The Main Question

A common manufactured spend and churning question is, “how am I going to spend $15,000 in the next three months to meet my sign-up bonus?” This question is especially prevalent when you’re getting started, and focuses primarily on what methods you can use to meet your target.

At some point, your capacity for manufactured spend may grow substantially with experience. When that happens the question often becomes, “what cards do I have that support $100,000 in spend today, and how can I pay them off tomorrow without fraud locks, ACH kiting, or SAR reports?” When you’re asking this question, you’re no longer focusing on methods to meet spend, but instead on how you can increase throughput and move money and credit lines to meet the demand.

When You’re Operating with Big Numbers

The relevant follow-up questions for someone operating in the latter regime become:

  • How do I cycle money through my accounts without kiting?
  • Which card issuers are going to be upset by this kind of spend?
  • What’s the best return I can get on a workhorse card?

The last question is interesting because it shows a big shift in how churning works. Realistically you can’t hope to get enough new cards with sign-up bonuses in a month to support even a few days of six-figure spend. So, the percentage of your profit from sign-up bonuses becomes small, and to an extent unimportant because the proportion of them that you can earn relative to your spend is negligible.

What’s Your Point, Poindexter?

When offers like 99 bonuses of 15,000 Membership Rewards for $4,000 spend come around, several readers typically ask me why anyone cares. The question usually means that the reader hasn’t developed a huge manufactured spend volume, and that’s ok; not everyone wants or needs to hit that volume to be successful. If they do however attain big volume, then the reason becomes instantly clear: it’s a way to increase your return on large spend that’s repeatable 99 times, or maybe even 99*n times.

Have a nice Tuesday friends!

The MEAB Tuesday morning coffee mug.

The Past

In recent history, American Express had interesting Q4 referral bonuses released in October that stacked with regular year-round referral bonuses:

  • 2020: +3x on all purchases, uncapped
  • 2021: +4x on all purchases on $25,000 in spend
  • 2022: +4x on transit and travel on $20,000 in spend

There’s a definite trend and it’s clearly headed in the wrong direction. Which brings us to now: The current October 2023 Q4 referral bonus is +0x on all spend, uncapped.

That is, American Express seems to have decided it was too generous on the last versions and hasn’t yet released a Q4 promo for referrals, and probably won’t at this point.

The New Hotness

Rather than a referral bonus, American Express’s October 2023 surprise is a new set of offers for adding employee cards by phone to a primary business account. We’ve seen two variants, and both variants have been seen on the Blue Business Plus, the Business Green, the Business Gold, and the Business Platinum:

  • 7,000 Membership Rewards on $4,000 spend in six months per employee card
  • 15,000 Membership Rewards on $4,000 spend in six months per employee card

Each of these is good for up to 99 employee cards, which if maximized turns into 1.485 million Membership Rewards in addition to the base rewards earned for $396,000 in spend.

It’s likely that the Plum card has the offer too, but the Venn diagram intersection of churners and Plum cards is about the same as the Venn diagram of satisfied customers and the Baymont Wyndham in Lubbock: virtually non-existent.

Happy Monday friends!

Say what you will, but at least the Baymont Wyndham offers a choice of room scent.

It’s time to jump into the pre-Halloween weekend, but before you turn into a pumpkin:

  1. Southwest has extended its schedule through August 4th, which includes most of summer’s travel season. As a general rule, booking summer travel in autumn often means there will be schedule changes, and with Southwest schedule changes often mean a free change to any other flight between the same city pairs ±2 weeks.
  2. Chase Southwest cards have increased sign-up bonuses of 75,000 Rapid Rewards points on the personal cards, or 80,000 points on the Rapid Rewards Business card. These offers aren’t all-time highs, but they are interesting getting two of them and hitting the spend threshold for the bonuses after January 1, 2024 will earn you a Companion Pass through 2025.

