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.

I guess it’s patriotic to tie the number four into a post on the 4th? To be honest I wasn’t really listening during my Patriotic Blogging 101 course in college, so let’s just assume that I’m right and roll with it. I know I will.

  1. Visible has $45 in cash back (or 4,500 Membership Rewards) at Rakuten for the fourth of July holiday and it stacks nicely with a few other offers. We’ve seen better around black Friday, but if you need a burner phone number for shenanigans, this is a great deal for this time of year. You’ll get:

    – $50 Mastercard from Visible for porting in a number (like a $0.99 Boost number)
    – $45 cash back or 4,500 Membership Rewards via Rakuten

    And your cost will be:

    – $5 with a referral (with a current Chase or Bank of America offer for $20 off of $25) for the first month
    – $20 with Party Pay for the second month

    Of course, you can use the same tricks to upgrade an old or very old phone to a new Moto G Pure android for negative cost.
  2. There are targeted Chase offers for:

    – 15% back at United for airfare
    – 15% back at IHG and several Marriott brands

    The total cash back varies by account and can be as low as $10, or as high as $40.
  3. Check for a targeted spend offer from Barclays personal cards via email for 5x rewards at grocery, drugstores, and restaurants up to $700 in spend. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. Meijer has two Visa gift card deals, and one works even if you’re outside of Meijer land. Just be sure to scale with multiple MPerks accounts and use them all back-to-back as quickly as possible, like La Jolla, San Diego in 2012:

    $5 off of $100 in Visa gift cards online, these are Metabank cards
    $10 off of $150 in Visa gift cards in-store, these are either Sunrise or Metabank depending on which you pick (I’d definitely pick the former)

    (Thanks to Stephan at GC Galore)

Have a nice holiday!

Blowing up a Meijer terminal La Jolla style with hundreds of MPerks accounts. Go big or go home, amirite?

There are several catch-all liquidation options in the hobby, for example, BravoPay/Famigo at effectively 3.5% cost. I’ve seen a few people leave a stack of gift cards on their desks for months at a time, waiting for a cheap liquidation option instead of cashing out with fees and moving on. I hate to remind you of the current state of the US economy, but a gift card left on your desk for five months is effectively costing you 3.5% or more anyway, so using a high-fee service to cash it out immediately can be a strategic decision.

There are a few other reasons you may want to use a high-fee liquidation option:

  • You have a card that doesn’t work at your normal liquidation channels, or is otherwise tainted in some way
  • You’re bed-ridden either due to sickness or extreme laziness and don’t want to go to the local grocery chain for a money order
  • You live in Manhattan and none of the popular, nationwide chains exist in your area
  • You’ve maximized your capacity to liquidate at lower cost, and you have more cards coming in than liquidation capacity going out (this sounds like a problem from a differential calculus textbook)
  • You’re earning at 12x and can easily afford 3.5% liquidation

What’s my point? High-fee liquidation can make sense and you should add it to your tool-bag for manufactured spend. Just don’t use it as a crutch to avoid probing for lower fee options, which generally do exist for essentially every type of card out there.

Pictured: Liquidating at 3.5% may not look good, but it can sure feel good.

The Deal

Meijer is running its best promotion for a manufactured spender, an instant 10% discount on $500 in purchased gift cards after clipping the digital coupon. The sale runs today and tomorrow, limit one per MPerks account. The deal excludes a few major gift card resale brands like Apple and Amazon, but does work on others like Nike, Home Depot, Adidas, Best Buy, and Disney.

There are years where it’s been worth traveling to Meijer land just to take advantage of this deal, but thanks to effectively a month of crazy Kroger fuel points deals, rates and demand on major brands are at a local minima. As a result, it probably only makes sense to travel into the region if you’ve got quite a few 99 AmEx AU card offers to blow through or you can find a cheap way to get there.

A Reader Report

At the last of these Meijer sales in November, 2021, reader Mike booked a roundtrip flight to Ohio for a Saturday day trip. His experience:

  • He had a little over seven hours between his outbound and return flights
  • He made 15 MPerks accounts the night before, but that only lasted him a couple of hours
  • He traveled to six stores over the course of his time on the ground
  • He bought 36 $500 BestBuy gift cards for $450 each
  • He took his time but believes he could have been much more efficient with a plan

At the time resale rates for BestBuy were about 97%, so with $35 per BestBuy card in profit, he netted about $1,260 in cash and $18,000 in grocery store spend.

