1. Reader Matthew (no relation) was the first to let me know about American Express’s third annual Q4 referral bonus offer, which gives the referrer 4 additional Membership Rewards per dollar on up to $25,000 in spend in travel or transportation for three months after a successful referral. The offer is available on Membership Rewards earning cards on your account dashboard.

    If you don’t have $25,000 in organic spend in travel and transportation, I’d book some refundable travel, straddle the new year, break the correlation (which is even easier with hotels), and then refund. Alternatively, there’s a chicken hotel I’ve heard about that will also work.
  2. Do this now: Register for Wyndham’s Q4 promotion for 3x points up to 30,000 bonus points on hotel stays two nights or longer through January 16, 2023.
  3. Chase Pay Yourself Back has been extended through the end of the year. Eligible categories are still restaurant spend and airbnb. While the chicken hotel won’t work, refunding your airbnb experience booking after paying yourself back works just fine.

What a chicken hotel might look like.

  1. Check each of your Chase co-brand cards for Q4 bonus spend offers at chase.com/mybonus. The offers we’ve seen all have a cap of $1,500 in spend and offer one of:

    – 10x or 10% back at gas stations
    – 7x at gas stations
    – 5x or 5% back at some combination of gas stations, grocery stores, and Amazon
    – 3x or 3% back at some combinations of gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants

    Freedom and Freedom Flex cards have also seen $10 off of $100 or more in transportation and commuting expenses, but frankly that’s just noise.
  2. Do this now: Register for IHG’s Q4 promotion. You can choose either:

    – 2,000 bonus points for every two nights between October 13 and December 31
    – 10,000 bonus points for every four nights between October 13 and December 31
  3. Do this now (if you have a Chase United card): Register for the United Q4 badge game. There are various ways to earn miles, for me up to 5,000 of them. Personally this promotion isn’t lucrative enough for me to try and attain any specific goal, but I’ll likely hit a few of them organically. (Thanks to lenin1991)
  4. If you have a Citi AA Business card, you can earn $125 in Uber vouchers by creating an Uber Business account and spending $200 with the account on Uber or Uber Eats. (Thanks to Parts_Unknown-)

Thanks to Citi, AA, and Uber Eats, you can have even more poorly handled meals delivered to your door, 15 minutes late.

In case you hadn’t heard before now (maybe you didn’t read this post’s title), Virgin Atlantic announced yesterday that they’re joining SkyTeam. What that probably means:

  • Delta award availability will get better, but cost more (#bonvoyed)
  • ANA, Singapore Airlines, and Air New Zealand award redemptions will go away since each of these airlines is in Star Alliance, a SkyTeam competitor
  • Virgin Atlantic award availability will probably get better for SkyTeam partners
  • The 50,000 Virgin Atlantic mileage redemption for Delta business class to and from Europe loophole will likely be closed

As a result, I’d do the following, and do it quickly:

  • Book any ANA business class or first class round-trip awards to Japan and South Asia now, especially since Japan is opening on October 11. At 90,000-95,000 points round trip for business class, and 110,000-120,000 points round trip for first class, it’s hard to find a better redemption in any program
  • Book any Delta business class award tickets to and from Europe right away, again assuming that you can find availability
  • Book any Air New Zealand awards to Australia and New Zealand right away, also assuming you can find any availability

Don’t forget that American Express has a 30% transfer bonus for Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic that runs through Friday. Good luck!


Act fast on V05 too. Soon you’ll lose access to use it a toothpaste and mouthwash.

You’ve got until Friday to wrap up any spending and bonuses tied to the month or the quarter, so take a couple of minutes this week and make sure you’ve maximized:

  • Q3 Freedom 5x at gas, car rentals, movie theaters, car rentals, and some entertainment (Disney)
  • Q3 Discover 5% back at PayPal and restaurants
  • Q3 Citi Dividend 5x at gas stations and home improvement stores
  • September Uber and Uber Eats credits
  • September $10 AmEx Personal Gold dining credits
  • September $10 AmEx Business Platinum cell phone credits
  • Chase Pay-Yourself-Back for dining and airbnb, which may end on Friday

It’s also a good time to:

  • Call for retention offers on credit cards that had an annual fee post this month (Call the number on the back of your card and say something like “I’m considering closing this card due to its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do, I’m wondering if there are any retention offers or spend offers?”)
  • Close any cell-phone burner accounts that have reached the end of their useful life
  • Verify that you’ve received expected bonuses for bank accounts and new credit card applications
  • Check to see if you’re below 5/24, 3/4/5, 10 charge cards, or any other limit that’s holding you back from applying for new spend bonuses

Housekeeping like this can often be the best monetary return on your time available in churning and manufactured spend, just like avoiding Boston-Logan airport can be the best return on your travel time when flying (sorry New England).

At least you can go see this while you’re waiting for your delayed flight in Boston.

