In the last couple of years American Express has punished people that used their own referral link in various ways, like clawing back points, removing the ability to generate referral links for bonuses, or in the worst cases with a shutdown. They’ve widened the net in the past few days too. (To be clear, this isn’t for you referring your partner and vice-versa, it’s for you applying for a new card using your own referral link.) This isn’t just a problem with American Express either: AA has done it, Chase has done it, Stripe and Paypal will ban you for running your own credit card, etc.

My bit of weekend wisdom: Never charge your own cards directly, never refer yourself directly, never send money to yourself directly; always use a P2 as a firewall (such as a spouse, sibling, parent, or similar). Most of the time you can get away with it for a few months or possibly even years, but the axe almost always comes down.

Weekend hint: There are ways to send money directly to yourself with online payment processors, and a prominent, very old processor will let you send money directly to your self with a credit card. Say it with me though: “If you’re gonna do it, use a P2.”

Have a great weekend!

An old video game screen with pixelated white text on a black background and the words: "Player 2 Start!"
Twice the players is twice the fun, but also a way to avoid shutdowns.

There’s a lot going on with grocery store rewards this week. A few examples:

  • At Kroger, you can buy $100 Visa and Mastercard gift cards for $100.95. Combine with Fuel Points for a nice win. Coincidentally, Kroger is usually a good target for liquidating cards like this.
  • At Meijer stores (pronounced “major” in case you’re a Meijer newb like me), you can get $50 in Meijer rewards for buying certain $500 gift cards. Check the exclusions, but as of this writing BestBuy isn’t excluded. Combine with a 4x or 10x grocery card for a huge win.
  • At Safeway / Albertsons / J4U stores, let’s just say it’s rewards bananas right now. Add online offers to your account and try buying a few things. You’ll probably be really surprised at what you see.
A trophy that looks like a banana on a plaque entitled "J4U Rewards"
“Rewards bananas” at J4U.

Do this now:

  1. Register your Discover IT cards for Q2 bonuses
  2. Register your Chase Freedom cards for Q2 bonuses
  3. Register your US Bank Cash+ cards for Q2 bonuses

Spend strategies:

  • Discover
    • Gas
      • Buy Visas to convert to money orders; 7-11s and Speedways are usually the easiest, but definitely not the only options
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell, but wait for the market to come back to 98-99% (should happen by the end of Q2)
      • Fill your car up? I won’t be doing this though, I have plenty of Kroger 6x fuel points to liquidate.
    • Wholesale
      • Buy MetaBank gift cards at Sam’s club if you can liquidate
      • Buy 3rd party gift cards during periodic sales and resell
    • Streaming Services
      • Load your Apple Wallet balance
      • Pay (and pre-pay) streaming (Netflix / Disney+ / etc)
  • Chase Freedom / Freedom Flex
    • Gas
      • Buy Visas and use to convert to a money order. 7-11s and Speedways are usually the easiest, but definitely not the only options.
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell, but wait for the market to come back (should happen by the end of Q2)
      • Fill your car up? I still won’t be doing this though, see above.
    • Home Improvement Stores
      • Buy gift cards to resell
      • Buy Amazon cards to load to your account, giving you effectively 5x at Amazon
      • Buy and liquidate Visa Gift Cards
  • US Bank Cash+
    • Electronic Stores
      • Buy BestBuy gift cards and resell (but wait for the market to come back, which should happen near the end of the quarter)
    • TV, Internet, and Streaming
      • Load your Apple Wallet balance
      • Pay (and pre-pay) streaming (Netflix / Disney+ / etc)
    • Cell phone providers
      • Pre-pay your bill

All of these cards are no-annual fee cards. If you have a premium card from Chase, Bank of America, Discover, or US Bank, consider converting it to one of these cards. You don’t have to wait until the annual fee posts either, most banks will pro-rate the annual fee right when you downgrade.

General reminder on no-annual fee BoA cards: Lots of things count as 3x “Online Spend” or “Business Services” with the Cash Rewards family of cards. Also, even within the BoA Cash Rewards family, Visa is not the same as Mastercard. Go punch drunk on this one.

Picture of a person in a black leather jacket laying on the curb, clutching a bottle of alcohol. A wine bottle and other bottles litter the ground.
Punch drunk on 5x cards. Also booze.

Ok, you’ve probably heard about the coin deal that’s dropping tomorrow. These coin deals come around regularly and several times a year the resale market for them is huge. Tomorrow is one of those times, and you can earn a lot of credit card spend and a hefty commission if you buy. You might also just end up really frustrated after pounding on a site that can’t really handle a pounding.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • There are two hot packages: One Ounce Eagle Coin, and a Four Eagle Coin Set
  • The first will sell for approximately $2,350, and the second for about $4,370
  • Final prices will be set on Thursday, and depend on Gold spot prices
  • Make an account way before the sale starts, the site will be hammered
  • Add and save your credit card to your account as soon as you can
  • Don’t use an American Express credit card (it’ll run as a cash advance)

Coins go on sale at 12PM EST (11 AM CST, 10 AM MST, 9 AM PST), and you should be ready at the landing page at 11:55 AM EST and have an accurate clock close by to watch for the roll-over to 12:00 PM EST. When it rolls over, reload the page and buy as fast as you can. If you’re trying from multiple computers, don’t use the same IP address or you’re more likely to get flagged as a bot and have to solve captchas.

