Introduction

A new credit card that offers uncapped 6% in cash-back at grocery stores through the end of 2023 issued by USAlliance Credit Union surfaced early in the weekend. When a great opportunity like this rolls around, there are two ways to play it:

  • The prudent method: Ramp-up spend and focus on longevity
  • The hog method: Going ham by hitting the deal as hard as possible, anticipating an early death

How do you decide which method to use?

Prudence

Sometimes you’ll make more over the long-term by exercising some restraint and caution as you play the game. That usually means:

  • Not cycling credit lines until the bank’s patterns are better understood
  • Ramping up spend over the course of a few months
  • Varying transaction sizes and patterns to obscure manufactured spend
  • Doing no more than one transaction per day

When you’re being prudent, you’re implicitly deciding that a deal will probably be around for a long while and you’ll make more and have less frustration by nurturing it throughout its life.

Hog

Sometimes a deal almost certainly won’t last for more than a few months, and your best return will come from hitting it as hard as possible. That looks like:

  • Cycling credit lines immediately
  • Overpaying to create a negative balance for more total spend
  • Hitting the deal as many times a day as possible

Getting shutdown after months of doing the above is almost inevitable at any bank, large or small; so don’t be surprised when the axe comes down.

Which Method to Use with USAlliance?

Back to the 6% uncapped cash-back at grocery card, let’s discuss where we are:

  • The deal went mainstream yesterday
  • USAlliance is a medium sized credit union with slightly more than $2 billion in assets
  • USAlliance is losing a lot of money on each grocery transaction (The interchange fees on grocery are going to be between 1.40% + $0.05 and 2.10% + $0.10, depending on the store’s coding and transaction volume; see page 9 of the Visa interchange fee reimbursements PDF)
  • Some heavy hitters are going to go big on this deal

When deals like this happen at a medium sized bank, you’ve typically got a good shot at longevity because your activity is drowned out in the noise. USAlliance is losing somewhere between 3.9% and 4.6% on a grocery transaction though so I don’t think it’ll take much activity to rise above the noise. To me that means the right choice is to hit this one as hard as you can and expect that it’ll die in several months.

Good luck friends!

This car chose hog.

  1. Do this now: Register for Southwest’s latest promotion for double tier points, and for award flights to count toward A-List and A-List Preferred status through November 20. As usual, you’ll still be flying Southwest so there’s that.
  2. Apparently not content to go more than two days without a fuel points promotion, Kroger has a new 4x fuel points bonus both in-store and online for Happy, Choice, and Giving Good cards through October 4:

    Online portal
    In-store coupon

    Most Krogers now carry physical St. Jude’s Giving Good cards which can be converted online to BestBuy, and there are also multiple options for converting to Home Depot. Fuel points resale rates have crept back up which can make these deals break-even or better before credit card rewards.
  3. Staples has fee free Visa $200 gift cards, limit 8 per transaction, starting Sunday and running through Saturday, October 1. Don’t forget to try for back-to-back transactions and to link your cards to obscure card-linked programs like Payce.

    These are Metabank cards, so have a liquidation plan in place before you buy a bunch of gift cards that turn into an unwieldy stack on your desk.
  4. Some American Express accounts have been producing Personal Platinum referral links with a sign-up bonus of 150,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 spend in six months for several weeks. Reportedly more people are now targeted, so it’s worth checking again.

    The referrer will also get between 15,000 and 30,000 Membership Rewards on card approval, making this the best personal AmEx Platinum bonus that I’m aware of (unless you can take advantage of 10x points on $25,000 in restaurant spend and a 125,000 Membership Rewards bonus with the Resy Platinum card).

Reflecting on life after flying enough Southwest Award tickets to earn A-List Preferred.

