There are a a few categories of manufactured spend techniques:

  • Those we talk about plainly like Kiva and BravoPay
  • Those we hint about and aren’t terribly fragile, but are kept slightly quiet just in case
  • Those that aren’t discussed in public places because they’d likely die with scale

Today’s focus is on the middle type:

  1. Not all American Express cards are credit or charge cards.
  2. Often you can hold more than one of a card, even if it seems like you can only hold one.
  3. Dollar General isn’t just for expired candy.
  4. You can liquidate Visa and Mastercards at Walgreens with the help of the photo department.
  5. Family Dollar competes with Dollar General, also not just with expired candy.
  6. Some malls sell different kinds of cards.
  7. Regional grocery chains are often key to in-person scale.
  8. Sometimes FinTechs have hidden modes for advanced users.
  9. Some banks can liquidate Visas and Mastercards directly.

Good luck out there, and have a nice weekend!

Bonus: Newtonian physics hints.

  1. Today is the last day for 2022 Q4 estimated taxes. The best service to use with a credit card from a fee perspective is payUSAtax at 1.85%. If you have issues with checkout, you can use PayPal from the payUSAtax website to get around them.

    You’re allowed to use each payment processor twice per form per taxpayer, and I used this on two different cards to hit minimum spend for sign-up bonuses.
  2. CashApp has a card linked boost for 8% off of samsclub.com orders, up to $20 cash back per day. You can do this every day for the next two weeks, and stack with a shopping portal too. CashApp supports loads with a debit card so a little experimenting there may give you yet another boost. Favorite options:

    Visa gift cards
    Mastercard gift cards
    Disney gift cards

    Sam’s doesn’t sell Tesla gift cards, but those are already discounted by more than 8% with a different kind of boost. CashApp referrals earn both the referral and the referee $5, so make sure to reach out to a friend for a referral if you don’t already have the app.
  3. Chase and BankAmeriDeals both have targeted card-linked offers for 5% back up to $60 at United 10% back up to $45 at Alaska, and you don’t even need to break the correlation to get these to work with refunds. (Thanks to DoC)

The Sam’s Club Tesla vehicle charging system.

  1. Dell has been fulfilling previously canceled orders in the last 24 hours without a corresponding new credit card charge. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and the pattern based on prior instances seems to be:

    – Deliver a product (digital or physical) without a cleared charge on the credit card
    [crickets for about six months]
    – Invoices from Dell with threats of legal action and collections

    If you were notified by email that an order shipped or was fulfilled that you didn’t expect, your best best is to open a case with Dell and either ask for a refund or ask to pay for the item to save yourself heartache and misplaced AmEx credits too.
  2. American Express has a no-lifetime language Business Platinum 150,000 Membership Rewards offer after $15,000 in spend and another 10,000 Membership Rewards after adding an employee card and spending $1,000, all within three months. This link isn’t new, but the expiration of the offer was updated and there are multiple reports that it appeared recently indicating that there’s a new targeted campaign. (Thanks to SideShowBob233)
  3. The infamous payment processor that we love to hate stopped taking certain gift cards at a reduced processing fee yesterday, so be careful with your buys. They do work elsewhere though, so always be probing.

But how will SideShowBob233 meet minimum spend on that Business Platinum now?

Newly launched rewards programs often haven’t thought about gamers, and as a result you earn outsized rewards on things like open loop gift cards, cash back, postage stamps, or other normally excluded items during the program’s early life. Typically these are added to an internal blocklist one-by-one until the program’s balance sheet approaches the Nash equilibrium and then designers and accountants move on to other things.

The blocklist approach often fails later in a mature rewards program though, because: SKUs change, new products are introduced, or entire software systems are replaced. These failures mean a deviation from the Nash equilibrium and an opportunity for gamers. For a real-world example, see yesterday’s GCG easter-egg laden post. Also note that our favorite infamous, parody-inducing payment processor is processing these products at a reduced fee.

The quick takeaway: Watch for the next 4x grocery rewards event and go probe!

The worlds lamest dual.

  1. Giftcards.com’s promo code HOLIDAYVISA continues to work for $10 back on on $100 or more in virtual Visa gift cards, limit $2,000 per 48 hours. When properly executed this deal gets nearly 10% off, credit card points, and a portal spend rebate too, which makes it easy to eat the costs expensive liquidation options and still come out way ahead.

    When improperly executed like the last purchase I made, you forget to enter the code and then connect your palm to your face. (It’s not currently advertised, but VISAHOLIDAY and XMASVISA codes may also work too. Just make sure to enter them in the promo code box.)
  2. Staples has fee free Visa gift cards on sale Sunday through the following Saturday limit five per transaction. There’s a catch this time though: this sale is only for $100 cards and not the usual $200s, so #bonvoyed. Personally I’d focus on the Office Depot/OfficeMax sale that ends tomorrow instead, because although the net cost of acquisition is the same, processing time and in-store time is effectively doubled for $100 cards for the same total spend. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Most airlines have a no change-fee waiver across half or more of the United States in place thanks to yet another bomb cyclone storm. If you’re traveling in the next 24 to 48 hours, you may want to take advantage of the waivers and see if you can switch to a better itinerary so you’re not connecting on a redeye flight to meet Danny in Lubbock, TX on your layover.
  4. Don’t forget that for some reason I can’t place my finger on, Monday December 26 is a federal banking holiday, so ACHs, wires, and credit card payments won’t clear until Tuesday.

Have a nice holiday weekend, and safe travels! I hope you end up somewhere sunny like I will (travel demigods willing).

The probable reason for the federal banking holiday on Monday.

