I noticed it’s busy out this week, anyone know why? Anyway:

1. You may remember that Chase gave a year of DashPass to cardholders starting in January 2021, and for many of you that year is almost up. You can get another year as long as you do the following before January 1, 2022:

  • Deactivate your DashPass membership
  • Remove all your Chase cards from DoorDash (I had to do this from the website, I couldn’t figure out how in the app)
  • Wait one day
  • Add a new (different from the one you used in January) Chase card to DoorDash

(Thanks to Viper3773)

2. A helpful tip courtesy of discussion at Flyertalk, and it’s definitely applicable to some of the fares I’ve already booked — in today’s pandemic-era airline environment:

  • Almost all fares are changeable with no fee
  • Almost all fares can be cancelled and held as expiring travel vouchers
  • Paying for a First Class upgrade with cash or miles has gotten more expensive

So, if you’re considering paying for a seat up front with a ticket you’ve already booked, check the original cost of the ticket paired with the cost of an upgrade and compare that to the cost of a new ticket booked directly into First Class. If it’s cheaper to book directly (right now it usually is), cancel your existing ticket, take the voucher, then use the funds to book into a proper First Class fare.

3. VanillaGift.com has fee-free e-gift cards through this evening with code EGIFT2021. I’m praying to the holiday gods that this one sticks around post expiration exactly the way that FLASH2021 didn’t, though being e-gift cards makes these slightly less useful so my prayer voice is more of a whisper.

4. SoFi is giving $20 for checking your interest rate on a personal loan, and it only requires a soft-credit pull. It took me about 60 seconds to run through the motions, but a SoFi rep called my voicemail twice afterword so keep that in mind. By the way, this deal barely made the cut I’m still trying to figure out exactly where that line is ($20 for one minute is above the line, but the phone calls almost pulled it below).

Happy holidays to you and your families!

Pictured: American Airlines’ First Class “holiday ham cake”, which thanks to this post, you can get for even less.

I’m sure you’ve already figured this out, but travel hacking slows down this time of year because reasons. As a result, we have just a single item for today:

Giftcards.com has 5% off of virtual Visa Gift Cards through the end of the year with promo code VV5T216. The maximum face value is $250, and the promo code only works for up to $750 total in purchases. Buying $750 in cards will cost $730.35, and should earn cash back or miles when purchased through a portal. A few notes:

  • These are Metabank gift cards, have a liquidation (cash-out) plan in-mind
  • If your order gets cancelled, your email address is probably burned — just create a new account with a new email
  • These will earn rewards on American Express cards

Because this is the only item today, let’s talk liquidation (cashing-out gift cards). There are a few options that aren’t exactly secrets but aren’t well published either; most of them involve a fee of some sort, and the loan options carry a risk of default that you can largely mitigate but not eliminate. They are:

  • Bravo (works with MetaBank)
  • Money orders (needs a physical GC unless you’re really crafty, sometimes works with MetaBank)
  • Kiva (works with MetaBank)
  • Plastiq (doesn’t usually work with MetaBank)
  • Kickfurther (works with MetaBank)
  • Melio (doesn’t work with MetaBank)
  • Local utilities (often they accept debit cards, and often they’re required to refund any overpayments by local law)
  • Amazon in a pinch (works with MetaBank)

Of course there are other options too, but they’re more closely guarded. You can find them with some digging. Check bill payment services, fintech companies, and payment processors.

Waiting for deals this week is like waiting for coffee at Dutch Bros on a day that ends in ‘y’.


I’ve written before about cell phone burners and churning as an integral part of travel hacking, but it’s been a long time since then and there are some recent opportunities available right now that are likely to go away when the calendar turns. So, a refresher on why you should have burner phone numbers:

  • Many FinTech companies tie their account to a phone number, so scaling them requires new numbers
  • Many referrals and referral bonuses work by referring another phone number
  • Many online stores use a phone number for two factor authentication and as a back-door way to quantity limit
  • If you’re shutdown by, I don’t know, Dell or AA, a new phone number is a big part of spinning up a new account
  • Many amazing mobile phone deals or mobile service deals require porting in an existing phone number

Burner phone numbers give you scale, access to great deals, cheap phone swaps and upgrades, and help you recover from different types of account shutdowns.

Getting New Phone Numbers

Burners are part of the game, but not all burner telephone numbers are equal. For example, free phone numbers from TextNow can’t be ported out, and often companies and services will recognize and block these and other VOIP numbers. Phone numbers from Google Voice usually aren’t eligible for referrals, referral bonuses, or porting out bonuses. Companies have closed the obvious loopholes.

