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.
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.
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.
Over the weekend I was in Minneapolis at the first Milenomics meet-up. I saw a few long-time friends, shared war stories with travel hacking veterans, and traded a few insider tips. I was also asked quite a few questions about travel hacking and the blog, but the most common was some variation of “Why do you blog if you’re not trying to monetize it?” That happens to be the most common question that I get from readers lately too. The answer really has two sides:
First: Networks are Everything
Having a partner in crime with whom you can share candid data-points will magnify your earnings and prevent certain failures; you’re each probably looking at different things, you likely have a different set of credit cards, you definitely have a different set of biases in how you look at the world, and you can divide and conquer when you’re probing something new. As a pair you typically amplify each other’s strengths and cover-over many weaknesses.
Obviously if you have a few close, trusted friends the above effects will be even greater still. Have I found deals that no one else had ever mentioned or hinted at? Absolutely. Have I learned about great deals from others that I’d probably have never even thought to look at? Also, absolutely. In this game, trusted colleagues simply make each other better.
So let’s circle back to the blog. I started it to grow my network, which frankly has worked really well and also been a bunch of fun.
Second: I Don’t Hate Money, But I Value Trust More
Do I hate money? Of course not. I don’t put affiliate links or ads here though because I want to make sure that you can trust me; even more so if we start working together on something going forward. I want to make sure that there’s absolutely no question about ulterior motives. If I’m writing about a credit card, you can be sure it’s not because it pays me a commission, but rather because I think it’s genuinely valuable and that it may be worth your attention.
Where does that leave us? Well, I have someone ask me how they can support me or the blog in some way almost weekly. I very much appreciate the thought, and earlier this year I set up a Patreon for the site so people could do so (it’s the little present icon in the upper right of the toolbar). I don’t advertise it because it’s not the primary goal and I don’t want you to feel like you’re not going to get my honest opinion unless you send money my way. You’ll get it either way. If you want to give me money though, who am I to say no?
Bonus: Genuine Connections Mean Free Drinks
Just this weekend I had more than a dozen people offer to buy me a drink because they wanted to say thanks and have a nice discussion about travel hacking and the world in general. Thanks to each and every one of you! You don’t have to buy my a drink, I’ll be glad to talk anyway. Of course, a free beer never hurts anything.
PS: I hear you “Blah, blah, blah, where’s the normal newsletter poindexter?” Don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled content tomorrow and this blog isn’t going anywhere any-time soon, sorry haters (I’ve honestly never heard from a hater but I’m sure you exist, somewhere).
If you set your way-back machine to March 18, you’ll find a post about taking an upgrade offer from an American Express Personal Gold or Green card for 25,000 or 75,000 Membership Rewards after $2,000 in spend and another 10x at gas and grocery stores for up to $15,000 in spend, good for 183 days. I know a few of you took the upgrade offer like me, and I got two notes in April and May to let me know that the points from this deal never posted for you, also like me.
Now fast forward to September 2 when the first report came in that the bonuses and 10x rewards started posting. A few days after that, messages started coming from all over the place confirming both the bonus and 10x. I checked my account and with zero surprise, the points had posted. It took a while, but the offer eventually came in like it was supposed to. If you opened yours after March 18, you may still have a day or two left to squeeze that juice by the way.
It’s of course great news that bonuses started posting, but there’s more to the story: a couple of weeks ago, upgrade offers for another 25,000 Membership Rewards and another $15,000 on 10x spend started raining from the sky on Personal Green and Gold cards in the offers section of the dashboard. As far as I’ve been able to tell, almost all Personal Green and Gold cards have the offer provided the card account has been open for at least 12 months.
Can you see where I’m going with this? If you have a Platinum card that’s been open for at least 12 months, call American Express and downgrade it to a Gold or a Green card, wait about an hour, then check for an upgrade offer. You’ve got an excellent chance that one will appear and you’ll get another 25,000 Membership Rewards and another $15,000 in 10x capacity. Bananas, right? There’s a similar play on the Business side too. Just don’t do this on a Platinum that had a retention offer in the last 12 months to avoid angering AmEx. Also, it may only work once on the Personal side and once on then Business side per person.
