Let’s catch up from a few things over the last week or so:

1. Reader Jacob wrote in to let me know that Thursday’s offer for $0 annual-fee for the first year with the Point debit card didn’t pan out. He signed up using the trick in the post and was still charged $99. Point support said the offer was a mistake and they wouldn’t honor it despite his supporting documentation. Stefan also let me know that he couldn’t sign up using anyone’s referral code using Thursday’s trick, so they’ve patched the website too.

When I wrote about the offer I guessed it would work, but that if it somehow failed it would be that you wouldn’t get the $100 sign up bonus. Obviously this was completely backward. You’ll almost certainly get the bonus but not the waived annual fee. I’m ready to call Point a louse and to encourage you to spin up more accounts for your P2, P3, etc the next time there’s a nice boost offer purely out of spite. A “spite account”, if you will.

2. The targeted link I shared for a no-lifetime language American Express Platinum with 150,000 Membership Rewards after $15,000 in spend in three months worked despite it pushing me above American Express’s 10 charge card limit and despite already having two other Business Platinums for the same sole proprietorship. The card arrived today which was the last hurdle, and it took American Express longer than normal to send it to me so I was starting to get dubious about whether it’d appear. I’ll knock out the spend this week and I fully expect the bonus to post without issue.

Remember, AmEx won’t pull your credit for a new business card application as long as you already have an account in good standing with them. Lob in an app or two, there’s literally no consequence to a denial (except maybe your pride?) so give it a shot.

3. I wrote about American Express upgrade shenanigans on Friday — I upgraded a business gold card last week and knocked the spend out in a day (I cheated with prepaid taxes on that one, had it done within 10 minutes of activating the card). The bonus posted two days later exactly as expected. Look for upgrade offers offers, they’re real and they’re wonderful.

Thanks to Latte Larry’s for the inspiration for opening a Point.app spite card.

Over the weekend I was in Minneapolis at the first Milenomics meet-up. I saw a few long-time friends, shared war stories with travel hacking veterans, and traded a few insider tips. I was also asked quite a few questions about travel hacking and the blog, but the most common was some variation of “Why do you blog if you’re not trying to monetize it?” That happens to be the most common question that I get from readers lately too. The answer really has two sides:

First: Networks are Everything

Having a partner in crime with whom you can share candid data-points will magnify your earnings and prevent certain failures; you’re each probably looking at different things, you likely have a different set of credit cards, you definitely have a different set of biases in how you look at the world, and you can divide and conquer when you’re probing something new. As a pair you typically amplify each other’s strengths and cover-over many weaknesses.

Obviously if you have a few close, trusted friends the above effects will be even greater still. Have I found deals that no one else had ever mentioned or hinted at? Absolutely. Have I learned about great deals from others that I’d probably have never even thought to look at? Also, absolutely. In this game, trusted colleagues simply make each other better.

So let’s circle back to the blog. I started it to grow my network, which frankly has worked really well and also been a bunch of fun.

Second: I Don’t Hate Money, But I Value Trust More

Do I hate money? Of course not. I don’t put affiliate links or ads here though because I want to make sure that you can trust me; even more so if we start working together on something going forward. I want to make sure that there’s absolutely no question about ulterior motives. If I’m writing about a credit card, you can be sure it’s not because it pays me a commission, but rather because I think it’s genuinely valuable and that it may be worth your attention.

Where does that leave us? Well, I have someone ask me how they can support me or the blog in some way almost weekly. I very much appreciate the thought, and earlier this year I set up a Patreon for the site so people could do so (it’s the little present icon in the upper right of the toolbar). I don’t advertise it because it’s not the primary goal and I don’t want you to feel like you’re not going to get my honest opinion unless you send money my way. You’ll get it either way. If you want to give me money though, who am I to say no?

Bonus: Genuine Connections Mean Free Drinks

Just this weekend I had more than a dozen people offer to buy me a drink because they wanted to say thanks and have a nice discussion about travel hacking and the world in general. Thanks to each and every one of you! You don’t have to buy my a drink, I’ll be glad to talk anyway. Of course, a free beer never hurts anything.