To make sure your burner phone number works with essentially everything out there, you’ll want to get a new number from one of the providers on this list published by Visible, which is mirrored by essentially all the services out there. There are a few easy and cheap options on that list:

  • Ting: Most of the year you can get a SIM card with a new phone number for $1 at BestBuy and Target. The SIM card comes with $30 in credit which covers all the time you need to port out a number
  • Google FI: Using a referral code will get you $20 in service credit, which will more than cover the couple of days that you’ll need to hold a number to port out
  • Mint Mobile: You can get a seven day “trial” service for $2, also at BestBuy and Target. Unfortunately you have to ask customer service for your account number for porting out so I prefer the above options to Mint

Once you’ve got phone numbers from the above, you can either hold them for long-term use or use them to unlock new deals.

Holding Phone Numbers

If you want to hold a phone number long-term, there are a few cheap options:

  • Google Voice costs $20 to port-in, but there aren’t further fees afterword
  • Tello costs $5 per month with free port-in

December Deals

Talk about burying the lead eh? Everything above was to bring us to this point. December has some crazy good phone deals, and I’ve linked to some of the best ones here but others are available. Note that if slickdeals says one of the below deals is dead, it’s lying. As always, if you go for one of these deals make sure you use a portal for cash back.

With the T-Mobile deals, you can open a “Talk and Text only” plan for $20 per month, or switch to that plan right after opening. T-Mobile will automatically unlock phones after about 45 days but will do it sooner when asked. Visible will unlock phones automatically after 60 days. Metro will unlock phones after six months. There’s also a way to unlock phones with AT&T SIM cards if you’re crafty.

Coincidentally, The Daily Churn Podcast just released an episode on flipping iPhones which is quite complimentary and relevant to the above.

What Scale Looks Like

I’ve been through at least three dozen Ting phone numbers in 2021 alone, and I feel like I could have done quite a few more but frankly I just focused on other things. With most of these deals, you can do five to ten in a single sitting, so it doesn’t have to be a slog.

I also know of a particular reader who did over a hundred lines with a particular Visible deal in a single month, and I’m sure there are people out there who’ve done more than that.

Good luck out there!

You may love your iPhone 13 Pro Max and I can’t fault you, but I’m holding out for a port-in deal on one of these beauties.

There’s a triple for today, but first let’s talk some blog meta: A week from Friday it’s time for the MEAB annual Travel Hacking as told by GIFs post, and frankly that post is a ton of fun but also a bunch of work. The biggest part of the work is deciding which travel hacking events or changes for the year were significant, and while I’ve come up with a dozen or two, I could use your help. Drop me a line and let me know from your perspective which events in 2021 should be addressed. Thanks in advance!

Back to our regular programming:

1. Delta is having an award sale to Cancun and Los Cabos from various US Cities. Sale prices depend on the city, but range between 11,000 miles round trip and 22,000 miles round trip. Use Delta’s flexible calendar search for the quickest results. (Thanks to DDG)

2. In a move that surprised absolutely positively no-one, Office Depot/OfficeMax has $15 back on $300 or more in Visa gift cards running through Saturday evening (or likely Friday evening, because, you know, reasons). To maximize the deal:

  • Buy the “Everywhere” variety of gift cards for lower fees, but make sure you have a way to liquidate (Bravo is still a higher fee way)
  • Link your card to Dosh
  • Link your card to Rakuten’s in-store offer for 5x cash back at Office Depot/OfficeMax and activate the offer
  • Check your Chase offers or Bank of America offers for $10 or more in cash back at Office Depot/OfficeMax
  • Try and get at least two and perhaps more transactions through back-to-back with the cashier

A caveat on the Rakuten card-linked program: Every time you use an offer you have to go back to the site and activate it again.

3. Stockpile has increased their fee-free gift card purchase when using a credit card to $1,000 per-transaction. According to DoC, the annual gift card limit has moved from $1,000 to $2,000, but I don’t think either of those limits were or are true. I was able to get more even before the change. For best success though:

  • Get a new IP address every couple of transactions
  • Use a new email address every couple of transactions
  • Use private mode in your browser
  • Use a credit card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Citi Double Cash, or American Express Blue Business Preffered that earns 2x on these transactions (or the US Bank Altitude Reserve for true hackers). Update: Chaim from HelpMeBuildCredit wrote in to remind me that Stockpile doesn’t take American Express

Apropos of nothing, I’d like to share this here because no-one else would understand. This morning, my P2 said to me: “You’re the worst to shop for. All I can come up with is to buy you $1,000 in BestBuy gift cards and let you turn those into points or something.” 😂

A machine that shreds BestBuy plastic gift-cards and turns them into showers of points. (Patent pending)

You’ve got just a little over a week and a half before “reset to factory defaults” happens on just about everything we do. Set aside a bit of time to take care of the following this week:

1. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber, and remember that your December Uber Wallet size is quite a bit bigger than other months when Platinum cards are involved.