Oh, the spend bonuses and 10x are posting in a few days on these offers — you won’t have to wait five and a half months to see them. Save that way-back machine for looking at the old Schwab 1.25 cent cash-out.
1. Reader Yun let me know that there’s a neat hack for new Point.app debit card accounts. If you use someone’s referral code at this link, the annual fee drops to $0 for the first year and $49 for the second year. What’s currently unclear is whether you’ll get the $100 sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 when you use the link. My guess is yes, but that’s just a guess.
If you need a referral code, ask a friend and make their day because they’ll likely get a referral bonus. If that’s not a good option for you, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll share Yun’s (he’s given me permission).
2. I got a no lifetime language (NLL) offer via email for the Business Platinum card from American Express, with 150,000 Membership Rewards after $15,000 in spend within the first three months. The link in my inbox seems to skirt the 10 charge card limit — hopefully the link works for you too. To check, login to American Express and then click here.
I’m back up to 11 charge cards with American Express now with 9 of them being Platinums, huzzah I guess?
3. Marriott Bonvoy has enlisted American Express’s help to #bonvoy you. How? I’m glad you asked. They’re sending around targeted offers for card holders that give you a pitiful 1,000 points if you add an authorized user to your Bonvoy Card and spend $1,000 on the authorized user card in six months. You can see if you’re targeted at this link.
This is a terrible offer by the way; 1,000 Bonvoy points are worth at best $5, which is approximately the price of a cookie at a Marriott Courtyard.
Airlines went nuts in the last day or so, here are a few of most relevant announcements:
1.ANA announced that they no longer have change fees for trips originating in the US. The text in that announcement is a little weird in that it seems to imply that policy doesn’t take effect until October 1, but I believe that what’s actually happening is that on the first of October, countries in the Americas other than the US will no longer have this, but all countries in the Americas including the US have fees waived until then. A few choice ANA sweet-spots:
North America to Japan round-trip in business class is 75,000 ANA Mileage Club miles during low season, 85,000 miles during regular season, and 95,000 miles during peak season. All of these are actually a great value.
North America to Europe round-trip in business class is 88,000 Mileage Club miles.
2.Southwest is having a fare sale for travel that includes Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ve locked all that in by now, but in case you haven’t please do it soon. If you haven’t booked by tomorrow, there will be consequences. What consequences? I won’t feel bad for you when you have to book at higher prices. How’s that for consequences?
3. Ok, so technically this is “Thursday Airline Mayhem”, but I want you to be ready if it’s relevant so this item was brought forward a day: Southwest is extending their schedule tomorrow, and this round covers Spring Break 2022. I’d do yourself a favor and look at your plans for next Spring and get some tentative flights booked with Southwest if it overlaps with those plans. They’ll almost certainly change their schedule between now and then which will give you the opportunity to potentially switch to even better flights at no upcharge.
If you book with Rapid Rewards points, you can always cancel and redeposit with no penalty for a nice play on tentative plans.
4.JetBlue is having fare sale for bookings made by tomorrow that covers travel between September 20 and November 18. This is a good speculative travel play because even JetBlue Basic award tickets can be redeposited or changed without fees.
Target runs a deal like $50 off of $50 when opening a new Target Redcard every few months. The latest of these deals started Saturday and runs through October 1. The promotion applies to opening either a debit Redcard or for a credit card Redcard, both of which have merit (and not just because they’ll both give you 5% off of everything at Target).
Why sign up for the debit card?
There’s no hard pull on your credit
You can close it as soon as you get the $50 off coupon
After closing the card, wait 48 hours and you can sign up for another one with the same info to get another coupon
Over the period of this promotion, you’ll almost certainly be able to open/close twice, and perhaps three times. So, think of this as $100-$150 in Target stuff every few months with no credit pull.
What about the credit card? Well, $50 is a really crappy bonus for signing up for a credit card for sure, especially one that only works at Target. But, this card has a great feature: You may be able to pay off your balance in store. (Target is pretty accepting of different payment methods — remember the American Express for Target prepaid card before it was discontinued? I do)
There’s another reason to get the credit version of the Target RedCard: It’s a prerequisite for getting the Target Mastercard which, unlike the RedCard, works at stores other than Target.
Good luck, and a special thanks to Larry for consulting with me on this post.