1. VanillaGift.com has 50% off of Visa gift card purchase fees using promo code 50HOLIDAY22. You may want to note this code in a log somewhere, because codes at that site sometimes live for nearly a year after their intended lifespan, and definitely don’t use an American Express card here. (MSN Flyer)
  2. Watch for Chase Ink Preferred physical mailers sent to your address that direct you to chase.com/GetInkPreferred with a referral code. The sign-up bonus using these mailers is 100,000 Ultimate Rewards after $15,000 in spend in three months. An anonymous contributor told me that they may bypass 5/24, and I applied after one came in the mail for me late last week; I was approved well past 5/24 🎉.
  3. Staples has $200 fee free Mastercard gift cards in store through Saturday, limit eight. Remember to try for multiple transactions back-to-back to maximize your time, and also remember that these are Metabank cards so have a plan in place.
  4. Chase is running a few transfer bonuses for Ultimate Rewards partners starting tomorrow and running through the end of November:

    – Aeroplan: 30%, or 40% under certain circumstances*
    – Virgin Atlantic: 30%
    – Marriott Bonvoy: 40%

    The first two of these are great and the last one is a terrible deal in most cases (book stays through the travel portal instead or cash out via Pay Yourself Back and buy Bonvoy points directly for better value).

    * Miles notes that the Chase Aeroplan card is supposed to give 10% back when you transfer 50,000 miles or more, up to 250,000 back per year.

  5. If holding United Airlines Silver status through the end of February 2023 is interesting to you, you can get it free for by downloading the Bilt mobile app, registering for an account if needed, and then:

    – Open the app
    – Navigate to the “Rent Day” tab
    – Click “Learn more” under “Unlock United Airlines Premier Status”

    Is this worth anything? Not much, but something: You may get an economy plus upgrade for you and companions at 24 hours prior to flight departure if there’s one available, and there’s a chance roughly equivalent to winning the lottery on the same day that you’re struck by lightning that you’ll get an upgrade to first class. The most likely benefit is really that you’ll get an extra four miles per dollar on paid tickets and a free checked bag.

  6. The Target Redcard $80 ($40 in-store and $40 online) sign-up bonus is back through December 10, which is long enough that you should be able to get it at least twice. See this article for why you should care.

Proof that a first class upgrade as a United Silver can happen.

UPDATE: MSN Flyer reports that American Express charged a cash advance on a purchase at vanillagift.com as well. The issue appears wider spread than we thought and is a troubling development.

American Express is historically very forgiving with cash-like purchases, seeing a cash advance show up on a statement is effectively unheard of unless you visit an ATM, run a bank teller cash transaction, use it at a casino, or for a payday lender transaction. In fact, I’ve never seen a cash advance on any of my American Express cards in my manufactured spend history, even when the merchant sells nothing but gift-cards or when buying literal currency from the US mint.

There’s something rotten in Denmark Manhattan though: There are now two reports of a cash advance fee being charged at a mostly under-the-radar Mastercard gift card online retailer when using an American Express. One of the reports from includes a screenshot of the transactions. (Many thanks to reader Nick)

I haven’t purchased gift cards from this retailer in several weeks so I don’t have a datapoint of my own, but I can say that this retailer has been wonky with American Express for about two months. Some of its quirks:

  • Requires AmEx SafeKey, but only sometimes
  • Orders occasionally pass SafeKey but then sends a failure to the retailer
  • SafeKey tokens can leak to or from other sites
  • Pending charges started appearing with a merchant name of “OTH MISC” or was blank, and the name only corrected when the charge actually posted.

Was the cash advance charge intentional on American Express’s part? I’m honestly not sure, I think it’s equally likely that the vendor messed up their merchant account in some other way that caused the cash advance and it may be fixed in a few weeks. Also, recall that historically when American Express is sick of manufactured spend at a particular retailer they just stop awarding points but still let the transaction through rather than charging a cash advance fee, like with Simon.com purchases, so it’s an odd turn to blatantly charge cash advances on a similar retailer.

Regardless of the cause, watch your American Express manufactured spend charges closely for the next couple of months until we get a better handle on what’s up.

The plumbing between a certain gift card vendor and their merchant processor.


One key skill for travel-hacking, churning, and manufactured spend is to understand the nuance of terms and conditions to find an opening that you can plow right through. For airline travel hacking in particular, when you’re maximizing things like: mileage earning, elite qualification, same day changes, checked bags, upgrade certificates, and fuel dumps, you need to understand the three types of carrier associated with your ticket because they all play into the maximization game in a different way.