PS: I hear you “Blah, blah, blah, where’s the normal newsletter poindexter?” Don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled content tomorrow and this blog isn’t going anywhere any-time soon, sorry haters (I’ve honestly never heard from a hater but I’m sure you exist, somewhere).

A bonus for running the blog: A new friend bought me this “cheap champagne” while I was waiting to catch my flight. Special thanks to D C Domer of Bonvoy cookie fame.


If you set your way-back machine to March 18, you’ll find a post about taking an upgrade offer from an American Express Personal Gold or Green card for 25,000 or 75,000 Membership Rewards after $2,000 in spend and another 10x at gas and grocery stores for up to $15,000 in spend, good for 183 days. I know a few of you took the upgrade offer like me, and I got two notes in April and May to let me know that the points from this deal never posted for you, also like me.

Now fast forward to September 2 when the first report came in that the bonuses and 10x rewards started posting. A few days after that, messages started coming from all over the place confirming both the bonus and 10x. I checked my account and with zero surprise, the points had posted. It took a while, but the offer eventually came in like it was supposed to. If you opened yours after March 18, you may still have a day or two left to squeeze that juice by the way.

Working It

It’s of course great news that bonuses started posting, but there’s more to the story: a couple of weeks ago, upgrade offers for another 25,000 Membership Rewards and another $15,000 on 10x spend started raining from the sky on Personal Green and Gold cards in the offers section of the dashboard. As far as I’ve been able to tell, almost all Personal Green and Gold cards have the offer provided the card account has been open for at least 12 months.

Can you see where I’m going with this? If you have a Platinum card that’s been open for at least 12 months, call American Express and downgrade it to a Gold or a Green card, wait about an hour, then check for an upgrade offer. You’ve got an excellent chance that one will appear and you’ll get another 25,000 Membership Rewards and another $15,000 in 10x capacity. Bananas, right? There’s a similar play on the Business side too. Just don’t do this on a Platinum that had a retention offer in the last 12 months to avoid angering AmEx. Also, it may only work once on the Personal side and once on then Business side per person.

Oh, the spend bonuses and 10x are posting in a few days on these offers — you won’t have to wait five and a half months to see them. Save that way-back machine for looking at the old Schwab 1.25 cent cash-out.

Looking through the American Express Platinum way-back machine.

1. Reader Yun let me know that there’s a neat hack for new Point.app debit card accounts. If you use someone’s referral code at this link, the annual fee drops to $0 for the first year and $49 for the second year. What’s currently unclear is whether you’ll get the $100 sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 when you use the link. My guess is yes, but that’s just a guess.

If you need a referral code, ask a friend and make their day because they’ll likely get a referral bonus. If that’s not a good option for you, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll share Yun’s (he’s given me permission).

2. I got a no lifetime language (NLL) offer via email for the Business Platinum card from American Express, with 150,000 Membership Rewards after $15,000 in spend within the first three months. The link in my inbox seems to skirt the 10 charge card limit — hopefully the link works for you too. To check, login to American Express and then click here.

I’m back up to 11 charge cards with American Express now with 9 of them being Platinums, huzzah I guess?

3. Marriott Bonvoy has enlisted American Express’s help to #bonvoy you. How? I’m glad you asked. They’re sending around targeted offers for card holders that give you a pitiful 1,000 points if you add an authorized user to your Bonvoy Card and spend $1,000 on the authorized user card in six months. You can see if you’re targeted at this link.

This is a terrible offer by the way; 1,000 Bonvoy points are worth at best $5, which is approximately the price of a cookie at a Marriott Courtyard.

The cookies on this plate are literally worth more than 1,000 #bonvoy points. Given the deliberately ominous arrangement, I calculate a 41.4% chance that this #bonvoy elite welcome gift will make you sick.
(Thanks to D C Domer for the picture from his recent trip)

Airlines went nuts in the last day or so, here are a few of most relevant announcements:

1. ANA announced that they no longer have change fees for trips originating in the US. The text in that announcement is a little weird in that it seems to imply that policy doesn’t take effect until October 1, but I believe that what’s actually happening is that on the first of October, countries in the Americas other than the US will no longer have this, but all countries in the Americas including the US have fees waived until then. A few choice ANA sweet-spots:

  • North America to Japan round-trip in business class is 75,000 ANA Mileage Club miles during low season, 85,000 miles during regular season, and 95,000 miles during peak season. All of these are actually a great value.
  • North America to Europe round-trip in business class is 88,000 Mileage Club miles.

