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.

Friends, we’ve finally reached the goalpost: American Express’s monthly PayPal credits are going away after June, so you can take that one off your laundry list. With that in mind, let’s talk about the things to wrap up as June and Q2 draw to an end:

1. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by Wednesday night.

2. Check for any annual fees that posted this and call the bank for a retention offer. I suggest saying: “I’m thinking of closing this card given its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” Hopefully you can’t add this much longer, but it’s still kosher to say: “COVID has made it really hard to use the benefits, I wish it would end soon”.

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 going forward.

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 that you’ve spent it by Wednesday night. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value DoorDash gift card on Fluz. Amazon Meals is another decent option. 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.

4. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits by Wednesday, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one, and at this point I’m prepaying into 2022.

5. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop; a couple of lattes and a pastry jump just north of $10 on GrubHub. I know ShakeShack works for a lot of you, but honestly I’m just not a big burger guy.

6. 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).

7. Spend your AmEx Personal Platinum $30 PayPal credits. The easiest way to get these out under the wire is with PayPal Digital Gifts which has been paying the credit even though the T&C says that it shouldn’t. If you’re set up as a gift card reseller, you can alternatively buy gift cards for resale on Fluz or eBay gift cards on Slide. This is the last month you have to worry about this one 🎉🎉.

8. Finish off any Q2 5x bonused spend. Check the current Q2 categories your strategies, and don’t forget that you can now get $500 Visa gift cards at Sam’s Club.

9. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express Personal Platinum Sak’s $50 credits. Usually the items have to ship before the charge posts, so use your free ShopRunner benefit to make that quick. Don’t forget to go through a portal.

10. Cash out any remaining American Express Business Platinum Dell $100 credits. I like to buy and resell Xbox gift cards. The XBOX10 promo card is still working on this one too. Make sure you go through a portal.

The party scene as American Express Platinum $30 credits draw to a close.

End of month housekeeping has turned into an American Express show. The new MO over there seems to be to offer as many benefits tied to the calendar as possible. They count on most people not using the benefits (breakage) to boost the marketability of the card and to subsidize the few that take advantage of the benefits. Be one of the subsidized in this case, not the subsidizers. I’d suggest you be like Tom Hanks and check the following:

1. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by Monday night. The holiday weekend should make this one easy on the Eats side.

2. Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post this month and call the bank for a retention offer. I suggest saying: “I’m thinking of closing this card given its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” You’ll earn 100 MilesEarnAndBurn bonus points if you add “COVID has made it really hard to use the benefits, I wish it would end soon”.

American Express specific caveat: If you take 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 that you’ve spent it by Monday night. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value DoorDash gift card on Fluz. Amazon Meals is another decent option. 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.

4. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits before Tuesday, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one, and at this point I’m prepaying into 2022.

5. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits by tomorrow. My go to is the local coffee shop; a couple of lattes and a muffin jump just north of $10 on GrubHub. Not personally, but I know ShakeShack works for a lot of you.

6. 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).

7. Spend your AmEx Personal Platinum $30 PayPal credits. The easiest way to get these out under the wire is with PayPal Digital Gifts which has been paying the credit even though the T&C says that it shouldn’t. If you’re set up as a gift card reseller, you can alternatively buy gift cards for resale on Fluz or eBay gift cards on Slide. This benefit goes away after June, and honestly that’s not a moment too soon. I’m sick of dealing with it.

8. The time remaining for Q2 bonused spend is already two thirds over. Check the current Q2 categories and reassess your strategies. Hopefully on the Chase Freedom side you were able to knock it out at Lowe’s.

9. If you’ve got the time, look for a nice miles & points related podcast. There are a few good ones out there and they’ll boost your skills and learning.

Have a nice holiday weekend, and grill until you drop (or something).

Memorial Day celebration with Tom Hanks. The man on the left is exhausted from dealing with American Express benefits.

You may be surprised to learn that I have credit cards coming and going into and out of my sock drawer and my wallet all of the time. Did I say surprised? Oops, I meant bored. Anyway, when there’s a card change I have a quick list of things to do to make sure I get all the bonuses that I can and also to clean out the clutter in my digital shenanigans. Here’s a rough checklist of what I do, and what I think you should update as credit cards come and go:

As an example of how valuable some of these can be, I earned 9,000 JetBlue TrueBlue miles in a single day during last week’s Lowe’s Visa Gift Card deal (though they haven’t posted yet, but they will) just by having my Freedom cards linked to TrueBlue Shopping.

MS Hint: Being diligent with card linked programs really helps when fee free office supply store deals come along.

Happy weekend!

A picture of a boy laying on the ground face down in a pile of leaves, under a hammock.
Weekend rest after wearing myself out with housekeeping.

It’s the end of the month, don’t leave money on the table with expiring credits. Check the following:

1. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by tomorrow night.

2. Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post and call the bank for a retention offer. I suggest saying: “I’m thinking of closing this card given its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” Bonus if you add “COVID has made it hard to use the benefits”.

Caveat: If you take a retention offer from American Express, plan on keeping that card for 12-13 months to avoid getting popups denying you credit card bonuses in the future. Good retention offers are well worth the extra year.

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 that you’ve spent it. The easiest way to do this from home seems to be to buy an exact value DoorDash gift card on Fluz, which will should code correctly as dining. Amazon Meals is another decent option. As always, find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already.

4. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits before tomorrow. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one and all of the credits over last year and this year mean that my bill will be $0 after the credits are applied for a long, long time.

5. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits by tomorrow. The easiest way IMO is to buy something for pickup for $10ish at a local coffee shop on GrubHub, but a combo meal at a ShakeShack is also a good option for many of you.

6. 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).

7. Spend your AmEx Personal Platinum $30 PayPal credits. The easiest way to get these out under the wire is with PayPal Digital Gifts which has been paying the credit even though the T&C says that it shouldn’t. If you’re set up as a gift card reseller, you can alternatively buy gift cards for resale on Fluz or eBay gift cards on Slide.

8. The time remaining for Q2 bonused spend is already one third over. Check the current Q2 categories and reassess your strategies.

9. Still with me? Get yourself a drink, you won!

An illustration of a woman in a green shirt holding her hand up to her mouth as she would hold a glass, and tilting it back as you would to drink.
American Sign Language motions for “drink”.

Are these posts trashposts? When I’m writing them, it sure feels like recycled content which usually isn’t my style. On the other hand, you should be doing all of these things and so should I. Writing this post made me do a couple of them and capture credits that would have otherwise expired. Fortune favors the meticulous I guess.

1. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by tonight. Watch out for combining accounts that have stored Uber Cash and American Express Uber credits.

2. Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post and call the issuer for a retention offer. I suggest saying something like: “I’m thinking of closing this card given its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” Caveat: If you take a retention offer from American Express, plan on keeping that card for 12-13 months. Good retention offers are well worth it.

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. The easiest way to do this from home seems to be to buy an exact value DoorDash gift card on Fluz, which will should code correctly as grocery. Amazon Meals is another decent option. As always, find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already.

4. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits. I prepay my cell phone bill with this one and all of the credits over last year and this year mean that my bill will be $0 after the credits are applied for a long, long time.

5. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. The easiest way IMO is to buy something for pickup for $10ish at a local coffee shop on GrubHub, but a combo meal at a ShakeShack is a good option for many of you.

6. Cancel any cell phone burner accounts that you’re done with (and that you didn’t use a virtual account number that expires on).

7. Spend those AmEx Personal Platinum $30 PayPal credits. They’re taking a while to post, but they do post. The easiest way to get these out under the wire is with PayPal Digital Gifts which has been paying the credit even though the T&C says that it shouldn’t.

A picture of someone pouring a bottle of beer into a sock puppet.
Feeding trashposts into WordPress.

We’ve been living in a golden age of flight change and cancellation flexibility, though of course the reason behind that flexibility sucks. That age is about to be over — most airlines’ liberal change policies on even the cheapest of fares are reverting back to normal on Thursday.

If you’re booking travel, and apparently a lot of you are because AA flights are basically full over the next couple of months, now is the time to lock in those bookings. Book by tomorrow and even Basic Economy fares on the major US carriers can be changed for only the fare difference and in some cases they can be refunded completely. Normally they’re of course non-refundable, non-changeable, and require that you wear your most uncomfortable shoes and a pair of underwear that’s two sizes too small. Scoot in under the deadline to avoid that nonsense.

Sure these shoes are uncomfortable, but check out that, umm let’s call it, style!

Do this now:

  1. Register your Discover IT cards for Q2 bonuses
  2. Register your Chase Freedom cards for Q2 bonuses
  3. Register your US Bank Cash+ cards for Q2 bonuses

Spend strategies:

  • Discover
    • Gas
      • Buy Visas to convert to money orders; 7-11s and Speedways are usually the easiest, but definitely not the only options
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell, but wait for the market to come back to 98-99% (should happen by the end of Q2)
      • Fill your car up? I won’t be doing this though, I have plenty of Kroger 6x fuel points to liquidate.
    • Wholesale
      • Buy MetaBank gift cards at Sam’s club if you can liquidate
      • Buy 3rd party gift cards during periodic sales and resell
    • Streaming Services
      • Load your Apple Wallet balance
      • Pay (and pre-pay) streaming (Netflix / Disney+ / etc)
  • Chase Freedom / Freedom Flex
    • Gas
      • Buy Visas and use to convert to a money order. 7-11s and Speedways are usually the easiest, but definitely not the only options.
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell, but wait for the market to come back (should happen by the end of Q2)
      • Fill your car up? I still won’t be doing this though, see above.
    • Home Improvement Stores
      • Buy gift cards to resell
      • Buy Amazon cards to load to your account, giving you effectively 5x at Amazon
      • Buy and liquidate Visa Gift Cards
  • US Bank Cash+
    • Electronic Stores
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell (but wait for the market to come back, which should happen near the end of the quarter)
    • TV, Internet, and Streaming
      • Load your Apple Wallet balance
      • Pay (and pre-pay) streaming (Netflix / Disney+ / etc)
    • Cell phone providers
      • Pre-pay your bill

All of these cards are no-annual fee cards. If you have a premium card from Chase, Bank of America, Discover, or US Bank, consider converting it to one of these cards. You don’t have to wait until the annual fee posts either, most banks will pro-rate the annual fee right when you downgrade.

General reminder on no-annual fee BoA cards: Lots of things count as 3x “Online Spend” or “Business Services” with the Cash Rewards family of cards. Also, even within the BoA Cash Rewards family, Visa is not the same as Mastercard. Go punch drunk on this one.

Picture of a person in a black leather jacket laying on the curb, clutching a bottle of alcohol. A wine bottle and other bottles litter the ground.
Punch drunk on 5x cards. Also booze.