We’ve talked before about getting out of the various American Express penalty boxes, which is when AmEx won’t give you referral links or gives you a pop-up telling you that you’re not eligible for a welcome bonus on new applications. Despite some noise to the contrary that keeps surfacing, the main way out still exists and it remains the same:

Spend a lot on your existing AmEx cards

What’s missing seems to be what “a lot” means, so let’s clarify based on what we know:

  • $30,000 – $40,000 a month for three months on a co-brand card almost always gets you out
  • $40,000 – $50,000 a month for three months on a Membership Rewards or cash-back earning card will probably get you out

Of course neither of these are fool-proof but based on data-points I’ve worked with, this volume of spend will work about 80% of the time. It’s also even worked even after a past bankruptcy write-off with AmEx.

What if you don’t have a co-brand card? Apply for one even if you get the pop-up with no bonus, then start spending. There are a few no-annual fee co-brand cards like the Delta Blue and the Hilton Honors card so you’ve got options.

Good luck!

Now we just need to have AmEx send these when someone spends their way out.

  1. Giftcards.com has a promotion for 5% off of up to six $100 Visa e-gift cards using promo code SUMMER23 or SUMMER. As of this writing, the best portal to use is Capital One Shopping’s mobile app with 4% cash back. You should be able to do $2,000 per 48 hours across four different orders per account.

    It took me longer than I care to admit to make this work, but the punchline is don’t use a Mastercard (for whatever reason three from separate banks all failed for me) and definitely don’t be logged in, check out as a guest. The total cost was $605.70, and I’ll earn that in credit card spend and $24.20 from Capital One Shopping.
  2. Do this now: Earn a $25 Lyft credit for:

    Linking your Hilton and Lyft accounts
    Registering with Hilton here (Thanks to Kurt for the corrected link)
    – Staying a single night in a Hilton property through September 5

    After that’s done, reset your Lyft partner link back to Delta or Bilt if you prefer one of those programs to Hilton.

Happy Tuesday!

My keyboard after trying the 18,000th giftcards.com order.

  1. Walmart is 6x in-store at Rakuten, up from 3x last week. The terms and conditions haven’t otherwise changed but I think the likelihood of cancellation for heavy hitters is higher at 6x than 3x because Rakuten seems to investigate high balance accounts.

    If you’re tech savvy and can isolate your digital footprint well, you can scale with multiple Rakuten accounts.
  2. With the end of the month approaching, don’t forget that you’ve got through Wednesday to:

    – Spend your AmEx Gold $10 dining credits
    – Spend your AmEx Business Platinum $10 wireless credits
    – Spend your Chase GoPuff $10 credits

    In my opinion, Shake Shack gift cards, T-Mobile credits, and in-store pickups are the best way respectively to maximize each of these three credits with a minimum amount of time and breakage.
  3. Staples has fee-free Visa gift cards in-store through Saturday, limit eight per transaction. As usual, try for back-to-back transactions if you’ve got the liquidation capacity to minimize your time spent in a dying, overpriced, one employee per 1,500 square foot, big-box office supply retailer.

    These are Metabank Pathward gift cards so have a liquidation plan ready before you buy enough to stand up as a fifth leg for your desk.
  4. Truist has a $400 personal checking account bonus through July 25 for opening a new account and having two direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more in the first 90 days. When signing up, use promo code TRUISTCHKQ223, and note that DoC says this is state limited; that’s not been my experience with Truist though (in general if you can’t sign up online, pretend you’re Lady Gaga).
  5. There’s a 30% transfer bonus for Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through June 14. This program has some great sweet spots, but double check availability before transferring anything in. I don’t have any particular inside knowledge but I think a devaluation of this program is near.
  6. Dell is currently at 12x on Rakuten, so it’s a good time to try and cash out your American Express Business Platinum Dell $200 Q1/Q2 credit and have your order cancelled.

Pictured: Dave pretending to be Lady Gaga to get a Truist bonus. Little does he know they’ll lock his account for shenanigans in T-58 days.

Editors note: I know today’s post is obtuse, and one day we’ll be able to talk about it more freely. For now if none of this makes sense to you, you’re probably not caught up in it and you likely have nothing to worry about.

Sometimes when something in the hobby blows up spectacularly there’s both direct and collateral damage. Yesterday afternoon a wave of both types struck members tied either directly or indirectly to a particular fitness group (even those working through a ‘neutral’ a third-party) and the net effect was a flurry of PayPal shutdowns in a scene that was reminiscent of a post-battle shot that you’d see in Band of Brothers.

If you’re caught up in the shutdowns: First, I’m sorry, that sucks. Second, it is possible to get a new PayPal account going using techniques discussed in Dodging the Ban Hammer. So, recover from your bad workout and get back out there just like Matthew McConaughey’s acting career does over, and over, and over again. Like seriously, so many times.

Have a nice weekend!

Look, if Matthew McConaughey recovers from looking like this, you can recover from PayPal.

