1. The Citi Shop Your Way Rewards Mastercard, an original Unsung Hero, is sending targeted spending offers for the new year. Mine:

    – 10% back in statement credits on $700-$800 in spend at restaurants, grocery, or gas

    This offer is good once a month for January, February, and March, so $240 over three months for the math challenged. Check for the subject: “[Name], activate your limited-time offer now for sweet rewards!”
  2. Reddit and Doctor of Credit are going nuts about some supposedly new Dell rules about order limits and myriad theories about what they mean. There’s quite a bit of alleged truthy information and mis-information floating in both places, so let’s talk about the rules as I understand without speculation. (These rules have been around since at least January 2022):

    – Any more than five orders in the last six months will get you tagged as a reseller
    – The time limits are rolling
    – If you order five items in a single order, that still counts as a single order
    – Cancelled digital orders do count against the limit, physical goods orders don’t
    – Just because you’re tagged as a reseller doesn’t mean your orders will be cancelled, but there’s a much higher likelihood of cancel if so

    Maybe it’s not as well known as I thought, but you can have multiple Dell accounts to side-skirt these limits, and the order limitations are on a per-account basis as long as you’re not flagged as a reseller. If you get flagged as a reseller, then all accounts at your address have the combined order limit, and possibly further restrictions like the inability to order digital goods. You can get the reseller flag cleared, but it’s extremely ymmv even if you talk to the right department and person, and you’ve got to get it cleared on all accounts at your address to boot.
  3. Chase’s Pay-yourself-back categories are now set for Q1, 2023:

    – Sapphire Reserve: Grocery, gas, and annual fee at 1.25 cents per point
    – Sapphire Preferred: 1 cent per point for nearly all categories
    – Ink Business Preferred: Internet, cable, cell phones, and shipping at 1.25 cents per point
    – Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited: Internet, cable, cell phones, and shipping at 1.10 cents per point

    Most of these cards get an extra 0.25 cents per point at select charities too. (Currently I can’t find an official list of the select charities on Chase’s website, though there are random lists on the internet which are likely correct.)

Happy 2023!

The official motto of Reddit’s Dell rules threat on January 1, 2023.

Introduction

Historically speaking the time between the second week of November and Christmas has been the biggest volume for manufactured spend in the year, at least during my career. That’s because:

  • Buying lots of Visa and Mastercard gift cards is temporarily normalized
  • Most stores run first-party holiday gift card promotions
  • Big gift card sellers run third-party holiday gift card promotions
  • Consumer electronics and other hot items for buyer’s groups are well stocked and often on sale
  • Nit-picky cashiers and customer service representatives are too busy to worry much about what you’re doing

If you want to participate in the gift card or buyer’s groups holiday manufactured spend cluster-hug, this weekend is a great time to get signed up with the major players so you have a liquidation channel and deal alert notification flow.

Gift Card Buyers and Resellers

In no particular order, most volume in third party gift cards flows through one of these buyers, all of which are considered generally reputable in the community, and I’ve checked with all of them and they’re ready to on-board for the holidays:

Buyers Groups

The following buyer’s groups are considered generally reputable in the community, and if you sign-up this weekend you should be on-boarded in time for black Friday:

Let me also offer some unsolicited advice: While you’re figuring out how buying groups work, stick with deals from Amazon and skip the other stores which can often require some voodoo to get working properly.

Good luck!

A manufactured spend prepper’s closet.

[For those of you outside of Kroger land, general principles about tackling problems may still be applicable.]

We’ve talked about the strange state of Kroger Fuel points several times this year, but there are new developments that warrant yet another one of these posts. Unfortunately things aren’t great and nearly every heavy-hitter manufactured spender that was utilizing fuel points in their strategies has had accounts irrevocably locked and lost at least a little money as a result. The updates:

  • Kroger now seems to have a dedicated team seeking fuel points abuse
  • Kroger is reaching out to some heavy hitters by email, asking them to explain the account
  • Accounts are being locked in near real time while loading, and it seems to be triggered by back-to-back purchases
  • Kroger is finding ways to correlate accounts, apparently even by the purchasing credit card
  • Kroger has shutdown an account mid-redemption

So, if you still want to play the game, you need to stay under the radar. That means:

  • Get a new IP address before creating or accessing an account (some ideas here)
  • Use a new incognito window when creating or accessing an account
  • Use a new credit card number when buying (AU and employee cards can help)
  • If you do back to back transactions, use multiple cards and Kroger accounts
  • Load fuel points at a drip over several days
  • Redeem fuel points back-to-back, as quickly as possible if outside of your own geography, or as a slow drip if within your own geography

The window is very much closing on this one, stay safe!

