Introduction

A conversation I overheard yesterday at a local coffee shop:

No-one: …
Absolutely no-one: …
Kroger: Hey I’ve got a fresh idea, how about 4x fuel points gift cards this weekend?
Third party gift sellers: [facepalm]

In a move that could only surprise someone with advanced dementia, Kroger is indeed having another 4x fuel points sale on third party gift cards between Friday and Sunday. In case you’re keeping track, we’ve had fewer than a dozen days since June without a 4x fuel points sale, and as a result the gift card resale market is depressed, like Tony Soprano season 2 depressed.

A Rocky Year

Fuel points either partially or completely offset the loss taken from selling bulk gift cards and are therefore a huge part of the bulk gift card market toolkit. In prior years Kroger fuel points were the easiest grocery point to deal with by far. But this year, Kroger has started to throw wrenches into the works:

It looks as though Kroger isn’t happy with its fuel points program and is actively taking steps to change how it works. In the meantime, bulk buyers and bulk sellers are being cautious and volume has plummeted, presumably until the dust as settled and we have a better idea about what’s working and what’s not.

What Seems Safe?

So far I haven’t heard any reports of accounts with fewer than 20,000 fuel points being targeted, so 20,000 may be a soft capacity on accounts for the near-term future. It also seems likely that account age is part of Kroger’s silent blocking algorithm, so your long-term personal account is probably safe.

Here’s the bright-side I guess: Buying an Amazon gift card at Kroger will definitely earn you a few fuel points for your own use, and that discount beats fake discount Amazon gift cards sold directly by Amazon.

Happy selling!

Misunderstanding how Kroger fuel points work.

  1. The Alaska Airlines Business card has an increased 70,000 mile sign-up bonus, made really interesting because there’s no hard-coded limit on the number of these that you can open in a day or on the total number you can have, and Bank of America business cards lack any real churning restrictions.
  2. Staples is again offering fee-free Visa $200 gift cards Sunday through the following Saturday, limit five per transaction. If your Staples doesn’t seem to have any stock:

    – Ask an employee to open the rack and grab new ones
    – Look for another rack behind the customer service desk
    – Look for another rack in the back of the store

    These are Metabanks, so have a liquidation plan. (Thanks to GC Galore)

  3. If you need to cancel a Marriott booking made with a certificate, it:

    – May or may not error out
    – May or may not return your certificate

    There’s a workaround that will reliably allow you to cancel and return your certificate:

    Visit your reservation confirmation
    – Click “Change”
    – Select the same room type and same dates
    – Choose points when the system asks how you want to pay

    After you’ve done all that, the certificate will be reliably returned and you’ll be able to cancel your reservation, which makes this ever so slightly better than Citi IT.

Candid shot of Marriott’s development staff during reservation management coding sessions.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes we resemble extreme couponers, and today is a perfect illustration:

  1. GiftCardGranny has 2% off of the total cost of “Build a Card” Visa and Mastercard gift cards with promo code SUMMER2022, good through all of August. For eGift cards, the total cost is $496.95. For physical cards, the total cost is $499.94 for a single card, slightly lower cost when scaled. (Thanks to charmingwaves)
  2. The Capital One shopping portal, available to cardholders and non-cardholders alike has been targeting some for 6% back at GiftCards.com. Now it’s available both on the app and the website and the increased payout is much more widely targeted. Obviously this stacks well with back-to-school portal bonuses, but only up to $2,000 per month in spend.
  3. Sam’s Club is again paying portals for gift card purchases in August. Sam’s sells interesting gift cards like Vanilla Visas, and will stack well with current portal spend bonuses, like Capital One shopping at 10%. Fortunately Sam’s Club gift card purchases don’t currently have a $2,000 per month total spend limit. (Thanks to GC Galore)

Even Delta buys from Sam’s Club at a discount, though I see they bought the upgraded HD model.

  1. The Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard, the Ben Mendelsohn of credit cards, has been sending out a new spending bonus for August, September, and October for travel purchases. Offers we’ve seen:

    – 20x points up to 7,000 points each month
    – 15% back up to $60
    – 10% back up to $90

    Check your email and USPS mail to see if you’re targeted. (Thanks to BB_Pcola and Birt via MEAB slack)

  2. Meijer MPerks, the Bruce Willis of loyalty programs, is running a promotion through August 13 for $100 in grocery credits back on a $500 third party gift card purchase, excluding certain brands. Scale this with multiple MPerks accounts. (Thanks to Larry via MEAB slack)
  3. Office Depot/OfficeMax’s promotion for $15 back on the purchase of $300 or more in Visa gift cards is running for a second week, expiring Saturday. Remember:

    – Link each credit card you may use to a Dosh account for 2% back up to $10 per day
    – Try for multiple back-to-back transactions
    – Consider buying the Everyday variety of Visas for a smaller liquidation fee

    These cards are issued by Metabank, the Robert Van Winkle of banks.

  4. The Morgan Stanley Platinum American Express card, the John Hodgman of Platinum cards, has a not well publicized annual fee waiver for holding $25,000 in cash at Morgan Stanley. With one year CD rates creeping above 2.8% for much of the nation, the fee-waver is eclipsed by interest earning potential. Of course there are tax consequences to consider. (Thanks to BruceFan77)

Today’s post brought to you by MEAB, the early 90s Gwen Stefani of travel blogs.

As July closes, let’s chat about the current state of the bulk gift card markets in light of the effectively endless 4x promotions that Kroger’s run this summer. First, what’s been driving the markets?