  1. Giftcards.com has a promotional code for 10% off of Visa e-gift cards using promo code VISAHOLIDAY or HOLIDAYVISA, limit $20 off per order. Remember to go through a shopping portal, and apropos of nothing, giftcards.com has an order limit of $2,000 per rolling 48 hours for electronic gift cards. UPDATE: Thanks for MaryBeth for the updated code.
  2. US Bank announced a new partnership with Amazon for paying with Flexperks points (notably when enrolling, you can choose to turn payment with points off by default, which is a nice enhancement from similar integrations with other banks). It’s interesting because:

    – This will probably be another source of “Get 40% off when using at least one [bank reward currency] deals”, so I’d preemptively link a US Bank card to prepare.
    – The redemption value is 1 cent per point, which is higher than Chase or AmEx at Amazon
  3. The Daily Churn’s most recent episode talks about ways to open a Morgan Stanley account for the hackable Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum card now that the Access Investing route has died. The episode outlines multiple ways do to it, but the simplest way is:

    – Open a Premium Savings Account with $25,000, which earns 3.25% APY, or $812.50 per year
    Apply for the card after a couple of days
  4. BankAmeriDeals and Chase Offers both have a card linked offer for 15% back at IHG Hotels, up to $69 total cash back. Typically breaking the correlation isn’t necessary for non-AmEx offers. (Thanks to DoC)
  5. AA has elite status changes coming for 2023. For travel hackers, the big news is:

    – Shopping portal bonus boosts after different loyalty points thresholds
    – The removal of the need for 30 AA segments flown for choice awards

    Yes, I manufactured AA status in 2022 and I will continue to do so in 2023.

Pictured: The noise I sifted through to figure out exactly what AA is up to.

Q4 Wrap Up

You’ve got a short two weeks or so left to finish up 5x spend on existing rotating category cards. As a reminder, Q4 looked like this:

  • Chase: PayPal and Walmart
  • Discover: Amazon and Digital Wallets
  • US Bank: You chose these, for me it was utilities
  • Citi Dividend: Restaurants and most travel

Q1 2023 Preparations

Now that you’ve knocked out, it’s time to get ready for 2022.

Chase

Do this now: Register for Q1 5x bonus categories on Freedom and Freedom Flex cards. The categories:

  • Grocery stores that don’t rhyme with Saulmart
  • Gyms and Fitness clubs, or certain Sweat stores
  • Target

Manufactured spend recommendations:

  • Visa and Mastercard gift cards with liquidation via money order, BravoPay, or similar
  • The Sweat store
  • Bulk third party gift cards for resale (Best Buy, Apple, Home Depot, etc) during periodic promotions

Discover

Do this now: Register for Q1 5x bonus categories on the Discover IT card. Categories:

  • Grocery stores, even those that rhyme with Saulmart NM
  • Drug Stores
  • Select Streaming Services

Manufactured spend recommendations:

  • Visa and Mastercard gift cards with liquidation via money order, BravoPay, or similar
  • Bulk third party gift cards for resale (Best Buy, Apple, Home Depot, etc) during periodic promotions

US Bank

Do this now: Choose your Q1 5x bonus categories on the Cash+. Best options in my opinion:

  • Utilities
  • Electronics stores
  • Ground transportation

Manufactured spend recommendations:

  • Look for the Sweat company’s rideshare option
  • Prepay your utility bill, or maybe take that further

Citi

Do this whenever Citi feels like getting their Q1 act together: Register for your Q1 5x bonus categories. What could these be? No one outside of Citi knows yet, so let’s make some wild guesses:

  • Emu farms
  • Custom marble jewlery
  • Select specialty coaster stores

Manufactured spend recommendations:

  • Invest in SideShowBob233’s emu farm at sideshowbob233.com
  • Consider that maybe Citi is better on the demand side rather than the supply side and spend on whatever

SideShowBob233’s non-stock image emu farm, open for investments.

  1. Simon has a few new Simon discounted purchase-fee codes available:

    DEC22FLASH35 for 35% off of Visas and Mastercards through December 14
    DEC22FESTIVE50 for 50% off of Abstract Red or Abstract Emerald Visa gift cards through December 25
    WRAP22UP for 50% off of Holiday Design Visa gift cards through December 31

    Different Simon codes (obviously) work on different types of gift cards, and for an added level of complexity, some work only on business volume accounts, and some work only on consumer volume accounts.
  2. Best Western has a promotion for a $50 bonus gift card with each $200 gift card purchased, limit five. The $50 bonus card expires on May 31, so it’s only useful for travel in the near future, at least to the extent that Best Western is useful for travel in general. (Thanks to DoC)
  3. Kroger.com has 5% off of the total cost of Visa and Mastercard gift cards through Friday with promo code HOLIDAYS22. These are fulfilled by Metabank, but are actually issued by US Bank. You’ll earn fuel points on the purchase too. (Thanks to Alex Z for making sure I got this right)
  4. Southwest open their booking window tomorrow for travel through August 14, 2023, which makes this one of your best opportunities to book placeholder summer air travel that may involve Southwest, especially if you check for price drops during future fare sales or in the weeks leading up to travel.
  5. A follow-ups from yesterday’s post: The Office Depot/Office Max $15 back on $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards deal still works as advertised, but the extra trick that worked on recent promotions for Visa gift cards isn’t working on this one.
  6. Meijer has a digital coupon for a $15 Meijer gift card with $100 or more in Happy, Choice, or One4All gift card purchases. Some of these can be converted to Home Depot and Best Buy gift cards for a nice profit. Be sure to scale with multiple Meijer accounts.

Pictured: Where the Office Depot/OfficeMax extra trick seems to have gone.