The Kroger fuel points marketplace.

  1. There’s a new offer for turning your American Express Platinum and Business Platinum Clear credits into a $75 Uber voucher. In the past you’ve only needed a new email address to get these to work even if you already have Clear, and I assume this time is no different.
  2. Meijer has a promotion for $50 off of $500 in many third party gift card purchases. This is the less lucrative version of this offer versus a straight discount, but still generally very lucrative. Notable exclusions are Apple and Amazon, and worthwhile inclusions are BestBuy and Home Depot. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. There are multiple reports in the MEAB slack and elsewhere that Mastercards from MyPrepaidCenter have been fraudulently drained since late last week, likely from a site-hack based on the data-points and given that the site was offline for much of yesterday. If you have any of those cards, I’d suggest you drain them as soon as possible, or at minimum double check the balances. If you have cards that were compromised you should be able to dispute the charges and get your original balance back, but it’ll probably be a slog.
  4. Check your email for a targeted offer from Discover bank for $100 or $150 bonus for brining either $10,000 or $15,000 in deposits into the bank by the end of September, and maintaining an average balance of at least that much through the end of November. The terms and conditions are here. (Thanks to 5 via MEAB slack)

A scammer liquidating a gift card.

Kroger fuel points are an integral part of the bulk gift card reselling market, perhaps more-so in 2022 than any other year. They’ve boosted that bulk market even further by running nearly non-stop 4x fuel points promotions on third party gift cards, including one that started on Wednesday and runs through Tuesday, September 20.

As we discussed in August though, something is rotten in the state of Denmark Kroger: The company is actively targeting suspected fuel points resellers and has seemingly shut down more accounts in the last couple of months than in the entire prior history of the program. It’s gotten so bad that I know of a single individual that had fuel points accounts worth over $10,000 frozen without recourse.

Without further ado, here’s a Q&A session that I held with my alter-ego to address questions that have been swirling around various groups and chat forums:

Q: What’s the trigger for an account that’s shutdown?
A: Datapoints are literally all over the place, and as of now we don’t really have a great idea.

Q: What does a shutdown look like?
A: At the pump when trying to redeem points, you see the message: “Invalid Loyalty ID”

Q: Can my fuel points account be unfrozen?
A: So far, I’ve not heard of a single success story or workaround

Q: How widespread is the shutdown risk?
A: It seems to be a minority of fuel points reseller accounts that are affected, but there’s a big “but”

Q: What’s the big “but”?
A: I’m so glad you asked. Even though it’s a minority of accounts that are shutdown, when a one of reseller’s accounts is shutdown, often so are a bunch of other accounts held by the same reseller

Q: How can I protect myself going forward?
A: I’d say three things:

Q: Should I cut the fuel points game out?
A: I don’t think so, just be careful and follow my usual manufactured spend advice: never have more outstanding than you’re willing to lose if everything goes wrong

Have a nice weekend friends!

Just be careful, and you too can still be the Kroger fuel points GOAT.

Introduction

A conversation I overheard yesterday at a local coffee shop:

No-one: …
Absolutely no-one: …
Kroger: Hey I’ve got a fresh idea, how about 4x fuel points gift cards this weekend?
Third party gift sellers: [facepalm]

In a move that could only surprise someone with advanced dementia, Kroger is indeed having another 4x fuel points sale on third party gift cards between Friday and Sunday. In case you’re keeping track, we’ve had fewer than a dozen days since June without a 4x fuel points sale, and as a result the gift card resale market is depressed, like Tony Soprano season 2 depressed.

A Rocky Year

Fuel points either partially or completely offset the loss taken from selling bulk gift cards and are therefore a huge part of the bulk gift card market toolkit. In prior years Kroger fuel points were the easiest grocery point to deal with by far. But this year, Kroger has started to throw wrenches into the works:

It looks as though Kroger isn’t happy with its fuel points program and is actively taking steps to change how it works. In the meantime, bulk buyers and bulk sellers are being cautious and volume has plummeted, presumably until the dust as settled and we have a better idea about what’s working and what’s not.

