1. Do this now: Register for Wyndham’s new promo, 7,500 bonus points for two nights stayed through May 13. You can earn the bonus up to a whopping two times, for a total of *checks supercomputer* 15,000 bonus points. (Thanks to FM)
  2. Putting a nice bow on one of the worst Februaries on record for devaluations, shutdowns, and general #bonvoyness, ANA is devaluing its award chart for tickets booked on or after April 18.

    For better or worse, this is inevitable as the paid price of tickets increases with inflation and with spend based mileage earning, so eventually the mileage program will necessarily bow to inflation too. You can plan for that though.
  3. Bilt has a new benefit: FlyingBlue Gold status for Bilt Platinum members who activate a status match, which requires 10,000 points transferred to FlyingBlue during the activation. This will be a recurring Bilt yearly benefit, at least until they decide that its not.

    The main benefits of FlyingBlue Gold are lounge access on international SkyTeam airline tickets like Delta, and for free checked bags on the same airlines. You no longer get access to book La Premier awards with Gold status though, so the value is marginal at best.
  4. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion on sports betting gift cards through March 19, which as far as I’m aware is a new type of fuel points promotion.

    Sports books provide a good outlet for manufactured spend volume in states that allow it, but it comes with a big set of gotchas too. Typical plays involve mainline arbitrage across multiple sites and playing through all funds at least once. (Thanks to GCG)

MEAB running super-computer simulations for maximizing point earning.

Today’s news items dropped into a nice list neatly, a little too neatly for comfort frankly:

  1. Southwest has an award and paid flight sale with promo code SPLASH through tomorrow night for travel from March 19 to May 22. There are a few blackout dates, but my existing bookings had a roughly 50% rate of being included in the fare sale.

    What everyone seems to forget to mention when these fare sales drop is that you’re still flying Southwest and the discount better be big as a result. This is extra acute to me with six flights in the last 30 days on Southwest.
  2. Hyatt has announced its annual award chart recategorization.

    You have through March 26 to book at the old rates. If you book a property that goes down in price after March 26, your points will probably be automatically refunded.
  3. American Express Membership Rewards has a targeted15% transfer bonus to Avianca Lifemiles through March 15. Sweet spots:

    – Star Alliance business or first class from the US to Europe and Africa
    – Short haul domestic first class
    – Flights to and from the Caribbean in cattle class Southwest class economy

    This transfer bonus is mid at best unless you were going to book something anyway.
  4. American Express offers has two new sort-of gamable offers:

    – $200 statement credit on $1,000+ at about three dozen properties through May 15
    – $100 back on $500+ in Alaska flights booked through AmexTravel.com through May 26

    Gaming on the first one is typical, on the second probably is only really doable by refunding the right type of your fare to an Alaska wallet.
  5. The Motley Fool has an increased AA eShopping portal sign-up bonus of 6,700 miles for a $99 subscription, bigger than what it was on January 17 too. An American Express Offers $50 off of $99 is still around through May 15 too.

    Combined, the two promotions mean you’re buying 6,700 AA miles at for a net cost of $49, or 0.73 cents per mile. It’s untested as far as I know, but you probably can’t do this again on the same AA eShopping account as the one used in January. (Special thanks to David)

The laundry equivalent of today’s news items coming neatly packaged out of the box.

We’ve talked about avoiding a potential banking shutdown with the Sneak Attack Strike Back technique in the past. The strike back technique is basically closing all of your accounts preemptively when you’re in hot water and it doesn’t look like you’re getting out.

This advice is probably timely (again) because we’ve seen sporadic reports of fitness club related shutdowns at American Express for the last couple of months, and a new pattern seems to have emerged based on those shutdowns: If you’ve ever been suspended by American Express over chargebacks after you got ripped to shredz, you’re likely going to be shutdown soon. This applies even if you’ve been unsuspended for a long time.

The takeaway? If you know what I’m talking about and you’ve been suspended at AmEx, It’s time to reevaluate your risk profile. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just take this as another MEAB cryptic post that “don’t nobody can understand” and have a nice Tuesday!

Pictured: Ripped to shredz.

