In what has become an annual MEAB tradition for three years in a row (and trust me, if I do something three years in a row it’s a Ron Burgundy style “kind of a big deal”), it’s time for another installment of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs, but without Ron Burgundy.

Previous versions:

As a certain prolific human wrecking ball and worlds fastest beta tester likes to tell me, LFG!

The GIFs

Getting ready for the MEAB 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs post.

We started the year with most American Express business cards offering bonuses of up to $200 per card or 20,000 Membership Rewards per card, up to 99 times. Yes, it was a huge bonus, but we had to prepare for a bunch of small talk and impatiently waiting while a phone rep adds 99 variations of your name to your account.

Pictured: 99 AU cards with your name on them (go ahead and count, I’ll wait). turned out to be a great way to hit minimum spend American Express cards for a chunk of the year, at least until they started charging cash advances, illustrated here.

The silent response when MEAB geeked out with the Monty Hall problem applied to flights.

Chase drops the bonus for pay yourself back categories from 50% to 25% on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (probably) due to massive abuse and gaming.

After Southwest’s epic meltdown, we get to see their operations staff working on their computer crew optimizer in real time.

Plastiq announces that they’re going public via the Colonnade SPAC, and then produces a commercial outlining their 2023 business plans.

When a manufactured spender successfully executes an AmEx triple dip.

American Express tries to convince us that this year’s Q4 referral bonus with +4x on travel and transit spend isn’t lame. We still remember the better 2021 4-for-us and best 2020 3-for-all variants of the offer.

Delta and Starbucks partner up, and mainstream bloggers see yet another 10 page puff piece in their future.

Capital One sees American Express with all the giant 250,000 point sign-up bonuses and decides it’s time to play ball. Then, American Express responds.

Nearside’s 2.2% cashback everywhere debit card announces by email that it’s shutting down.

A few hours later, Nearside emails everyone and says “J/K, J/K, we’re fine”

Kroger’s inner crazy-monologue sends itself a message about wiping out fuel points accounts, and then does it.

We watch as the Unsung Hero Synchrony Rakuten card slowly dies.

Brex decides that it’s going to focus on only large businesses and leaves everyone else high and dry.

Marriotts in Japan welcome their most loyal guests when tourism reopened in October.

Delta announces that they’re getting rid of the CRJ-200s from their fleet, and provides video of the final torture-tube flight.

Travel hackers look for Lubbock on the world map for some reason.

Kroger starts replacing US Bank gift cards with Metabank gift cards.

Southwest’s reservation system stops taking calls due to random equipment failures.

Trying to place orders at Dell looks great, until your order is cancelled after it’s confirmed.

We react to PayPal key going away.

J and F flyers realize what’s going to happen to award space now that Emirates awards can be booked with Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

MEAB prepares for the 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs early in the year to make it easy later, and then face-plants via procrastination as the year moves on.

Thanks for reading friends! Just like Tanya in the White Lotus Season 2, I’m sure only good things are to come at MEAB!

MEAB is here with the real questions for you this year, like: “What if Manufactured Spend, Loyalty, and Travel hacking companies were Vice Presidents?” Hard hitting stuff I know! Also, it’s slow during the last week of the year so I guess let’s go:

Happy Thursday!

MEAB’s official 2022 tee-shirt.

  1. The original MEAB Unsung Hero, the Citi/Sears Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard has a higher, choose-your-own adventure style sign-up bonus: the current heightened $225 after $1,500 in spend and 10% off of your first purchase with the card at Raise. (Thanks to Miles)
  2. Meijer MPerks has a digital coupon for a $10 Meijer gift card with $100 or more in Happy Cards, Choice Cards, or One4All Cards. Many of these can be converted to gift cards with resale rates well above 90%; just remember that the post-Christmas gift card cash out by buying electronics to ship to buyer’s groups is going to be hard for a couple of months.

    On the flip side, $10 will buy a whole lot of unsold discount Christmas candy at Meijer so hooray for your dentist.

  3. China reopens for tourist travel on January 8th. My spot checks showed very little in the way of paid or award routes between the US and China, but I expect that’ll change rapidly over the next couple of weeks, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a trip to China.
  4. has vanished from most shopping portals, though it’s notably still present on Capital One Shopping, which is open to anyone whether or not you hold a Capital One card. This has happened in the past, so I don’t expect it to be a long-term outage but 🤷‍♀️. (Thanks to irieriley)

Brach’s discount Christmas taffy, also known as “dentist’s yacht maker”.