Introduction

A new credit card that offers uncapped 6% in cash-back at grocery stores through the end of 2023 issued by USAlliance Credit Union surfaced early in the weekend. When a great opportunity like this rolls around, there are two ways to play it:

  • The prudent method: Ramp-up spend and focus on longevity
  • The hog method: Going ham by hitting the deal as hard as possible, anticipating an early death

How do you decide which method to use?

Prudence

Sometimes you’ll make more over the long-term by exercising some restraint and caution as you play the game. That usually means:

  • Not cycling credit lines until the bank’s patterns are better understood
  • Ramping up spend over the course of a few months
  • Varying transaction sizes and patterns to obscure manufactured spend
  • Doing no more than one transaction per day

When you’re being prudent, you’re implicitly deciding that a deal will probably be around for a long while and you’ll make more and have less frustration by nurturing it throughout its life.

Hog

Sometimes a deal almost certainly won’t last for more than a few months, and your best return will come from hitting it as hard as possible. That looks like:

  • Cycling credit lines immediately
  • Overpaying to create a negative balance for more total spend
  • Hitting the deal as many times a day as possible

Getting shutdown after months of doing the above is almost inevitable at any bank, large or small; so don’t be surprised when the axe comes down.

Which Method to Use with USAlliance?

Back to the 6% uncapped cash-back at grocery card, let’s discuss where we are:

  • The deal went mainstream yesterday
  • USAlliance is a medium sized credit union with slightly more than $2 billion in assets
  • USAlliance is losing a lot of money on each grocery transaction (The interchange fees on grocery are going to be between 1.40% + $0.05 and 2.10% + $0.10, depending on the store’s coding and transaction volume; see page 9 of the Visa interchange fee reimbursements PDF)
  • Some heavy hitters are going to go big on this deal

When deals like this happen at a medium sized bank, you’ve typically got a good shot at longevity because your activity is drowned out in the noise. USAlliance is losing somewhere between 3.9% and 4.6% on a grocery transaction though so I don’t think it’ll take much activity to rise above the noise. To me that means the right choice is to hit this one as hard as you can and expect that it’ll die in several months.

Good luck friends!

This car chose hog.

  1. Do this now: Register for Southwest’s latest promotion for double tier points, and for award flights to count toward A-List and A-List Preferred status through November 20. As usual, you’ll still be flying Southwest so there’s that.
  2. Apparently not content to go more than two days without a fuel points promotion, Kroger has a new 4x fuel points bonus both in-store and online for Happy, Choice, and Giving Good cards through October 4:

    Online portal
    In-store coupon

    Most Krogers now carry physical St. Jude’s Giving Good cards which can be converted online to BestBuy, and there are also multiple options for converting to Home Depot. Fuel points resale rates have crept back up which can make these deals break-even or better before credit card rewards.
  3. Staples has fee free Visa $200 gift cards, limit 8 per transaction, starting Sunday and running through Saturday, October 1. Don’t forget to try for back-to-back transactions and to link your cards to obscure card-linked programs like Payce.

    These are Metabank cards, so have a liquidation plan in place before you buy a bunch of gift cards that turn into an unwieldy stack on your desk.
  4. Some American Express accounts have been producing Personal Platinum referral links with a sign-up bonus of 150,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 spend in six months for several weeks. Reportedly more people are now targeted, so it’s worth checking again.

    The referrer will also get between 15,000 and 30,000 Membership Rewards on card approval, making this the best personal AmEx Platinum bonus that I’m aware of (unless you can take advantage of 10x points on $25,000 in restaurant spend and a 125,000 Membership Rewards bonus with the Resy Platinum card).

Reflecting on life after flying enough Southwest Award tickets to earn A-List Preferred.

I’ve known a number of manufactured spend hall-of-famers and I’ve learned several lessons from every one of them. There’s a common theme that falls out of many of these lessons:

The best deals are often deals that already died.

I can attest to this being true. A great way to explore manufactured spend is to do a little investigative work on dead deals. You may find that they’ve risen from grave, ready to join yet another spin-off of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Good luck!

A pirate treasure map, because today we’re mixing metaphors like no one’s business.

  1. Do this now: Register for Radisson Rewards Americas’ promotion for 3,000 bonus points per night at Radisson family hotels in the Americas through December 15, 2022.
  2. The Rakuten 2% back or 2x Membership Rewards on Safeway purchases had new conditions added yesterday: Maximum $20 back per transaction, and a maximum of 10 transactions are eligible. If you were hitting it hard, double check that you’re not at the limit already before going again.
  3. AA has a bunch of lame deals celebrating its 35 year partnership with Citi, but two of them are mildly interesting (you can use your browser’s developer tools to see the upcoming deals before they’re unhidden):

    – 535 bonus AA miles when spending $135 through the shopping portal with a Citi AA card (hello giftcards.com)
    – 350 bonus miles for redeeming a SimplyMiles card linked offer between Friday and October 7

    Loyalty points for those of us chasing status, you ask? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is the 535 bonus miles won’t count but the 350 will.
  4. Simon’s volume site has 52% off of Visa and Mastercard gift cards through Sunday using promo code SEP22FALL52. They’re Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan.

A sampling of the Citi+AA marketing team’s other great promotional work.