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. 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.

Today’s items are all gamable to an extent. I’ve rated them on a Jim scale of 0 to 37 in terms of ease of gaming because reasons.

  1. The American Express Bonvoy Brilliant card has a targeted offer for +10 points per dollar on $750 in spend at grocery stores through the end of the year. Unfortunately the regular spend rate for grocery is only 2x, but even in Marriott Bonvoy land 2x+10x = 12x.

    Gamability: 30 (Thanks to Miles)
  2. American Express also has a card linked offer for 17,500 Membership Rewards on $1,000 or more in ITA Airways airfare through December 31.

    Gamability: 18 (Thanks to irieriley)
  3. SoFi has 17,500 Membership Rewards or $175 back through the Rakuten portal or $200 through Swagbucks for opening a new checking and savings account, depositing $500 and keeping it there for 45 days. The T&C suggest that this only works if you’ve never had a SoFi bank account. It also stacks with a $250 bonus from SoFi if you direct deposit, or “direct deposit”, $5,000 or more.

    If you don’t have a Membership Rewards earning Rakuten account, you can create a new one and earn a $40 referral bonus for doing it. As usual, refer from P2’s account or from a friend’s account, use a bloggers referral only as a last resort.

    Gamability: 33 (Thanks to TV)
  4. Chase Offers has a targeted 10% back up to $40 on airfare of $100 or more booked directly with Air Canada by today.

    Gamability: 34
  5. Chase Offers also has a targeted $50 statement credit with $500 or more booked through the Chase Travel Portal through December 31.

    Gamability: 30 (Thanks to Kyle W)

Happy Wednesday friends!

Deliciousness: 14
Gamability: 2.13

Editor’s note: My mail software was daylight savings naive and thus didn’t update yesterday’s delivery time with the time zone change, probably because it was developed by zonies according to reader Jim. You can access yesterday’s post here.

Chains popular with manufactured spenders often have limits on how many times a card can be used in a given time frame, for example, famously Kroger will usually decline a credit card after six swipes in a rolling 24 hours, chain-wide. That obviously means you’re limited in total manufactured spend at Kroger for a specific card, unless of course you aren’t:

  • Apple Pay looks like a different credit card
  • Many bank issuer’s authorized user cards have a different account number

A little creativity can go a long way.

Of course there is such a thing as being too creative.

It’s time to jump into the pre-Halloween weekend, but before you turn into a pumpkin:

  1. Southwest has extended its schedule through August 4th, which includes most of summer’s travel season. As a general rule, booking summer travel in autumn often means there will be schedule changes, and with Southwest schedule changes often mean a free change to any other flight between the same city pairs ±2 weeks.
  2. Chase Southwest cards have increased sign-up bonuses of 75,000 Rapid Rewards points on the personal cards, or 80,000 points on the Rapid Rewards Business card. These offers aren’t all-time highs, but they are interesting getting two of them and hitting the spend threshold for the bonuses after January 1, 2024 will earn you a Companion Pass through 2025.

    No one out there seems to remember the downside of the Companion Pass though: you’re still on Southwest.
  3. Office Depot/OfficeMax stores have $15 off of $300 in Visa gift cards starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday. To maximize:

    – Consider that maybe multiples of $300 might behave strangly
    – Link your credit cards to Dosh
    – Try for multiple transactions back-to-back
    – Don’t forget about the American Express Business Gold $20 credit, which you can use twice during the promotional period

    These are Pathward gift cards, and often only work with PIN transactions for a total of $480 every six minutes per store. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. Do this now: Register for double Avios on up to 10 flights booked by November 21 for travel by January 14, 2024. Surprisingly this works with AA, Iberia, and Finnair paid flights credited to BA too.
  5. Sebastian notes that Bank of America’s Business Unlimited Cash Rewards Mastercard still has a $500 sign-up bonus available with $5,000 spend in 90 days. This card is useful because:

    – In conjunction with Bank of America Preferred Rewards Platinum Honors status, this is a 2.625% everywhere card
    – You probably still have time to get it before More Rewards Day on November 9

    Don’t forget that with Bank of America, one card is nice, but more is better. (Vague much, MEAB?)

Have a nice weekend!

Pictured: Your 23 year old companion after the fourth leg on Southwest between Eugene, OR and Greenville, SC.

  1. American Express Offers has two big offers:

    – 25,000 Membership Rewards with $1,500 spend with Royal Caribbean through December 31
    – $100 statement credit with $500 spend at Hiltons in Nevada through March 15, 2024

    American Express does clawback offer bonuses that are refunded, but in a rather simplistic way. (Thanks to Conner)
  2. United TravelBank funds can now be gifted to friends and family, and in related news TravelBank loads still work for the American Express Platinum’s airline incidental credit. This is great news at first blush, but the addition of “friends” probably means this isn’t going to end well for anyone.
  3. Plastiq, the once plucky upstart bill pay service that failed to IPO, went bankrupt, and was then acquired by its (loose) competition, has taken a page from the airline frequent flyer playbook: A silent devaluation. They’re now charging $0.99 for ACH delivery and $1.49 for paper check delivery in addition to other fees.