2. Check for any annual fees that posted and call the bank for a retention offer, or just chat online if the bank is American Express. Some sample phraseology: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” If you get an offer, don’t forget to add: “Are there any other offers available?” Sometimes there are better offers if you keep asking.

American Express specific note: If you accept a retention offer, plan on keeping that card for 12-13 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses in the future

3. If you have an American Express co-branded personal card (Marriott, Delta, Hilton), make sure you’ve attached the dining offer to your card and spend it soon. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value Amazon Meals gift card on Fluz. As always, find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already, they’ll earn something and so will you.

3. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits by tomorrow night, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first. Don’t forget that American Express Business Platinum cards have a $10 monthly credit too, just make sure you’ve activated it on your benefits page.

4. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop for a coffee and a crepe which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack is another option.

5. Cancel any cell phone burner accounts that you’re done with (and for which you didn’t use a virtual credit card number that already expired).

6. Finish off any Q4 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar.

7. Book any American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (or The Hotel Collection) stays with your $200 Platinum credit for upcoming travel next year, even if it’s speculative. Historically American Express’s systems lose their memory after the calendar rolls, so keep that in mind.

8. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit, and remember that it works on groceries this year too.

9. Use your American Express Platinum $200 airline incidental credit, Chase Ritz Carlton $300 airline incidental credit, or PenFed PathFinder $100 airline incidental credit. United TravelBank is a great way to do this. On the American Express card, make sure you’ve selected an airline first. By the way, you can change your airline selection at any time as long as you haven’t yet used any during this calendar year, just call or chat with AmEx.

10. Use any American Express Sak’s $50 credits, but make sure you activate the benefit first. I personally make sure and stop by a physical Sak’s store and buy gift cards to resell at approximately 83% of face value, but if that’s not a good option for you, Agile.Travel put together a nice list of options for things to buy.

11. It’s time for some shenanigans with American Express Clear credits (yes, there are options) so burn those or gift them to a friend. Side note: Soon, it looks like you’ll be able to buy Clear gift cards for resale.

12. Check for any credit card spend bonuses that you may want to hit before the end of the year, like:

  • World of Hyatt Visa free night certificate after $15,000 spend
  • American Express Hilton Surpass and Honors Business free night certificate after $15,000 spend
  • American Express Hilton Aspire second free night certificate after $60,000 spend
  • American Express Delta Platinum MQM boosts after $25,000 and $50,000 spend
  • American Express Delta Reserve MQM boosts after $30,000, $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 spend
  • British Airways Visa companion ticket after $50,000 spend
  • JetBlue Visa Mosaic status after $50,000 spend

Good luck out there.

The American Express master control panel. They’ve made great use of the turbo button for all of 2021, but a tech earning $12 / hour will push the reset button at 11:59 PM EST on December 31 so be ready.


In October I signed an LLC up for Brex using their TravelBank partner landing page (no, I don’t have a TravelBank account). The sign-up bonus through that link is 75,000 points for spending $1,000 in 30 days, which I knocked out within 24 hours of funding. Side note: You can get another 20,000 points easily by linking PayPal to Brex as your “payroll provider”, which I also did.

On Monday of this week I was looking at the “Bank Bonuses” section of my manufactured spend tracking Google Sheet and saw that 60 days had passed since signing up for the account and meeting the terms of the bonus, so I logged on to the account to make sure that the 75,000 points had posted. Spoiler alert: They hadn’t.

I double checked the landing page’s sign-up bonus terms and also that I had spent $1,000 in the first 30 days, then chatted with Brex using their live chat. It took about 10 minutes, but the support representative confirmed that I met the terms of the offer and said the points would post in 24 hours. Several hours later, I got an email notifying me that the points were in my account. There isn’t more to the story: the points were indeed in my account. Brex’s support had the meatball.


If I didn’t have at least a tiny sliver of tracking, I probably would have forgotten that the bonus should have posted because between then and now I’ve done a dozen other sign-up or spend bonuses and it’s easy to let one slip through the cracks. It would have cost me 75,000 Brex points, which is worth at least $750 and potentially quite a bit more with mileage transfer partners.

Tracking might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what I tracked on my “Bank Bonuses” tab of the spreadsheet:

  • Account open date (October something, 2021)
  • Target (Brex)
  • Sign-up bonus terms (75,000 points after $1,000 spend in 30 days)
  • Bonus received? (No)

What’s your point, MEAB?

