Talk about a whirlwind day for credit card stuff:

1. A new American Express Platinum authorized user 20,000 Membership Rewards bonus link came into my inbox yesterday. It’s worth a shot to see if it works for you too. Login to your American Express account first, then click this link to see if you’re targeted. The bonus requires the authorized user card to spend $2,000 in six months. Of course I’d recommend adding the no annual-fee gold authorized user card instead of the platinum version.

Note: American Express authorized user cards arrive already activated and remain that way for 60 days, so you can spend the $2,000 without ever attaching a social security number.

2. My Citi Custom Cash card coded as a grocery store for certain manufactured spend techniques even though the same charges haven’t coded as grocery on my Citi Premier. So, if you’ve got a Custom Cash, forget what you know about Citi merchant coding and try again.

3. You’ve no doubt heard about yesterday’s announced Chase United Club Infinite card changes elsewhere. Don’t buy into the sales hype, but the changes make the card a good one in a few very specific instances. It might be a good card for you if you:

  • Fly United a lot*, and you value United Club access for all-you-can-eat cheese cubes (or for a less worthy reason)
  • Redeem United miles for domestic coach saver space a lot* (I’m unclear as to whether this applies to X award space only, or also to XN which is extra availability for elites and card holders)

Should that describe you*, the card’s United Club access and 10% rebate on domestic coach saver tickets can really add up to be worth more than the annual fee. If that doesn’t describe you though, skip this one.

4. Amazingly, the offer for American Express Business Platinum employee cards is still alive and kicking. As a reminder, you can get a 20,000 Membership Rewards bonus per employee for adding up to 99 employee authorized user cards and spending $4,000 on each. That’s a total of about 1.9 million Membership Rewards.

The downside? You have to talk to a human for this one. Call American Express’s Business Platinum phone number and ask “Are there any bonus offers for adding employee cards to my Business Platinum card?”

Pictured: An employee credit-card whirl wind.

* I’m terribly sorry

You’ve got today and tomorrow to finish off any September/Q3 deals and now is a great time to do housekeeping. Here’s what I’d make sure you check over the next day:

1. The Chase Pay-Yourself-Back increased redemption as we know it ends tomorrow as advertised. It may be extended until December 31, but it may not be. Make sure you cash out any excess Ultimate Rewards not set aside for future travel by tomorrow to be safe.

2. The American Express transfer bonus bonanza also ends tomorrow. Now is a great time to plan for your spring award bookings and get more bang for your Membership Rewards.

3. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by tomorrow night.

4. Check for any annual fees that posted this and call the bank for a retention offer. My script: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” As usual, bonus travel hacker points if you say: “COVID has made it really hard to use the benefits, I wish it would end soon”. Don’t stop at the first offer they give you either by the way, there may be more. Always say: “Are there any other offers available?”

American Express specific note: If you accept a retention offer, plan on keeping that card for 12-13 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses going forward.

5. 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 tomorrow 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.

6. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits by tomorrow night, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first.

7. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop; a couple of lattes and a croisshark pastry, which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack is another option.

8. 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).

9. Finish off any Q3 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar.

Finally, remember that Q4 gift card reselling, physical goods reselling, grocery rewards deals, and travel deals kick into high gear really soon, so rest while you can. Before you ask: No, reading Flyertalk until 2AM doesn’t count as rest.

An image of a woman asleep sitting up in a laundry basket.
Pictured: Resting up after Q3 housekeeping.


Airfares for a couple of the routes that I regularly travel are annoyingly high for the next couple of months, and my go to for short hop domestic mileage redemptions on those routes is also double what it would normally be (10,000 Delta SkyMiles versus the normal 5,000 on the days that I want to fly).

As a result, I’ve pivoted to AA bookings with British Airways Avios and the 40% transfer bonus from American Express. On short-haul domestic routes, those flights are 7,500 Avois or ~5,400 Membership Rewards points with the bonus. (Side note: I suggest Seth’s wonderful Avois Redemption Calculator when deciding whether Avios for AA short-haul redemptions will work for you and your travel patterns.)

