I’m sure you’ve heard by now but just in case you haven’t, here’s the background for today’s post: Citi Thank You Points can be transferred to AA between now and November 23rd. (Why this date? No idea.) People are celebrating this and frankly with good cause. Until now, Citi Thank You Points have been my least favorite bank currency amongst the major players — so much so that I’d choose 1.0 Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards over 1.2 Citi Thank You Points. In general I think of Thank You Points as worth exactly a penny and move on to bigger and better things (say, 15x “shop small” with an American Express Platinum from Resy as a great example).

I hear your rebuttal, and yes, the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program has some sweet-spots and Citi Thank You Points are uniquely positioned to take advantage of that; but booking Turkish awards can be a long and frustrating process involving multiple unanswered calls and weird email bookings, and the rest of the Citi Thank You Points transfer partners range somewhere between “Chase and American Express can also do that”, and “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork because if I’m going to be in that much pain, I’ll do it to myself.”

But now with Thank You Points transferring 1:1 to American Airlines’ AAdvantage program, there’s some real value to be had. I’m excited, but I’m also very cautious and won’t be transferring all of my Thank You Points to AA miles for one reason: AA Miles are ready to devalue, and for better or worse, that’s coming sooner rather than later. Consider:

  • Delta has a dynamic mileage redemption scheme (Asia will cost you 210,000 SkyMiles round trip in business class, if you’re lucky)
  • United has a dynamic mileage redemption scheme (Asia will cost you 160,000 MilagePlus miles round trip in crappy business class, if you’re lucky)
  • Southwest has a fixed value redemption (Southwest doesn’t fly to Asia. Can you imagine traveling to Asia on a Southwest 737?)
  • American Airlines’ fixed award chart is much cheaper than major competitors (Asia will cost you 120,000 AAdvantage miles, with great availability)

For the most part this is illustrative of awards to just about any international destination, we’re stuck in a situation where AAdvantage offers much, much better value than its major competition and on top of that they’ve said they’re moving to a variable redemption scheme. This means that they’re almost certainly going to devalue, and it’s almost certainly going to happen very soon, just as predicted by reversion to the mean. In fact, I’d call this event the catalyst for devaluation and cynically declare it’s a last ditch money grab by AA before the chart gets materially worse (and variable).

My advice to you: Yes, Thank You Points conversion to AAdvantage miles is an exciting development, but don’t go too far with this, transfer the number of points to AA that you need for the next six months or so and plan on an AA devaluation. Don’t be surprised when the rug gets pulled out from you at the end of the year. At that point, I fear we’ll all be thinking of Thank You Points as being worth a cent again.

My Citi Thank You Points award redemption eye fork.

Today’s triple is ordered by increasing difficulty — you know, for fun:

  • Link your Marriott account to your Emirates Skywards account to earn 1,500 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points. In case you don’t have an Emirates Skywards account like me, you can easily create one here.
  • Check CashApp for a 5% back on online orders at Sam’s Club boost, usable once per day for up to $400 in spend each day through Thursday. I’d buy a couple of Visa or Mastercard gift cards each time, and don’t forget to go through a shopping portal, which often tracks gift card purchases at Sam’s Club (though not always). If you don’t have CashApp, find a friend for an invite and you’ll earn $15 after sending another CashApp user five bucks.
  • Ting SIM cards with $30 credit are now $0.99 at BestBuy and $1.00 at Target. The Visible $100 Mastercard deal is still running strong, and reader Yun let me know that TopCashBack is currently at $40 for new bring your own phone plans with a port-in of an existing phone number, in addition to the $100 Mastercard that you’ll get from Visible after two months. Additional background is available here and here.

Those last two bullets will pair well together. If you don’t have CashApp, I guarantee someone out there that you know has it. Reach out, say hi, and get a referral. I reluctantly put a referral for Point in a post last week because it was the only way to get a good sign-up bonus, but I can’t bring myself to do it again this week, that’s not why I’m in this; so find a friend!

Shout out for another triple in the house.

