1. Rakuten In-Store has 1% cash back or 1x Membership Rewards at Food Lion stores, apparently valid for 75 days. An hour after making an in-store transaction, you have to re-add the offer to continue earning. Food Lion of course sells items other than food and lions despite its name.
  2. Yesterday we discussed the Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard‘s targeted monthly for the entirety of 2024. I wasn’t targeted then, but yesterday I got my own targeted offer via email and so did others. The offers are all good once per month each month of 2024, and are for cumulative spend at restaurants, groceries, and gas. We’ve seen:

    – $200 back per month on $2,000+ in spend, up to 12x
    – $150 back per month on $1,500+ in spend, up to 12x
    – $100 back per month on $1,000+ in spend, up to 12x
    – 20,000 ThankYou Points on $2,000+ in spend, up to 12x
    – 15,000 ThankYou Points on $1,500+ in spend, up to 12x

    For those of you who can’t math, the best version of this offer is worth $2,400, and that stacks with other category and spend bonuses throughout the year. There’s a reason that this card is the best Unsung Hero. (Thanks to Doug, FlashStash, Brooke, jeff2486, and Tom)
  3. AirFrance / KLM’s FlyingBlue program, the Technotronic of frequent flyer programs, has released its January promo award cities for discounted economy and business class point redemptions.

    Unfortunately, like the band Technotronic, there aren’t any US cities on this month’s tour. Montreal, Ottowa, and Toronto are included though, so there are still options for those of you in the Northeast (for flights, not a Technotronic concert. Sorry).
  4. American Express Offers has a card linked offer for $60 back on $300 or more at National Car Rental.

Happy Wednesday!

KLM’s answer to Eva’s Hello Kitty 777, the Technotronic livery, now flies twice weekly to Belgium.

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. American Express Offers site has a few new card linked offers:

    – 4,500 Membership Rewards after $300 in Delta gift card spend
    – 15x points on $300 in Delta gift card spend

    It’s possible for both of these offers to appear on the same card, and yes, they do stack, and yes, Delta gift cards have a decent resale rate.
  2. American Express has a targeted 20% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Singapore Airlines through December 31.

    The best use of Singapore miles continues to be for expanded availability in Business and First class on Singapore metal. They’re occasionally useful for domestic first class on United too.
  3. American Express has a widely available 30% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic miles through December 31.

    The best use of Virgin Atlantic miles is domestic first or international business on Delta, or international first and business on ANA. Delta awards can be found with flexibility, and ANA awards can be found with timing.
  4. Alaska Airlines has announced that it’ll be buying Hawaiian Airlines in 12-18 months. There are two interesting bits here:

    – Alaska isn’t a transfer partner of any major bank currency, but Hawaiian is. You may be able to leverage transfers to Hawaiian in the future as a backdoor transfer to Alaska MileagePlan.
    – If you’re at all interested in a potential merger-arbitrage opportunity for Alaska and Hawaiian, you should keep a close eye on the Spirit-JetBlue DoJ antitrust trial for a potential blueprint of the future, closing arguments start tomorrow on that one.

Have a nice Monday!

The second easiest gig you ever got.

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

There’s a lot going on today, remember to focus on the bigger stuff and ignore the smaller stuff:

  1. H-E-B grocery stores have a $20 H-E-B gift card with the purchase of a $100 gift card in several travel related and bulk resale brands through tomorrow night, limit one per account. Your best options for resale is Home Depot, and Airbnb for travel.

    It may be worth a quick trip if you’re not already in H-E-B land if you’re confident in your ability to scale. It is possible to mint thousands of dollars quickly. (Thanks to GCG)
  2. Alaska has a paid and award ticket sale through Wednesday night. I’m seeing transcontinental flights, Hawaiian flights, and some international flights pricing at 7,500 miles each way in economy, short haul flights are showing at 4,000 miles each way in economy.

    The sale is for travel booked 21 days in advance for travel through March 9, and there are a few blackout dates in late February.
  3. The IHG mobile app has 20% off of paid hotel stays booked by tomorrow night for nights through April 30, 2024, and 15% off of points and cash stays for nights in January and February 2024.
  4. Amazon has holiday weekend shopping promotions for using a single bank point:

    American Express 40% or 50% off
    Chase Ultimate Reward 50% off
    Discover 50% off
    US Bank 50% off

    Of course you should combine these with buyers groups or gift card reselling activity when possible. If you’re not targeted for one of them, remove those cards from your profile, add them back, then wait a day and check again.
  5. Citi ThankYou Points are redeemable toward Apple e-gift cards today only with a 25% bonus (or 20% discount per Citi because they’re bad at marketing). The resale rate for Apple gift cards is well above a 20% discount making this a nice way to cash out ThankYou Points at above regular rates.
  6. Giftcards.com has 6% off of $100 Visa e-gift cards through tomorrow night with promo codes CYBER6, CYBERVISA, or VISACYBER, limit three per purchase. The limit makes it hard to get to $2,000 per rolling 48 hours but if you’re looking for cancels this is a low cost way to get there.

    These may be worth your time for American Express cards in particular, but only if you have a low cost liquidation channel, since portals are no longer tracking when a promo code is used. (Thanks to TeddyH)

The internet standard measurement of a banana for scale really isn’t big enough on cyber Monday. Instead, use comically oversized carrot for scale to filter through the madness.

