As a teen I worked at Albertsons for a year or two (and frankly sometimes I still feel like I work for them in a different, manufactured-spend like, capacity). One day on the job I loaded groceries into the trunk of a new car for a finance guy in a snazzy suit. He offered some life advice from the world of finance:

It takes just as long to do a big deal as it does to do a small deal.

– Snazzy suited finance guy

That’s absolutely true in most business deals, but often it’s not true in manufactured spend. For example:

  • You can sometimes send well into five figures using a bill pay service in 30 seconds
  • Waiting in line at Walmart to buy a $500 money order can take 10 minutes
  • Talking to a credit card company’s robot to try and push a payment through can take 6 minutes
  • Scrolling through a bunch of lame BankAmeriDeals double cash back offers for one that’s gameable (and will be hard to find) might take 5 minutes

So, I’d like to offer a suggestion: For any manufactured spend techniques you’re active in, start to build a mental model for two things:

  • How much time it’ll take
  • How much you’ll earn

With that mental model, you’re in a good position to know roughly what you’re wage per minute is for any given activity, and you’ve got a quick way to decide whether something is worth scaling or even worth your time.

Happy Tuesday!

Taking advice from a snazzy suited finance guy is never a bad idea right?

  1. Chase has increased bonuses in-branch for the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards:

    – Sapphire Reserve: 75,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 spend in three months
    – Sapphire Preferred: 75,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in three months plus 10,000 more after $2,000 more in six months

    A couple of notes:

    A modified double dip is possible in branch if you’re a good social engineer
    – Online or referral variants of these offers will probably show in May
    I still prefer the Ink Preferred‘s 100,000 points for lots of reasons, and you can get a referral from a friend for that bonus. I do think this card pairs well with a Sapphire Reserve.
  2. BankAmeriDeals has double cash back on some of its card linked offers through May 10. It’s likely worth a dive to see what gameable offers are on your account.
  3. AirFrance and KLM’s FlyingBlue program has a paid status match promotion for several countries. The USA isn’t one of them, but if you can finagle your way into a Canadian address you can play ball for:

    – $79 Canadian for Silver
    – $199 Canadian for Gold
    – $399 Canadian for Platinum

    Why might you care? The answer: free checked bags on SkyTeam flights, lounge access on international SkyTeam flights, and Platinum members have the ability to book La Premier award tickets. So I guess, do you have relatives in Canada that you could virtually move in with, eh?
  4. US Bank has a $800 bonus for opening a business checking account with promo code Q2AFL24, depositing $25,000 within 30 days, and maintaining that balance for 60 days. The effective APR is 19.4%, so probably worth your time unless you’re focusing on the velocity of money. The current terms specify that the business can’t have had an account in the last 12 months to be eligible.

Happy Monday!

Post BankAmeriDeals dive.

  1. Hyatt sent targeted spending bonuses via email and in-app pop-up yesterday. Offers reported:

    – 1,000 – 1,500 bonus points for night multiples, up to 15-30 nights total
    – 20% back on award stays, up to 150,000 points spent / 30,000 points back
    – double or triple elite nights on up to five or ten nights
    – a free night certificate after a two or three night stay
    – double or triple points on up to 30,000 points earned

    Note that many of these require registration by June 6 and have a 90 day window for the promotion runtime, so it probably only makes sense to register the day before your first stay, as long as that’s before June 6. There is a collection of links here, but if you’re not targeted they won’t work.
  2. Southwest’s schedule is now open through March 5, 2025. On an related news item, if you book and board a Southwest flight, you’ll be flying Southwest so know what you’re getting yourself into. (Are they perfectly fine? I mean, mostly – but that’s not high praise.)
  3. The American Express Business Platinum card has a new 300,000 Membership Rewards sign-up bonus after $20,000 spend in three months. To find it, you may need to try all the gyrations:

    – Go incognito
    – Try different browsers, like Brave, Qikfox, Firefox, or Edge
    – Try both desktop and mobile devices
    – Connect to a VPN in various cities
    – Burn an old green employee card in effigy