What Seems Safe?

So far I haven’t heard any reports of accounts with fewer than 20,000 fuel points being targeted, so 20,000 may be a soft capacity on accounts for the near-term future. It also seems likely that account age is part of Kroger’s silent blocking algorithm, so your long-term personal account is probably safe.

Here’s the bright-side I guess: Buying an Amazon gift card at Kroger will definitely earn you a few fuel points for your own use, and that discount beats fake discount Amazon gift cards sold directly by Amazon.

Happy selling!

Misunderstanding how Kroger fuel points work.

Fall promotions are finally ramping-up, starting with the following:

  1. Do this now: Register for Hyatt’s new Q3 promotion for 20% back on award stays at Hyatt Independent Collection hotels between July 5 and September 5, up to 30,000 points back.
  2. Kroger is running another promotion for 4x fuel points on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercard gift cards through July 12.

    Major fuel points buyers have been largely silent on capacity for this round, partially because it’s the end of the month (and points expire the month after they’re earned) and partially because the market has become saturated. I expect that on Friday we’ll see additional buying capacity but not at the volume that we’ve seen in the past. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. PayPal has another credit card variant, and this time it’s issued by WebBank instead of Synchrony so there are likely shenanigans ready to play. This card is a 2% cash back everywhere Mastercard with no annual fee, so a rival to the Citi Double Cash, only if you get shutdown here you might lose PayPal too.
  4. Check each of your personal Chase credit cards at chase.com/mybonus for additional spending bonuses on grocery, gas, and home improvement. Offers have been reported for:

    – An additional 5x on up to $1,500 in spend (Hyatt, Marriott, United, Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Southwest cards)
    – An additional 7x on up to $1,500 in spend (IHG)
    – An additional 10x on up to $1,500 in spend at Starbucks(Sapphire Preferred, Freedom Flex)

    Eligibility starts on July 1 and runs through September 30, and it stacks with other bonused spend. (credit here)

Happy Wednesday!

Leaked: Kroger’s future promotion, brought to you by the same team that delivered 4x fuel points for effectively three months straight.

  1. As reported by some weirdo on the internet known for being apocryphal yet this time with a trustworthy source (DC Domer via MEAB slack), the glitch affecting Membership Rewards cash outs and partner transfers was resolved yesterday afternoon. 🎉 
  2. Southwest has run its first major schedule change for flights from early September through early November, though the number of impacted flights is smaller than is typical which could mean there will be another round of changes, or it could mean Southwest is changing the way it rolls out schedule updates.

    If you have flights booked in that window, now is a good time to see if you’re affected and rebook if the updates don’t work for you. Southwest allows you to change to any other flight between the same city pairs ± two weeks when a schedule change affects your itinerary. (Thanks to Brian M via MEAB slack)
  3. Do this now: Register for Q3 spending categories on major 5%/5x rotating category cards:

    Chase Freedom and Freedom Flex: Gas, car rentals, movies, and some entertainment (Disney parks included)
    Citi Dividend: Gas and home improvement
    Discover IT: PayPal and Restaurants
    US Bank Cash+: Utilities and electronic stores are probably best
    Bank of America Cash Rewards: Gas and online shopping are probably best

    Expect ideas on manufactured spend for these categories soon.
  4. American Express has been sending out new Pay-over-Time 20,000 or 30,000 point offers every week for over a month. Not everyone that’s eligible receives an email or mailer because American Express, but fortunately it’s easy to check via these links:

    Link 1
    Link 2
    Link 3
    Link 4
    Link 5
    Link 6

    It doesn’t take a super-hacker to see the patterns in those links, so I suppose it’s really easy to look for alternate links that aren’t yet known. (Thanks to DoC, reddit, and my inbox for these links)
  5. Kroger has a 4x fuel points sale on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercards running from today through Sunday. Unfortunately the fuel points resale market prices continues to drop, and this sale won’t help it recover. I think we’ll see depressed fuel points and gift card prices through at least mid-July as a result

    There’s also widespread reporting that Kroger has started to shutdown accounts that were created with the anonaddy.com service, so I guess be careful and remember that only you can prevent wildfires.

It may seem like the US Forest Service is being literal, but in reality they’re referring to Kroger burner accounts.