I know many of us were in a mad dash to cash-out airline incidental credits from American Express, Bank of America, and PenFed Pathfinder during the last couple of weeks of December. Hopefully that mad dash was part of a triple dip and not just low-key, long-term procrastination, but regardless I’m here for it. Either way, it’s time to cash out all of your 2023 credits today, even if you’re still hungover from the last round. Why?

  • The credit works as well early in the year as it does later
  • Methods die all the time, and sometimes they don’t come back — be pre-mortem
  • The end of the year is typically when you’re busiest
  • There’s no prize for waiting until the end of the year (or if there is a prize, you don’t want it)

I wanted to end with a silly rhyme that started with “Don’t procrastinate, just [blank]“, but I didn’t like where that went. Suggestions welcome.

The procrastination prize.

As I’m sure you’re all quite aware, 2022 is turning into either a pumpkin or into a potato in the next week and a half (depending on your preferred metaphor), and that means you’re nearly out of time for finishing off annual spend thresholds, bonuses, and credits. So, mind the following gaps:

  1. Spend through any of your remaining American Express, Chase Ritz Carlton, Bank of America, or PenFed Pathfinder airline fee credits, and consult this post for ideas if you’re not sure how to use them. If United TravelBank is your preferred method, do it today because last year TravelBank went offline in the last week of December and it could happen again this year.
  2. Liquidate American Express credits at Uber Eats or Uber, and remember that your December Uber Cash balance is bigger than other months if you have a Platinum card (or 11).
  3. Check for any annual fees that posted and call the bank for a retention offer, or just chat online if it’s is American Express. I usually say something like: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” If you get an offer, don’t forget to add: “Are there any other offers available?” Sometimes there are better offers if you keep asking.

    American Express specific note: If you accept a retention offer, plan on keeping that card for 12 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses in the future.
  4. Spend through your $10 monthly wireless credits on each of your Business Platinum cards.
  5. Spend any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop for a coffee and a crepe which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack or Cheesecake Factory is another option.
  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. Finish off any Q4 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar, and don’t forget the emu farm option.
  8. Book any American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (or The Hotel Collection) stays with your $200 Platinum credit for upcoming travel next year, even if it’s speculative. Historically American Express’s systems lose some of their memory after the calendar turns; it’s not guaranteed but it’s worth a shot at gaming.
  9. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit with a refundable travel booking if needed. Yes, this credit is now tied to cardmember year instead of calendar year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t knock it out now if you haven’t already done so.
  10.  Use any American Express Saks $50 credits, but make sure you activate the benefit first. My preferred method is to stop by a physical Saks store and buy gift cards to resell at approximately 83% of face value, but if that’s not a good option for you, Agile.Travel put together a nice list of options for things to buy last year and it’s largely still relevant.
  11. Spend or sell any American Express Clear credits, or gift them to a friend.
  12. Check for any credit card spend bonuses that you may want to hit before the end of the year, like:

    – World of Hyatt Visa free night certificate after $15,000 spend
    – American Express Hilton Surpass and Honors Business free night certificate after $15,000 spend
    – American Express Hilton Aspire and Honors Business second free night certificate after $60,000 spend
    – American Express Delta Platinum MQM boosts after $25,000 and $50,000 spend
    – American Express Delta Reserve MQM boosts after $30,000, $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 spend
    – British Airways Visa companion ticket after $50,000 spend
    – JetBlue Visa Mosaic status after $50,000 spend
    – AA status with Loyalty Points

Happy Tuesday!

A January 1, 2023 portrait of 2022.

You’ve got until Friday to wrap up any spending and bonuses tied to the month or the quarter, so take a couple of minutes this week and make sure you’ve maximized:

  • Q3 Freedom 5x at gas, car rentals, movie theaters, car rentals, and some entertainment (Disney)
  • Q3 Discover 5% back at PayPal and restaurants
  • Q3 Citi Dividend 5x at gas stations and home improvement stores
  • September Uber and Uber Eats credits
  • September $10 AmEx Personal Gold dining credits
  • September $10 AmEx Business Platinum cell phone credits
  • Chase Pay-Yourself-Back for dining and airbnb, which may end on Friday

It’s also a good time to:

  • Call for retention offers on credit cards that had an annual fee post this month (Call the number on the back of your card and say something like “I’m considering closing this card due to its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do, I’m wondering if there are any retention offers or spend offers?”)
  • Close any cell-phone burner accounts that have reached the end of their useful life
  • Verify that you’ve received expected bonuses for bank accounts and new credit card applications
  • Check to see if you’re below 5/24, 3/4/5, 10 charge cards, or any other limit that’s holding you back from applying for new spend bonuses

Housekeeping like this can often be the best monetary return on your time available in churning and manufactured spend, just like avoiding Boston-Logan airport can be the best return on your travel time when flying (sorry New England).