  1. I’ve been seeing scattered reports of Metabank Visas and Mastercards being spotted at the gift card rack at Kroger stores for a few weeks, but hadn’t seen any in the wild at my stores until yesterday. At 3 out of 4 stores I visited, all of the US Bank Visas and Mastercards had been replaced with Metabanks. At the 4th store, there was a Kroger clerk actively removing the US Bank cards from the rack based on directions from corporate, though the clerk didn’t have any more information to offer. At this point though it looks like the change is in-process and nationwide.

    Unfortunately the Metabank cards are harder to liquidate and have a $6.95 activation fee instead of US bank’s $5.95 fee too, so #bonvoyed.

  2. DansDeals reports that Chase Ink cards are no longer subject to 5/24 as of yesterday morning and running through December 31. Multiple reports in MEAB slack suggest that while it’s probably true for certain unknown circumstances, it’s definitely not globally true. If you try and you’re denied, remember that some physical mailers continue to bypass 5/24.
  3. A few tips if you’re caught up in the Southwest meltdown:

    – Your travel insurance almost certainly won’t cover the cost of a ticket on another carrier, but probably will cover a hotel, food, and perhaps even a rental car
    – If your rebooked itinerary sucks, proactively check for a better one every few minutes, inventory is constantly shifting
    – Consider nearby airports, one-way car rentals, a bus, a train, or dropping a leg from your trip to get there quicker

Good luck!

I would brag that my holiday Southwest flight arrived early and in its original factory uncanceled state, but 1) I flew Southwest, and 2) the mechanics didn’t even get the exit sign on correctly, so here we are.


Fortunately for everyone here, the MEAB staff worked, uh, let’s just say “tirelessly” over the holiday weekend to count ballots and choose the rightful winner for the first and possibly only annual MEAB Bonvoyed awards. These prestigious awards recognize recent ground-breaking accomplishments in anti-consumer policies in 2022 in all aspects of loyalty and travel, and while only the most insidious contenders were selected, rest assured there are legion runners-up in each category that we’d like to recognize, but we’re simply unable due to space-time continuum constraints (our flux capacitor is spitting out black smoke at 86+ mph).

Note: if you represent one of the following loyalty programs and would like a commemorative plaque for public display, please contact MEAB at your earliest convenience. 

The Awards

Now let’s get to this years winners, the companies that best turned the industry’s “surprise and delight” into “surprise and despise”:

  • In the “Bonvoyed Holiday Recovery” category:

    Southwest Airlines, noted for its distinguished role in the Elliott meltdown for shutting down its phone lines and online chat support after canceling over a third of its flights. Why did they do this? Because who wants to answer all those angry calls anyway? 🎉

  • In the “Bonvoyed Elite Benefit, Foods and Beverages” category:

    Hilton, for upping its elite US food and beverage credit by $3 and raising the price of food and beverages by even more than that to make sure you’re still not getting as much as you used to.🎉

  • In the “Bonvoyed Service, Prisons and Jails” category:

    Hertz for wrongly filing stolen car police reports that lead to dozens of arrested customers, even though the cars were actually in Hertz’s care, or had already been re-rented out to the next victim customer. 🎉

  • In the “Bonvoyed Forum” category:

    Flyertalk for making the site unusable on mobile devices thanks to 80% of the screen being obscured by ads, random scrolling events that are timed for exactly when you’re reading a key sentence, and for serving malware through its content delivery partners for multiple years — a proven track record dating back to at least 2012. 🎉

  • In the “Bonvoyed Program, Marriott Bonvoy” category:

    Marriott Bonvoy for devaluing their currency, removing their award chart, announcing they’re going to again devalue their currency next year, silently devaluing their currency again, and so much more. 🎉

  • In the “Bonvoyed Bank, non-FTX” category:

    Brex for wooing customers to help grow its business, raise it’s valuation, and to help it take on another round of funding… and then casting those pesky customers aside after deciding they’re just getting in the way of fleecing larger VC backed firms. 🎉


I’d like to thank our non-sponsor, Marriott’s Bonvoy, for not being involved in anything I do for everyone’s betterment. Our other non-sponsor, the defunct Nearside Business debit card couldn’t be reached for unknown reasons. 