    No one out there seems to remember the downside of the Companion Pass though: you’re still on Southwest.
  3. Office Depot/OfficeMax stores have $15 off of $300 in Visa gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday. To maximize:

    – Consider that maybe multiples of $300 might behave strangly
    – Link your credit cards to Dosh
    – Try for multiple transactions back-to-back
    – Don’t forget about the American Express Business Gold $20 credit, which you can use twice during the promotional period

    These are Pathward gift cards, and often only work with PIN transactions for a total of $480 every six minutes per store. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. Do this now: Register for double Avios on up to 10 flights booked by November 21 for travel by January 14, 2024. Surprisingly this works with AA, Iberia, and Finnair paid flights credited to BA too.
  5. Sebastian notes that Bank of America’s Business Unlimited Cash Rewards Mastercard still has a $500 sign-up bonus available with $5,000 spend in 90 days. This card is useful because:

    – In conjunction with Bank of America Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors status, this is a 2.625% everywhere card
    – You probably still have time to get it before More Rewards Day on November 9

    Don’t forget that with Bank of America, one card is nice, but more is better. (Vague much, MEAB?)

Have a nice weekend!

Pictured: Your 23 year old companion after the fourth leg on Southwest between Eugene, OR and Greenville, SC.

  1. American Express Offers has two big offers:

    – 25,000 Membership Rewards with $1,500 spend with Royal Caribbean through December 31
    – $100 statement credit with $500 spend at Hiltons in Nevada through March 15, 2024

    American Express does clawback offer bonuses that are refunded, but in a rather simplistic way. (Thanks to Conner)
  2. United TravelBank funds can now be gifted to friends and family, and in related news TravelBank loads still work for the American Express Platinum’s airline incidental credit. This is great news at first blush, but the addition of “friends” probably means this isn’t going to end well for anyone.
  3. Plastiq, the once plucky upstart bill pay service that failed to IPO, went bankrupt, and was then acquired by its (loose) competition, has taken a page from the airline frequent flyer playbook: A silent devaluation. They’re now charging $0.99 for ACH delivery and $1.49 for paper check delivery in addition to other fees.

    16 days ago they announced that they’d accept American Express payments in a “couple of weeks”. They don’t currently accept AmEx, so I guess by “accept American Express payments” they really meant “charge new fees when sending to American Express, but also everyone else” which frankly is the most Plastiq thing that could have happened.
  4. Vacasa redemptions through Wyndham also took a note from the frequent flyer playbook with a silent devaluation. Vacasa redemptions were 15,000 points per bedroom and worked on properties that cost up to about $500 per bedroom before fees, but now the limit is somewhere around $350 per bedroom.

    We’ve been #bonvoyed by a non-Marriott hotel chain.
  5. The Gift Card Shop has 50% off of purchase fees on orders over $150 using promo code 2023HOLIDAY through October 29.

    Visas and Mastercards are issued by InComm. (Thanks to SideShowBob233)

The airline frequent flyer playbook in action.

Let’s talk possibilities:

[Q]: Is it possible to manufacture $100 spend per day?
[A]: Yes

[Q]: $1,000?
[A]: Yes

[Q]: $10,000?
[A]: Yes

[Q]: $100,000?
[A]: Yes

Does this continue forever? No, but the ceiling is high. Always be probing.

Is it possible that this is OJ?

  1. Chase “green star” offers have returned with targeted increased sign-up bonuses for Ink cards:

    – Ink Business Premier: 150,000 Ultimate Rewards after $15,000 spend in three months
    – Ink Business Unlimited: $1,200 after $6,000 spend in three months

    To see the offers, click the hamburger menu (≡) in app or online, then click “Just for you”.
  2. Check your email for a targeted offer from Bilt for 1,000 bonus points on any charge at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Comcast, Xfinit®, Spectrum, Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu using your Bilt Mastercard.

