1. I’m seeing a 30% transfer bonus for both Marriott and Hilton on my American Express Membership Rewards travel partner page. There’s a report on reddit of a 20% transfer bonus for Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles too, though I don’t have that one. It’s likely worth taking a look at your own profile’s page to see what might be there for you.

2. It’s still raining gift cards, this time from Simon. Use promo code OCT21SAVE45 for 45% off of fees on bulk Visa gift card purchases. You can buy $1,000 Visa gift cards at Simon with low fees, and it’s a decent way to get some spend on Citi cards. As always, remember that American Express doesn’t give you points for spend at Simon.

These continue to work at mid-tier grocery stores and at several online processors. If you don’t have a way to liquidate, keep looking — they do exist.

3. Multiple independent sources are confirming that Hyatt’s peak/off-peak pricing will be implemented on October 26. That gives you six days to book award stays for March 2022 and later at the current prices. Don’t slack too long!

The new redemption chart is here, and unlike most loyalty award changes this one has some good with the bad — if you’re staying in Lubbock Texas on a Wednesday night in July (also known as “as off-peak as it possibly gets”), you might be able to get a night at the Hyatt Place for 3,500 points instead of 5,000 points.

Pictured: Your window view during your off-peak award stay in Lubbock, TX.

1. If you have a Chase Freedom Flex (and really you should, 3x at drugstores like CVS is one of the best ways to earn to Ultimate Rewards), I’d suggest that you take advantage of the new offer for $1,500 in spend at 5x in the category you spend the most on, out of: travel, dining, home improvement stores, grocery stores (except Target and Walmart), drugstores, gas stations, select live entertainment (lol), select streaming services, and fitness clubs. You’re automatically registered as long as you activated your Q4 5x categories.

If any of these overlap with your Freedom Flex’s Q4 bonus categories (PayPal and Walmart), you’ll earn 9x instead of 5x. My current churning life regret is that I only have one Freedom Flex card.

2.There’s a relatively new targeted spend offer on the landing page on the Ultimate Rewards portal for Ink Preferred cards. The offer is 50,000 bonus points for each $50,000 in spend up to $250,000. You can find the terms here. If you can MS in advertising or shipping categories, you’ll end up at 4x with this offer. (Thanks to Danny)

3. The Chase Sapphire Preferred 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points offer with first year’s annual fee waived and a $50 credit at grocery stores is still alive in-branch. My business banker said that they haven’t heard that it’ll be pulled yet, so it could stick around for at least a couple of more weeks. I still prefer the churnable Chase Ink cards to the Sapphire Preferred for almost everyone though.

Ok, but where are Chase’s Tuesday Tacos? Here, duh.

1. Staples has $200 fee free Mastercards up to five per transaction this week, and this time it’s for real — they pinky-promised and said no take-backs, so I think we’re good. The promotion runs between yesterday and Saturday. Note: There are recent reports that Payce has paid 5% on gift card purchases at Staples, though it can be spotty and it’s definitely not supposed to work that way so don’t write Payce support if it didn’t track for you.

These cards are Metabanks and they’re becoming more difficult to directly cash out, but it’s still possible. Some of the low hanging fruit is at regional grocery stores, but from home options also exist.

2. Office Depot / OfficeMax has $15 off of $300 in Visa gift cards back through Saturday. Remember to link your cards with Dosh for extra cash back, which will make this deal about a $14 money maker each time with the everywhere cards which, despite their name, do not work everywhere that Visa is taken (they do work in many places which matter for us though).

3. Meijer Mperks is has a current offer for $5 off of a future purchase when buying $50 in gift cards, up to 10 times per Mperks account between now and October 23. In case you’re not mathematically inclined, a single $500 gift card will earn you $50, or 10% back.

This one excludes some Visas and Mastercards, but you can buy BestBuy, Home Depot, or Apple gift cards which all have a high resale rate.

4. The personal JetBlue card has an offer for Mosaic status lasting until the end of 2022 after spending $15,000 (Svetlana wrote in to correct the spend, I had incorrectly written $10,000 before). If you fly JetBlue a lot, Mosaic status may be worth getting. If you’re flying it only two or three times a year, then this isn’t worth your time — the real benefit to Mosaic is free “upgrades” to Even More Space and I guess a mini-bottle of awful wine.

If JetBlue Mosaic status got you wine from Valais, we’d be in a totally different ballgame and spending $10,000 for status might be worth it. Alas, it doesn’t. Enjoy your swill wine and blue corn chips instead, cause that’s what you’ll get.

Today, let’s start with a bit of followup and then jump into a few points to keep your eyes on.

On Monday we talked about how Chase might be blocking PayPal Key+Freedom transactions for certain MS channels. Plenty of data points have come in since then, and there’s also been a material change in a particular MS channel too. As of now, it seems that PayPal is actually the culprit for blocking transactions and it’s very targeted and specific. Louses!