Happy Monday friends!

The prestigious MEAB 2022 Bonvoyed Award trophy: a deflated gold balloon representing diminished expectations on top of an unpolished rock representing an unpolished rock.

  1.’s promo code HOLIDAYVISA continues to work for $10 back on on $100 or more in virtual Visa gift cards, limit $2,000 per 48 hours. When properly executed this deal gets nearly 10% off, credit card points, and a portal spend rebate too, which makes it easy to eat the costs expensive liquidation options and still come out way ahead.

    When improperly executed like the last purchase I made, you forget to enter the code and then connect your palm to your face. (It’s not currently advertised, but VISAHOLIDAY and XMASVISA codes may also work too. Just make sure to enter them in the promo code box.)

  2. Staples has fee free Visa gift cards on sale Sunday through the following Saturday limit five per transaction. There’s a catch this time though: this sale is only for $100 cards and not the usual $200s, so #bonvoyed. Personally I’d focus on the Office Depot/OfficeMax sale that ends tomorrow instead, because although the net cost of acquisition is the same, processing time and in-store time is effectively doubled for $100 cards for the same total spend. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Most airlines have a no change-fee waiver across half or more of the United States in place thanks to yet another bomb cyclone storm. If you’re traveling in the next 24 to 48 hours, you may want to take advantage of the waivers and see if you can switch to a better itinerary so you’re not connecting on a redeye flight to meet Danny in Lubbock, TX on your layover.
  4. Don’t forget that for some reason I can’t place my finger on, Monday December 26 is a federal banking holiday, so ACHs, wires, and credit card payments won’t clear until Tuesday.

Have a nice holiday weekend, and safe travels! I hope you end up somewhere sunny like I will (travel demigods willing).

The probable reason for the federal banking holiday on Monday.

Remember all those times that your math teacher said “you’ll need to know this stuff when you’re an adult, so pay attention”? For me I guess that turned out to be true, but that was really a function of becoming a physicist and not because it was intrinsically necessary to survive as an adult.

It turns out that having some basic numerical sequence analysis skills can be useful though. For example, let’s look at American Express offer URLs for possibly defunct pay over time links:


See the sequence there? I’d squirrel that one away and try different variations of the last two digits every couple of months for the foreseeable future. Chase operates the same way:


In Q1 of next year we’ll probably see inkq123 and ink2q123 for example. We can probably replace ink with hyatt, united, ihg, southwest, or marriott (shudder) too.

This trick works on offers, bonuses, applications, and in plenty of other places too, so always be probing.

The next bank anti-gamer strategy: The Fibonacci Series.

  1. Robert and Sam at Milenomics covered the Bank of America Elite Visa Infinite credit card yesterday (yes, the card name is 🤢). It’s an overlooked, hidden gem in the BofA portfolio, provided you apply for the card in December for a triple dip. The card has a $550 annual fee and will pay out:

    – 50,000 point sign-up bonus after $3,000 in spend in 90 days (worth $500, or more the points are used for travel)
    – $150 in annual statement credits in a dozen or so merchant codes, including rideshare and some grocery
    – $300 in annual airline incidental credits
    Total with triple dip (2022, 2023, and 2024): $500 + $450 + $900 = $1,850

    Just remember to close the card early in January 2024, or downgrade the card and close if BofA gives you a hard time with an annual fee refund for a direct close. The card also gives yet another Global Entry credit, Priority Pass membership, and other duplicative benefits in case you don’t have those from two dozen other cards.

  2. My P2 was targeted for an American Express Personal Gold to Personal Platinum upgrade with:

    – 100,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 in spend in six months
    – 5x on gas, grocery, and restaurants up to $15,000 in spend in six months

    You can try your luck at this link after logging in to your American Express account.

  3. I’ve calculated that there’s an 87.26% chance that you’ve seen this elsewhere, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve pay yourself back categories seem to have changed:

    – 1.25 cents per point categories: groceries, annual fee (ending March 31, 2023)
    – 1.50 cents per point categories: airbnb, restaurants, charities (ending December 31, 2022)

    If you’re a cash-your-points-out kind of person, find real or sweaty restaurants before the end of the year to ensure you get the higher rate.

Why yes, I definitely needed a Mac M1 Pro to generate that graph. No further questions.