  1. Do this now: Register for Radisson Rewards Americas’ promotion for 3,000 bonus points per night at Radisson family hotels in the Americas through December 15, 2022.
  2. The Rakuten 2% back or 2x Membership Rewards on Safeway purchases had new conditions added yesterday: Maximum $20 back per transaction, and a maximum of 10 transactions are eligible. If you were hitting it hard, double check that you’re not at the limit already before going again.
  3. AA has a bunch of lame deals celebrating its 35 year partnership with Citi, but two of them are mildly interesting (you can use your browser’s developer tools to see the upcoming deals before they’re unhidden):

    – 535 bonus AA miles when spending $135 through the shopping portal with a Citi AA card (hello giftcards.com)
    – 350 bonus miles for redeeming a SimplyMiles card linked offer between Friday and October 7

    Loyalty points for those of us chasing status, you ask? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is the 535 bonus miles won’t count but the 350 will.
  4. Simon’s volume site has 52% off of Visa and Mastercard gift cards through Sunday using promo code SEP22FALL52. They’re Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan.

A sampling of the Citi+AA marketing team’s other great promotional work.

Introduction

As we’ve discussed before in multiple instances, getting eyes an account ripe with shenanigans is a good path to a shutdown of at least that account, and probably all accounts held at an institution. So you should place a high priority on avoiding the prying eyes of an analyst when your account is filled with gift card purchases, payments by phone, money order deposits, anonymous payments, or anything else that banks don’t like in bulk.

Fraud Alerts

Perhaps the quickest path to an analyst from a bank’s fraud team looking at your account to do nothing when you get a fraud alert. That’s because when a fraud alert is generated, banks will put your account in a queue for manual review and (hopefully) notify you about the alert via a push-notification, text message, or email. Good banks will typically service that queue within 24 hours, while other banks like, I don’t know, Citi, can take up to a week to get through that queue. When an analyst pulls your account out of the queue, they may not like what they see and give you the axe.

If, however, you preemptively clear an alert, it’s almost always removed from the queue and no analyst looks at your account. Even better, fraud detection algorithms are usually trainable and a cleared alert means it’s less likely that you’ll see another alert in the future.

So when you get a fraud-alert, the action item is obvious: Don’t procrastinate. Just clear it as quickly as possible to keep anyone from looking at your account, either by responding to the alert or by calling the bank’s fraud line and hopefully doing it with an automated system. Bonus tip: if you can’t clear an alert with an automated system, calling outside of normal US working hours is more likely to get you to a customer service representative that lives in another country and is generally more apathetic about what happens in an account.

MEAB Scaremongering

So that we can appropriately calibrate urgency here: There’s buying a gift card or two and depositing a money order once a month, and then there’s going ham. If you’re not in that latter category I wouldn’t worry too much and just keep doing what you’ve always done. If not though, keep the bank’s analysts out of your accounts!

A captured screen shot from Citi’s soon to be released fraud alert verification system.

  1. The Target Redcard $40 online and $40 in-store sign-up bonus is back starting on Sunday and running through October 8. Why is $80 interesting for a new card? Isn’t that way below the line? Well, normally yes, but:

    – The debit card is churnable and has no credit pull
    – The credit card is churnable and unlocks interesting games both in-store and via the phone

    For more, see Target Redcard hacks, and note that the current time between closing an old card and opening a new one is somewhere around 10 business days. (Thanks to Derthsidious)
  2. Check your American Express offers for:

    – $40 back on $200 or more at Hertz car rentals
    – $100 back on $500 or more at Marriott hotels (Edit: Brian let me know that this may be limited to Marriott Homes and Villas)
    – $60 back on $300 at Grant Hyatt hotels
    – 2% to 2.5% back on co-branded business card spend
  3. There are multiple reports of a targeted 80,000 point Bank of America credit card sign-up bonus sent directly via email with the subject “[name], don’t miss your chance at this 80,000 bonus mile offer!”. Don’t forget to read up on Bank of America churning shenanigans if you’re going to apply for this one. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. It’s apparently now possible to generate referral links for personal Citi AA cards with $100 per referral, up to five referrals per year. It doesn’t seem to work for non-AA cards or for business AA cards based on my testing. (Thanks to coole106)

Have a nice weekend!