Carrier Types

The three types:

  • Marketing carrier: The airline marketed as flying the route (the carrier named on your boarding pass)
  • Operating carrier: The airline actually flying the route (the name of the carrier on the airframe registration and safety cards)
  • Ticketing carrier: The airline issuing a ticket (the carrier that issued the ticket, determined by the first three numbers of your ticket)


It’s possible to have a ticket where all three of these are the same, and it’s possible to have a ticket where all three are different. A few examples:

Making it Real

A few hints about how this can be useful:

  • Travel banks might only work on one or two carriers, but flight credits work on others
  • You may earn many more miles or status dollars by booking the a flight with a different marketing or ticketing carrier than operating carrier
  • Lounge access can be tied to ticketing carrier or marketing carrier
  • Airfare surcharge rules can be tied to the country in which a ticketing carrier or operating carrier is based

Happy hacking!

Pictured: The three types of taco in a proper hard-shell taco meal.

  1. IHG has 15% off of award bookings for card holders and for Platinum and Diamond elites through tomorrow for stays through December 16. Yes, this has been around for a few days, but today is the first day that elites are also eligible for the discount.

    Be sure to reprice any existing IHG reservations in addition to looking at new bookings.

  2. Southwest has a fare sale through tomorrow evening for travel from:

    – November 29 through December 15 of this year
    – January 10 through March 8 of next year

    Reprice existing reservations too, and note that if your spring break dates fall within two weeks of March 8, you might consider a refundable points booking on near the end of the promotion and hope for a schedule change that lets you switch to your desired dates for no additional fee.

  3. American Express employee card offers have now been reported for the Plum card, Delta Reserve Business card, Delta Business Gold card, and the Business Platinum card, which gives us the updated list of offers for up to 99 employee cards per primary card:

    – Plum card: $50 statement credit for $2,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Delta Business Gold: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Delta Business Reserve: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Blue Business Plus: 5,000 Membership Rewards for $1,000 in spend per card [new] UPDATE: There are multiple reports of $1,000 in spend required and $2,000 in spend required, it seems variable on this card
    – Blue Business Cash: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new] UPDATE: There are multiple reports of $1,000 in spend required and $2,000 in spend required, it seems variable on this card
    – Business Platinum: 5,000 Membership Rewards for $2,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Hilton Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Marriott Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Lowe’s Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Green Business: $50 statement credit for $2,000 in spend per card

    Don’t sleep on these, each one is an additional 495,000 points or $4,950. (Thanks to Sebastian, Marrisa94, and Jim for new data points, and thanks to everyone who reached out to me yesterday noting that 99 * 5,000 ≠ 49,500 🤦‍♀️)

  4. Check for a targeted email from Discover for an extra 4% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases by December 31. The subject: “Congrats [name], enjoy up to $80 extra cash back” (Thanks to an anonymous contributor)
  5. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion on third party gift cards starting today and running through Tuesday after clipping the digital coupon. If you’re using fuel points to subsidize gift card reselling, you should be able to do so profitably with a little care. My current guidance on avoiding fuel account locks:

    – Create a new fuel points account with a new incognito session on the browser on your mobile device when not connected to wifi
    – Buy everything in one or two transactions total, ideally in off-hours (customer service counters let you scale this a bit)
    – Do your best to work with a fuel points end-user that can use the points within an hour or two of loading

    Good luck!

Showing my work from the math in yesterday’s post.

  1. The American Express 99 employee card bonus frenzy has only been available on the Hilton Business, Marriott Business, and Lowe’s Business cards for the past several months, but as of the end of last week the offers are back on other cards too. Current reports:

    – Blue Business Plus: 5,000 Membership Rewards for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Blue Business Cash: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Hilton Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Marriott Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Lowe’s Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Green Business: $50 statement credit for $2,000 in spend per card

    The roman numeral trick is still alive and well, and means each of these cards is worth another $4,950 (or 495,000 Membership Rewards) bonus in your pocket.

  2. Check for targeted email from Barclay’s for increased earnings on business and consumer cards through the end of the year or the beginning of next year. A few samples:

    – 5x AA miles on grocery, drug store, and restaurant purchases up to $700 spend
    – 5x JetBlue miles at convenience stores, up to $700 spend
    – 10x Old Navy points, uncapped
    – 5x Wyndham points on grocery, drug store, and restaurant purchases up to $700 spend

    I got none of these. (Thanks to Sideshowbob233)

  3. Check your American Express offers for the following:

    – $75 back after $300 spend at IHG Intercontinental, Kimpton, or Hotel Indigo properties
    – 25,000 Membership Rewards after $1,000 spend at Royal Caribbean cruises

The “American Express employee card bonus offers” remorse shirt.

