1. Kroger has a 4x fuel points points promotion running on third party gift cards from today through Sunday which makes it a good weekend to knock out minimum spend or to maximize your American Express Personal Gold grocery annual capacity provided you have relationships in place with gift card and fuel points brokers.
  2. In addition to Tuesday’s US Bank $400 business checking bonus, there’s now a personal checking and savings bonus of $600 with promo code 2023JAN. Requirements for the bonus:

    – Direct deposit $6,000 or more across at least two deposits in 90 days
    – Deposit $25,000 in the savings account by February 28 and keep it there until May 31

    In general it’s a bad idea to keep a deposit account at a bank with credit cards that you care about, but US Bank and Bank of America both make approvals and churning more accessible to account holders, so churners should keep the account but not use it.
  3. Staples has fee free $200 Visa gift cards on sale running Sunday through the following Saturday, limit eight per transaction. They’re Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place.
  4. Most domestic narrow body Delta flights will have free WiFi starting on February 1. Regional jets and wide body flights will be hit or miss until the end of next year.
  5. H-E-B has a digital coupons for a free $25 H-E-B gift card with the purchase of a $150 Delta, Uber, Lyft, or Southwest gift card through Tuesday. There’s a less exciting $25 H-E-B gift card with a $200 airbnb gift card too. You can scale this one with multiple loyalty accounts. (Thanks to GCG)
  6. Avelo Airlines, the Houston Texas based airline that doesn’t actually serve any cities in Texas, has apparently partnered with Capital One, and the partnership includes a better sign-up bonus for the Venture card than is otherwise available:

    – 75,000 Capital One non-transferrable miles
    – $200 statement credit on Avelo purchases
    – Priority boarding on Avelo for the first year

    Avelo’s pedigree includes aircraft and operating certificates from Casino Express, an airline that answered the question: “Can you profitably provide service form the most anti-vice, ultra-conservative city in the nation (Provo, UT) to sin city (Las Vegas, NV) and still make money?” The answer turned out to be yes, duh. (Thanks to I_COMMENT_2_TIMES)

The airport taproom and tavern at Provo Municipal airport in Provo, Utah features a selection of the city’s strongest ales.

  1. US Bank has a new $400 business checking sign-up bonus with promo code AF49ZCB running through January 9. Requirements for the bonus:

    – Deposit $3,000 within 30 days
    – Maintain at least a $3,000 balance for 60 days
    – Create an online login
    – Complete five qualifying transactions, like maybe five $1 debit reloads at Amazon

    On the last round I wasn’t able to open an account without human intervention, but I was able to do it via a relatively quick zoom appointment. (Thanks to DoC)
  2. Citi is sending Q1 targeted spend offers via both email and physical mailers, and registration is required. Offers vary, but we’ve seen 5x spend in some combination of gas stations, electronics stores, restaurants, and home improvement stores. The spend caps are low at $500 in total spend 🤏.
  3. The mostly churnable Target Redcard sign-up bonus of $40 off of online purchases and another $40 off of in-store purchases is back through January 14. There have been several recent reports of some representatives not wanting to close the card for another churn; if you encounter that, HUCA.

    Updated software at some Target registers also means the credit card version isn’t quite as useful as it once was.
  4. PayUSATax has lowered its fees for paying taxes with a card:

    – 1.85% for credit card payments
    – $2.20 for debit card payments

    You’ve got just under two weeks to pay Q4 2022 estimated taxes too, and you’re allowed two payments per processor per SSN.
  5. American Express Membership Rewards has a 20% transfer bonus to Hawaiian Airlines miles. Sweet spots:

    – Intra-Hawaii flights
    – Flights to Hawaii from the east coast in all classes of service

    Award space with Hawaiian is hard to come by, so be wary.

A penguin-unicorn hybrid standing in front of Santa’s obelisk of light, seen together approximately as often as Hawaiian airlines releases business class award seats.

Introduction

In what has become an annual MEAB tradition for three years in a row (and trust me, if I do something three years in a row it’s a Ron Burgundy style “kind of a big deal”), it’s time for another installment of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs, but without Ron Burgundy.

Previous versions:

As a certain prolific human wrecking ball and worlds fastest beta tester likes to tell me, LFG!

The GIFs

Getting ready for the MEAB 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs post.


We started the year with most American Express business cards offering bonuses of up to $200 per card or 20,000 Membership Rewards per card, up to 99 times. Yes, it was a huge bonus, but we had to prepare for a bunch of small talk and impatiently waiting while a phone rep adds 99 variations of your name to your account.


Pictured: 99 AU cards with your name on them (go ahead and count, I’ll wait).


Mastercardgiftcard.com turned out to be a great way to hit minimum spend American Express cards for a chunk of the year, at least until they started charging cash advances, illustrated here.


The silent response when MEAB geeked out with the Monty Hall problem applied to flights.


Chase drops the bonus for pay yourself back categories from 50% to 25% on the Chase Sapphire Reserve (probably) due to massive abuse and gaming.


After Southwest’s epic meltdown, we get to see their operations staff working on their computer crew optimizer in real time.


Plastiq announces that they’re going public via the Colonnade SPAC, and then produces a commercial outlining their 2023 business plans.


