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.

With the end of the month approaching really quickly, it’s time for me (and I hope you) to do the following:

  1. Make sure you’ve spent any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by Sunday evening. Watch out for combining accounts that have stored Uber Cash and American Express Uber credits though.
  2. 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.
  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 or Uber Eats gift card on Fluz, which will code correctly as a restaurant on the co-brands. 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 after last year’s Master Value Injection I’ve racked up a big credit. Just make sure you’ve added the offer to your American Express card first.
  5. Check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post in February and call them for a retention offer. I suggest saying something like: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee and I’m not using the benefits right now, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” I don’t think it works with other banks, but with AmEx you can do this over chat rather than the phone.

    Note: Don’t skip this one! Stu emailed me earlier this week to say that he got a total of $1,250 in retention offers after making just a few calls. Be cool, be like Stu!
  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).
A picture of 10 different liquor bottles laid on the ground, all empty.
Time to clean up after all of the “food” you bought with your dining credits.

1. Remember how we discussed that you should turn off American Express’s Pay-Over-Time feature, because reportedly having it on can use up one of your five total credit card slots with AmEx, and you won’t get bonuses for enabling it if it’s already on? There’s a new rub:

The American Express Green card seems to be counted as a charge card according to multiple threads in private forums and this thread at Reddit. So, if you want five AmEx credit cards, either ditch that Green or upgrade it to a Gold which isn’t counted as a credit card, but rather a charge card. I personally wouldn’t mind having another 3-4 Gold cards, they’re no-brainer value cards for me.

2. It’s time to liquidate your AmEx Business Platinum Dell credits, just make sure you’ve enrolled for the benefit at the American Express website’s “Benefits” tab before you buy. The vitals:

  • Dell Home is 10x at Rakuten as of this writing, though Rakuten punked me twice on Monday, so who knows how long it’ll stick around
  • You can use the code GAME10 for 10% off of Xbox gift cards (the smaller the denomination, the faster it sells if you’re selling yourself, or liquidate with trusted gift card outlet immediately for 80-82%)
  • You’ll earn 3% in Dell rewards on this purchase to use in the second half of the year for liquidating more AmEx credits
  • American Express is really good at quick statement credits from Dell, and Business Platinum cards earn $100 Jan-Jun, and another $100 Jul-Dec each year

From my internal monologue: How did this week turn into an American Express / Rakuten week?

A picture of a comic brain with a thought bubble that contains "..." on a pink background.
Internal monologue loading.

1. Do this now: Add your American Express Personal Gold cards to your Uber wallet. You’ve probably heard elsewhere that American Express is getting rid of the Personal Gold card’s $100 airline fee credit in 2022, and to make up for it they’re adding a monthly $10 Uber/UberEats credit in 2021 and beyond; its arrival is imminent and it’ll show up automatically as long as those cards are in your Uber wallet.

Don’t forget that if you have Uber Cash from a gift card or from simply loading it on your own in your wallet, you should probably spin up a burner account for holding your AmEx Uber credits. See AmEx Uber Credit Woes for more info.

2. It’s time to check for any credit cards that have had annual fees post and call them 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.”

3. If you’re a Delta Platinum or Diamond Medallion, make sure you’ve chosen your Choice Benefits for the 2020 Medallion year by January 31, otherwise you lose them. To be as clear as mud: You earn your 2020 Medallion status in 2019, and it expires at the end of February 2021, but you choose the benefits by the end of January 2021. Easy, right?

4. Expedia is devaluing its VIP rewards at the end of the week (points will no longer be worth double on VIP hotels starting 02/01/2021). If you have any points, see if you can sneak a booking in before they’re worth a lot less.

Twirling toward freedom cleanliness.

There have been theories floating around the community for a couple of years regarding how many American Express credit cards (not to be confused with charge cards like the Gold, Platinum, and Green) a single person can have. Depending on who you ask or where you look, you’ll find some consensus at a limit of either four or five.

New evidence is emerging on Reddit and in private channels that suggest a limit of below five cards is caused by holding one or more charge cards with Pay-Over-Time enabled. So, I’d like to again suggest that you un-enroll from Pay-Over-Time at this link to free up more slots for AmEx credit cards, especially if you’re close to or right at the five-ish card limit. AmEx also sends gifts for charge cards not enrolled in Pay-Over-Time, so double win.

A wallet that is comically stuffed full of cards and papers.
Do you really want to fit a charge card in one of those slots?

I know most of you use credit cards, shopping portals, points, and gift cards as part of your overall travel hacking strategy. Maybe my sample size is just too small, but I don’t really know of anybody including cell phone burners in that strategy regularly, and I think that’s a mistake. All you need to start with cell phone burners is an unlocked phone and some cheap SIM cards. I’m guessing a lot of you probably have an old, cracked-screen unlocked phone already in your junk drawer so you don’t even need to use your main phone for SIM swapping.

Here’s why cell phone burner numbers are useful to a travel hacker:

  • Uber Eats gives new accounts $25 off of orders, and $10 off for referrers. (A new account really means a new phone number).
  • DoorDash gives new accounts 3x$10 off of orders, and $15 off for referrers. (Remember, new account really means new phone number).
  • CashApp gives new accounts $5 and the referrer $5, but more importantly, you have more access to some of the excellent CashApp boosts. (New account = new phone number, blah blah blah.)
  • Fluz gives 3×35% off vouchers for gift cards to new accounts, and 1 voucher to the referrer. The referrer also gets a very small percentage of the commission on gift cards purchased by accounts that they referred.
  • Deals come up all the time that require an existing number. When you’ve got an existing number that you don’t use, you can it take advantage of that right away without affecting your main phone number. A recent but not representative example of this deal was buying 10 Xfinity iPhone SEs for $15/mo total ($1.50/phone). Lots of times, the deals only need a single phone number for port-in or trade-up, they’re not all this complex.
  • Are you banned by a store or an airline? Using a name variation, address variation, and a new phone number, say from a burner, will usually get you jump-started and back in the game.

There are always deals like the above coming up, and having burners lets you take advantage of them at scale.

Here’s why I’m writing this today: BestBuy and Target are both selling Ting SIM cards with two months worth of credits for $0.99. With each SIM card, you can get a new burner number. You don’t have to use them right away either; you can buy a couple now and put them in your sock drawer for when you need them or want to use them in the future.

When you set up the Ting SIM card, give them a Citi Virtual Account Number card or similar that expires before they try to start billing you for the third month so you don’t have to remember to cancel. If the number is useful, you can keep it for $5 per month by porting it to Tello. (Don’t forget to use a portal for $10+ back from Tello when you port.) I’m sure there are other ways to keep a phone number for even cheaper, but I haven’t needed to find them.

My suggestion to you: Buy least two of these sim cards for $1.98 out of pocket, then incorporate them into your travel hacking at your leisure.

a cellular phone dropped into a toilet bowl
One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity for a burner.