Warning: There’s a lot of math in today’s post, but don’t worry, it’s the easy kind that doesn’t cause my P2 to break out in hives.

  1. PenFed has a $750 new savings account bonus for depositing $50,000 by the end of the year and holding it through April 30, 2024. The account earns 3% APR, and the bonus is effectively another 6% 4.5 APR. Last I checked, 3%+6% 4.5 = a good savings rate for cash. (Thanks to DoC, and Anthony)
  2. The American Express Business Platinum card has heightened bonuses via referral, now up to 25,000 Membership Rewards for the referrer and 150,000 Membership Rewards for the referred.

    Obviously 150,000+25,000 is less than the current sporadic offer of 190,000 Membership Rewards, but the referral offer is much less likely to give a pop-up. (Thanks to Gasongasoff)
  3. Capital One Shopping has a targeted $50 or $75 referral bonus for both the referrer and referee available, for a total of $100 or $150 in bonuses. A couple of reminders:

    – You don’t have to have a Capital One account to use Capital One Shopping
    – After approximately $1,000 cash back you should switch to a new account

    So, I guess connect the dots on this one.
  4. Based on news headlines in the space, affiliate credit card bloggers evidently have new access to a new Alaska Airlines Visa 60,000 mile sign-up bonus. As a friendly reminder, VPN into Southern California and use a link that has an embedded Google referral for a 70,000 mile offer if you’re going for the card, and probably go for some business cards at the same time too.
  5. Citi has a new targeted offer by email for a $30 statement credit with $350 or more in hotel spend through December 20. Check your inbox for the subject: “[NAME], Activate your offer today and start earning now!”
  6. Qatar Avios has a 25% bonus for incoming bank point transfers through November 30. For most of us, bank points with Qatar as a transfer partner means Citi or American Express.

    Typically these bonuses post in a week, but the T&C gives them 45 days of wiggle room.

Happy Tuesday!

Ok, this one might actually be hive inducing, sorry.

News

Before we dive back into the time value of points, there are a few relevant and leading news items to discuss:

Not only does maximizing the value of your points require burning early and often, but it also necessitates hitting smaller products with outsized value harder than products with average value.

Revisiting the Time Value of Points

With those notes in mind, we can derive an equation for the time value of points. If it doesn’t render correctly in your email client, see the website here. (And yes, I’m sorry to put you all through this, but sometimes I can’t won’t help myself):

FV = PV \times (1 + r - (q \times d) + i)^n \times (1 - p)

Where:

FV = future value
PV = present value
r = any promotional increase of value in a given period
q = the probability of a devaluation in a given period
d = the rate of devaluation in a program in a period
i = interest on points earned in a period (there is a program that does this)
n = the period (time)
p = the probability a program shutting down and wiping out all value

(Thanks to Jon for noting that the original version of this post lacked a definition for i)

The Point?

Is this formula useful? Sort of. It’d be more useful if someone would write a quick calculator web site. Do I actually expect anyone to use this formula? No, not really for anything other than mental gymnastics.

Points and miles still devalue, and sometimes they devalue a lot. Don’t forget that the second part of this site is titled “And Burn”.

Pictured, left to right: MEAB with glasses; The entire churning community after this post.

Financial goons will be quick to tell you about the time value of money, which is a basic concept in economic theory that says money is worth more now than it is in the future, in part because:

  • You can earn interest immediately on money you have now
  • Thanks to modern monetary policy, inflation will always eat away at money’s value
  • Opportunity cost (which is sometimes added directly into either or both of the above)

The same concept applies to points and miles, but the factors aren’t quite the same. In the case of points and miles, they’re worth more now than the future because:

  • Devaluations happen
  • The redemption value of points is often tied to the cost of tickets (inflation bites here too)
  • Currencies get washed away
  • Miles and points don’t earn interest

What’s the takeaway? Burn those points as soon as practicable. Can you come up with a formula to describe this, asked no one? Yes we can, but no, I’m not going to do that today.

Have a nice weekend friends!

Yes, it’s time for the quarterly MEAB math nerd joke. Sorry, not sorry.

Apparently today I chose chaos by barking out orders at you like a 70s business man in a plaid suit with his feet on the desk and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. Sorry I guess?

  1. Do this now: Register for your targeted Q4 United MilePlay promotion. I got “book and take a premium seat one time by December 15 to get 5,000 bonus miles”, and the fine print says minimum $450 in base fare.
  2. Do this now: Manufacture Spend on all of your Bank of America cards today, up to $2,500 per card. You’ll earn your regular rewards +2% on cash back cards, and +2x on points earning cards.

    Note: There’s some debate about whether multiple cards for the same company are each eligible for $2,500 in spend. My opinion is that you’re eligible for $2,500 per main card account, regardless of the associated business.
  3. Do this never: Bilt points can now be transferred to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio, or for masochists that hate value, a 20,000:25,000 ratio in exactly 20,000 point increments. Frankly this is almost worse than redeeming Bilt points directly for a statement credit. If you’d like 100 bonus Bilt Points as a consolation prize for having to read this news, you can link your Marriott Bonvoy account to Bilt and you’ll get ’em.

Happy Thursday!

MEAB’s Thursday demeanor.