When a manufactured spender successfully executes an AmEx triple dip.


American Express tries to convince us that this year’s Q4 referral bonus with +4x on travel and transit spend isn’t lame. We still remember the better 2021 4-for-us and best 2020 3-for-all variants of the offer.


Delta and Starbucks partner up, and mainstream bloggers see yet another 10 page puff piece in their future.


Capital One sees American Express with all the giant 250,000 point sign-up bonuses and decides it’s time to play ball. Then, American Express responds.


Nearside’s 2.2% cashback everywhere debit card announces by email that it’s shutting down.


A few hours later, Nearside emails everyone and says “J/K, J/K, we’re fine”



Kroger’s inner crazy-monologue sends itself a message about wiping out fuel points accounts, and then does it.


We watch as the Unsung Hero Synchrony Rakuten card slowly dies.


Brex decides that it’s going to focus on only large businesses and leaves everyone else high and dry.


Marriotts in Japan welcome their most loyal guests when tourism reopened in October.


Delta announces that they’re getting rid of the CRJ-200s from their fleet, and provides video of the final torture-tube flight.


Travel hackers look for Lubbock on the world map for some reason.


Kroger starts replacing US Bank gift cards with Metabank gift cards.


Southwest’s reservation system stops taking calls due to random equipment failures.


Trying to place orders at Dell looks great, until your order is cancelled after it’s confirmed.


We react to PayPal key going away.


J and F flyers realize what’s going to happen to award space now that Emirates awards can be booked with Air Canada Aeroplan miles.


MEAB prepares for the 2022 Travel Hacking as told by GIFs early in the year to make it easy later, and then face-plants via procrastination as the year moves on.


Thanks for reading friends! Just like Tanya in the White Lotus Season 2, I’m sure only good things are to come at MEAB!

  1. The original MEAB Unsung Hero, the Citi/Sears Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard has a higher, choose-your-own adventure style sign-up bonus: the current heightened $225 after $1,500 in spend and 10% off of your first purchase with the card at Raise. (Thanks to Miles)
  2. Meijer MPerks has a digital coupon for a $10 Meijer gift card with $100 or more in Happy Cards, Choice Cards, or One4All Cards. Many of these can be converted to gift cards with resale rates well above 90%; just remember that the post-Christmas gift card cash out by buying electronics to ship to buyer’s groups is going to be hard for a couple of months.

    On the flip side, $10 will buy a whole lot of unsold discount Christmas candy at Meijer so hooray for your dentist.
  3. China reopens for tourist travel on January 8th. My spot checks showed very little in the way of paid or award routes between the US and China, but I expect that’ll change rapidly over the next couple of weeks, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a trip to China.
  4. Giftcards.com has vanished from most shopping portals, though it’s notably still present on Capital One Shopping, which is open to anyone whether or not you hold a Capital One card. This has happened in the past, so I don’t expect it to be a long-term outage but 🤷‍♀️. (Thanks to irieriley)

Brach’s discount Christmas taffy, also known as “dentist’s yacht maker”.

  1. Giftcards.com’s promo code HOLIDAYVISA continues to work for $10 back on on $100 or more in virtual Visa gift cards, limit $2,000 per 48 hours. When properly executed this deal gets nearly 10% off, credit card points, and a portal spend rebate too, which makes it easy to eat the costs expensive liquidation options and still come out way ahead.

    When improperly executed like the last purchase I made, you forget to enter the code and then connect your palm to your face. (It’s not currently advertised, but VISAHOLIDAY and XMASVISA codes may also work too. Just make sure to enter them in the promo code box.)
  2. Staples has fee free Visa gift cards on sale Sunday through the following Saturday limit five per transaction. There’s a catch this time though: this sale is only for $100 cards and not the usual $200s, so #bonvoyed. Personally I’d focus on the Office Depot/OfficeMax sale that ends tomorrow instead, because although the net cost of acquisition is the same, processing time and in-store time is effectively doubled for $100 cards for the same total spend. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Most airlines have a no change-fee waiver across half or more of the United States in place thanks to yet another bomb cyclone storm. If you’re traveling in the next 24 to 48 hours, you may want to take advantage of the waivers and see if you can switch to a better itinerary so you’re not connecting on a redeye flight to meet Danny in Lubbock, TX on your layover.
  4. Don’t forget that for some reason I can’t place my finger on, Monday December 26 is a federal banking holiday, so ACHs, wires, and credit card payments won’t clear until Tuesday.

Have a nice holiday weekend, and safe travels! I hope you end up somewhere sunny like I will (travel demigods willing).

The probable reason for the federal banking holiday on Monday.