A favorite trope in the manufactured spend community is that “all manufactured spend is local”. The good news is that we can just redefine local with a quick trip.

Fly-over country becomes fly-to country. If not for Meijer, it’s for, err, whatever this is.

Since American Express has effectively consumed the majority of this month’s posts with their ludicrous, new-Subaru-MSRP-valued offers, it seemed fitting to send the month off with discussion about scaling and financial reviews based on chatter in and around the community.

Scaling

American Express is more tolerant of massively scaled spending than any other big bank, but keep the following in mind:

  1. AmEx doesn’t care about cycling your credit lines. You can spend up to your credit limit, pay it down before the statement closes, and then spend a bunch more.
  2. AmEx does care about an explosion in spending. If you typically spend $5,000 per month and then spend $300,000 in two weeks, you could end up with a financial review. For rough numbers lets say:

    – A quick ramp of 3x to 5x of your normal spending is probably OK
    – A quick ramp of 20x+ of your normal spending is probably not OK
    – A slow, multi-month ramp to 20x+ of your normal spending is probably OK
  3. AmEx doesn’t care if you spend multiple times your annual business revenue on business cards.
  4. AmEx often cares if you spend multiple times your annual income on personal cards.
  5. AmEx doesn’t care about round numbers — 30 to 50 repeated $1,000.00 transactions won’t cause any problem, provided you’re playing by the above rules.
  6. AmEx won’t typically shut you down immediately if you violate the above rules, instead you’ll end up with a financial review. (Shutdowns at AmEx are more like being in the wrong place at the wrong time unfortunately.)

Financial Reviews

When American Express finds behavior it doesn’t like you’ll get a call asking for a financial review. When you get a financial review, American Express will usually ask:

  • “Why are you spending so much at TurboGiftCardsNow.com?” (Answer: to separate my expenses of course)
  • “Why did you start spending so much more this month than normal?” (Answer: big business contract)
  • “What’s the source of your income?” (Answer: my job and the big business contract)
  • “Can we see your tax returns for the last two years?” (Answer: of course, here’s a signed 4506-T form)

AmEx usually suspends your charging privileges during a financial review and they typically take two to four weeks to complete their investigation. Assuming the income reported on your tax return meets or exceeds the income you put on your card applications, you’re almost certainly in the clear and you’ve essentially got a green light to keep the shenanigans rocketing toward the moon. Then you can go inception and use all those Membership Rewards to buy yourself a Subaru with your American Express to earn even more Membership Rewards to earn another Subaru.

Have a nice weekend!

Recharging your new 99 employee-card funded electric Subaru for another MS run.

PayPal Key was supposed to die on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, but Saturday marks the actual date of death according to the county coroner’s office. I hope you got an extra $25,000 in daily spend after the publicized last use date and if not, take a note for the future that deals don’t always die when they’re supposed to die.

With that out of the way:

  1. As a followup to last week’s American Express Employee Card Offers post, I’ve now received three separate reports of second batches of 5 employee cards posting a bonus after the bonuses posted for the first batch of 5.

    The obvious takeaway is to call and add 5 more employee cards every day until you’ve got the limit of 99 total employee cards, assuming you’ve got the spend capacity to support it. (Thanks to Jay, Rob, and GlockLT4)
  2. Office Depot/OfficeMax (can we please drop one of those two names yet?) has $25 back in rewards for spending $100 on Happy or Giving Good gift cards through May 7. Don’t forget to link your credit card to Dosh for an extra 2% back, don’t forget to create multiple rewards accounts and multiple Dosh accounts to scale as desired, and do note that rewards typically take a few days to show up in your account.

    Frankly this is a much better deal for me than the typical Visa / Mastercard fee free deals t because you can buy a Happy or Giving Good card that converts to Home Depot and sell for 90-92% of face value, putting you ahead by a nice percentage while still getting an office supply store spend bonus and without dealing with a pesky money order. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  3. Meijer has $50 back in Meijer rewards for buying $500 in gift cards through May 7 for most third party brands (or you can break this up into $5 off of $50 increments if you like pointless extra work). I’d focus on Home Depot and BestBuy gift cards as the best for resale value, scale with multiple MPerks accounts, and double check the excluded brand list if you want a different gift card.