Jumpstarting the weekend with an external battery.

  1. Do this now: Register for Q4’s 5x spend on rotating category cards at Chase and Discover.

    Chase’s Freedom and Freedom Flex, 5x at PayPal and Walmart
    Discover IT: 5% back at Amazon and on digital wallet purchases

    The US Bank Cash+ and Citi Dividend registration links haven’t yet updated for Q4.
  2. Do this now (too): Register for Cathay Pacific’s incoming mileage transfer bonus for mileage transfers from credit card flexible currencies through November 12. Registering gets you two things:

    – A 10% bonus on transfers of less than 30,000 miles, or 15% on larger transfers
    – Resets expiration on miles in your account earned prior to 2020

    In October 2021, there was an American Express Membership Rewards 20% transfer bonus to Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles. If that or something similar from Citi or Capital One appears I’ll be making a large transfer into the program. (Thanks to FM)
  3. Simon’s volume site has 65% off of purchase fees through tomorrow on both Visa and Mastercard gift cards using promo SUPER22SAVE65. These are Metabanks so have a liquidation plan, like, I don’t know, using one of the satellite registers at Walmart for something other than a money order.

A satellite cash register, I guess?

  1. Southwest seems to be counting award travel for A-List and A-List Preferred status as of last week. Is this intentional? I dunno, but my guess is that if you get status this way that you’ll keep it whether or not it’s a just a bug. Notably it still doesn’t count toward earning a Companion Pass.

    Hopefully Southwest is trying to copy Delta’s change that allows award tickets to earn Medallion status. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)
  2. JetBlue cardholders can now earn a referral bonus for referring new card members. The link to generate a referral is in your inbox from Barclays, if you can’t find it, customer service can have it resent though it may take a few tries to find the right person.

    The referral offer is as good as the best public offer, 80,000 points after $1,000 in spend in 90 days, and 10,000 points for the referrer.
  3. Check your American Express offers for $100 back on $500 or more at Alaska Airlines.

    Buying a non-refundable, non basic-economy ticket that costs around $500, waiting 24 hours, and canceling the ticket will allow you to bank $500 in your Alaska wallet for a net cost of $400, though eventually those wallet funds do expire so this is a short to medium term play, not a long-term one.
  4. Rakuten has 2% back or 2x Membership Rewards on Safeway purchases via their card linked program. I’m sure you can find an interesting use for this one.

A-List and A-List preferred status get you unlimited complimentary upgrades to the economy cabin.

  1. Southwest has a companion pass offer for booking a single round-trip or two one-way flights by tomorrow evening for travel before November 17. After you qualify, you’ll receive a companion pass valid from January 4, 2023 – March 4, 2023.

    (Thanks to the ineffable Brian M’s report via MEAB slack)
  2. Barclays has increased its personal JetBlue card’s sign-up bonus to 80,000 TrueBlue points after $1,000 in spend in 90 days. The card has a $99 annual fee and isn’t waived the first year. (Thanks to DoC)
  3. The Citi Shop Your Way Mastercard (a MEAB Unsung Hero) has been sending out targeted offers since last week. We’ve seen:

    – $40 back after six purchases of $50 each month for three months
    – 4,000 ThankYou points after six purchases of $50 each month for three months
    – 15% in statement credits up to $60 in travel purchases each month for three months
  4. Meijer online has $5 off of $100 Visa gift cards, limit 10. They’re Metabank gift cards, but Kroger, Walmart, and Safeway still universally allow $99 swipes with these and the cards will auto-drain a small balance at most grocery stores, so liquidation is possibly more straightforward than is typical.

    Unfortunately I have to counteract the good Metabank news with some bad: These are fulfilled by BlackHawk Network and won’t code as grocery for any credit card category bonuses.

Good news: Meijer sells sushi for less than a dollar and will auto-drain your Metabank gift card. Bad news: This is the sushi.