  • Visible Mobile is again offering $20 back or 2,000 Membership Rewards at Rakuten along with a $100 Mastercard after two months of BYOD service, which will cost you a total of $65 for the service. Chase has an offer floating around for $25 off of Visible Mobile service too, so bring that down to $40 for cell service, a $100 Mastercard, and some cash or points from Rakuten. This deal scales, I had a reader write in that they’ve done over 100 of these. For more, read Cell Phone Burners and Travel Hacking.
  • Yesterday’s 125,000 Delta Reserve card is now available with a referral link from another American Express card holder, like a friend or P2. This card is essentially buying about $1,400 of Delta travel for the $550 annual fee, or about 61% off. So, refer your P2 and you might be able to get 125,000 miles on the card and another 15,000 to 30,000 miles on the referrer’s end.
  • Doug R pointed out that there’s a 2x multiplier bonus that seems widely available for AA SimplyMiles, which you should see after logging in to your account. For the 2x to apply, you have to add the offers to your account between now and tomorrow night. I’d add them all on the off chance you’ll use one (BestBuy shows up as a decent option), then make sure that your credit cards are linked to the SimplyMiles platform. If you happen to trigger an offer by May 31, you’ll get double miles. Note that the offer says you have to use a co-branded card, but my guess is that any Mastercard will work.

    If you haven’t yet signed up for SimplyMiles, sign up here for 400 bonus AA miles.
  • The Bank of America Premium Rewards card is offering 2 points per dollar on grocery spend, uncapped. Meh, I say, except if you have Platinum Honors status with Bank of America. If so, you get a 75% extra in rewards, which makes this card a 3.5 points per dollar card, uncapped, on grocery spend. I still prefer the AmEx Personal Gold for grocery spend at 4x MR, but that’s capped at $25,000 in spend per year which can be knocked out in a couple of days. Uncapped is quite the flex on Bank of America’s part.
Friday flexing for miles

There are a couple of deals out there that’ll net you $1,022, or $1,031.80 with some shenanigans:

1. Brex will give you $1,000, or 100,000 miles transferred to various airlines, for setting up PayPal merchant processing. It took me about 3 minutes which makes it one of the biggest hauls I’ve ever gotten for the time required for a US airline to show you how to use your seatbelt before you depart. Here’s what you do:

For the fastest phone call possible, tell the PayPay merchant services agent them you want to set up a merchant account with “online invoicing” as the only payment method that your business needs to accept and that you’re setting it up as part of the Brex integration. They’ll walk you through sending a test payment to yourself of $1.00, and put you on the list for 100,000 points. Just make sure your PayPal and Brex accounts have the same email address — create a new PayPal business account if they don’t already match.

If you don’t already have a Brex account, find a friend who has one and get a referral, you’ll both earn a $250 Amazon gift card, which as far as I can tell is the current best sign up bonus available. If you absolutely can’t find anyone, my link is here, but that’s not why I’m in this.

2. Swagbucks will pay you $110 for signing up for a Walmart+ annual membership, which costs $98+tax. But, you can make it better with a Chase or Bank of America credit card offer for $5 or $10 back. You can also get a Dosh 10% back if you’re willing to play some shenanigans (there are more specific instructions here if you like, just ignore the Google Pay instructions as they’re out of date). My Chase Sapphire Reserve had an offer for $10 back, so I’ll net $110 from Swagbucks, $10 from Chase, and $9.80 from Dosh for spending $98, which gives a total of $31.80 when all is said and done. And oh, I guess I get a year of Walmart+, which I predict I’ll use approximately zero times — SCORE!

Another hint/technique: You know there are states out there that don’t charge sales tax, right?

A picture of a Walmart store with fallen shelves, products scattered on the ground, and spilled liquids all over the floor.
My local Walmart as it looks on any given Tuesday. Why wouldn’t I want to shop here?

1. You can earn Star Alliance Gold Elite status, which will get you lounge access and free checked bags when flying on Star Alliance Partners like United by transferring miles to SingaporeKris Flyer from bank points (Chase, AmEx, Capital One, Brex, and Citi are all partners). Gold status requires a transfer of 250,000 miles, so this is only a good option if you’re already booking tickets with Singapore and plan on using the miles. Don’t forget that KrisFlyer miles expire after three years regardless of account activity. Louses!

2. If you have United Club passes that were expiring between April 1 and August 31, they’ve been extended to September 30. The new expiration is already showing in my United mobile app.

3. Southwest is offering a 10% rebate on Wanna Get Away fares booked today, or higher rebates for more expensive fare types. If you want to further goose this deal, perhaps book the cheapest fare between your city pairs for mid-May to early-June in anticipation of the next Southwest free change window?

4. The Cranky flyer outlines how you can essentially pay the difference between a refundable and non-refundable fare on United after you’ve already booked and get a refund for the initial fare way after the fact. You have to book through a travel agent though, and it’ll have to be a competent agent too.

No, not a fuel dump. Also, this isn’t what I mean when I say fuel dump.

