If you follow churning blogs or forums, you’ve no doubt seen that US Bank has double cash back rewards running through Saturday. But, I think based on the content out there, most of the major content creators haven’t actually used it, so let’s add some practical notes:

  1. There are multiple aspects of the double cash back promotion. Not only are card-linked offers doubled for the next three days (which is the only thing I’ve seen written), but the US Bank shopping portal’s earnings are also doubled for the next three days.
  2. It can be really hard to find US Bank rewards landing pages. So, I’ve linked to both variations, just make sure you login to your US Bank account first before trying these links:

    US Bank rewards hub (login to your US bank account first)
    US Bank card linked offers page (login to your US Bank account first)
    US Bank shopping portal (login to your US Bank account first)

    Did you even know US Bank had a shopping portal, and that it earns points on point earning cards? Did you know that Lubbock is considered the one of the world’s capitals for burrowing owls? Did you know that owls can even burrow in the ground? (Wow, we’re off track today, my bad)
  3. The card linked offers are their own kind of special:

    – You have to add card-linked versions of the offer during the promotion or they won’t double
    – They work for any personal card on your account, and maybe for any business card too
    – Grocery stores occasionally show up
    – Gaming works like Chase Offers or BankAmeriDeals
    – The card-linked portal often just shows a spinner, and when that happens, try later (I don’t have a better solution, but if you do, please let me know)

This promotion is actually much more lucrative than you’d probably think. Always be probing, and good luck!

Mr. burrowing owl is shocked that content creators aren’t always experts when they write on a topic.

Let me start today with a bit of advice: It’s easy to register for 5x promotions, and it’s also easy to hit all your spend in a single day. It’s also easy to assume that you’ll do it and then never get to it. So, consider setting aside a single day in early April to hit all your quarterly 5x spend so that you can focus on bigger, better deals.

  1. Do this now: Register for Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex Q2 5x categories. This time: Restaurants, Whole Foods (which sells many types of gift cards), and hotels.
  2. Do this now: Register for Discover IT Q2 5x categories. This time: Gas stations and home improvement stores, both of which sell many types of gift cards; also public transit.
  3. Do this now: Register for Citi Dividend Q2 5x categories: This time: Grocery stores and drug stores, both of which typically sell many types of gift cards.
  4. Do this now: Choose your US Bank Cash+ Q2 5x categories. I always choose utilities and electronics stores, the latter of which typically sells many types of gift cards.
  5. Giant, Martins, Stop and Shop, and Giant Food stores have 2x points on Vanilla Visa gift cards through Wednesday, limit $2,000 in spend per account, no registration required.
  6. Virgin Atlantic has a promotion for 50% off the mileage cost of award tickets booked by Wednesday for travel through June 30 for travel on Virgin Atlantic metal. This doesn’t reduce the often substantial surcharges that go along with the tickets. (Thanks to DoC)
  7. American Express offers has two new interesting card-linked offers:

    – $50 off of $250 or more in spend at several IHG brands through June 15
    – $150 off of $750 or more in spend at the Four Seasons through July 11 (if they do string matching, Four Seasons Total Landscaping may also work)

    Gamers gonna game. (Thanks to DDG)

Have a nice weekend friends!

Not this kind of nose dive. (too soon?)

Foreword: There were a few high profile AmEx shutdowns yesterday, but it’s too early to know much about what happened other than most of them probably involved a big volume of online MS. Stay tuned for future updates when we know more, and don’t forget the Sneak Attack Strike Back if you’re concerned you might be next. If you haven’t heard about these before now, you probably don’t need to be concerned. I’ll do a writeup with lessons if and when we learn more.

Airlines have become overly concerned with what day it is this week, as we’ll soon see:

  1. Clear.me has a new promotion for a $75 Uber voucher with a new clear account with promo code SAVETIME75. These are great for cashing out American Express Clear credits as Uber vouchers, but you’ve got to be creative on the redemption side because there’s a limit of one $75 Uber voucher per account. (Thanks to jnjustice)
  2. Southwest has a “Business Spring Loyalty Bonus” Rapid Rewards points after registering for the offer, booking a flight through a business channel, and flying before May 10. The bonus is tiered:

    – two one-ways: 5,000 total bonus points
    – six one-ways: 15,000 total bonus points
    – eight one-ways: 30,000 total bonus points

    I believe based on on the terms and conditions an American Express Travel phone booking would qualify, but I can’t be certain. Alternatively you can book through an SWABIZ account. (Thanks to sctrader)
  3. JetBlue has $25 off of a one way flight, or $50 off of round trip flights booked by tonight for travel between March 19 and June 12 with promo code SPRINGTRAVEL.