  1. Kroger is having a weekend 4x fuel points promotion running Friday through Sunday on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercard gift cards. Resale markets have nearly recovered to rates found before Kroger started banning accounts because, like the documentary Jurassic Park taught us, life will find a way. (Thanks to GCG)
  2. Plastiq has filed for bankruptcy and already has a vulture company that’s agreed to scoop up its assets, pending court approval. The payment processor was once a great arrow in the manufactured spender’s quiver, but the company’s unstated mission was to perfect the art of a slow death spiral and they succeeded spectacularly. Their bankruptcy shouldn’t be surprising ay after they failed their merger with the Colonnade SPAC which caused the SPAC to die too.

    Plastiq wasn’t without utility even as recently as this week, but maybe that’s changed. Personally I’m not going to send any further payments through the platform, but you’re all adults; do what’s best for you. (Thanks to VFTW)
  3. Chase increased the bonuses on its personal Southwest cards through June 26, and each includes a single use promo code for up to eight passengers for 30% off of a paid or award booking.

    Rapid Rewards Plus: 60,000 bonus points and 30% off code
    Rapid Rewards Premier: 60,000 bonus points and a 30% off code
    Rapid Rewards Priority: 60,000 bonus points and a 30% off code

    These offers are available via referral too, so make sure you use a friend’s referral link and make their day too unless you’re referring from another player.
  4. Do this now: Register for Wyndham’s summer promotion for 5,000 bonus points on two night stays, 10,000 bonus points on three night stays, or 15,000 bonus points on four night or longer stays through September 5. If you’re a Wyndham card holder you’ll get a one-time additional 5,000 bonus points on your first stay too. Complex much?

Plastiq obviously was part of this manufactured spender’s quiver.

What defines a whale in the miles, points, and manufactured spend game? It’s hard to quantify exactly, but it’s easy to use a relative definition so let’s cheat and use one of those. For my purposes and for the purposes of this post, a whale is someone that’s spending 10x what I’m spending or more.

In my career as a manufactured spender, I’ve met dozens of whales, and the deeper I get into the hobby the more frequent my encounters become. I’ve learned something from each of them, and usually that boils down to a single lesson:

The limits aren’t usually what I thought they were.

That’s not to say that limits don’t exist, they most certainly do. Banks will shut you down when you go too hard, credit card companies often don’t tolerate heavy cycling, and too many wires or money orders can lead to the FBI, IRS, or postal inspector showing up at your doorstep (which will probably turn out to be a nothingburger, but not before you have a few sleepless nights stressed out about what might happen.)

If you’re like me though, limits are often quite a bit higher than you think, and whales can be your data-point for how much further you can push things. Whenever possible, seek out these whales and their data-points, learn from them, and step-up your game as appropriate.

I mean, you can’t tell me that this whale teacher looks less weird than your high school english teacher, and you learned something from them too, right?

Today we’re keeping it short and sweet (because you know, usually we’re super long winded around here).

  1. DoC notes that there’s a Citizens bank $300+$100 sign-up bonus, and even though it’s mentioned to only be available in certain states, let’s just say that’s not been my experience. The bonus:

    – $300 for getting $500 or more in direct deposits in the first 60 days
    – $2 back per debit transaction, up to $100 back in the first 60 days

    Obviously you should automate the second part, and possibly even find a way to trigger the first part without bugging your employer.
  2. Simon has 35% off of all fees when ordering Metabank Pathward gift cards using promo code MAY23SAVE35.
  3. Multiple reports suggest that BlueBird has throttled cash withdrawls at an ATM to $80 per transaction. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know people were still using BlueBirds at ATMs but to each their own.

Happy Tuesday!

Today’s post (in red).

  1. Meijer Stores have a promotion for $10 worth of MPerks points with a $75 Happy, Choice, or One4All gift card, limit one per MPerks account.
  2. Rakuten has 3x at Walmart in-store and in theory it’s “unlimited use”, but you do need to re-add the offer to your account an hour after each purchase. Also in theory gift cards are excluded, but, uh, yeah.

    Also, watch out for what is apparently a new trend at Walmart, because reasons. (Thanks to brykupono)
  3. Check your American Express offers for a couple of Marriott offers that should stack and are gamable:

    – $100 off of $300 at US properties
    – $100 off of $500 at North American properties

    Another option is staying at a Marriott and using these organically, but, uh, yeah again.
  4. In addition to last week’s American Express personal Green heightened offer that included a statement credit, referral links are now seeing similar offers and it seems to be widely targeted:

    – Platinum: 150,000 Membership Rewards and a $200 statement credit
    – Gold: 90,000 Membership Rewards and a $200 statement credit
    – Blue Cash Preferred: $400 cash back and a waived annual fee the first year

    Referrers are currently seeing a low of 10,000 Membership Rewards and a high of 35,000 Membership Rewards for referring.

Happy Monday!

Soon to be unleashed at Walmarts across the country. (Thanks to Country_Points)