Remember to take time to reexamine your assumptions from time-to-time; when you’ve got a different toolkit and different experiences, the same deal can go from looking like a boat anchor to looking like a treasure chest. And with that:

  1. I haven’t written about the Axos Bank sign-up bonus for a new brokerage account before because it the grand scheme of bank and brokerage bonuses there are bigger fish to fry. But, yesterday they increased the sign-up bonus from $100 to $150, and that made me revisit their terms and conditions with fresh eyes. This one is interesting because:

    – It requires only $1,000 to trigger the bonus
    – The bonus timeframe is short at 90 days
    You can churn the sign-up bonus, you just have to have closed your account 91+ days ago to be eligible for another one
    – The bonus appears regularly, so the likelihood of being able to churn this again is high

    The effective APR on this bonus is annualized to 60%, but that’s only for up $1,000 in cash. #slay I guess. (Thanks to DoC for noting the increased bonus)
  2. OnJuno, a favorite cash-back debit card for some of you, has a free $10 for buying $50 or more in crypto today. Valid only for OnJuno users without a current OnJuno crypto wallet. The bonus will arrive by June 7.

    I bought $50.00 USDC and then sold $50.00 USDC a couple of minutes later; there were no transaction fees.
  3. The last day for a 2:1 transfer of Marriott Bonvoy points to Air Canada Aeroplan miles is today (to get exactly 2:1, you’ll need to transfer in 60,000 point increments). If you need Star Alliance award flights, this is probably a higher value redemption of Bonvoy points than you’ll find at any almost any Marriott property. For once, we’re not #bonvoyed by Bonvoy, but only if we act today. Yes, I do see you looking at me with crazy eyes.

    As always, remember that an unredeemed mile is worth exactly nothing until it’s used.
Fresh eyes and crazy eyes don’t have to be different.

There are several catch-all liquidation options in the hobby, for example, BravoPay/Famigo at effectively 3.5% cost. I’ve seen a few people leave a stack of gift cards on their desks for months at a time, waiting for a cheap liquidation option instead of cashing out with fees and moving on. I hate to remind you of the current state of the US economy, but a gift card left on your desk for five months is effectively costing you 3.5% or more anyway, so using a high-fee service to cash it out immediately can be a strategic decision.

There are a few other reasons you may want to use a high-fee liquidation option:

  • You have a card that doesn’t work at your normal liquidation channels, or is otherwise tainted in some way
  • You’re bed-ridden either due to sickness or extreme laziness and don’t want to go to the local grocery chain for a money order
  • You live in Manhattan and none of the popular, nationwide chains exist in your area
  • You’ve maximized your capacity to liquidate at lower cost, and you have more cards coming in than liquidation capacity going out (this sounds like a problem from a differential calculus textbook)
  • You’re earning at 12x and can easily afford 3.5% liquidation

What’s my point? High-fee liquidation can make sense and you should add it to your tool-bag for manufactured spend. Just don’t use it as a crutch to avoid probing for lower fee options, which generally do exist for essentially every type of card out there.

Pictured: Liquidating at 3.5% may not look good, but it can sure feel good.

The Deal

Meijer is running its best promotion for a manufactured spender, an instant 10% discount on $500 in purchased gift cards after clipping the digital coupon. The sale runs today and tomorrow, limit one per MPerks account. The deal excludes a few major gift card resale brands like Apple and Amazon, but does work on others like Nike, Home Depot, Adidas, Best Buy, and Disney.

There are years where it’s been worth traveling to Meijer land just to take advantage of this deal, but thanks to effectively a month of crazy Kroger fuel points deals, rates and demand on major brands are at a local minima. As a result, it probably only makes sense to travel into the region if you’ve got quite a few 99 AmEx AU card offers to blow through or you can find a cheap way to get there.

A Reader Report

At the last of these Meijer sales in November, 2021, reader Mike booked a roundtrip flight to Ohio for a Saturday day trip. His experience:

  • He had a little over seven hours between his outbound and return flights
  • He made 15 MPerks accounts the night before, but that only lasted him a couple of hours
  • He traveled to six stores over the course of his time on the ground
  • He bought 36 $500 BestBuy gift cards for $450 each
  • He took his time but believes he could have been much more efficient with a plan

At the time resale rates for BestBuy were about 97%, so with $35 per BestBuy card in profit, he netted about $1,260 in cash and $18,000 in grocery store spend.