    The bonus caps out at 5,000 points, or *checks notes and runs a massive program on a super-computer* five merchants. (Thanks to DDG)
  3. Do this now (if you hold an AA credit card): Register for +1 miles and +1 Loyalty Points for AA charges made in the month of November.

    Can you game this? I don’t know, but I like your odds on this one.
  4. Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, and other Just4U stores have a coupon for 10x points on various gift cards, and even though they’re not explictly named, all of the Choose Your Card variety are currently earning the bonus.

    The best option that I know of is to convert to Lowes which has a resale rate of approximately 90%.

The MEAB supercomputer.

  1. Office Depot/OfficeMax stores have $15 off of $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards through Saturday. To maximize:

    – Link your cards to Dosh
    – Cash-out your American Express Business Gold credits for October
    – See what happens when you try and scale a transaction
    – Try for multiple transactions back-to-back

    These are Pathward gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place.
  2. Giant PA stores, (maybe) Stop & Shop, and (maybe) Martins stores have 10x rewards points on Lowes gift cards and 5x on GreenDot debit cards starting Friday. There’s definitely a Lowes gift card resale liquidation channel that supports high volume. For GreenDots, the landscape is tougher.
  3. The American Express Hilton Surpass and Aspire cards were retooled last week, on the whole they’re slightly worse but still a good value. To make up for it I guess, American Express increased the sign-up bonuses for both cards to the highest we’ve seen:

    Hilton Aspire: 180,000 Hilton Honors points after $6,000 spend in six months
    Hilton Surpass: 170,000 Hilton Honors points after $3,000 spend in three monts

    The bonus is also available via referrals with most referrers getting 20,000 Hilton points, so go that route if you’re in two-player mode or if you’ve got a friend who can generate a link for you.

Happy Monday!

Taco Bell statistically has the fastest, uh, food to go with your Monday Quickies.. The bad news is this is the food.

Sometimes regular posts
start to feel repetitive
so we “go haiku”

  1. Capital One Shopping has targeted increased cash-back for of up to 12%. MEAB’s haiku review:

    Twelve percent beats fees
    you won’t earn Loyalty Points
    cashing out is key

    Note that you’ll probably have a different cash back offer for the mobile app, the desktop, and a targeted email, so check all three.
  2. American Express Offers has $150 back on $1,000 or more in airfare at Air Canada for flights originating in the US and ticketed with US Dollars booked by December 31. Now, let’s haiku:

    AmEx offers abound
    breaking correlation helps
    never play it straight

    You can game it, but just don’t game it in Canadian currency. (Thanks to TeddyH)
  3. A quick recap of Delta’s “devaluation rebiggening”:

    – You need slightly fewer MQDs to attain status, but still more than before
    – If you have a Delta Platinum or Reserve card, you get an annual $2,500 MQD credit
    – Million Milers bump up in lifetime status levels
    – You can spend rolled-over MQMs on status extensions, 100,000 MQD per year
    – Better exchange rates on existing MQMs in 2024

    But MEAB, can you let us know how you feel in the form of a haiku?

    Changes beat stick in eye
    SkyMiles are still the worst miles
    too little, too late
  4. American Express has retooled the Hilton Aspire and Surpass cards with:

    – Bigger annual fees (+$100 on Aspire and +$65 on Surpass)
    – Bigger Hilton credits ($200 x 2 at resorts on Aspire, $50 x 4 on Surpass)
    – Loss of Priority Pass
    – $200 annual airline incidental credits switch to $50 quarterly airfare credits

    “Haiku me”, I hear you say:

    Aspire was O.P.,
    was future Unsung Hero,
    now I’m not so sure
  5. Kroger online has $10 off of $150 or more in Visa and Mastercards with promo code OCT2023 through October 25. Let’s jump to the chase:

    U.S. Bank issued,
    won’t code as grocery so
    useful for fuel points

Have a nice weekend friends!

Can someone please rewrite this banger as a haiku, or do I have to do everything myself?