX app, but sadly I was #bonvoyed again.
  • Office Depot/OfficeMax has $15 off of $300 or more in Visa Gift Cards. Buy two $200 cards for $398.90, and use a Chase Ink credit card or another card that bonuses at office supply stores. I went yesterday and bought two, but I forgot my Ink and had to use a non-bonusing card. #bonvoyed three times in a row.
My pending Barclay’s AAviator application, on pause for 7 to 10 business days.

I have a travel hacking thought for you to mull over during the weekend: Inertia kills. Inertia kills deals, accounts, stores, good cashiers, loopholes, and redemptions. It’s easy to fall into a rut and ignore this but you really shouldn’t. What do I mean?

First a little refresher: Inertia is the tendency for something to continue as it has been, to avoid change*. In travel hacking, having big inertia means hitting the same technique over and over again. If your game is just buying a gift card every day and turning it into a money order, you’re in the rut I’m talking about. The same goes for singular focus on sign-up bonuses, or focusing on just gift card reselling, or sticking to cell phone burners. Or it could be using the same bank account for every single money order deposit.

When you’re singularly focused you’ve got massive inertia. The means you’re not:

  • Diversifying risk
  • Diversifying earning
  • Spreading spend
  • Exercising new techniques
  • Preventing burnout

If your bank decides they’ve had enough of your shenanigans, a shutdown there could cause a grinding halt to everything if you don’t have other bank accounts. If you visit the same grocery store every single day you’re going to stand out and you’ll be remembered. All it takes for the grocery axe to come down is a decision from an assistant-manager having a bad day that they don’t like what you’re up to. They may hold a store meeting to tell everyone to not sell to you, call the police, or you may even find your picture on the wall behind the customer service counter. Believe me, it happens.

When you’re constantly changing your game by switching your activities, stores, and techniques, you’re less likely to be noticed. As an added bonus your credit card company is less likely to be suspicious over buying “$506.95 worth of gas” every day when you call for a retention bonus after the annual fee posts. Frankly you’ll earn more and play more in the long run.

The same principle applies to the whole community; when everyone pounded uncle Tio, he passed away. When Plastiq‘s compliance team figured out why nearly every single account was sending $500 payments, they put a quick end to it. When Kroger awarded fuel points on variable load gift cards and watched their profit and loss statement explode, they stopped it. When the community collectively pounded the British Airways 4,500 mile partner redemption in the US for city pairs less than 650 miles apart, the chart changed.

Moral of the story: Keep your accounts, your methods, and your targets diverse and changing, and they’ll all live longer. You’ll probably end up earning and burning more too.

An unfortunate self-commentary.

* Yes, there’s a scientific definition too, you may have heard of it. It’s called “Newton’s First Law”. However my very real physicist hat is off right now and yours should be too.

If you’ve got an American Express Personal Platinum (or literally five of them like me), then you’re probably repeatedly annoyed at the twice a year $50 Saks credit. The best option to liquidate these is to take your stack of Platinums to a physical Saks and buy a $50 gift card with each, which isn’t supposed to reimburse but always does. That’s all fine and dandy, but the closest Saks to me is literally 698 miles by car which leaves me either 1) schlepping a bunch of Platinums around to a store I wouldn’t normally go to while I’m out of town, or 2) buying some overpriced stuff on Saks.com.

Reader Ryan let me know about another way that has more modestly priced receptacles choices:

  • Check out at Saks Off 5th with PayPal rather than using the Saks checkout and the $50 American Express credit will still post, even though it’s not supposed to

Don’t forget to go through a portal too.

A modestly priced receptacle.