Today features a few base hits followed by a bean ball in the noggin:

  1. Meijer has $10 off of $150 or more in Mastercard gift card purchases through Sunday, limit one per coupon. Meijer sells both Pathward and Sunrise gift cards.
  2. Meijer has 50,000 MPerks points on a $500 third party gift card purchase through March 9, limit one per account. Amazon gift cards are excluded, but most other bulk brands aren’t. (Thanks to GCG)
  3. Yes, JetBlue, AA, and United increased their checked baggage fees and it’s an easy article for every travel reporter or travel blogger to write so we see it everywhere. Even worse, it’s also probably the kind of article that’ll get a disproportionally high number of clicks because airline fees rile people up.

    Should you care? I dunno, but it does change the calculus slightly for the enduring value of an airline’s cobranded card if you check bags regularly.

Happy Monday!

Airlines pitching their new luggage fee idea.

EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’ve introduced Guest Post SaturdaysToday’s guest post is from a new travel blogger but seasoned financial hacker, Graham, who offers great insight on application of churning techniques to other aspects of finance.


  • The tricks you know from churning can be applied elsewhere in life, such as when you change jobs:
    • You can double dip on 401k matches and mega backdoor contributions
    • You can hold out for the best offer on a once-in-a-lifetime operation like rolling an old 401k to IRA
    • You can drain corporate benefits, like you’d drain an Amex coupon book before closing the card
    • You can get your annual fees (aka taxes) refunded if you get money clawed back by your employer
    • Just like you book refundable bookings as backups, you can rely on COBRA as a refundable (never charged, really) backup insurance option


In the world of churning and travel hacking, we’re used to using all sorts of tricks to get the most value for ourselves. We double or triple dip on annual benefits, we hold out for the best offers on NLL cards, we drain the coupon book benefits on a card before closing it, we take advantage of grace periods for getting annual fees refunded, and we make preventative refundable travel bookings. It turns out that the kinds of tricks we use for credit cards and travel also apply to many other aspects of life. In this post, I go through all the ways I’ve found to apply churning tricks to the process of changing jobs.

It should go without saying, but I’m just some random dude on the internet that isn’t a lawyer or accountant (and more importantly isn’t your lawyer or accountant). I’ve done my best to research and cite these tricks, and to include my own experience where I have it, but make sure to do your own research and understand the consequences of what you’re doing before blindly applying tips in this post.


Double Dipping: Two 401k Matches

Many employers offer to match the money you contribute to your 401k each year. Those matches apply to an overall per-employer limit ($69,000 for 2024) not your personal limit ($23,000 for 2024). Having two employers gives you the opportunity to get two full matches. Let’s imagine this scenario:

  • Employer 1 offers a 50% match on contributions (up to some fraction of your salary), and you’ve earned enough for up to a $7.5k match on 15k contributions
  • Employer 2 offers a 50% match on contributions (up to some fraction of your salary), and you will earn enough for up to a $5k match on 10k contributions

There are multiple ways to optimize this scenario:

  • Easier, Less Profitable Way – Limiting Contributions at Employer 1: You could limit your contributions to Employer 1’s plan to $15k, so you maximize the match without going over. Then when you join Employer 2, you can use your remaining space to contribute $8k, getting $4k of your possible $5k match. This leaves some money on the table, but nets you more than if you’d just maxed your 401k at one or the other employer.
  • Riskier, More Profitable Way – Excess Deferral + Corrective Distributions: You could contribute $15k to Employer 1’s plan and $10k to Employer 2’s plan. This would put you in a situation where you’ve achieved the maximum match, however, it also puts you $2k over your $23k personal limit and means you’ve made an Excess Deferral. The consequences of an Excess Deferral are double taxation on that money, and potentially additional penalties, which probably outweigh the value of the additional match. You can avoid the double taxation and penalties with a Corrective Distribution that removes $2k from Employer 1’s plan. The catch is that Employer 1’s plan may not be willing to provide Corrective Distributions, or Employer 1 may attempt to claw back the match. Before attempting this method, you should confirm your plan supports Corrective Distributions and you should be prepared to really pay attention when filing your taxes.