That’s all fine and good, but after my Avois booking is complete I have a British Airways record locator and my British Airways frequent flyer is attached the ticket; that’s not ideal because I hold an AA credit card which gets me priority boarding and a few other perks. That credit card is tied to my frequent flyer account with AA, not my BA account. If I had AA status I’d be even more annoyed since that wouldn’t be attached to the ticket either because the AA status is necessarily part of your AA account.

The Trick

So, I want to book with BA Avios but have my AA frequent flyer number on the ticket. While it’s possible to call British Airways or message them on Twitter to get your AA record locator, and then to take that record locator and contact AA and hope that the agent you talk to knows how to update your frequent flyer program and number, it’s annoying and error prone. There’s a much easier, mostly unknown method: Use the “Manage Booking” section of OneWorld Alliance member FinnAir’s website and you can update all of those details yourself. The steps:

  • Visit FinnAir
  • Enter your BA record locator and last name
  • Click “Search”
  • Click “Passenger Details”
  • Click “Update Details”

You can then enter your AA (or Alaska) frequent flyer number and click “Save”. After that your record will automatically attach to your AA account. You’ll then get all the measly benefits that your AA credit card provides, and/or you’ll get the flogging attached to your AA elite status, all without having to talk to another human.

Unless you board with AA elites, how would anyone know that you too are elite? By looking at your bag tag? Groan! Avoid that embarrassment with the FinnAir trick.

Mastercard is on my mind today, so let’s talk about a couple of deals and then add some commentary because it’s a wordy Monday:

The Deals

1. On Friday we thought that Staples was running a fee-free Visa gift card starting yesterday and running through Saturday. But first thing yesterday morning Katie let me know that the ad is wrong. Instead, Staples is actually running a Mastercard fee-free gift card sale yesterday through Saturday, limit five per transaction.

2. Office Depot/OfficeMax is running a sale on Mastercard gift cards yesterday through Saturday too, putting them in direct competition with Staples. This deal is a better one from an earning perspective: you get a $15 rebate on $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards. When you buy two gift cards you’ll earn $1.10 after fees, and you’ll get another $10 back from Dosh as long as you’ve linked your card in the app ahead of time. Given several reports of Dosh looking harder at obvious gift card transactions, I’d add some staples or rubber bands to my purchase going forward.


We’ve talked about how Visa and Mastercard aren’t the same before, but let’s add a little more: By default, Visa and Mastercard gift cards are treated like any other debit card in backend payment processing systems, even though they have higher fees than a traditional debit card. Because the fees are higher, payment processors will often block prepaid cards in a whack-a-mole style fashion as usage grows. When they block, they block by BINs (the first 6 digits of a card number — but soon to be 8 digits). This gives us our first takeaway:

  • BINs that are less commonly found at major retailers are more likely to work for our many liquidation techniques.

Now let’s tie this into Mastercard gift cards with some useful background information: In the height of the money order manufactured spend craze between 2014 and 2019, Mastercard gift cards got a bad wrap because at Walmart, you had to use the “change payment trick” when liquidating one of them. That trick was error prone and it gave certain cashiers bad vibes which only made things worse. So, many big time manufactured spenders simply wouldn’t buy Mastercards and prevailing wisdom in the community became “Visa gift cards are better”. That brings us back to the first point with a twist:

  • Mastercard gift cards are less commonly used in manufactured spending, and as a result they’re more likely to work for our many liquidation techniques.

The above datapoint isn’t just theoretical either. There are multiple liquidation methods in use today that work with Mastercards but not Visas. So, maybe take deals listed above as a bigger opportunity than you may have initially considered.

I’m not saying I was the first with Mastercard on my mind (we all know that was Ray Charles), but I’m definitely the most recent.

We’re all over the map with today’s post, sorry friends. It’s just going to be a hot-mess and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

1. Are you ready for a bunch of fee free $200 Visa Gift Cards again? Well, Staples has got your back. Between Sunday and the following Saturday they’re fee free, limit five per transaction. Make sure you have a plan for liquidation before buying a bunch. EDIT 9/26/2021: Katie let me know that the ad is wrong, it’s actually Mastercard Gift Cards in this sale.