What will you get? If you have contacts, you can earn between $300 and $800 profit for each set and a big chunk of miles. If you don’t, you can either chance selling yourself on ebay (I wouldn’t), or sign up for PFS Buyers Group and opt in to their deal. (This is not an endorsement of PFS, but they are reputable and they will pay. They will almost certainly not be the best commission option available, but you can onboard with them in minutes. I won’t be personally using PFS because I’ve got other relationships.)

A charred, bent, beat out of shape penny.
Check out that nice US Mint coin.

There are a few shopping portal bonuses with easy payouts for March:

For AA, buy a $100 gift card from for 6x and credit card spend and skip the extra $200 at a lower multiplier unless you’re buying something anyway through the AA portal (buyer’s clubs, personal use, gifts, etc.). My personal preference at is the Virtual Mastercard because you don’t pay shipping and they liquidate easy, but if you don’t currently have a way to liquidate those, you can either load it onto your Amazon balance or buy the physical variant.

For the other two, I’m going to be unloading my American Express Platinum’s Home Depot $50 credits twice and buy some cleaning supplies for in-store pickup, once with each toolbar. Make sure you uninstall the toolbars after you buy so it doesn’t mess with future portal earnings.

Is this a lot of work for a small reward? I’m having a hard time deciding. It really doesn’t take long: possibly 5 minutes for the AA purchase and liquidation, and there’s a Home Depot almost literally in my back-yard. I also still need to offload the $50*2 Home Depot AmEx Credits too, but I’m on the fence as to whether the rewards are worth it. I miss when sold $500 Visas and Mastercards, it was a no-brainer then.

On a whim I searched for “home depot backyard”. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but it wasn’t this.

Office Depot OfficeMax (side note: worst business name yet) is offering $15 off of $300 or more in Visa Gift Cards, limit one per transaction. The deal lasts through Saturday March 13. Buy two $200 cards to get the biggest bang for your buck. Make sure you use a 5x card like the Ink Cash or an AmEx Business Platinum with the +4x office supplies offer attached. Also, make sure your card is linked to Dosh too; it’s not supposed to pay out on gift card purchases but it works anyway like flim-flam strawberry jam.

Liquidation? That’s slightly trickier with these because they’re issued by BlackHawk Network (BHN/Metabank). There are still a few liquidation routes from home available, or you’ll have luck at many grocery stores, or there are instances where these work at Walmart. Experiment some and don’t limit your Walmart game to money orders.

MS Hint: Remember how Visa is not the same as Mastercard? Well, not all Visas are alike either.

Flim-flam strawberry jam (bought with the proceeds of free ODOM cash).

News alert for the weekend: Visa and Mastercard aren’t the same thing.

Ok, yes, this is obvious, but please keep it in mind while you’re out in the trenches: Just because a technique fails with a Visa doesn’t automatically mean it’ll fail with a Mastercard. Seriously, many fall into the trap of never trying a Mastercard after a Visa doesn’t work. The difference in behavior is true of payment processors, merchant coding, cash advances, and debit card processors to name a few. It’s also true when dealing with both prepaid cards and with credit cards.

Another hint: Mastercard debit cards open more doors than Visa debit cards unless you’re at Walmart money centers.

Michelle from 'Full House' making an exasperated face with the caption 'Duh!'
Gee, thanks!

A few follow up items:

1. The SoFi matched round-ups deal is back in March. A quick recap: You turn on round-ups in the mobile app, create a “vault”, then when you spend with the SoFi debit card the charge is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is placed in your vault. SoFi will match those round-ups up to a total of $25 matched. Can you guess what I’m going to say next? Set up debbit to make 28 payments to XFinity of $0.10 in March. Of course, you can make payments with debbit to other stores and providers too if you don’t have XFinity.

Side note: It took me longer to type the above paragraph than to update my debbit config for $25. I wish I could always make $25 for 30 seconds of work; that’d be $3,000 per hour.

2. Reader Katie discovered that when you’re activating Ting burner SIMs, you won’t see port-out information on the account unless you set a password. Ting’s IT must be based on Citi’s IT; fortunately for them they probably don’t have $500 million to lose accidentally like Citi.

3. Another round of Amazon discounts is available for targeted Ultimate Rewards cards. Check for the offer here after ensuring that your Amazon account has at least one Ultimate Rewards earning credit card saved in your profile. As per usual, buy a non-Amazon gift card for resale and use a single point.

4. The promo code FLASH2020 is still going strong for buying fee free Vanilla Visa Gift Cards. These gift cards aren’t as widely discussed online as BlackHawk, MetaBank, or US Bank gift cards, so don’t treat them as behaving the same. Try some things with those Vanillas even if they don’t work with other gift cards!

The Citi wire transfer system user interface, soon to be adopted by Ting Mobile.