Since American Express has effectively consumed the majority of this month’s posts with their ludicrous, new-Subaru-MSRP-valued offers, it seemed fitting to send the month off with discussion about scaling and financial reviews based on chatter in and around the community.

Scaling

American Express is more tolerant of massively scaled spending than any other big bank, but keep the following in mind:

  1. AmEx doesn’t care about cycling your credit lines. You can spend up to your credit limit, pay it down before the statement closes, and then spend a bunch more.
  2. AmEx does care about an explosion in spending. If you typically spend $5,000 per month and then spend $300,000 in two weeks, you could end up with a financial review. For rough numbers lets say:

    – A quick ramp of 3x to 5x of your normal spending is probably OK
    – A quick ramp of 20x+ of your normal spending is probably not OK
    – A slow, multi-month ramp to 20x+ of your normal spending is probably OK
  3. AmEx doesn’t care if you spend multiple times your annual business revenue on business cards.
  4. AmEx often cares if you spend multiple times your annual income on personal cards.
  5. AmEx doesn’t care about round numbers — 30 to 50 repeated $1,000.00 transactions won’t cause any problem, provided you’re playing by the above rules.
  6. AmEx won’t typically shut you down immediately if you violate the above rules, instead you’ll end up with a financial review. (Shutdowns at AmEx are more like being in the wrong place at the wrong time unfortunately.)

Financial Reviews

When American Express finds behavior it doesn’t like you’ll get a call asking for a financial review. When you get a financial review, American Express will usually ask:

  • “Why are you spending so much at TurboGiftCardsNow.com?” (Answer: to separate my expenses of course)
  • “Why did you start spending so much more this month than normal?” (Answer: big business contract)
  • “What’s the source of your income?” (Answer: my job and the big business contract)
  • “Can we see your tax returns for the last two years?” (Answer: of course, here’s a signed 4506-T form)

AmEx usually suspends your charging privileges during a financial review and they typically take two to four weeks to complete their investigation. Assuming the income reported on your tax return meets or exceeds the income you put on your card applications, you’re almost certainly in the clear and you’ve essentially got a green light to keep the shenanigans rocketing toward the moon. Then you can go inception and use all those Membership Rewards to buy yourself a Subaru with your American Express to earn even more Membership Rewards to earn another Subaru.

Have a nice weekend!

Recharging your new 99 employee-card funded electric Subaru for another MS run.

May typically marks the start of great deals for gift-card reselling and this year the deals started early. A good gift card resale deal will be cashflow positive, scalable, and provide a nice credit card bonus category. Three of those have just hit:

  1. Many Vons, Safeway, Albertsons, and other Just4U stores have an offer for $10 back on a future purchase with a purchase of $50 or more gift cards through May 10, the most worthwhile of which for a manufactured spender is Apple with its 90-92% resale value. This is unique for two reasons:

    – The limit is one per transaction, not one per account which makes scaling easy
    – The deal isn’t chain-wide; check your region’s local weekly ad to see if it’s available near you

    Provided your Just4U store allows you to buy gift cards at self checkout, I’d buy as many of these back-to-back as you’re comfortable with using a card that bonuses at grocery or with several of your many AmEx employee cards. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  2. Save Mart and Lucky stores are running a similar deal with similar math: you’ll get 1,000 points worth $10 in groceries for purchasing $50 in more of gift cards through May 10. The best option here is also Apple.

    Unlike the previous deal though, this one requires clipping a digital coupon and is limit one per account. So, scale this one with multiple accounts, but remember that redeeming 1,000 points across multiple accounts will be annoying.
  3. Shoppers stores will print a $15 off coupon when buying $100 in gift cards for certain third party brands. The most interesting ones are Starbucks or Sephora which resell at approximately 89%.

    This will print off a coupon with each transaction, so I’d camp at self check-out and run as many back-to-back as you’re comfortable with, using the coupon for the last transaction to buy the next gift card over and over again. (Thanks to Roger)

While we’re at it, don’t forget about the slightly less profitable but still great deal for $50 back on $500 in gift cards from Meijer.

Happy Thursday!

The one thing that could throw a wrench in your plans: self-checkout lines like this.