A favorite trope in the manufactured spend community is that “all manufactured spend is local”. The good news is that we can just redefine local with a quick trip.

Fly-over country becomes fly-to country. If not for Meijer, it’s for, err, whatever this is.

The $189 Clear credit has rapidly diminishing returns for those of us with more than a handful of Platinum cards, especially after P1, P2, and Pn have memberships. So, what are we to do after everyone already has it?

There’s a good option, and even without Platinum cards it could be interesting if you’ve got the current American Express offer for a statement credit of 50% for up to $189 at Clear on another card:

So, we can effectively trade a $189 Clear credit for 10,000-15,000 United MileagePlus miles, which is probably worth at least $400 according to out of touch some loonies on the interwebs (but in all seriousness, miles are worth zero until you spend them, and you’re not going to get more than 1.6 cents per MileagePlus mile worth of value as a loose rule when you do spend them.)

How do we scale? Just sign-up multiple times, but based on experience from past deals:

  • You are limited to one promotion per MileagePlus account, but surely you control more than one of those, right?
  • You don’t have to sign up with real info other than a valid MileagePlus number and matching name
  • You don’t have to go to the airport to finish registration despite the terms and conditions stating otherwise

What about that AmEx offer? In that case, you’re trading $94.50 for 10,000-15,000 MileagePlus miles (and an extra $94.50 worth of rewards from AmEx spend). That’s probably still a decent deal.

Good luck!

Travel blogger valuation of a cup of lemonade.

Rhetorical random thought: Why is a college quad called a quad? If you know don’t tell me, I’m currently living in ignorant bliss on the matter and wish to keep it that way.

  1. If you have an American Express EveryDay card, check your account dashboard for a targeted upgrade offer to the EveryDay Preferred card with a 40,000 Membership Rewards bonus. You’ll have an annual fee of $95 to pay in exchange for those 40,000 points.

    For a level two churner, I’d also ask for a retention offer from AmEx the day after upgrading the card since you’re going to have to keep it open for a year anyway to stay out of the penalty box.
  2. Check your inbox for targeted spend bonuses from Discover, offering an extra 2% on spend through July 31 for up to $2,000 in spend (of course I’d only knock this out stacked with Q2 and Q3 5x spend).
  3. Giant, Stop & Shop, and Martin’s stores have 10x points on Apple gift cards through tomorrow, up to $2,000 in spend per loyalty account. Resale rates are in the 92% range right now, so this is a nice way to gin up some bonused grocery spend at above break even. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  4. Kroger has a 4x fuel points sale running Friday through Monday on third party gift cards. Unfortunately for resellers there’s been effectively some form of 4x, 6x, or 12x running all month which has depressed rates, likely through the middle of June.
  5. Graduate Hotels (a boutique hotelier with unique properties scattered across the US and Europe) is running an award sale today starting at 12 PM Eastern for hotel rooms at $30 per night, plus taxes for stays through July 31. The sale runs for 30 hours, but my guess is that the truly great options will sell out long before that. (Thanks to FM)

For some reason Washington University didn’t contact me before naming this “the quad”. I guess it is more catchy than “the polygons” though.

Introduction

This weekend’s thunderstorms in Maryland and DC wreaked havoc on travelers all over the US, primarily because canceled flights led to lack of crew and aircraft downstream. With US carriers seeing load factors above 90%, recovery times are long and last-minute fares are sky-high to boot. When events like this happen though, it’s an opportunity for travel hackers to get (relatively) inexpensive last-minute fares provided that the weather can somehow work its way into your travel plans.

Booking Into a Waiver

Let’s say on Saturday I decided that I wanted to fly from BOS to MCO on Sunday or Monday because reasons. Unfortunately, last-minute airfares were north of $500 one-way for a desirable, direct flight, and because mileage rates are often directly tied to fares in the US market, mileage redemption values were terrible too.