2. Southwest is having a fare sale for travel that includes Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’ve locked all that in by now, but in case you haven’t please do it soon. If you haven’t booked by tomorrow, there will be consequences. What consequences? I won’t feel bad for you when you have to book at higher prices. How’s that for consequences?

3. Ok, so technically this is “Thursday Airline Mayhem”, but I want you to be ready if it’s relevant so this item was brought forward a day: Southwest is extending their schedule tomorrow, and this round covers Spring Break 2022. I’d do yourself a favor and look at your plans for next Spring and get some tentative flights booked with Southwest if it overlaps with those plans. They’ll almost certainly change their schedule between now and then which will give you the opportunity to potentially switch to even better flights at no upcharge.

If you book with Rapid Rewards points, you can always cancel and redeposit with no penalty for a nice play on tentative plans.

4. JetBlue is having fare sale for bookings made by tomorrow that covers travel between September 20 and November 18. This is a good speculative travel play because even JetBlue Basic award tickets can be redeposited or changed without fees.

The Southwest 737 Flight Management System (FMS) in mayhem mode.

Target runs a deal like $50 off of $50 when opening a new Target Redcard every few months. The latest of these deals started Saturday and runs through October 1. The promotion applies to opening either a debit Redcard or for a credit card Redcard, both of which have merit (and not just because they’ll both give you 5% off of everything at Target).


Why sign up for the debit card?

  • There’s no hard pull on your credit
  • You can close it as soon as you get the $50 off coupon
  • After closing the card, wait 48 hours and you can sign up for another one with the same info to get another coupon

Over the period of this promotion, you’ll almost certainly be able to open/close twice, and perhaps three times. So, think of this as $100-$150 in Target stuff every few months with no credit pull.


What about the credit card? Well, $50 is a really crappy bonus for signing up for a credit card for sure, especially one that only works at Target. But, this card has a great feature: You may be able to pay off your balance in store. (Target is pretty accepting of different payment methods — remember the American Express for Target prepaid card before it was discontinued? I do)

There’s another reason to get the credit version of the Target RedCard: It’s a prerequisite for getting the Target Mastercard which, unlike the RedCard, works at stores other than Target.

Good luck, and a special thanks to Larry for consulting with me on this post.

An image of the old American Express For Target prepaid debit card.
This card still lives today (in spirit).

Reader Gene was the first to let me know that Simon cards stopped working for purchasing money orders at Safeway late last week. It’s the next major in-person liquidation method to fall for Metabank / BHN gift cards, which obviously (as the kids say) sucks.


Metabank/BHN Visa and Mastercard gift cards are some of the easiest cards out there to get at a discount or to buy in bulk, either through Office Depot/Office Max sales, Staples sales, or Simon volume plays. It used to be really simple to liquidate them in person by loading to a prepaid card like BlueBird or converting them to a money order. Unfortunately, that’s been changing over the last year or so:

  • Most Wal-Mart registers stopped accepting Metabank debit swipes over $99 in November of last year. (hint: most)
  • Many Kroger registers stopped accepting Metabank debit swipes over $99 at the same time. (hint: many)
  • As of late last week, Safeway stopped accepting Metabank debit swipes, probably also with a $99 cap. (see above)

Why Now?

Why are major grocery stores clamping down on this? I can think of two reasons, one for each side of the transaction, but in the end both are really just about controlling profit.

First let’s tackle the grocery side with some background information: Prepaid debit card transaction fees are split into two tiers, covered and exempt, each with its own rate. As with most regulation there is nuance to that definition and the fee structure, but it’s not particularly relevant here. What you should know is banks with less than $10 Billion in assets (like MetaBank at approximately $7 Billion) have a higher interchange fee than larger banks. That smaller bank fee is published at somewhere around 1.15% + $0.15. Yes, there is a cap for supermarket transactions, but usually money centers at supermarkets don’t code as a supermarket transaction because they’re, well, money centers.