    (Thanks to Heather)
  4. American Express has a new version of the Delta Reserve and Delta Reserve Business card that’s partially made out of the airframe of an old 747. Existing cardholders can request that version of the card by using the app’s “replace card” functionality, and if you’re not an existing card holder but you really want one, you can get one with AmEx and still be on good terms by either:

    – Applying for a new card, never hitting the sign-up bonus, and closing it within 30 days for no annual fee
    – Upgrading an existing card to a Delta Reserve without an upgrade bonus, getting the 747 card, then downgrading back to your existing card

    Of course if you care enough to run through all of this just for a card made out of an alloy that partially once had metal from a 747’s airframe, you’re an avgeek. Sorry, not sorry.
  5. Kroger online has 5% off of Visa and Mastercards with promo code SPRING24. I was only able to get this to work with physical gift cards, but I could get 10 total cards in a single order with the promotion applied.

    These are US Bank cards, and you’ll earn fuel points for the purchase too. It won’t code as grocery though.
  6. Staples stores have fee free $200 Visa gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday, limit eight per transaction.

    These are Pathward gift cards, so have a liquidation plan in place.
  7. Kroger stores have 4x fuel points promotion on fixed value Visa and Mastercards and third party gift cards, but this one is today only. (Thanks to GCG)
  8. Ramp Capital’s corporate charge card program has launched travel partner points transfers with a transfer ratio of 1 ramp point = 0.667 mile. Like the card’s flat 1.5x points per dollar earning structure, the travel partners are completely uninspired. I only bring it up today because reading a couple of sentences about it here will save you from reading a couple of pages about it on a dozen other blogs only to figure out that it’s probably not worth your time. (Thanks to sammyph200)

Have a nice weekend!

The room where it happened: Ramp Capital’s inspiration room for finding airline transfer partners.

The Bad

  1. The Hyatt and Mr & Mrs Smith integration is live, but pricing is tied to cash price and at absolute best is only 1.4 cents per point and usually much less, so a Chase Sapphire Reserve booking at 1.5 cents per point will beat direct redemptions in most cases.

    Globalists won’t get free breakfast, enumerated upgrade benefits, or (probably) free parking. You will get elite night credits when booking direct though.
  2. United has devalued partner awards in international first on Lufthansa and ANA metal. For some redemptions, 1.5 cents per point with a Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better deal than transferring points to United, just like with Hyatt and Mr & Mrs SMith. At this point you should never transfer miles to United speculatively, and probably never put any spend on your United cards either. We’re approaching, or possibly have already arrived at, the heat death of the MileagePlus program. The changes:

    – Lufthansa First: From 121,000 miles to 140,000-154,000 miles
    – ANA First: From 121,000 miles to 242,000 miles

    You can still book these flights with Avianca LifeMiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (which currently has an AmEx transfer bonus), or Air Canada AeroPlan points at a much more reasonable rate.

The OK

  1. Breeze Airways has 35% off of round trip fares using promo code SNAPSHOT for travel through October 1 booked today.

    Today’s edition of Breeze Airways Route Bingo is: [drumroll] Provo UT-Grand Junction CO!
  2. American Express has an increased 175,000 point bonus after $8,000 spend in six months on the Hilton Business card which may require trying different browsers, navigating through a search engine, going incognito, or trying both mobile and desktop to find.
  3. I loathe writing about Bilt because of the absolute stranglehold they have on the big travel blog landscape, and because they know how to time everything to make sure there’s something to write about every week to feed the content monster. Alas, sometimes they do have good deals: the rule buster here is a free Blade Helicopter flight for Platinum members on your choice of two routes:

    – Monaco airport to or from Nice airport
    – Newark airport to or from JFK airport

    Logistically, this works by booking directly through the Bilt Rewards app on the ‘Blade’ tab, and you’re presented with the option to apply your free flight during the booking flow.

Have a nice Thursday friends!

Does this count as “The Bad” or “The OK”? I think that depends on the next Bilt Rent Day.