Onto the normal post:

1. Login to American Express, then check this link for an authorized user offer for American Express Business Platinum cards. This offer is for 20,000 points when adding an employee card and spending $4,000, up to five times. This is different than the 1.9 Million point offer for 99 users that you can get from calling in; and because it’s a different offer you can be taking advantage of both (though remember you’re limited to 99 employee cards total).

Remember, employee cards don’t need a date of birth or SSN when creating them, they come already activated, and they stay that way for 60 days without providing additional information. (Thanks to Parts_Unknown for the link)

2. Simon Volume has a gift card promotion code GO50SEP21 for half of of fees through October 8. These are great for boosting balances on your Citi cards, especially the Double Cash.

3. If you hold any variety of the American Express Bonvoy card, register this link for a targeted 10x spend on PayPal purchases up to 50,000 points for $5,000 in spend. I was targeted, and believe it or not I will be taking advantage of this because 50,000 points is good for a night or two at an airport hotel when I need a place to stay while transiting.

I hear your head snapping: “Wait, MEAB? You have a Marriott Bonvoy Amex?”

Yes, I famously hate Marriott and yes, I do have the card. It’s the weird $95 annual fee personal card that was converted from the Starwood SPG card when Marriott bought Starwood, and is currently only available by converting another higher annual-fee Marriott. I’ve kept this card despite my hatred of Marriott because:

  • I’ve gotten a 60,000 Bonvoy points retention offer on the card each year that I’ve had it
  • It’s currently giving me $10 in dining credits every month, easily cashed out at Amazon Meals on Fluz
  • It gives me a 35,000 point annual free night certificate every year

If they would stop giving me retention offers on the card I’d get rid of it — but, here we are. AmEx is feeding me exactly what I hate and I apparently keep asking for more.

The American Express Bonvoy $95 annual fee card if it were a meal.

Update: Reader K let me know that PPK with a Freedom Flex worked at Costco.com, so we may be in a YMMV situation based on merchant or, perhaps based on cardholder.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex Q4 5x categories are PayPal and Walmart, though I’m almost certain all of you already knew that. (Don’t forget to activate all of your Freedom and Freedom Flex cards at this link.) I had assumed this would be about the easiest time of the year to max out the $1,500 of 5x spend on my Freedom portfolio because with the use of PayPal Key, everything that accepts a virtual debit card would count as PayPal spend when a Freedom was backing the virtual debit card.

Well that was wishful thinking. It seems that Chase blocked all PayPal Key transactions on Freedom and Freedom Flex transactions starting on the first day of Q4 (Friday) for me, and for everyone else that I’ve talked to. Who wants to bet on when they turn it back on? My guess is January 1, 2022.

How do we pivot? It’s easier than you may think, though slightly harder than if PPK worked. Options:

  • Pay with PayPal at CVS. You could buy $505.95 worth of tic-tacs and aspirin three times I guess
  • Watch for deals on gift cards for resale at PayPal Digital Gifts, Bitmo, or Slide
  • Send money to your P2 using PayPal (the fees are about 2.9% though, so use this as a last resort)

Or, you could be basic and use it for your regular spend I guess. You’ll get the same 5x, but you’ll miss-out on the smugness of knowing that you beat the system.

Side note: I believe this is the first instance of Chase actively blocking something ripe for MS in a long, long time. That’s a troubling development.

Chase trying to force choke PayPal Key users.

Mastercard is on my mind today, so let’s talk about a couple of deals and then add some commentary because it’s a wordy Monday:

The Deals

1. On Friday we thought that Staples was running a fee-free Visa gift card starting yesterday and running through Saturday. But first thing yesterday morning Katie let me know that the ad is wrong. Instead, Staples is actually running a Mastercard fee-free gift card sale yesterday through Saturday, limit five per transaction.

2. Office Depot/OfficeMax is running a sale on Mastercard gift cards yesterday through Saturday too, putting them in direct competition with Staples. This deal is a better one from an earning perspective: you get a $15 rebate on $300 or more in Mastercard gift cards. When you buy two gift cards you’ll earn $1.10 after fees, and you’ll get another $10 back from Dosh as long as you’ve linked your card in the app ahead of time. Given several reports of Dosh looking harder at obvious gift card transactions, I’d add some staples or rubber bands to my purchase going forward.


We’ve talked about how Visa and Mastercard aren’t the same before, but let’s add a little more: By default, Visa and Mastercard gift cards are treated like any other debit card in backend payment processing systems, even though they have higher fees than a traditional debit card. Because the fees are higher, payment processors will often block prepaid cards in a whack-a-mole style fashion as usage grows. When they block, they block by BINs (the first 6 digits of a card number — but soon to be 8 digits). This gives us our first takeaway:

  • BINs that are less commonly found at major retailers are more likely to work for our many liquidation techniques.

Now let’s tie this into Mastercard gift cards with some useful background information: In the height of the money order manufactured spend craze between 2014 and 2019, Mastercard gift cards got a bad wrap because at Walmart, you had to use the “change payment trick” when liquidating one of them. That trick was error prone and it gave certain cashiers bad vibes which only made things worse. So, many big time manufactured spenders simply wouldn’t buy Mastercards and prevailing wisdom in the community became “Visa gift cards are better”. That brings us back to the first point with a twist:

  • Mastercard gift cards are less commonly used in manufactured spending, and as a result they’re more likely to work for our many liquidation techniques.