    Because it’s JetBlue and because JetBlue hates giving meaningful discounts, these only work for travel on Monday through Thursday and don’t work for international flights or Mint cabins.
  4. American has an economy award sale for flights that depart on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday in April or May. There are some good deals here, including 5,000 miles for short-haul and medium-haul international flights.
  5. Southwest has a fare sale for travel between March 26 and May 22 and booked by March 14, but only for flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

    My existing bookings had no discounts, because like I diva I don’t have travel booked on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
  6. The Gift Card Shop has fee-free $500 Visa gift cards through Friday night using promo code NEWLOOK. The code worked for both physical and egift cards in my experiments. Note that:

    – Purchase limits at InComm sites like this one are typically $10,000
    InComm has been silently throttling the number of cards that can be used at the same merchant within a given time since Christmas.

    The throttle started out with certain BINs on certain products, then moved to other BINs on other products, and they’ve now hit a major, high volume product with the same limit. If one of your plays involves high volume InComm cards, maybe run a few tests before your next big order.

    For everyone else, assume that most InComm products now have a three card limit per liquidation trip.

Have a nice Wednesday!

New elite status award for Southwest A-List members.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

One of the most consistently inconsistent methods in manufactured spend is earning sign-up bonuses by paying yourself as an OnlyFans model bulk gift card resale, roughly because the basic version involves selling to third parties that ultimately use the card and that makes you beholden to their whims. Their whims are really more about demand though, and that demand is cyclical for slightly different reasons:

Gift Cards

The bulk gift card resale market for cards like BestBuy, Apple, Target generally varies by quarter:

  • Q1: Starts out depressed, but rates and demand increase slowly, especially around holidays
  • Q2: Rates hold steady, demand is lumpy but persistent
  • Q3: Rates increase slightly, demand gets more-or-less steady
  • Q4: Rates reach local maxima, demand is typically the biggest for the year

Grocery Loyalty Points

The profitability of bulk gift card resale markets for manufactured spenders centers around grocery loyalty points, which make up the difference between cost and resale rate for most bulk brands. If you’re cashing those out by selling to a third party, demand looks like:

  • Q1, Q2: Lumpy
  • Q3: Strong
  • Q4: Starts strong, ends weak

The main reason for the difference in loyalty points demand is that they’re often redeemed for discounted fuel by industry and agriculture that sees peak use in Q3.

Smoothing Out Demand

How do you make demand relatively consistent? I’m going to offer two primary ways:

First, it’s easy on paper but relatively hard in practice: Be the end-user. That means do what the end-users do, which is:

  • Buy goods on sale and sell them at Amazon, ebay, craigslist, or internationally
  • Buy Apple products and sell them internationally in places like Brazil
  • Use loyalty points to buy things like Airpods and sell them
  • Use loyalty points for discount gas, either for yourself or as a fueling service

I’ve dabbled in every single one of these, and while they were all successful to an extent (and in one case wildly successful), they’re all a ton of work to scale. Ultimately, I wasn’t fulfilled by any of it and I didn’t enjoy it in the way that I enjoy manufactured spend, so I don’t do those things any more.

That brings us to the second method of smoothing demand, acting as a gift card reserve banker and holding your cards until demand is high, then unleashing fury on the market whenever buyers return.

Finally, let’s talk a bonus method for smoothing out demand Paying yourself as an OnlyFans model which is really a cheater method: Shift the demand elsewhere. For me, that means I’m focusing on other manufactured spend techniques when demand in bulk card resale isn’t solid. There’s plenty of other opportunity out there.

Happy Tuesday!

A different kind of OnlyFans play, courtesy of SideShowBob233.

EDITOR’S NOTE [1]: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

EDITOR’S NOTE [2]: Yes, it’s another DaVinci Code post, sorry not sorry I guess. Stay tuned for a future site rebranding: Miles Earn and Burn, Confusing Beginners Since 2020™.

If you run around any private groups, quasi-private groups, or even reddit.com/r/churning, you probably know that PayPal Bill Pay massacred its targets yesterday. This could matter because:

  • We don’t know how much the app that rhymes with booze was relying on this volume for its ongoing cash-flow, revenue, and profitability. We do know that there was a staggering amount of volume pushed through this channel though, and most of it dried up in a flash. Is this an issue? I have no idea, but it’s another good time to re-evaluate your risk assessment and tolerance with the platform.
  • Anything that still works on PayPal Bill Pay will probably see a huge increase in volume as players shift toward what works, ultimately causing those things to die more quickly too (probably).
  • We’re likely entering a new era of discovery in manufactured spend, so research and networking is likely to be more fruitful for the next month or two than normal while we search for the next big thing.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this still matters to you because this is a great opportunity to read between the lines and learn about what’s worked in the past; the object lessons here are lucrative and that knowledge will almost certainly help you in the future.

Happy Thursday!

Work in progress: The app that rhymes with booze’s logo, but in ripples.