At MEAB, we encourage churners to think about bank bonuses in terms of simple APR: for example, a $300 bonus on $30,000 deposited for 60 days is effectively an APR of roughly 6% (about $300/$30,000 * 365/60 * 100%). When savings accounts already earn 5.5% or above, this bonus almost certainly isn’t worth your time.

The Velocity of Money as an APR

The same rule applies for the velocity of money, even though no one really talks about it. What do I mean? Let’s assume you’ve got a simple rewards debit or credit card that earns a net profit of 0.65% for sending money through a FinTech (yes, this exists in myriad places in the real world). Assuming you can scale this, we’ve got a near perfect APR analogy for the velocity of money:

APR = spread * velocity

In this equation, velocity means bill pay cycles per year, or put more directly:

APR = spread * banking_days / settlement_time

Let’s take a concrete example: Assuming spread = 0.65%, banking days = 252, and settlement time = 3 (avoid kiting), we get:

APR = 0.65% * 252 / 3 = 54.6%

54.6% effective simple APR!


Moving money repeatedly with even a small spread has a huge effective APR, which you should keep in mind when deciding whether to park money in a high yield savings account, work on a bank bonus, or to scale your existing operations. Money in motion for a churner is often better than money at rest.

Happy Wednesday!

Next time on Wednesday Wisdom: Did you know that John Travolta = Nicolas Cage? This mug proves it.

  1. American Express Membership Rewards has a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic through the end of May. These are best for:

    – Delta One to and from Europe in business
    Necker Island trips
    – Air New Zealand business to and from the US

    They have decent availability on their own metal for premium cabin space too, but fuel surcharges are high so it’s usually a more useful mental model to think about those as roughly the same price as a coach ticket plus some miles for business class redemptions.
  2. Express (unrelated to the American version; also both a clothing store and a former a medium tier gift card on the resale markets) has filed for bankruptcy. It’s time to think seriously about what to do with inventory you’re holding, and to reinforce that holding inventory carries risk. (Thanks to GCG)
  3. Virgin Australia flights are now bookable with Qatar Avios at attractive rates, especially for short and medium haul economy.
  4. Kent Brockman famously said that democracy doesn’t work, and reddit added a datapoint to that debate after I declared that US Bank is the most ghetto bank. According to the popular vote, the most ghetto banks in decreasing order are:

    – Citi
    – Bank of America
    – Barclays

    US Bank didn’t even make the top three. Why is Citi less ghetto than US Bank? Because pay by phone friends, pay by phone.

US Bank’s corporate landscaping signage presents additional evidence.


The gift card resale market for most major bulk brands has been turned on its head recently, which has had ripple effects on the fuel points markets:

  • BestBuy, Home Depot, and other bulk rates have fallen to new lows, down 3-6%
  • Kroger fuel point rates have risen to record highs, up nearly 50%

What’s even going on? The answer with all things gift cards in 2024 always comes back to the Big Pepper Trifecta: for example, news at Stephen Pepper at GC Galore, or the Pepper Rewards app.

The Temporary New Kid in Town

What’s Pepper Rewards doing that’s disruptive? It’s right there on their web page front and center as the first text you see:

New users even get 10% back for their first 15 days of shopping on yes… EVERYTHING!

Pepper sells BestBuy, Home Depot, airbnb, and other gift cards, and yes with the right credit cards you earn even more rewards for buying through Pepper, so it’s easy to sell a BestBuy gift card to someone for less than normal and still take a big profit, which turned the market toward a local minima for resale rates on those cards. (Side question: What’s a new user anyway?)

Kroger fuel points supplies have fallen off a cliff because they’re normally earned by buying bulk gift cards during a 4x fuel points sale, and regular suppliers aren’t out there doing that because gift card resale rates are low. If we channel Economics 101 for fuel points: falling supply means increased prices due to supply shock.