Note that there are plenty of other nuances of 401k plans that might affect your personal results, such as true ups and vesting schedules. Make sure you know both plans inside and out and have thought it through before attempting.

Double Dipping: Two Mega Backdoor Contributions

The mega backdoor roth is the lesser-known big brother of the backdoor roth, and it lets you sock away tens of thousands of dollars through your employer’s 401k plan. An even lesser known thing is that because mega backdoor contributions are not Elective Deferrals, they’re only subject to the overall per-employer limit ($69,000 for 2024), not your personal contribution limit. That means if you change employers through the year –and both plans support it– you can do the mega backdoor roth twice.

Holding Out for the Best Offer: Saving a 401k to Transfer

When leaving a company, you often have three choices for what to do with your 401k:

  1. Keep it with the current plan administrator (beware: there may be fees)
  2. Roll it into an IRA
  3. Roll it into your new 401k plan

There are many pros and cons to each that are beyond the scope of this post (eg. IRAs have fewer bankruptcy protections than 401ks), but here are two reasons you might want to hold off on rolling your old 401k into your new plan:

  • You can sometimes roll a 401k into an IRA to get relationship pricing at banks. For example, I used an old 401k to get to the next relationship pricing tier on my mortgage, saving an additional 1/8% on my mortgage rate. Note that including retirements in relationship pricing is not the norm, and Citi is one of a few banks I found that did that.
  • You can sometimes find significant bonuses to bring an IRA to brokerages. For example, Robinhood has a 3% match right now (beware they require you to keep the money there for 5 years)

One thing to be aware of if you plan to use one of these tricks is the pro rata rule. If you do backdoor roth IRA contributions, the rule can create negative tax consequences if you leave your pre-tax money in an IRA through the end of the year. My personal workaround was to roll my old 401k into an IRA to get the Citi relationship pricing, and then roll the IRA into my new 401k a month later (all within the same year).

Draining Benefits: Using up Annual Benefits

Many companies have miscellaneous benefits that reset to full at the beginning of the year, and have a use-it-or-lose-it model. Examples include commuter cards and FSAs. Many benefits will cease to be available once you leave, and others will have a limited window to submit expenses after you leave. Make sure to keep track of the deadlines for these accounts, and drain them.

Note that some benefits like FSAs are based on paycheck deductions that happen throughout the year, but the full amount may be available in your account starting on Jan 1. I don’t believe there are laws governing this, but on departure my company doesn’t claw back FSA spend that exceeded paycheck contributions. If this is the case at your company an you know you’re leaving far enough in advance during open enrollment period, you could max out your FSA contributions to take advantage of this edge case.

Fee Refunds: Tax Refunds on Clawbacks

If you get any money clawed back when changing jobs (eg. a signing bonus that didn’t fully vest), keep track of it. If you previously paid income taxes on that money, you may be able to deduct the clawback from your income. I personally was able to deduct a $14,000 clawback for the 2019 tax year and had my return accepted with no audit, but this may be a scenario where you want an accountant for CYA purposes.

Backup Bookings: COBRA for Health Insurance

Insurance from your old job usually lasts to the end of the month that you left. If you don’t start your new job by then, COBRA is a program that lets you pay to continue your old coverage. You have 60 days from when your coverage ends to request that continuation of coverage under COBRA, and the coverage “is always retroactive to the day after your employer coverage ends”. You pay the full cost if you do elect, but if you have a short gap in insurance, you can hold off on electing for COBRA until you know if you happen to need it or not. If it turns out you did need it, elect after the fact and be covered. If it turns out you didn’t need it, you’ve saved on the cost of insurance.

About the Author

I love understanding systems, and optimizing for the best outcomes within the rules as implemented (rather than as written, which is a distinction all churners should be keenly aware of). This love has led me to a career in cyber security, to churning, and also to a general obsession with optimizing all things finances. I’ve recently turned that last point into a blog where I write posts like this one (with many more in the pipeline). If you’re interested in that kind of content, there’s a subscribe box at the bottom of the blog. And if you think I’ve missed something, gotten something wrong, or should write future posts on a particular topic, please drop me a line.