  1. There are a few shopping portal bonuses for the new year, but only some airline portals have recovered from their drunken New Year’s stupor:

    AA: 1,000 bonus miles after $400 in cumulative spend through January 17
    United: 1,000 bonus miles after $300 in cumulative spend through January 17

    I’ll be knocking both of these out with giftcards.com. If you’re doing the same, double check in 15 days that the orders have tracked and open a case if not. The AA portal in particular has had widespread tracking issues since December with giftcards.com.
  2. American Express has a business checking account sign-up bonus for 50,000 Membership Rewards running through March 31. Bonus requirements:

    – $5,000 deposit in 30 days
    – $5,000 average balance after depositing for 60 days
    – 5 transactions within 60 days

    These are limit one per business and one per login, so to scale you may need more of each. The account earns a 1.30% interest rate, so you’re losing approximately 370 basis points, or $36, as compared to a high yield savings account over two months.
  3. Breeze Airways has a promotion for 35% off of roundtrip fares with promo code GETFRESH booked by Friday for travel from January 15 to May 22.

    If you want a Breeze Airways line in your travel log, what better reason could there be to fly from Provo, Utah to San Bernardino, CA? That’s right, none.
  4. Chase Offers and BankAmeriDeals have 10% back on Hyatt Place properties on between $100 and $400 in spend through March 3. The catch? Hyatt Place. Notably for reader Dean who is overnighting in Lubbock later this week, Hyatt Place Lubbock isn’t excluded.

    Gaming one of these offers won’t exclude the other. The most above board way to game is to pick up a gift card at the Hyatt Place front desk for resale or future use, but make sure to call and check that they’re sold at the property before you make a trip. (Thanks to DoC)
  5. American Express Offers has offers for both Marriott and Hyatt:

    – $250 statement credit with $1,000 in spend at Marriott Homes & Villas through April 15
    – $100 statement credit with $500 in spend at Hyatt Canadian properties through April 30

    Gaming with gift cards? Ibid. Gaming in other ways? Possible. (Thanks to Jen T and GetFreeCash)

November’s Hyatt Place Lubbock fires may have scorched their gift card supply, so call ahead!

Comenity Bank probably doesn’t qualify as a FinTech given that they’ve been around since the 1980s and have major co-branded card contracts like AAA, Victoria’s Secret, the Texans NFL card, and the Houzz (?) Mastercard, but they do provide an object lesson in how FinTechs and some banks can provide unique backdoors into the financial system. Specifically, today we’ll focus on the Comenity Shopping Cart Trick.

The Shopping Cart Trick

It’s probably already familiar to seasoned churners that sometimes you’ll get a better offer for an airline credit card when you’re making a dummy booking or when you’re applying for a card from an in-flight application. What’s probably less obvious is that sometimes your account or credit profile will be impacted differently based on how you apply too. Specifically:

With Comenity co-branded cards, if you add a dummy item or two to your shopping cart and then apply for the card during check-out, they’ll almost never perform a hard-pull of your credit report.

Of course if you have bad credit or no credit, this is an enticing proposition. For most of you reading the blog, at face value there’s not much there other than as a mental insight into bank processes.

The Lesson

The public facing side of credit cards, like lifetime language, sign-up bonus terms, and which card has the worst design, aren’t the only aspects of a card and its impact on your finances. Instead, credit reporting, unregulated debit payments, and pseudo-loan like products play a role in the immediate enduring value of a card too. Always be probing!

Happy Monday!

Pictured: SideShowBob233 attempts the Fluz shopping cart trick.

NOTE: I’ll be going on a blogging vacation between December 18 and 31, during which there may or may not be any posts. But, we’ll ring in the new year on January 1, 2024 with the 2023 version of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs though, so no need to be up in arms. What’s this “may”, you ask? I’m soliciting for guest posts and I’ll use those during the regularly scheduled newsletter. They should be non-sponsored, non-promotional, non-political, and at least travel hacking or churning adjacent. Please reach out to me if you’re interested, it’ll be the third easiest gig you’ve ever gotten!

  1. Giftcards.com has 10% off of $100 Mastercard gift cards with promo code MERRYMC10 or MERRYMC, limit three per order. As usual, try and go through a portal but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t track when you use the code. Fun fact: You’re also limited to $2,000 in e-gift cards per 48 rolling hours, even though the terms and conditions suggest the limit is only 24 hours.

    It’s a good thing you can create new email addresses though, amirite?
  2. Rakuten has a card linked offer for 2.5x Membership Rewards or 2.5% cash back on in store purchases through December 31 at Safeway and Albertsons stores. Gift cards are excluded from the promotion, but a little obscuration goes a long way.

    You’ve got to re-add this offer an hour after using it each time.
  3. Yesterday we talked about a couple of AmEx offers for spending $300 on Delta gift cards, and later in the day Delta launched a promotion for a free $20 Starbucks gift card with a $300 Delta gift card. So, obviously stack those. (Thanks to GCG)
  4. Bilt is sending targeted email to some cardholders for 1,000 bonus points per retailer for using your card for a single purchase at AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint (???), Comcast, Spectrum, Netflix, Hulu, and Xfinity, limit 5,000 total bonus points. Look for the subject: “Earn 5K bonus points this month”.

Your fourth easiest gig.