How to Play It

In the post-modern economy, the role of FinTech companies observationally is to transfer money from venture capitalist (VC) bank accounts to consumers’ wallets, and that’s almost certainly what’s happening with Pepper. The excess supply of the $23 million in VC money invested into Pepper will dry up eventually, which probably means rather soon in practice. In the mean time, gift card resellers that want to weather the storm have a few plays:

  • Hold bulk gift cards for when Pepper inevitably runs out of money and rates rise, but sell fuel points now
  • Buy gift cards for home or business use at Kroger and sell the fuel points now
  • Switch to Pepper and forgo fuel points, and use someone’s referral link to make their day
  • Switch to another manufactured spend technique all together

There’s always a play; Always be probing.

The third pepper in the Pepper Trifecta currently skewing the gift card market.

EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’ve introduced Guest Post SaturdaysToday’s guest post is the second post in a series of at least two from the witty, inspiring, and definitely-not-a-giga-chad irieriley, his first post can be found here.

When to share the wealth

My grandfather was a gregarious man who loved more than anything to pass life advice down to his grandchildren. A lot of it centered around outlandish ways to get noticed in the job search (he once told me to send a pineapple with my resume inside to a hiring manager), but he also loved advice in the form of a good adage. His all time favorite is one we’re all familiar with: “irieriley, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

We’ve all accepted this as the truth, although MS and travel hacking allows us to get a consistent 90% off lunches, provided you are ready to decide on what you want to eat 355 days in advance. Therefore, it’s only natural to want to share this steep discount with family and friends. 

Chances are, you’ve long been known as the “points expert” among your friends group and family. In my case, it’s so extreme that it’s generally the sentence after explaining my relation to the bride and groom in a wedding party bio. 

And who can blame them? They see you agonizing over the choice of the Western or Japanese menu on ANA first or relaxing in the “base room” aka “bigger than a McMansion” at the Waldorf Ithaafushi and decide they want in on it. 

However, most bright-eyed travel hackers aren’t going to hit the SUB on their first card, achieving breakage just like your favorite coupon book vendor intended. So, how best to set others in your life up for success? Here are some strategies that have worked well for me:

Provide starting direction

Not everyone is cut out to get super deep into the game, and that’s completely fine. There’s a plethora of reasons why it makes sense to target a SUB or two max a year. And thanks to the generosity of Chase and Amex, there’s generally always an elevated offer worth going for when your coworker Slacks to ask what card to get. 

It’s a perfectly even exchange – you help people get a couple of free flights a year, and in return, you get fodder for Frustration Friday when they forget to use your referral link. 

Add a partner in crime

Because of the collaborative nature of the hobby, helping your friends and family with the savvy to handle it can be a win-win. 

I have a friend that I knew could make it as an advanced travel hacker, so I gave her some helpful hints a few months ago. I couldn’t be more proud of her progress, as she dove in head first and has already redeemed RT tickets to Asia for her and her P2.

If you have friends or family that can handle it, you’d be surprised how nice it is to have someone you know IRL to swap stories with.

Add P3, P4, P5 and so on

Most MEAB readers that are in a serious relationship likely count their significant other as their P2, since miles and points can be earned quite easily without all that much active participation. 

It doesn’t need to stop there – some of us are earning and burning for much more than 2 players. This is more complicated than helping a friend and is a better fit for immediate family since it requires SSNs and financial trust, but it’s an amazing way to spread the wealth for those that have the time for it. 

For what it’s worth, my P3 and P4 get stressed out about opening cards or the idea of MS, but they sure weren’t stressed when they flew Emirates first to Milan. 

Book for them

For the truly advanced (or truly risk averse) earners out there, you can sidestep involving your loved ones in your shenanigans entirely and just let them enjoy the spoils. 

Being able to treat family and friends to shared bucket list adventures or arrange emergency flights and hotels in a pinch are truly the most fulfilling way to use points. 

This option can also be fantastic for things like group travel with your friends – a multi bedroom Vacasa is no big deal even post-devaluation when you’re earning 8x Wyndham on all of your “gas purchases”. 

I’ll end by channeling my late grandfather with an adage – teach someone to use TPG referral links, and you’ll feed them for a day. Teach someone to responsibly MS, and you’ll feed them forever.

– irieriley

Pictured: DALL-E’s nightmarish rendition of my grandfather and I preparing the well regarded ‘resume in a pineapple’ method of standing out in the job search