Let’s discuss recent changes in how major credit card churning banks operate today. I believe some of them are indicative of major banks’ views about current state of the economy their outlook for the near future, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which items apply.

  1. Bank of America has been reducing credit lines on existing consumer and business credit cards in a haphazard fashion, whether or not the cards have activity tied to them. They’ve also been notifying people inconsistently about these reductions, some receiving paper letters, some receiving emails, and some receiving no notification.

    I’d suggest checking your existing card portfolio and if you’ve been affected, a call to customer service asking them to reverse the reduction may work.
  2. American Express seems to have undergone a “credit profile reset” last week. The symptoms that lead to that conclusion:

    – Some that have never had call-in offers for employee cards now have them
    – Some that have been ineligible for referral bonuses are no longer ineligible
    – Some that haven’t had access to AmEx Offers now have access
    – There was a single report of being approved for AmEx cards after being locked out for years

    I have no idea if this is temporary or permanent, so I’d take advantage quickly if one of these scenarios maps to you. Always be probing.
  3. There’s been confusion about how banks combine credit pulls:

    – US Bank inquiries will be combined the next business day after pulls
    – Barclays will only combine business inquires with other business inquiries, and personal inquiries with other personal inquiries
    – Bank of America will often not re-pull credit for up to 30 days, but if it does pull multiple times on the same day, it’ll be combined the next business day
  4. US Bank, the most ghetto of all major churning banks, has a few changes:

    – They’ve reduced the overall value of their mid-tier Altitude Connect card
    – Opening a brokerage account used to be a backdoor into US Bank accounts when you weren’t in their footprint. In the last six months or so, there’s been only mixed success with that method, but apparently opening a CD is a workaround

    US Bank remains a great sleeper bank for churning, don’t sleep on that sleeper!

Have a nice weekend!

A churner enjoying a lie-flat trip hears about US Bank cards.

EDITOR’S NOTE: ⚠️Warning! Your subscription to MEAB is cancelled effective immediately due to rewards abuse⚠️ (Just kidding, that was Bilt, and they were apparently just kidding too)

  1. Kroger stores have a 4x fuel points promotion on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercards running through April 23.

    The fuel points market is currently slightly depressed, but if you can hold them for a few weeks you’ll probably get better rates. Kroger account shutdowns are largely a thing of the past with good account hygiene and keeping balances well below six figures.
  2. There’s a new free churning called CardRight that tracks sign-up bonuses, card eligibility rules, when you can close a card without clawback, current card offers, and similar features related to card churning.
  3. H-E-B Stores have a $10 H-E-B gift card with the purchase of $50 or more in Home Depot or Lowe’s gift cards. Scale with multiple H-E-B accounts. (Thanks to GCG)
  4. Yes, there have been scattered reports of big retention offers for Business cards at American Express, and we’ve been hearing them in quasi-private forums for several weeks; no, we don’t know a way to be targeted if you’re not already targeted. Either way though, you should always be checking for retention offers and comparing those to new sign-up bonuses before accepting.

Happy Thursday friends!

Bilt company party invitation preview just dropped.

  1. British Airways has a status tier match for US and Canada residents that hold elite status with Delta, Air Canada, Lufthansa, United, FlyingBlue, Scandinavian, or Virgin Atlantic. You can match to either:

    – BA Silver, which includes oneworld Sapphire status
    – BA Gold, which includes oneworld Emerald status

    Your status lasts six months, and you have to apply by May 7. Both status levels get you access to AA lounges on domestic AA tickets, including Flagship lounges for you and a guest. Just watch out for the food in the non-flagship lounges, it’s unclear about whether or not it technically counts as food, even though it legally does. (Thanks to Connor)
  2. Do this now: Check for Chase targeted Q2 spend bonuses on up to $1,000 in spend:

    Hyatt: 5x earning
    Marriott Bonvoy or Bonvoy Bold, or alternate link: 5x earning
    Marriott Boundless, or alternate link: 5x earning
    Marriott Bountiful, or alternate link: 5x earning
    Marriott Premier, or alternate link: 5x earning
    Ritz-Carlton, or alternate link: 5x earning
    United MileagePlus Select: 5x earning
    United MileagePlus Gateway: 5x earning
    United Quest, Explorer, or Club: 5x earning
    AeroPlan, or alternate link: 5x earning
    Southwest (all variants), or alternate link: 5x earning
    IHG One: 7x earning

    There are other lesser carried card linkss like the old United Presidential Plus card, Disney card, or Amazon card, so check chase.com/mybonus if you didn’t see a link above for a particular card. (Thanks to FM)
  3. The American Express Personal Gold card has an offer via referral for 90,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 spend in six months, and it includes a 20% statement credit on restaurants for up to $250 in spend. Don’t forget to check for a 10x bonus offer on dining for the referrer too. (Thanks to InenvitableOk7737)
  4. Do this now: Register for double points at Accor Hotels in Europe and North Africa booked by May 12 for stays between May 27 and July 5.