Make sure you’ve got at least basic tracking in some form for sign-up bonuses so you’re not letting money slip through the cracks. It’s surprisingly easy in this game to have a $500 gift card sitting on your desk that you forgot about, a spend bonus that didn’t post, a BestBuy gift card sitting in a stack that was never entered into anything, a gift card email that you marked as read and never saw again, or some other mishap. Please do at least the minimum necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

If you’re not sure where to start, The Daily Churn Podcast recently posted an episode on credit card tracking along with their Google Sheets template. If you don’t have something like that, perhaps make a copy and start your own? It could mean an extra $750 to spend on your favorite stock, or I guess you could buy 750 Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwiches if they’re running a 5 for $5 special, but that might also be your last weekend on Earth after your massive heart attack, so, ymmv.

Have a great weekend!

You don’t have to track 750 of these “beauties” to know what you’re getting.

Do this now: Register for Hilton’s Q1 Promotion for 2,500 bonus points per stay from January 1 through May 1.

1. The PenFed Pathfinder Visa credit card has a new targeted offer for a $150 statement credit for adding an authorized user by December 31.

What’s that? You haven’t heard of this card before? Well, I’m not terribly surprised. The card hasn’t exactly achieved Unsung Hero status, but still probably worth your attention because:

  • The card has effectively a $425 sign-up bonus (50,000 points at 0.85 cents each)
  • The card gives a $100 airline incidental credit every year
  • The card has effectively no-annual fee (the $95 annual-fee is waived every year as long as you have a free PenFed Access America checking account)
  • The card has offered multiple spending bonuses this year (like $50 back after spending $500)
  • The card is churnable
  • You can hold multiple Pathfinder cards simultaneously

Everyone can join PenFed for $5, and PenFed is an excellent target for shenanigans.

2. The HMBradley 3.0% APR bank account is going to require that you hold the HMBradley credit card to continue to qualify for 3.0% APR on up to $100,000 starting on February 1, 2022. (Thanks to chooseyourusername17)

As an alternative high-yield option, you may want to consider a Series I Savings Bond, which will pay at minimum of about 3.56% APR, and probably quite a bit more. Free-quent Flyer has posted an excellent in-depth article with more information.

3. Check your Marriott Bonvoy account for new targeted promotions. There have been multiple reports of earning opportunities for free-night certificates, like this one.

4. Get ready to plan your summer travel because the next Southwest Airlines schedule extension is expected today and it will cover most summer travel, with an extension through September 5. There are two reasons this is interesting:

  • On many routes, the cheapest fares sell-out quickly, so booking early will typically get the best price
  • Southwest will probably tweak their schedule for far-away flights and let you change to any other flight on the same route ± two weeks for no-additional charge; so book the cheapest flight you can find in that window and wait for a likely schedule change to switch to the flight you want

Good luck out there.

Sample path available to PathFinder Visa cardholders (and non-PathFinder Visa cardholders too, but they have less fun.)

1. Southwest has 20% off of fares to or from Hawaii for travel between March 11 and May 12 of next year, which includes Spring Break for most of the US, use promo-code HAWAIISALE.

2. Yesterday’s deal with SimplyMiles turned out to be a giant disaster after all, because of course it did when AA was involved. The gist:

  • They took the site down yesterday morning (it was timing out on all requests)
  • They site came back and they put a banner up saying that only purchases before a (probably incorrect) time were honored
  • They removed the banner all-together
  • They messaged that they’re “working with Mastercard” to everyone who wrote in and asked about status

First, I’m terribly sorry if I got you involved in this deal and it ends up wasting your time. Second, I hope it works out for you whether or not you end up wasting time. And because you didn’t ask, here’s my prediction for how this will go:

Usually, ill-conceived promotions turn into flaming meteors that crash into full dumpsters outside of a liquor store — so, I guess that.

3. One of my absolute favorite long-term deals of the last year was fee-free Vanilla Visa gift cards at vanillagift.com because:

  • Vanilla Visa gift cards work in quite a few more places than Metabank/BHN Visa gift cards
  • Vanillagift.com continues to work well with American Express cards (unlike simon.com)
  • The “flash sale” ended up lasting over five months even though it was supposed to be just a couple of days

Well, rejoice (maybe) because that flash sale is back for 2021 using the code FLASH2021. The code was just announced yesterday and as of this writing is supposed to expire yesterday, but I have high hopes that it won’t actually expire. Give the code a shot today, and keep it in your back-pocket because it’s possible that it will continue to work well into 2022.

A dumpster outside of a liquor store waiting for the next fiery AA promotion to come crashing down.