    16 days ago they announced that they’d accept American Express payments in a “couple of weeks”. They don’t currently accept AmEx, so I guess by “accept American Express payments” they really meant “charge new fees when sending to American Express, but also everyone else” which frankly is the most Plastiq thing that could have happened.
  4. Vacasa redemptions through Wyndham also took a note from the frequent flyer playbook with a silent devaluation. Vacasa redemptions were 15,000 points per bedroom and worked on properties that cost up to about $500 per bedroom before fees, but now the limit is somewhere around $350 per bedroom.

    We’ve been #bonvoyed by a non-Marriott hotel chain.
  5. The Gift Card Shop has 50% off of purchase fees on orders over $150 using promo code 2023HOLIDAY through October 29.

    Visas and Mastercards are issued by InComm. (Thanks to SideShowBob233)

The airline frequent flyer playbook in action.

We tend to focus quite a lot on Chase, Bank of America, American Express, Citi, and Capital One because they offer good products for manufactured spenders and churners, and because their products are available to most any US Citizen.

That said, there are more than 4,500 banks and more than 4,700 credit unions in the US, and we spend nearly all our time talking about fewer than 10 of them in total partially because 97% of these institutions primarily serve only small geographies. It’s a mistake to ignore other banks and credit unions though, because they have financial products too, and some of them are just as generous as those you’ll find at the big usual suspects.

To up your game, consider spending time strolling around your local banks and credit unions (they’re usually one district over from the hammock district), and look into their:

  • Credit cards with rewards or cash back
  • CDs that may be funded in various ways
  • Bank accounts that may offer a sign-up bonus, rewards, or a money order target
  • Loans that you can find in various payment systems
  • Teen spending products
  • Business banking offerings

As far as I’m concerned, who cares if Holy Trinity Baptist CU shuts me down when I’m trying something with MoneyGram and their credit card that I’d never dare try with a Chase card?

Have a nice weekend!

Even Lubbock Telco FCU has better offers than AmEx at times (Thanks to Reader Ben for the photo)

By accident this is the fourth Quad in a row. Inception? Irony? Incompetence? I’m not sure.

  1. The Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard, an Unsung Hero, has started sending its next round of targeted offers. As of this writing we’ve seen:

    – 5% back on all spend up to $100 back per month for September, October, November and December (a total of $400 back)
    – $60 back after four $75 or larger purchases per month for September, October, and November (a total of $180 back)

    I expect that we’ll see a few other variants over the weekend too. (Thanks to BB_Pcola and Jacob M)
  2. DDG reports that the American Express Business Platinum 190,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus after $15,000 in spend in three months is available by phone, and also includes a bonus 10,000 Membership Rewards for adding an employee card and spending $1,000 in the same timeframe.

    To check, dial American Express’s Small Business team at (855) 531-3491 and ask about different offers available, and note that they may not give you the best offer on the first try so keep asking if there are other offers available until you’ve exhausted the list.
  3. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion running over Labor Day weekend on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercards.

    Secondary markets continue to be running overdrive partially due to the time of year, but also partially due to new end-users entering the market. If you’re working with one, make sure they’re assuming liability for closed accounts within a business day.
  4. Safeway, Albertsons, and Vons family Just4U stores have 6x points on Google Play gift cards through Tuesday. The travel angle is that Just4U rewards can be exchanged for Alaska Airlines miles with some trickery.

    The best redemption is 7 rewards for 1,200 MilagePlan miles, which works out to $116.66 in Google Play cards. You can scale this to an extent, but as a friendly reminder of how strange, weird, and purposefully obtuse this program can be, you’re limited to 22 rewards (2,200 Just4U points) converted to 3,500 MileagePlan miles per week.

The Just4U program workflow, illustrated.

  1. Breeze Airways has a promotion for $50 off of round-trip travel booked through the end of today, for travel between September 5 and December 19, but excluding two weeks around Thanksgiving using promo code EZ50.

    Breeze is a low cost airline that largely serves secondary cities, like my “favorite” route from San Bernadino California to Provo Utah. Dave Neeleman’s latest airline endeavor after a string of startups and reboots, including JetBlue, WestJet, and Azul.
  2. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion running Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercard gift cards.

    As usual for those in the resale market, make sure you only work with brokers that assume account shutdown liability within a business day. (Thanks to GCG)
  3. VRBO has an offer for 2,000 bonus United MileagePlus miles when booking a stay by August 31. If you have any existing bookings it may be worth trying to rebook. Are there other ways to game VRBO? Of course, but they require quite a bit more work than normal. Do you have a spare bedroom? Do you have a P2? Just wondering, no reason.

This Lubbock VRBO is extra cheap, because reasons.