The above datapoint isn’t just theoretical either. There are multiple liquidation methods in use today that work with Mastercards but not Visas. So, maybe take deals listed above as a bigger opportunity than you may have initially considered.

I’m not saying I was the first with Mastercard on my mind (we all know that was Ray Charles), but I’m definitely the most recent.

We’re all over the map with today’s post, sorry friends. It’s just going to be a hot-mess and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

1. Are you ready for a bunch of fee free $200 Visa Gift Cards again? Well, Staples has got your back. Between Sunday and the following Saturday they’re fee free, limit five per transaction. Make sure you have a plan for liquidation before buying a bunch. EDIT 9/26/2021: Katie let me know that the ad is wrong, it’s actually Mastercard Gift Cards in this sale.

Related followup: Safeway, like Walmart and Kroger, does indeed have a $99 per transaction debit card limit on these cards. So if worst comes to worst, I guess you could buy a couple of money orders to get rid of a card, but ewww David.

2. Yun wrote in to let me know that by chatting with Point debit card support, he was able to get the $99 annual fee refunded on multiple accounts and keep the card open after their walk-back of an offer for a $0 annual fee. I’d suggest that if you signed up for the rewards card with the first year fee free and were still charged $99, you chat with their support online and try and get it refunded. I’d try a few times if it doesn’t work out the first time.

Related followup: I opened a spite Point debit card and I think you should also. Talk about burying the lead on this one too — Point has a new streak for $30 back after using the card once per day for five days, as long as the total works out to at least $200 in spend before October 3. It’s a debit card so getting your spend going is easier than in quite a few other cases, and now that I have a spite card I can get the streak an extra time.

3. I had a several people send questions, notes, and clarifications about American Express upgrade offers. To sum it up:

  • On the personal card side (like the business card side), opening a new card or upgrading an existing card will almost never result in a hard credit pull. However on the personal side a new card will always result in a new account on your credit card which matters if you’re trying to be under 5/24.
  • The “almost” in the above statement comes from what American Express sees when they do a periodic soft credit card pull (which doesn’t show up on your credit report). If something on that soft pull looks very different than before, they may do a hard inquiry for a new application.
  • On business card upgrades you don’t need to wait 12 months before getting an upgrade; the reason you have to wait that long on the personal side is due to legislation in the CARD act.
  • The downgrade/upgrade game is alive and well for some of you, don’t discount the play.
  • There are multiple reports that upgrades have been seen on more than one business card, check them all, and just because you’ve upgraded one doesn’t mean there’s not another offer right behind it.
  • You almost certainly don’t need worry about the presence of lifetime language restrictions in an upgrade offer. I’m not aware of any reports of that condition being enforced, and I’ve seen hundreds data-points that say the conditions don’t matter (including my own).
  • If you get a popup during application for a new card or during upgrade that says your’e not eligible for a sign-up bonus, believe it. There was a brief period where that wasn’t true, but unfortunately that period has passed.

4. Check here for a spend offer on your United credit card. I got 500 bonus miles for spending $500 on my card, which is worth about $7.50 best case, gee thanks. I guess I could use that $7.50 to buy myself a gourmet, marine-life shaped croissant.

5. I finally decided to start using Venmo for in-store payments this week, and my first purchase was a large one at CVS in a different state than where I live. That resulted in my Venmo account being locked and a few annoying email threads with Venmo support. Don’t be like me, try a little harder.

It’s been a long winded week on this site, hmm 🤔.

My prize from the grab-bag? A croissant croisshark. You knew this picture was coming even before you saw it, right?

Target runs a deal like $50 off of $50 when opening a new Target Redcard every few months. The latest of these deals started Saturday and runs through October 1. The promotion applies to opening either a debit Redcard or for a credit card Redcard, both of which have merit (and not just because they’ll both give you 5% off of everything at Target).


Why sign up for the debit card?

  • There’s no hard pull on your credit
  • You can close it as soon as you get the $50 off coupon
  • After closing the card, wait 48 hours and you can sign up for another one with the same info to get another coupon

Over the period of this promotion, you’ll almost certainly be able to open/close twice, and perhaps three times. So, think of this as $100-$150 in Target stuff every few months with no credit pull.


What about the credit card? Well, $50 is a really crappy bonus for signing up for a credit card for sure, especially one that only works at Target. But, this card has a great feature: You may be able to pay off your balance in store. (Target is pretty accepting of different payment methods — remember the American Express for Target prepaid card before it was discontinued? I do)

There’s another reason to get the credit version of the Target RedCard: It’s a prerequisite for getting the Target Mastercard which, unlike the RedCard, works at stores other than Target.

Good luck, and a special thanks to Larry for consulting with me on this post.

An image of the old American Express For Target prepaid debit card.
This card still lives today (in spirit).