Catalysts

The noteworthy events for bulk gift card reselling in the recent past are:

  • Bulk buyers overbought fuel points in July
  • Fuel points capacity for August is probably going to be muted by the July over-supply
  • BestBuy has started to run sales that resellers are interested in, reviving the market that’s been dead since January
  • Bulk buyers had shifted to selling Apple goods overseas
  • For most of Q1 and the start of Q2, Home Depot had the most buyer demand
  • Many gift card resellers still have 6x or 11x capacity from AmEx 99 employee offers and can thus make lower card and fuel points rates profitable

Where We Are

Based on that, you can probably guess where the markets have gone, but let’s write it out for posterity (or something):

  • Fuel points rates have dropped between 25% and 33% this month
  • BestBuy rates have been slowly climbing from approximately 92% to 94%
  • Apple rates have been holding at between 93% and 94%
  • Home Depot rates have fallen to around 92%

Other standbys like Marshalls, Nike, Foot Locker, and Neiman Marcus rates have stayed relatively constant, I think because buyers tend to focus less on these brands.

The Future

In Q3 of last year, BestBuy rates crept up to 97% for bulk resale which made most Kroger 4x events quite profitable. Assuming BestBuy starts discounting its inventory for back-to-school sales, or because there may be a recession, I expect rates to climb to the same ball-park as they did last year. When that happens, shifting buyer interest will cause HomeDepot and Apple rates to creep up even higher too.

Finally, big earnings from AmEx 99 employee card offers will largely be exhausted, which will remove many buyers from the market and probably also push up rates.

Crystal Ball: Efficacy

How likely are my predictions to come true? That’s a great question, I’m so glad you asked. Based on my past performance and in the spirit of Brian Fantana, “50% of the time, I’m right every time”.

Pictured: My predictions workspace.

Before we jump in today: If you’re traveling through Amsterdam or London in the next three weeks or so, I’d suggest you call your airline and get rebooked on another route. With that out of the way, there are a few things to keep on your radar for the weekend:

  1. If you want to play with fire, Chase is offering a $600 sign-up bonus for opening a checking and savings account, depositing $15,000 for 90 days, and setting up direct deposit that’s bigger than an unspecified “micro-deposit” size (I’d set up at least $500 per month to be safe). The offer runs through October 19.

    To qualify, you can’t have had an existing checking and savings account for the last 90 days. I wouldn’t do this with P1, but maybe for P3, or for P2 if you keep their manufactured spend profile low.

  2. Southwest opened its schedule through March 8, 2023 yesterday, and currently we haven’t seen any schedule change sweeps past October 20 so you can still game the holiday season and potentially early spring break travel. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)
  3. Do this now: Register for double Hyatt points at MGM properties through October 15. (Thanks to FM)
  4. The Paceline credit card seems to be good for up to around $10,000 in cash back before a shutdown. I guessed initially that I’d be shutdown almost instantly if I got the card, but I think I was wrong and I’ll be grabbing it soon.
  5. Giant Eagle stores have 3x or 5x perks points for multiples of $50 of One4All gift cards through August 3, which makes this effectively a 6-10% or so rebate on gas depending on your car’s tank size. The best way to liquidate these until tomorrow is buying fee-free Mastercard gift cards at Staples. (Thanks to GC Galore)

A Heathrow spy’s photo studying Amsterdam’s solution to baggage handling labor shortages.

Have you ever heard the “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” knock-knock joke? Well, that, but Prime Day.

  1. Do this now: Register for Radisson’s double points promotion on two-night stays or longer through August 31.
  2. Simon’s volume gift card buying site is running a promotion for 72% off of purchasing fees through Friday with promo code JUL22SUPER72, which will be a total cost of somewhere around $3.60 to $4.25 for $1,000 Visa or Mastercard gift cards depending on how many you order.

    The usual warnings: American Express doesn’t award points on Simon purchases, and Simon gift cards are Metabanks so can be trickier to unload, but there are avenues online and in person.

  3. It’s been reported that Chase is offering $95 statement credits as a retention offer to some World of Hyatt credit card holders (they also occasionally offer $100-$200 statement credits for the Sapphire Reserve). If you have a Hyatt card, I’d call Chase and say “I’m thinking of closing this card, but before I make a decision, I’m wondering if there are any retention offers or statement credits available?”
  4. Meijer MPerks has $10 off of $150 in Mastercard gift cards through Saturday after clipping the offer in your account. Scale this one with multiple MPerks accounts, and rejoice that you can often avoid Metabanks at Meijer. (Thanks to GC Galore)

Have a nice Wednesday friends!

Amazon Prime day and all the articles about it summed up in a single picture.

  1. There’s a targeted 20% Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Etihad Guest. Sweet spots:

    – 50,000 points in Business or 62,500 points in First Class to and from Europe or Asia on AA
    – 30,000 – 50,000 points in Business class to and from South America on AA
    – Cheap economy redemptions to Europe, South America, or Asia on multiple airlines

    (Thanks to Parts_Unknown)

  2. The United mobile app on Android and iOS has targeted promotions for co-brand card holders. To find your offer, look for “Ready, set, choose your reward” in the app on the home screen, or try this link from TheSultan1. After completing $600 in spend on the card my reward is (choose one):

    – 2,000 bonus miles
    – $20 TravelBank Cash expiring 8/31/2023
    – 100 Premier qualifying points (PQP)

    Other higher and lower offers have been seen too. I picked 2,000 bonus miles, which makes the card earn 4.33x for $600 in spend.

  3. GC Galore reports that Sam’s Club gift card purchases are explicitly listed as eligible for earning cash-back until July 15, presumably due to Amazon Prime Day competition. Stack Sam’s gift card promotions with Albert debit card cash back boosts for an even better return.

    Just avoid the Sam’s pizza. But for real, avoid the pizza.

Call it a hunch, but I think Sam’s Club employees are confused about which ingredients are the pepperonis.