Sample non-flagship AA lounge food. Hopefully the red parts are classy hotdog bits.

  1. Two airline shopping portals have spring spend bonuses, following last week’s similar Alaska deal:

    United: 500 bonus miles after $100 or more in spend by April 15
    AA : 500 bonus miles after $200 or more in spend by April 15

    Giftcards.com remains a solid way to hit these bonuses, especially since United is already at 2x for card holders.
  2. BankAmeriDeals and Chase Offers have a new offer for 10% back on Alaska Airlines airfare of $50 or more booked by the end of April, max $45 cash back.

    The most above board way to game this is to book a non-basic economy airfare, wait 24 hours, and refund it to your Alaska wallet. There are less above board ways too.
  3. Rakuten In-Store has card linked offer for 5% cash back on up to $100 in spend up to three times at CVS. You’ve got to re-add the offer an hour after using it, and you’ve got 75 days to use it. (Thanks to Doug)
  4. American Express Offers has an offer for $50 off of $250 at Grand Hyatt properties worldwide by June 30.

    Can you game this one? Yes, gamers gonna game. (Thanks to SideShowBob233)
  5. There’s new data to add to US Bank’s Altitude Reserve 3x earning problems:

    – If you’re not earning 3x on Apple Pay transactions, deleting and re-adding the card to your Apple Wallet has proven to fix earning for everyone I know of (four data points)
    – Some people are earning 3x on Google Wallet, and others are earning 1x, there’s still no known fix

    There are also multiple reports that calling and whining to US Bank about the lack of 3x earning will earn you 5,000 bonus points, but if there are shenanigans on your account that’s probably a bad idea, on par with chocolate covered potatoes.

Chocolate dipped raw potatoes presented without further comment.

  1. Do this now: Register for 1,000 bonus SkyMiles for each Hilton stay through July 7. Stays must be booked after registration to be eligible.
  2. Meijer MPerks has $10 off of $150 or more in Mastercard gift cards through Saturday, limit one per MPerks account. Obviously it’s impossible to have more than one MPerks account, right? The science just isn’t there yet.

    Meijers sell both Pathward and Sunrise gift cards.
  3. Office Depot/OfficeMax stores have $15 off of $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards through Saturday. A few reminders:

    – Don’t forget your monthly AmEx Business Gold office supply credits
    – Typically these scale nicely in a single transaction
    – Link your cards to Dosh

    These are Pathward gift cards.
  4. US Bank has all-time high sign-up bonuses for a few cards:

    Leverage: $900 after $7,500 spend in 120 days
    Triple Cash Rewards: $600 after $4,500 spend in 150 days
    Altitude Connect Business: 75,000 points after $6,000 spend in 120 days
    Attitude Power: 75,000 points after $10,000 spend in 120 days
    Korean Airlines SkyPass Visa: 70,000 miles after $5,000 spend in 90 days

    Every single one of these cards is churnable, but the points for the Altitude Power and Connect aren’t transferrable to the Altitude Reserve unfortunately. Remember to check US Bank tips and that US Bank combines hard-pulls for same day applications. (Thanks to DoC)
  5. A Chase Ink Unlimited $1,200 sign up bonus after $6,000 spend in 90 days has been floating around private forums for several weeks, and has now became public, though with extra tracking information (the link I used lacks the extra info). This is the same link you get from an in-brach business banker which means:

    – It should be safe
    – It will usually not be subject to 5/24, you may be approved up to 8/24

    Just like the US Bank points above, these points are stuck with this credit card and can’t be transferred to another card, making it effectively a cash-back only play.

Happy Monday!

At least science knows some things.

Editor’s note: Yes, I’m being extra hard on Boeing today, and no, I don’t actually think their planes are unsafe. But this post is how it is because reasons.