But, there’s a way out. It starts with checking for travel waivers with the major airlines, and then trying to shoehorn a bad, cheap itinerary into what you actually want. To pull the stunt off:

  • Check airline travel waiver pages (AA, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United)
  • Find airports that have waivers
  • Book the cheapest, worst flight possible that passes through a waiver airport (see forced routings for how to find these airfares)
  • Change your flight under the travel waiver to the flight you actually want without paying any difference in fare

Circling back to our BOS to MCO flight, a 5:15 AM BOS to BWI flight on Southwest with a 6 hour layover connecting to another flight to MCO was a tad over $200, and BWI was one of the airports covered by Southwest’s travel waiver. So, one could book the cheap cruddy BWI connecting flight after the waiver is issued, then immediately switch to the direct flight that leaves hours later for no extra fee.

For what it’s worth, United and AA are probably the best airlines for this hack because they offer punitive red-eye connecting to another red-eye with a 20 hour layover saver awards pretty much year round, but go with whatever fits your travel needs.

Gotchas

Airlines are typically very permissive with waiver related changes, but sometimes waivers have specific exclusions like requiring that you booked the ticket directly with the airline and not through a travel agent, so double check the fine print.

Good luck out there!

The bad news is that this might be the only seat left on that BOS-MCO flight with boarding position C-60.

First, a note: if you’re playing the Kroger gift card resale game, always make sure you clip any coupon that could be, even remotely, related to what you’re buying.

And with that out of the way, let’s dive into the week with a few above-average offers and a below-average offer to balance it out.

  1. Forums lit up over the weekend with news of the Capital On Tap business credit card increasing the sign-up bonus to $750 for $7,500 in spend.This is interesting because:

    – Capital On Tap isn’t performing a hard-pull on your credit
    – The card doesn’t report to credit bureaus
    – Credit lines are typically large
    – They support payments with debit cards from their payment portal

    There are a few downsides too: This is only available by a TPG affiliate link and reportedly it’s tough to get approved without a corporation, LLC, or other registered entity.
  2. Bank of America has been emailing targeted, uncapped bonus spend offers through December 31 for:

    – +2% bonus cash back on Customized Cash Visa
    – +2x miles on the Alaska Airlines Visa
    – +2x miles on the Travel Rewards Visa
    – +2x miles on the Amtrack Visa

    Check your email for any messages from Bank of America from the weekend, especially in your spam folders. I wasn’t targeted sadly, so I’m going to have to live vicariously through you on this one.
  3. Jim was the first to let me know that OfficeDepot / Office Max has a $15 instant discount on $300 or more in Metabank Visa gift cards through Saturday. To maximize:

    – Buy the “Everywhere” cards which have a lower fee and are typically easier to liquidate
    – Link your credit cards to Dosh
    – Try and run multiple transactions back to back
  4. Meijer MPerks has a $5 Meijer gift card with the purchase of $500 in Happy Gift cards through May 28, but you have to clip the coupon first. (Thanks to GC Galore)

    Normally I wouldn’t write about a $5 back deal but it gives an opening to talk about a Happy Gift Card that’s now available in both physical and digital form (EDIT: Thanks to yehuda for the corrected link): The St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital Happy card, which can be swapped to BestBuy. This is great from a velocity, resale, and anti-fraud perspective.

The outline for this post.

We’re all over the place today:

  1. There’s a new option to cash out orphaned ANA miles. You can now convert them to Amazon gift cards at 0.83 cents per point. The value isn’t great, but if you’ve got miles sitting there from a COVID cancelled-trip with no prospects for burning them soon this could be a good way to temporarily exit the program. (Thanks to T C)
  2. There have been many reports over the last two days that more people are targeted for a 20,000 Membership Rewards bonus for turning on Pay-over-Time on AmEx charge cards. To check each of your cards, you’ll have to set the card to be the default, then check the landing page.
  3. Staples has fee free $200 Mastercard gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday, limit five per transaction. Coincidentally (or is it?), this deal starts the day after the Office Depot/OfficeMax variant ends.

    These cards are Metabank issued so have a liquidation plan in place other than buying a money order at Walmart, Kroger, or Safeway. How are other national retailers treating you though?
  4. The onJuno banking and rewards debit card, a favorite for some of you, is now paying a 3% annual bonus on Bitcoin and Ethereum crypto holdings. I guess that bonus helps offset some of BTC’s 36.6% loss over the last 365 days? (Too soon?)

Have a nice weekend!

In fairness, this car probably also depreciated 36.6% in the last 365 days.