Today we’ve got a few new options to save on airfare:

  1. Southwest has a 30% off fare sale to and from Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America with promo code GOTROPICAL and bookings made by tomorrow evening for travel between September 6 and November 4. Schedule changes haven’t happened for those dates yet by the way, why would you ask?
  2. Create a new frequent flyer account with Alaska Airlines for $25 off of airfare in most states, or $50 off of airfare if your fake new account lives in California or Hawaii. You’ll receive the code via email within three days.

    Of course booking a one way for you and a one way for your twin will yield twice the discount on a round trip, but unfortunately your twin doesn’t have six months to cash in the deal like your 99 American Express twins do, rather the code expires 28 days after the account is opened. (Thanks to FM)

Mango Punch Tampico and Citrus Punch Tampico each have an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer account. That doesn’t make them not gross.

Introduction

There are several different “penalty boxes” with American Express, but they all share one thing in common: You get a pop-up telling you that you’re not eligible for some bonus due to your past relationship with American Express.

Getting In

There are multiple ways to get put into the penalty box, but all of them involve a single principle — you’ve done something that AmEx didn’t like. Known routes in:

  • Closing or downgrading a card within the first 12 months of having the card
  • Closing or downgrading a card within the first 12 months of a retention offer
  • Closing or downgrading a card within the first 12 months of earning an upgrade bonus
  • Too many card referrals to the same person

There are probably other ways in too, but data-points are sparse so it’s hard to find more patterns.

Getting Out

There are two known vectors out of the penalty box:

  • Spend ($20,000 per month for a month or two, especially on a co-branded card)
  • Time (1-2 years)

Spending on Membership Rewards earning cards seem to be less likely to get you out, while co-brand cards like the Delta or Hilton cards are more likely to get you out. The likely reason that AmEx purchased a bunch of co-brand rewards points and gets to remove some of them off of their books, improving their overall balance sheet.

Hangin’ in the AmEx penalty box.

PayPal Key was supposed to die on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, but Saturday marks the actual date of death according to the county coroner’s office. I hope you got an extra $25,000 in daily spend after the publicized last use date and if not, take a note for the future that deals don’t always die when they’re supposed to die.

With that out of the way:

  1. As a followup to last week’s American Express Employee Card Offers post, I’ve now received three separate reports of second batches of 5 employee cards posting a bonus after the bonuses posted for the first batch of 5.

    The obvious takeaway is to call and add 5 more employee cards every day until you’ve got the limit of 99 total employee cards, assuming you’ve got the spend capacity to support it. (Thanks to Jay, Rob, and GlockLT4)
  2. Office Depot/OfficeMax (can we please drop one of those two names yet?) has $25 back in rewards for spending $100 on Happy or Giving Good gift cards through May 7. Don’t forget to link your credit card to Dosh for an extra 2% back, don’t forget to create multiple rewards accounts and multiple Dosh accounts to scale as desired, and do note that rewards typically take a few days to show up in your account.

    Frankly this is a much better deal for me than the typical Visa / Mastercard fee free deals t because you can buy a Happy or Giving Good card that converts to Home Depot and sell for 90-92% of face value, putting you ahead by a nice percentage while still getting an office supply store spend bonus and without dealing with a pesky money order. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Meijer has $50 back in Meijer rewards for buying $500 in gift cards through May 7 for most third party brands (or you can break this up into $5 off of $50 increments if you like pointless extra work). I’d focus on Home Depot and BestBuy gift cards as the best for resale value, scale with multiple MPerks accounts, and double check the excluded brand list if you want a different gift card.

    You can’t buy gift cards with MPerks rewards to create an infinite loop, but you can buy frozen pizza so there’s that.

Frozen pizza from Meijer can protect you from dealing with this abomination, or if this is your cup of tea, I guess you should buy Pizza Hut gift cards? Just don’t tell me about it.

First, let’s look forward to the weekend with a few deals:

  1. Lowe’s has a free $15 gift card with each $200 Visa gift card purchased deal running now through Wednesday, April 27. If you get a friendly store there’s effectively no limit on these purchases, and the “Everywhere” variety of gift cards with a lower purchase fee work too.