  1. Do this now (if you ever take Amtrak rides): Register for double base points on Amtrak travel through May 21.
  2. Simon bulk gift card orders have increased in price to $5.49 per card, and an unspecified “small increase” in shipping fees. They’ve also become much less friendly to manufactured spend for new accounts, so the utility is shrinking even faster than Boeing’s 737-MAX factory output. (Too soon?)

    These accounts were typically extremely valuable before the Incom three-swipe limit rules were implemented, just like how Boeing 737s were more valuable before the MAX line.
  3. Target will have 10% back on Target gift cards of up to $500 in eight days on April 13, reminiscent of the typical annual holiday sale. You’ve got plenty of time to get a few of burner accounts spun up to maximize this deal. (Thanks to FM)
  4. Capital One has a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Red, which can be converted 1:1 to Virgin Atlantic miles, through April 30.

    Sweet spots include business class redemptions to and from Europe on non-Virgin metal and domestic economy flights on Delta.
  5. A public service announcement: Yes, sign-up bonuses of 175,000 Membership Rewards are still available via referral, but you can still get 250,000 Membership Reward sign-up bonuses with some effort and a little luck by varying browser, IP address, landing page link, letting the application timeout and reloading, waiting for another door-plug to fall off of a 737-MAX9, etc. So, stick with the 250,000 variant without a referral in two player mode unless you’re able to maximize a 10x bonus on dining effectively.

Have a nice weekend!

Simulating 737-MAX9 door plug roulette.


I like to think I’m pretty good at spotting compromised gift cards; I’ve found and destroyed upwards of 1,000 over the last decade. In fact as far as I know, I’ve only actually purchased four compromised cards prior to last week. Then last week, my compromised card count increased by an eye-popping 25% (or 2,500 basis points because it sounds even bigger) when I bought a compromised Pathward Mastercard at Kroger.

Side note: I was already suspicious of that particular gift card because the security flap was too easy to remove, but the store had very low stock, I was in a hurry, and I was heading out of the country later that day, so I threw caution into the wind very stupidly. Don’t be stupid like me, and don’t be afraid to open a gift card in store and inspect it before buying it.

The Compromise

I opened the card in the parking lot, found a few clues that the card had been compromised:

  • The package was held together with super-glue
  • The CVV gummy was balled up
  • Removing the CVV gummy showed a scratched off code
  • The front of the card had four numbers scratched off

I know it may sound difficult to figure out that the card was compromised with nothing but those four clues, but luckily I did! So great.

When you have a compromised card, it’s a race against time to get it frozen and fixed before the card scammers are able to realize that the card was purchased and active, which is why it’s important to open and inspect cards as quickly as possible.

The Fix

I dialed the toll free number on the back of the card in my car at the Kroger parking lot, and I got stuck in Pathward’s automated call system. The system was repeatedly asking for a card number, and then hanging up on me after three failed attempts. I obviously failed every attempt because I didn’t have a full card number or CVV. Entering all 0s, 1s, or random numbers didn’t get me past the call tree, and neither did acting dumb and not entering anything either.

After a few frustrating minutes, I realized that another non-compromised Pathward Mastercard would have a valid number, so I got one of those and used its information, which got me through the automated system to talk to a human. The human was able to freeze the funds on the compromised card and issue a replacement by mail after looking it up using information on the barcode and about how it was loaded.

The Lesson

Gift card companies do their best to avoid talking to humans, and that means when a scammer scratches numbers off of cards, you may not be able to talk to a human when every minute counts. So, the point of this article:

On your phone, keep a list of gift card numbers, CVVs, and expiration dates for old, drained cards for every issuer and card type that you typically buy. Then, if you encounter a stubborn robot phone system, you’ll have quick information ready to get through to a human.

Happy Thursday!

Next up: Following the clues to decipher restaurant hidden messages.

It took me a few long-haul trips before I figured out the optimal length of a flight, here’s the logic I’ve arrived at for choosing the length of long-haul flights when you have options:

  • US to Europe or the Middle East: My optimal flight length is 10 ½ hours, long enough to take-off, sleep for 8 hours, have breakfast, and then arrive
  • Europe or the Middle East to the US: Typically you’re only napping when traveling this way, so my optimal flight length is the one that maximizes time on a wide-body and minimizes time on a narrow-body
  • US to Asia: Flights that leave in the late afternoon or early evening are best for resetting your schedule to Asia time
  • Asia to the US: Again, you’re probably only napping when traveling in this direction, so maximize time on a wide-body and minimize time on narrow-bodies

Happy Wednesday!

Next quick-tip preview: How to behave when visiting foreign tombs.