Related followup: Safeway, like Walmart and Kroger, does indeed have a $99 per transaction debit card limit on these cards. So if worst comes to worst, I guess you could buy a couple of money orders to get rid of a card, but ewww David.

2. Yun wrote in to let me know that by chatting with Point debit card support, he was able to get the $99 annual fee refunded on multiple accounts and keep the card open after their walk-back of an offer for a $0 annual fee. I’d suggest that if you signed up for the rewards card with the first year fee free and were still charged $99, you chat with their support online and try and get it refunded. I’d try a few times if it doesn’t work out the first time.

Related followup: I opened a spite Point debit card and I think you should also. Talk about burying the lead on this one too — Point has a new streak for $30 back after using the card once per day for five days, as long as the total works out to at least $200 in spend before October 3. It’s a debit card so getting your spend going is easier than in quite a few other cases, and now that I have a spite card I can get the streak an extra time.

3. I had a several people send questions, notes, and clarifications about American Express upgrade offers. To sum it up:

  • On the personal card side (like the business card side), opening a new card or upgrading an existing card will almost never result in a hard credit pull. However on the personal side a new card will always result in a new account on your credit card which matters if you’re trying to be under 5/24.
  • The “almost” in the above statement comes from what American Express sees when they do a periodic soft credit card pull (which doesn’t show up on your credit report). If something on that soft pull looks very different than before, they may do a hard inquiry for a new application.
  • On business card upgrades you don’t need to wait 12 months before getting an upgrade; the reason you have to wait that long on the personal side is due to legislation in the CARD act.
  • The downgrade/upgrade game is alive and well for some of you, don’t discount the play.
  • There are multiple reports that upgrades have been seen on more than one business card, check them all, and just because you’ve upgraded one doesn’t mean there’s not another offer right behind it.
  • You almost certainly don’t need worry about the presence of lifetime language restrictions in an upgrade offer. I’m not aware of any reports of that condition being enforced, and I’ve seen hundreds data-points that say the conditions don’t matter (including my own).
  • If you get a popup during application for a new card or during upgrade that says your’e not eligible for a sign-up bonus, believe it. There was a brief period where that wasn’t true, but unfortunately that period has passed.

4. Check here for a spend offer on your United credit card. I got 500 bonus miles for spending $500 on my card, which is worth about $7.50 best case, gee thanks. I guess I could use that $7.50 to buy myself a gourmet, marine-life shaped croissant.

5. I finally decided to start using Venmo for in-store payments this week, and my first purchase was a large one at CVS in a different state than where I live. That resulted in my Venmo account being locked and a few annoying email threads with Venmo support. Don’t be like me, try a little harder.

It’s been a long winded week on this site, hmm 🤔.

My prize from the grab-bag? A croissant croisshark. You knew this picture was coming even before you saw it, right?

My general advice for promotions is register for them when you see them even if you think you’re not going to take advantage of the offer, and yes I registered for #2 even though I actually had to lookup which hotels were part of Choice (answer: seems like none I want to stay at, but I digress).

1. Register here for another Radisson bonus offer, which should stack with the other recent Raddison promotion. I’ll be staying at a Radisson in the next couple of weeks to take advantage of these offers, and it’ll be the first time I’ve stayed at a Radisson in years. This one is 3,000 bonus points for your first stay and 12,000 bonus points on your second stay between now and December 31.

2. Register here for a Choice hotels bonus of 2,000 points on two night stays and 5,000 points on longer stays between now and October 31. I won’t be staying at a Choice hotel for this promotion on purpose, but I’m still going to register in case I end up at one because someone hates me.

3. Register here for 500 miles from Delta. In theory you have to fly through LAX and scan a QR code to earn the miles, but in practice that may not be true. Bonus hint for making this even more likely to post: Have you noticed that cancelled reservations still show up in your Skymiles activity on the original day of departure?

4. Register here for 3,000 bonus points on your next stay at Wyndham properties. This program is a sleeper for most people but trust me, it can be very worth your time and it is something you can game.

Happy Thursday!

A sample Choice Hotel. Why wouldn’t you want to be here?

