Introduction

Manufactured spend typically does strange things to your perception of dollar values. Let’s illustrate through some made-up internal monologues with corresponding made up numbers that you may encounter along your journey to mastery:

[Newbie]: $3,000 over three months for a sign-up bonus? *Overwhelmed* That’s a lot!

[Intermediate]: $15,000 for a Business Platinum over three months? Shouldn’t be an issue

[Advanced]: $50,000 for a Capital One Business card sign-up bonus? I can do that this week

[Whale]: $100,000 a day, every day for a month? 🤏

Basically as you advance, bigger numbers don’t look so big; a $35,000 ACH into your bank account looks like just another boring Wednesday.

The Deep Freeze

Of course it’s all fun and games when profits go up and point balances explode, but something tends to happen to people that operate somewhere in the advanced – whale spectrum:

  • Shutdowns
  • Account freezes
  • KYC calls

When one of these events happens, you may find your $35,000 ACH held for up to six months, and your perception of the dollar amount will probably come crashing back to reality, like Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne mission.

The Takeaway

Alright, let’s get to the concrete, actionable content for the day:

Make sure you’ve got a plan in place for if and when your exploits come to a screeching halt, and don’t ever put yourself into a position where a freeze of accounts at a particular bank or issuer will ruin you financially. Some common insurance policies for big spenders: Untapped HELOCs, margin loans at brokerages, balance transfer checks, manufactured float, and cash reserves.

Happy Wednesday!

Elizabeth Holmes says “🤏”, and she turned out ok, right?

  1. Kroger has a 4x fuel points points promotion running on third party gift cards from today through Sunday which makes it a good weekend to knock out minimum spend or to maximize your American Express Personal Gold grocery annual capacity provided you have relationships in place with gift card and fuel points brokers.
  2. In addition to Tuesday’s US Bank $400 business checking bonus, there’s now a personal checking and savings bonus of $600 with promo code 2023JAN. Requirements for the bonus:

    – Direct deposit $6,000 or more across at least two deposits in 90 days
    – Deposit $25,000 in the savings account by February 28 and keep it there until May 31

    In general it’s a bad idea to keep a deposit account at a bank with credit cards that you care about, but US Bank and Bank of America both make approvals and churning more accessible to account holders, so churners should keep the account but not use it.
  3. Staples has fee free $200 Visa gift cards on sale running Sunday through the following Saturday, limit eight per transaction. They’re Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place.
  4. Most domestic narrow body Delta flights will have free WiFi starting on February 1. Regional jets and wide body flights will be hit or miss until the end of next year.
  5. H-E-B has a digital coupons for a free $25 H-E-B gift card with the purchase of a $150 Delta, Uber, Lyft, or Southwest gift card through Tuesday. There’s a less exciting $25 H-E-B gift card with a $200 airbnb gift card too. You can scale this one with multiple loyalty accounts. (Thanks to GCG)
  6. Avelo Airlines, the Houston Texas based airline that doesn’t actually serve any cities in Texas, has apparently partnered with Capital One, and the partnership includes a better sign-up bonus for the Venture card than is otherwise available:

    – 75,000 Capital One non-transferrable miles
    – $200 statement credit on Avelo purchases
    – Priority boarding on Avelo for the first year

    Avelo’s pedigree includes aircraft and operating certificates from Casino Express, an airline that answered the question: “Can you profitably provide service form the most anti-vice, ultra-conservative city in the nation (Provo, UT) to sin city (Las Vegas, NV) and still make money?” The answer turned out to be yes, duh. (Thanks to I_COMMENT_2_TIMES)

The airport taproom and tavern at Provo Municipal airport in Provo, Utah features a selection of the city’s strongest ales.

  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.

  1. Bank of America has a promotion on Saturday, November 5 for an extra 2% back or 2x bonus miles on all non-cash advance purchases, which really means any normal spend or normal manufactured spend. In preparation:

    – Open another round of Bank of America cards as soon as possible
    – Make sure your credit lines are paid off by November 3rd
    – Set aside time on November 5th to maximize your earnings
    – Bypass the Preferred Rewards 90 day waiting period by opening a business account in branch and asking to be part of the program

    And some related but general advice prosthelytized by Sam and Robert at Milenomics: You should always be ready with a basic game plan for when a big event like this lands so you can spring into action.
  2. Giftcards.com is back up to 8% cashback on the mobile Capital One Shopping portal. Just watch out for the $2,000 gotcha.
  3. Kroger online has $10 off of $150 or more in Visa or Mastercard gift cards through Tuesday
    with promo code OCT2022, and you’ll earn fuel points to boot. While Kroger offers better cards in-store, the online variety is Metabank. (Thanks to GC Galore)
  4. Shop n’ Save stores have $10 off of $100 in Visa or Mastercard gift cards through Wednesday, limit five per account. These are also Metabanks. (Thanks again to GC Galore)

I can’t argue that this isn’t a plan, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind.

  1. New American Express Pay-over-Time 20,000 Membership Rewards links, make sure to leave Pay-over-Time enabled for 120 days to avoid any penalty boxes:

    https://americanexpress.com/activatenow38
    https://americanexpress.com/activatenow39
    https://americanexpress.com/activatenow40
    https://americanexpress.com/activatenow41
    https://americanexpress.com/activatenow42

    Any guesses about what the next link will look like? Yeah, me neither.
  2. Check your American Express offers for $50 off of $100 or more at Dell for purchases through October 20. You can stack this with another offer for 10% back, and with the Business Platinum’s $200 credit for a net of $275 in spend.

    As of this writing Dell is also 10x at Rakuten, meaning you’ll get 2,750 Membership Rewards or $27.50 cash back on top of the credits.
  3. Do this now: Register for Hilton’s Q4 double elite qualifying night promotion.
  4. The Chase Ink Premier card is now available for online applications. The sign-up bonus is $1,000 after $10,000 spend in three months, and the annual fee is $195. The card earns:

    – 2.5% cash back on purchases of $5,000 or more
    – 2.0% cash back otherwise

    Unlike other ink cards you can’t transfer the points as Ultimate Rewards to another premium Chase card, so this is a pure cash-back play. The Bank of America Cash Rewards family of cards are effectively 2.625% everywhere cash-back cards with Preferred Rewards, so in general those are better options for anything other than the sign-up bonus.
  5. Simon.com/volume has 72% off of purchase fees on Visa and Mastercard gift cards. The usual warnings with these: these are Metabanks, American Express won’t award cash back or points for Simon transactions, and never feed the mogwai after midnight.

For some reason my computer isn’t giving good results when I try and compute the pattern of Pay-over-Time links.

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.