At least you can go see this while you’re waiting for your delayed flight in Boston.

You’ve got just a little over a week and a half before “reset to factory defaults” happens on just about everything we do. Set aside a bit of time to take care of the following this week:

1. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber, and remember that your December Uber Wallet size is quite a bit bigger than other months when Platinum cards are involved.

2. Check for any annual fees that posted and call the bank for a retention offer, or just chat online if the bank is American Express. Some sample phraseology: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” If you get an offer, don’t forget to add: “Are there any other offers available?” Sometimes there are better offers if you keep asking.

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 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 spend it soon. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value Amazon Meals gift card on Fluz. 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.

3. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits by tomorrow night, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first. Don’t forget that American Express Business Platinum cards have a $10 monthly credit too, just make sure you’ve activated it on your benefits page.

4. Make sure you’ve spent any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop for a coffee and a crepe which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack is another option.

5. 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).

6. Finish off any Q4 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar.

7. Book any American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (or The Hotel Collection) stays with your $200 Platinum credit for upcoming travel next year, even if it’s speculative. Historically American Express’s systems lose their memory after the calendar rolls, so keep that in mind.

8. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit, and remember that it works on groceries this year too.

9. Use your American Express Platinum $200 airline incidental credit, Chase Ritz Carlton $300 airline incidental credit, or PenFed PathFinder $100 airline incidental credit. United TravelBank is a great way to do this. On the American Express card, make sure you’ve selected an airline first. By the way, you can change your airline selection at any time as long as you haven’t yet used any during this calendar year, just call or chat with AmEx.

10. Use any American Express Sak’s $50 credits, but make sure you activate the benefit first. I personally make sure and stop by a physical Sak’s store and buy gift cards to resell at approximately 83% of face value, but if that’s not a good option for you, Agile.Travel put together a nice list of options for things to buy.

11. It’s time for some shenanigans with American Express Clear credits (yes, there are options) so burn those or gift them to a friend. Side note: Soon, it looks like you’ll be able to buy Clear gift cards for resale.

12. Check for any credit card spend bonuses that you may want to hit before the end of the year, like:

  • World of Hyatt Visa free night certificate after $15,000 spend
  • American Express Hilton Surpass and Honors Business free night certificate after $15,000 spend
  • American Express Hilton Aspire second free night certificate after $60,000 spend
  • American Express Delta Platinum MQM boosts after $25,000 and $50,000 spend
  • American Express Delta Reserve MQM boosts after $30,000, $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 spend
  • British Airways Visa companion ticket after $50,000 spend
  • JetBlue Visa Mosaic status after $50,000 spend

Good luck out there.

The American Express master control panel. They’ve made great use of the turbo button for all of 2021, but a tech earning $12 / hour will push the reset button at 11:59 PM EST on December 31 so be ready.

You’ve got today and tomorrow to finish off any September/Q3 deals and now is a great time to do housekeeping. Here’s what I’d make sure you check over the next day:

1. The Chase Pay-Yourself-Back increased redemption as we know it ends tomorrow as advertised. It may be extended until December 31, but it may not be. Make sure you cash out any excess Ultimate Rewards not set aside for future travel by tomorrow to be safe.

2. The American Express transfer bonus bonanza also ends tomorrow. Now is a great time to plan for your spring award bookings and get more bang for your Membership Rewards.

3. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber by tomorrow night.

4. Check for any annual fees that posted this and call the bank for a retention offer. My script: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” As usual, bonus travel hacker points if you say: “COVID has made it really hard to use the benefits, I wish it would end soon”. Don’t stop at the first offer they give you either by the way, there may be more. Always say: “Are there any other offers available?”

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.

5. 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 tomorrow 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.

6. Spend any American Express co-branded business card wireless credits by tomorrow night, but make sure you’ve added the offer to your cards first.

7. 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 croisshark pastry, which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack is another option.

8. 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).

9. Finish off any Q3 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar.

Finally, remember that Q4 gift card reselling, physical goods reselling, grocery rewards deals, and travel deals kick into high gear really soon, so rest while you can. Before you ask: No, reading Flyertalk until 2AM doesn’t count as rest.

An image of a woman asleep sitting up in a laundry basket.
Pictured: Resting up after Q3 housekeeping.

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.