Gift cards are a hot topic for a few different reasons right now. We’ll start with the positive news and descend into the depths from there:

1. Simon has a new promotion code for 55% off of Mastercard and Visa fees at their volume site: SEP21EA55. This is one of the best offers they’ve had in recent years. These Metabank cards aren’t working for purchases of money orders at the big three purveyors (with limited exceptions): Walmart, Kroger, and Safeway. They still work at many mid-size and small-size regional grocery chains though, and for certain uses at Target. You can also use bill payment services and maybe a FinTech platform or two to cash them out.

Don’t forget that American Express doesn’t award points and doesn’t count Simon purchases toward minimum spend.

2. Dean let me know that the card linked program Dosh has a boosted offer for 4% back on purchases at Office Depot / OfficeMax, though the maximum daily award is still $10 per account. If you buy a single $200 Visa or Mastercard with a $6.95 purchase fee, you’ll be ahead $1.05 after Dosh cash back. You’ll do even better with one of the “Everywhere” Visas and their lower purchase fees of $4.95. (Watch out though, the Everywhere cards don’t work everywhere. The probably should be called “some of everywhere” cards.)

To scale this deal I have one Dosh account for each of my Ink cards, each linked to a different phone number. Do note that there is a report or two on reddit that a Dosh account was locked from transfers due to suspected fraud. So far I’m not affected but going forward I’d buy a pack of paper clips or something with your gift card so the numbers don’t come out as exactly $204.95.

3. There’s a lot going on in the gift card buyers market right now. It’s too early to tell if you should be concerned or not (I think currently you shouldn’t be, but I just turned my gift card buyer radar-gain up to an eleven). With that in mind I think it’s worth reiterating my general advice: Diversify your pool of gift card buyers so that you spread out any risk, and never sell more in gift cards to a single buyer than you’d be willing to lose if the worst case scenario ever occurred again. I’m happy to do $30,000 or more in volume per week when selling gift cards, but I’m most certainly not happy to have $30,000 floated to a single buyer. My favorite buyers pay-out in 3 or so business days which helps me do high volume with less float, and my least favorite take quite a bit longer.

To add to the above advice: There were signs that things were going pear shaped months before the last time the worst case scenario happened, and smart gift card resellers should take those signs as a lesson going forward.

Inception: An image of a gift card illustrating when gift card reselling goes pear shaped.

Let’s catch up from a few things over the last week or so:

1. Reader Jacob wrote in to let me know that Thursday’s offer for $0 annual-fee for the first year with the Point debit card didn’t pan out. He signed up using the trick in the post and was still charged $99. Point support said the offer was a mistake and they wouldn’t honor it despite his supporting documentation. Stefan also let me know that he couldn’t sign up using anyone’s referral code using Thursday’s trick, so they’ve patched the website too.

When I wrote about the offer I guessed it would work, but that if it somehow failed it would be that you wouldn’t get the $100 sign up bonus. Obviously this was completely backward. You’ll almost certainly get the bonus but not the waived annual fee. I’m ready to call Point a louse and to encourage you to spin up more accounts for your P2, P3, etc the next time there’s a nice boost offer purely out of spite. A “spite account”, if you will.

2. The targeted link I shared for a no-lifetime language American Express Platinum with 150,000 Membership Rewards after $15,000 in spend in three months worked despite it pushing me above American Express’s 10 charge card limit and despite already having two other Business Platinums for the same sole proprietorship. The card arrived today which was the last hurdle, and it took American Express longer than normal to send it to me so I was starting to get dubious about whether it’d appear. I’ll knock out the spend this week and I fully expect the bonus to post without issue.

Remember, AmEx won’t pull your credit for a new business card application as long as you already have an account in good standing with them. Lob in an app or two, there’s literally no consequence to a denial (except maybe your pride?) so give it a shot.

3. I wrote about American Express upgrade shenanigans on Friday — I upgraded a business gold card last week and knocked the spend out in a day (I cheated with prepaid taxes on that one, had it done within 10 minutes of activating the card). The bonus posted two days later exactly as expected. Look for upgrade offers offers, they’re real and they’re wonderful.

Thanks to Latte Larry’s for the inspiration for opening a spite card.