  1. Simon has a few new Simon discounted purchase-fee codes available:

    DEC22FLASH35 for 35% off of Visas and Mastercards through December 14
    DEC22FESTIVE50 for 50% off of Abstract Red or Abstract Emerald Visa gift cards through December 25
    WRAP22UP for 50% off of Holiday Design Visa gift cards through December 31

    Different Simon codes (obviously) work on different types of gift cards, and for an added level of complexity, some work only on business volume accounts, and some work only on consumer volume accounts.
  2. Best Western has a promotion for a $50 bonus gift card with each $200 gift card purchased, limit five. The $50 bonus card expires on May 31, so it’s only useful for travel in the near future, at least to the extent that Best Western is useful for travel in general. (Thanks to DoC)
  3. Kroger.com has 5% off of the total cost of Visa and Mastercard gift cards through Friday with promo code HOLIDAYS22. These are fulfilled by Metabank, but are actually issued by US Bank. You’ll earn fuel points on the purchase too. (Thanks to Alex Z for making sure I got this right)
  4. Southwest open their booking window tomorrow for travel through August 14, 2023, which makes this one of your best opportunities to book placeholder summer air travel that may involve Southwest, especially if you check for price drops during future fare sales or in the weeks leading up to travel.
  5. A follow-ups from yesterday’s post: The Office Depot/Office Max $15 back on $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards deal still works as advertised, but the extra trick that worked on recent promotions for Visa gift cards isn’t working on this one.
  6. Meijer has a digital coupon for a $15 Meijer gift card with $100 or more in Happy, Choice, or One4All gift card purchases. Some of these can be converted to Home Depot and Best Buy gift cards for a nice profit. Be sure to scale with multiple Meijer accounts.

Pictured: Where the Office Depot/OfficeMax extra trick seems to have gone.

  1. There’s a short window to book Emirates economy and business class awards with Aeroplan miles at a lower than normal rate and with no fuel surcharges. In a few weeks they’ll be publishing an Emirates specific award chart with higher cost, and some unspecified time after that the cost will get even higher, so now is a decent time to lock in any awards. (Thanks to VFTW)
  2. JetBlue is revamping its frequent flyer plan for 2023 and adding new status tiers. There’s a lot of “blah blah blah” in here, but there’s also a nugget for gamers: top tier status will include six Mint upgrade certificates and four Blade helicopter airport transfers in New York, and you can earn top tier status completely with manufactured spend on a co-branded JetBlue card, much like with AA and with Delta. To compare:

    – Delta Diamond: $250,000 co-branded credit card spend and earning 125,000 MQM (gaming is possible with AmEx shanigans)
    – AA Executive Platinum: $200,000 co-branded credit card spend (gaming is very possible with portals and SimplyMiles)
    – JetBlue Mosaic 4: $250,000 co-branded credit card spend
  3. British Airways has added a way to pay more Avios and less cash for surcharges with the poorly named “Reward Flight Saver” tier for award redemptions. Travel hackers should note that this is probably a bad deal on flights leaving the UK, but may be a decent deal on flights to the UK which have higher surcharges.

Yesterday’s JetBlue press release.

  1. Meijer has $10 off of $150 or more in Mastercard gift cards through Saturday. You have to clip a digital coupon, and you may need multiple MPerks accounts to scale. If you’re even remotely near a Meijer it’s probably worth your time to work this one into your rotation.
  2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are their own kind of special for a manufactured spender. There’s a lot going on but it’s hard to find anything useful in the normal channels because deals are lost in the noise of vacuum cleaner sales, PS5 snipe hunting, letters from your local shop letting you know that they’ve slashed prices by upwards of 3%, and by the extreme desire to search your inbox for “is:unread” followed by a mass delete. For today only, slickdeals is probably the best place to keep a focused eye (normally they’re too slow to pay much attention to for our kind of deals), specifically with one of the following links:

    General Cyber Monday deals
    Visa gift cards
    Mastercard gift cards
    Airline sales
    Stephen’s Black Friday Gift Card deals (Ok, so this isn’t slickdeals but it is just as good)

    One thing to watch out for is that slickdeals runs its own shopping portal and the rates typically aren’t as good as you can find elsewhere, always check cashbackmonitor.com.
  3. Giftcards.com has multiple new codes for 5% off of Virtual Visas through Thursday: BFVIP, BFVISA5, CMVISA5, and BFVISA. You can get $2,000 in virtual cards every 48 hours per Giftcards.com account, and remember to go through a portal too. In case you’re on the fence. The break-even point not including portal bonuses and credit card rewards is 2.74%, so it’s easy to make this work in your favor.
  4. The American Express Business Platinum card’s public offer is now occasionally 170,000 Membership Rewards with $15,000 in spend. As usual with the AmEx random number generator, if you don’t see the offer then try:

    – Incognito
    – Mobile versus desktop
    – A different browser
    – Search for “American Express Business Platinum” with several search engines and click the first non-sponsored link
    – A VPN to another part of the US

    This offer does have lifetime language, but we all know the popup is more important than the language, right? (Thanks to DoC)
  5. Check the following airline promo pages for Cyber Monday sales and rebook existing travel when it makes sense:

    United Airlines flight promos
    Delta Air Lines flight promos
    Southwest Airlines cyber monday promos
    Alaska Airlines cyber monday sale
    American Airlines travel deals

    I’ll update the above links as it makes sense throughout the day.
  6. Check the Fluz mobile app for upcoming parties and RVSP or join any interesting ones. For our purposes, the most interesting is probably 30% off today for Uber Eats gift cards, which of course work for Uber rides.

MEAB’s coping mechanism between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.