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?

As I’m sure you know, many applications and techniques in our hobby require a mobile phone and maybe a particular application running on that phone. When it’s time to scale a deal that needs a mobile platform, don’t let the hardware you carry around with you be a limiting factor. You probably already know that I’m a big fan of burner cell phones, but that doesn’t mean that I carry six phones everywhere I go (even though I might use six phone numbers to scale a deal).

Even if you’re not trying to scale, even a single cell phone is annoying for lots of reasons: copy and paste are hard, you don’t have a full size keyboard, sometimes you get a phone call in the middle of a transaction, or your toddler wants to play a game on your phone.

Scaling and working around mobile phone limitations is easy with three Android emulators that run on Windows, Mac, or Linux:

Each one of these will let you:

  • Emulate multiple devices
  • Have multiple profiles
  • Set your “GPS location” to hide that you’re on The Skies over Texas for the fourth time
  • Use your computer’s keyboard, mouse, and monitor
  • Cut and paste like a human

I’ve heard from a couple of you that a barrier to using emulators is two factor authentication: when you get a text message code as part of logging into a service or for transferring a big dump of cash. Don’t let that stop you from scaling though, there’s no reason you can’t have the physical phone nearby to receive the code and then type that directly into the emulator.

Have a nice weekend friends!

Pictured: An interactive map to set your location in an Android emulator.