– Graham

Graham’s light evening reading, prolly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

It’s a good news and bad news situation today. Ordered in terms of goodness:

  1. American Express has a great new referral offer for +10x at restaurants on many charge and credit cards for up to $25,000 spend in restaurants for three months for the referrer. The referral must be sent by May 22.

    Pro tip: Referrals usually stick around for 30 days, so squirrel one away on May 22 and you can double dip this one.
  2. Staples has fee-free $200 Mastercard gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday. There’s a stated limit of eight, which generally isn’t actually enforced in many locations.

    These are Pathward gift cards, so have a liquidation plan in place.
  3. Hyatt Destination residences have moved from the regular World of Hyatt program to the Homes and Hideaways platform, which really means that these properties now have a low 1.2 cents per point fixed redemption value.

    It already happened, and there’s no way to lock in old rates. Hyatt went #bonvoy in rare form.

Have a nice weekend!

Data deep dive: Visualizing today’s post, and look for the hidden infinitely good news item zero while you’re at it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

  1. Do this now: Register for Hyatt’s Bonus Journeys promotion for 3,000 bonus points for every three nights stayed between March 1 and April 30. There’s an additional 1,000 points for some international properties available if you hold a Hyatt credit card too.
  2. Do this now (if you hold Delta status): Choose what to do with your rollover MQMs in the new program.

    I extended my Diamond status through the end of the decade which seems like an insane option to offer, but no complaints. It’s rather niche and limited scope, but this approaches deal of the year territory for people with lots of rolled over MQMs.
  3. The FBNO Amtrak Preferred Mastercard has increased its sign-up bonus to 40,000 points after $2,000 spend in three months, and the $99 annual fee is not waived the first year. Points are worth between 2.5 and 2.9 cents each roughly.

    If you ride Amtrak regularly this a great card, otherwise skip it.
  4. In case you’re wondering how Alaska is doing since the Boeing door plug incident: They’re running another deep discount award ticket sale through tonight:

    – Short haul: 4,000 miles
    – Medium haul: 7,500 miles (including Hawaii and Mexico)
    – Transcontinental: 10,000 miles

    The covered dates are for travel between March 12 and May 22, which obviously overlaps spring break, but also Lubbock, TX’s favorite holiday: Pig in a Blanket Day on April 24.

Happy Thursday!

The official Pig in a Blanket Day pace car.


A favorite past time for miles and points hackers is often to think about how to exploit an edge that might form when something big happens. It makes for a great thought experiment, but generally that’s all it is for a long time. Let’s illustrate with one item in particular.

This Week’s Hotness

Mainstream news crossed paths with miles and points news this week, and you’ve no doubt already heard that Capital One has inked a deal to buy Discover. I’ve got the same general thoughts and questions that a lot of you probably have, like:

  • If you’re shutdown with Capital One, would holding a Discover card or a Discover Business card get you back in?
  • Wait, Discover has a Business card?
  • Will the DoJ even let this happen? They successfully prevented JetBlue and Spirit from merging, which would have created the fifth largest airline in the US. Discover is already the fourth largest processing network, and four is bigger than five, so uhh, yeah.
  • Discover owns its own processing network like American Express, which means that if Capital One completes its purchase, it will be in effectively direct control of its interchange fees. Will that mean more rewards for us?
  • What would a hotdog with a donut bun taste like?
  • What will happen to Diner’s Club cards that run on the Discover network, and incidentally remain a great alternate way to earn points transferrable to Alaska?

These are all great questions, but they’re also all completely nebulous at best, and nearly impossible to predict at worst.

Back to the Question

Coming full circle, how do we exploit an edge with big news like this? The answer is, frankly we have no concrete idea about what to do in the early days and weeks of a major change, just like we have no idea about what a donut-hotdog might taste like before we make it. It’s still fun to think and theorize, but in the end, sitting and waiting until we have more data is actually the play.

Also, I lied, we do know how a donut hot dog would taste ahead of time.


Yes, this all applies to AA’s ambiguous loyalty points earning changes too.

Yes, these are actually a thing.