We’ll be quick today:

  1. Meijer has a $10 store gift card with $75+ in Happy gift cards through Saturday. This one is limit one per coupon, but you can re-clip the coupon after each purchase. A favorite technique with these gift cards is to use a few of them to purchase something in the Meijer electronics department that you can ship to a buyer’s club.
  2. AA’s portal has 1,000 bonus miles for installing their browser toolbar and spending $25 through the AA portal and toolbar by Halloween, provided you’ve never gotten an AA shopping toolbar bonus in the past. You’re supposed to keep the extension installed for 30 days too, so either set a reminder in your phone, create a new browser profile that you use for the bonus and then never use again, or be offline when you uninstall the extension. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Simon.com/volume has 50% off of purchase fees of Visa and Mastercard gift cards using promo code OCT22SAVE50. Note that most of these are Metabank gift cards.

Have a nice Monday!

Example high demand buyer’s club item at Meijer, maybe?

  1. Bank of America has a promotion on Saturday, November 5 for an extra 2% back or 2x bonus miles on all non-cash advance purchases, which really means any normal spend or normal manufactured spend. In preparation:

    – Open another round of Bank of America cards as soon as possible
    – Make sure your credit lines are paid off by November 3rd
    – Set aside time on November 5th to maximize your earnings
    – Bypass the Preferred Rewards 90 day waiting period by opening a business account in branch and asking to be part of the program

    And some related but general advice prosthelytized by Sam and Robert at Milenomics: You should always be ready with a basic game plan for when a big event like this lands so you can spring into action.

  2. Giftcards.com is back up to 8% cashback on the mobile Capital One Shopping portal. Just watch out for the $2,000 gotcha.
  3. Kroger online has $10 off of $150 or more in Visa or Mastercard gift cards through Tuesday
    with promo code OCT2022, and you’ll earn fuel points to boot. While Kroger offers better cards in-store, the online variety is Metabank. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  4. Shop n’ Save stores have $10 off of $100 in Visa or Mastercard gift cards through Wednesday, limit five per account. These are also Metabanks. (Thanks again to GC Galore)

I can’t argue that this isn’t a plan, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind.

  1. Somehow I missed posting the giant Public brokerage sign-up bonus that works even for existing account holders and runs through December 31. You have to transfer non-retirement account equities, and a cash deposit won’t work. The bonus tiers:

    – $150 bonus for $5,000 transferred
    – $500 bonus for $25,000 transferred
    – $2,000 bonus for $100,000 transferred
    – $5,000 bonus for $500,000 transferred
    – $10,000 bonus for $1,000,000 transferred

    You have to keep the equities or the proceeds from their sale at Public for six months or you risk a bonus clawback. I’m conflicted about what to do with this one because public doesn’t support options, margins, forex, mutual funds, or bonds. (Thanks to Mark S for noting the lack of a post)

  2. Redditor professor_doom shares a great tip for making the airbnb booking process sane: Do all of your searches from airbnb.com.au to see a total booking price including cleaning fees, service fees, and resort fees from the main page.
  3. There’s a Chase Offers and BankAmeriDeals offer for 10% back up to $47.50, or 15% back up to $67.50 back with Alaska Airlines. You can game these without even playing the break the correlation to game or being a Jedi. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. A few updates on the yesterday’s Chase Sapphire Reserve 80,000 Ultimate Rewards vs Ink Preferred 100,000 Ultimate Rewards hot-take based on your feedback:

    – If you have access to a targeted 80,000 Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus and are below 5/24, the heightened Reserve bonus is probably above the line for a Modified Double Dip

    – If you’re 3/24 or below and haven’t had a Sapphire bonus in the last 48 months, yes, it could make sense to get both this card and an Ink Preferred. Follow-up question though: Are you missing out on other bonuses by being that low, could you be doing more?

    – The Reserve has a $4,000 spend requirement, while the Ink Preferred has a $15,000 spend requirement. If you don’t have easy access to $15,000 in spend, the Reserve is an easier win. Follow-up question: Can you get access to more spend?

Forget “Three For Thursday”, bring on “Quadsday”. Actually never mind, I didn’t think that one through.