    With the current spot rate for Lowe’s $15 gift cards hovering around 87%, you’ll effectively get a $200 Visa gift card for $191. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  2. Staples has fee free $200 Mastercard gift cards starting on Sunday and running through Saturday, April 30, limit five per transaction. I wouldn’t bother though, because waves hands at the previous deal.
  3. Vinh reports that Safeway rewards coupons no longer apply to Visa gift cards. Points earning on Visa gift card purchases isn’t what it used to be either.
  4. If you’re a high level elite at AA and have a bunch of (mostly worthless and soon to be eliminated) 500 mile upgrade certificates in your account, consider trying to get them converted into miles with a little bit of back-and-forth: There’s a report on Flyertalk of an Executive Platinum member being able to exchange each certificate for 5,000 AA miles but the road wasn’t exactly painless.
  5. Bank of America has an offer for targeted double cash back on its credit and debit cards for purchases made today and tomorrow. Check the obviously-named-by-a-committee “BankAmeriDeals” here, save the offer if you see it, and then pair it with any other BankAmeriDeal to double it. Yay coupon books!

And second, have you gone zombie hunting this week? Not all dead deals are still dead. Happy weekend friends!

Deals don’t die when this is what companies use to kill them.

PayPal Key continued to work through the day yesterday and hopefully it will let you run another $25,000 through this morning. Fortunately, it’s been a slower week outside of PayPal Key to help keep eyes on the prize, though there are still opportunities:

  1. Kroger has 2x fuel points and 5% off of Visa and Mastercard gift cards through May 3 using code SPRING2022. Unfortunately these are Metabank gift cards, rather than the US Bank versions sold in store.
  2. Simon Mall has 50% off of all Visa gift card purchase fees through April 23 using promo code APR22EARTH50. (Thanks to Sharky for the tip)
  3. Now is the time to book into a Southwest schedule change for fall break. Why would you want to do that? Because schedule changes allow you free changes ± two weeks on Southwest. The latest round of schedule changes ran through September 4.

Happy Thursday friends.

An idea for your fall break trip: Lubbock, Texas, the home of this, uhh, “scenic” drive from nowhere to another nowhere.

Before we start, don’t forget that the death of PayPal Key is upon us. Hopefully PayPal forgot to schedule the shutdown you’ve still got a few more hours, and if we’re really lucky you’ve got until tomorrow morning too. Finish strong!

With that out of the way, there are currently two variants of American Express employee card offers floating around, and many of them have morphed over the last several weeks so it’s time to update the current state of the union.

First, the more lucrative version is a bonus for adding up to 99 employee cards. We’ve seen this one recently on:

  • Business Platinum (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $4,000 in spend, six months)
  • Business Gold (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $4,000 in spend, six months)
  • Business Delta Reserve (5,000 SkyMiles per card, $1,000 in spend, two months)
  • Business Delta Platinum (5,000 SkyMiles per card, $1,000 in spend, two months)

The less lucrative version involves a bonus for adding up to 5 employee cards, and we’ve seen it on:

  • Blue Business Plus (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)
  • Bonvoy Business Card ($200 statement credit per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)
  • Hilton Business Card ($200 statement credit per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)

The 5 employee card version can be repeated after a few days and the phone representatives seem to believe the bonus will apply again on the new batch, though the jury is still out as to whether that’s actually true. If you want to roll the dice, I’d get another 5 every day until you hit the limit on the assumption that the representatives know what they’re talking about.

And finally, a few final notes about these deals:

  • The 99 employee card variant seems to be a shotgun, all-at-once version. If you add 60 employees one day and call back later to add another 39, the deal will almost certainly be gone and you’ll be stuck with the first 60
  • We’ve seen deals on cards that were just opened and on cards that have been around for years
  • The offer seems to appear within a few weeks of opening a new card
  • Almost everyone is targeted. If you’re not, the answer is probably more spend
  • To check to see if you’re targeted for an offer, call the number on the back of your card, speak to a representative, and say “Are there any offers for adding employee cards to this account?”

Thanks to Boxy, nutella, DC Domer, SideshowBob233, Jim, and an anonymous contributor for datapoints on this offer. Now, let’s pour one out for our dying (dead) compadre, PPK.

(Update: Corrected the name of the Blue Business Plus card, thanks to Justmeha)

Celebrating the life of PPK a little too much.