So when you swipe a $500 prepaid MetaBank gift card to buy a money order for $499.02 the store may be paying somewhere around $5.90 in fees, but charging you less than $1 for the transaction. Ouch. That’s plenty of reason for major retailers to want to shut down prepaid cards from MetaBank when they happening at volume.

Ok, so what about the other side? Why would MetaBank want to shut this down? That’s an easy one. They’re collecting somewhere between $0 and $5 in purchase fees from you, and that number is probably closer to the $0 end after sales commissions, shipping, and other ancillaries are accounted for — so those don’t have a big impact on revenue. They make their money from collecting their portion of interchange fees when you spend on the card. Those fees for a credit swipe are going to be around 2% of the total purchase price or better, vs at best 1% when all is said and done on a debit transaction. By blocking debit transactions they’d approximately double their net revenue.

Where Do we Go From Here?

All isn’t lost with these cards, but the game is a little harder. Here’s how to pivot:

  • There are Visa and Mastercard prepaid issued by bigger banks (like say US Bank) that have more assets and thus are on the lower fee tier for interchange rates. As a result, I think supermarkets and Wal-Mart have a much smaller incentive to care about money order purchases with those cards and thus they’re a safer bet for MS.
  • Plenty of mid-tier grocery stores still work just fine. We’ve talked about several of them on this site before, but certainly look around your area and you’ll probably find others. Don’t let the lack of a name printed on a debit card stop you either.
  • Certain prepaid products (not unlike GoBank) will still accept Metabank cards even though they won’t work to buy a money order.
  • Look for at home liquidation techniques; try payment processors, bill pay platforms, p2p platforms, etc.
  • Explore other techniques that don’t rely on Visa and Mastercard gift cards: buyer’s clubs, gift card reselling, review clubs, bill pay platforms, p2p platforms, social lending, coins, etc.

There are a ton of plays out there friends, keep looking!

There’s more to Wal-Mart than the Money Center. The bad news? To find it, you still have to go to Wal-Mart.

We’ve talked about Point.app on this blog more times than I’m comfortable with (I don’t think a single topic should get too much coverage), but given their propensity to transfer money from Venture Capitalists’ funds to your wallet via their app, it’s been a regular topic despite that discomfort.

What never made it onto this site, or any other public site that I know of, is that for a brief, amazing, short window, Point let you fund your account with any credit card with no fees, and you could then withdraw your cash via ACH or through other easy manufactured spend right away, given that it’s a debit card. The limits were high too at $10,000 per month, all fee free from Point. There was a rub though: while American Express cards didn’t cash advance, some Mastercards and Visas did.

How did it work? In April, they added an option to fund your account with Apple Pay, an option which still exists today with new restrictions. When that feature showed up in the app, they had language to the effect of “Instantly transfer up to $2,500 per day using a debit or credit card from an existing bank — for no fee.” They weren’t even trying to hide it!

With the help of a fellow hooligan, we tested several small loads with different credit cards and found which ones charged a cash advance for loading. Looking at the charge on American Express’s activity view showed that they were using Stripe to process payments, which is an interesting datapoint to keep in your pocket for looking at similar deals. After that, I maxed out the monthly limit and waited for the month roll-over for even more spend. Then sometime in June, credit card charges stopped working and eventually the language in the app was updated to remove “credit card” from the Apple Pay description.

Lessons to learn from this:

  • New financial technology companies and their cards often allow shenanigans because they haven’t thought about blocking them
  • Shenanigans don’t always work right away, sometimes a new feature enables them
  • Explore each funding opportunity available in a FinTech platform
  • Make a small test payment to see if something causes a cash advance when you find something that works
  • Use the information on your credit card’s activity view for your test payment to discern the likelihood of charges working on other cards, and cash advances aren’t always the cards that you expect
  • Go big before it dies, provided you don’t care if you’re eventually shutdown (I didn’t care with Point, though I wasn’t ever shut down)
  • Keep track of which payment processors are used to discern patterns for future plays

I can definitively say that there are other FinTech companies out there right now that let you fund with a credit card. Get out there and explore, and when you see a new product consider getting it to see what it can do.

Be like Dora, go explore!