    You can’t buy gift cards with MPerks rewards to create an infinite loop, but you can buy frozen pizza so there’s that.

Frozen pizza from Meijer can protect you from dealing with this abomination, or if this is your cup of tea, I guess you should buy Pizza Hut gift cards? Just don’t tell me about it.

Before we start, don’t forget that the death of PayPal Key is upon us. Hopefully PayPal forgot to schedule the shutdown you’ve still got a few more hours, and if we’re really lucky you’ve got until tomorrow morning too. Finish strong!

With that out of the way, there are currently two variants of American Express employee card offers floating around, and many of them have morphed over the last several weeks so it’s time to update the current state of the union.

First, the more lucrative version is a bonus for adding up to 99 employee cards. We’ve seen this one recently on:

  • Business Platinum (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $4,000 in spend, six months)
  • Business Gold (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $4,000 in spend, six months)
  • Business Delta Reserve (5,000 SkyMiles per card, $1,000 in spend, two months)
  • Business Delta Platinum (5,000 SkyMiles per card, $1,000 in spend, two months)

The less lucrative version involves a bonus for adding up to 5 employee cards, and we’ve seen it on:

  • Blue Business Plus (20,000 Membership Rewards per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)
  • Bonvoy Business Card ($200 statement credit per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)
  • Hilton Business Card ($200 statement credit per card, $2,000 in spend, six months)

The 5 employee card version can be repeated after a few days and the phone representatives seem to believe the bonus will apply again on the new batch, though the jury is still out as to whether that’s actually true. If you want to roll the dice, I’d get another 5 every day until you hit the limit on the assumption that the representatives know what they’re talking about.

And finally, a few final notes about these deals:

  • The 99 employee card variant seems to be a shotgun, all-at-once version. If you add 60 employees one day and call back later to add another 39, the deal will almost certainly be gone and you’ll be stuck with the first 60
  • We’ve seen deals on cards that were just opened and on cards that have been around for years
  • The offer seems to appear within a few weeks of opening a new card
  • Almost everyone is targeted. If you’re not, the answer is probably more spend
  • To check to see if you’re targeted for an offer, call the number on the back of your card, speak to a representative, and say “Are there any offers for adding employee cards to this account?”

Thanks to Boxy, nutella, DC Domer, SideshowBob233, Jim, and an anonymous contributor for datapoints on this offer. Now, let’s pour one out for our dying (dead) compadre, PPK.

(Update: Corrected the name of the Blue Business Plus card, thanks to Justmeha)

Celebrating the life of PPK a little too much.

  1. The I-Bond APR for the six month period starting on May 1 has been effectively locked in at 9.62%. There’s a lot of truthy noise around the I-Bonds right now, but there one point in particular that’s easy to miss: If you buy I-Bonds before May, you’ll get the current 7.12% interest rate for six months and the future 9.62% interest rate for another six months, so buy before May to buy if you haven’t already to lock in two high-interest rate periods. (If you think inflation at the end of the year will continue to soar though, wait until May to have your first six months at 9.62% and the second six months at whatever rate comes this fall.)

    For a nice primer on I-Bonds and why you should care, see this writeup at the Free-quent Flyer.
  2. You’ve got exactly one week left to abuse PayPal Key which sunsets on April 20. For PayPal Key options that let you schedule future shenanigans, perhaps spend a few minutes today to fill out the next seven days worth of activity.
  3. The Wyndham shopping portal is 12x at Dell as of this writing, which makes it a great time to spend AmEx Business Platinum $200 Dell credits. If you buy Xbox gift cards for resale to cash-out your credits, use the promo code GAME10 for 10% off.
  4. The AA shopping portal is awarding 750 miles for a new ESPN+/Disney/Hulu subscription as of this writing, and that pairs nicely with the expanded American Express streaming credits. It may also pair well with the eShopping portal bonus depending on the offer your account has.

    You may even be able to do this multiple times with multiple email addresses and multiple American Express Platinum cards, which makes the offer rather compelling for those of us with nine Platinum cards. (Thanks to Alex for letting me know)

ESPN-72’s compelling prime-time content. Worth it even without 750 miles, right?