There are some really strange bank offers floating around out there, and at least two of them are probably worth your time (I’ll let you guess which ones):

1. Update: Katie points out that S&T requires that you have an address in OH, PA, or an Armed Forces address to open the initial account if you don’t already have a relationship with S&T. S&T Bank is offering a $300 rebate on $500 spend, as long as you have $50 in your account for six months. The play: Open a Simple Checking Solution no-fee account, fund the account with $550, then make a single $500 purchase (like a $500 money order including fees with an actual bank account debit card), disable bill-pay to avoid any fees, and set a reminder in your phone to cancel the account in 6 months and one day.

Hint: The last step should be treated as optional and possibly even discouraged. I like having lots of bank accounts open, especially at banks I’ve never heard of and that I wouldn’t lose sleep over if I were shutdown. You might be surprised at all the different ways you can make “deposits” appear via MS into random bank accounts like this one.

2. Check here to see if you’re eligible for 10,000 Membership Rewards points for enrolling in Pay-Over-Time. (Afterword, unenroll to potentially get this in the future, but I’d suggest you wait until your next annual fee posts before you turn Pay-Over-Time off as a safety measure. That may also be overly cautious though.)

3. Did you know that Chase has a dining portal at dining.chase.com for Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink card members? Apparently Chase thinks the first thing we’ll think of when we’re hungry is: “Gee, I wonder how my bank’s website can help me get food!” The cities are limited and the restaurant selection is also limited, but you’ll earn 10x ultimate rewards you order through Chase dining, up to $500 total spend through June 30, 2021.

A picture of a kitten with big, droopy eyes and a sagging mouth that makes it look sad.
“Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is sad that you didn’t think of his bank when you were ordering takeout yesterday” as a cat.

1. Check for a personalized United MilePlay offer at this link. I got 3,700 miles for booking a ticket of $125 or more and flying by the end of March. Nice try United, but I don’t really want to tour the country on a GoJet CRJ-700, which seems to be approximately 82% of their domestic fleet, or on a Mesa CRJ-200 which is the remaining 29% of their domestic fleet according to my measurements.

2. You got a couple of Ting Mobile SIM cards for $0.99 a few weeks ago, right? Here’s how to turn that spent $0.99 into about a hundred bucks, with inspiration from this Reddit post:

  1. Sign up for Visible by shopping through the Rakuten portal for $20-$40 cash back or 2,000-4,000 membership rewards
  2. Choose the “$100 Prepaid Mastercard Virtual Account” Bring Your Own Device plan
  3. Use the promo code SAVE2021 at checkout
  4. Keep the service for two payments $20 and $40 + taxes
  5. If you have the offer, pay with a credit card that has $25 cash back, found on Chase and Bank of America cards

Out of pocket, you’ll pay approximately $60. You’ll earn between $120 and $165 depending on how you do it and what offers you have available. If you do this with two burner numbers, you can set up a “Visible Pay Party” and save $10 on the two monthly payments. Also, don’t forget to refer yourself to Uber, Fluz, DoorDash, CashApp, etc with the new burner phone number. That’s gotta be worth a few bucks more, right?

What’s the tale? A little bit of leg work usually means a much bigger win. Don’t be afraid to dig in a little!

My empirical measurements of 111% of United’s domestic fleet.

1. Hot on the heels of yesterday’s AmEx Master Value Injection for Personal Platinum cards, there’s an MVI for Business Platinums as well. The injection comes in the form of +4 points, up to 80,000 miles for certain categories as AmEx Offers. Check for them in gas, office supply, advertising, telecom/internet, and shipping. (Incidentally, there are good new offers on the Personal Platinum too, check for $50 off of $50 at BestBuy, $50 off of $100 at Home Depot, etc.)

2. Get Alaska Airlines gift cards for 10% off at Costco. These will be good for years, or for the lifetime of Alaska Airlines depending on your state’s gift card laws. This is a nice way to save on upcoming paid travel in 2021 or 2022. But, I wouldn’t hold them longer than that, a low cost index fund is a much better investment than a fledgling airline’s gift card. I’m not aware of card exchanges that will buy these quickly, so the easy gift card resale angle probably isn’t there on this one.

3. I’m sure you’ve already heard: Virgin Atlantic kersploded its award chart for Delta redemptions. You probably haven’t heard: ANA awards with Virgin Atlantic miles can’t be far behind; I’d book any fledgling miles on ANA flights for late 2021 or early 2022 as soon as practical, otherwise you may find yourself sitting on a pile of worthless miles; yes, worth less than even SkyMiles.

Kerbal Space Program demonstrates the Virgin Atlantic award chart kersplosion.