I didn’t understand what Happy Cards were or how they worked for a few years and I missed out on plenty of deals as a result. Don’t miss out like me. They’re an obtuse product on the surface, but it’s all actually quite easy. There are two flavors:

Flavors

Physical Happy Cards

These cards are made of genuine, bona fide electrified, six-car monorail plastic, just like non-premium credit cards, debit cards, or most other gift cards. These are the less desirable version for a gift card reseller because you have to go through a third party store (i.e. GameStop) with the Happy card to buy a gift card that you can actually sell. Often you can shop online at that third party store rather than making a trip to a brick and mortar location though. My favorite use case for the physical flavor is to use a “Happy Treats” card at gamestop.com to purchase an electronic Steam gift card, which has resale rates of 90-93%. Often you can buy Happy Treats cards at a 20-25% discount.

An interesting side note: these gift cards are really just Visa gift cards that are hard coded to work only at certain merchants. As a result, there were loopholes that let you cash them out in the past. Happy has since plugged all the holes that I’ve seen discussed in private groups, but there may still be more.

Electronic Happy Cards

These cards are really just an email with a digital code. You use the digital code at happycards.com to exchange it for a store gift card, which is also electronic and directly resellable. These are great because after a few clicks, your deal is complete and you can move on, no physical cards or trips to the store to worry about. I always prefer this flavor to the physical because it literally takes about two minutes and you’re done.

Types

There are dozens of types of Happy cards, for example: “Happy Treats”, “Happy Mom”, “Happy Dad”, “Happy You”, etc. The only difference between all of the types is where they can be used. For example, Happy Treats can be used at Regal, GameStop, Cold Stone, Yankee Candle, Ulta, and Sally. You’ll also find that the same stores will appear on multiple types of Happy Cards: GameStop shows up on Happy Treats, Happy You, Happy Dad, Happy Grad, and probably others.

Fin

There are great deals to be had on Happy cards throughout the year, especially around major holidays (like I don’t know, maybe Labor Day for example?) Watch for them — they’ll almost always turn into credit card spend, profit, and sometimes portal cash back.

A genuine, bona fide, electrified six-car monorail.

By now, I think you all know how I feel about the American Express Platinum changes, but in case you don’t the short overview is: “great for sign-up bonuses, awful for ongoing value.” Along with that mantra, there are a few things you should know about the American Express Platinum cards and maybe it’s time for you to consider going for a few of them for the sign-up bonuses or for the spend bonuses:

  • The Personal Platinum card has a 125,000 points offer with another 15x at restaurants or small businesses up to $25,000 in spend. I’d definitely use the AmEx Shop Small lookup tool to explore how to take advantage of this. Obviously if you can buy gift cards at a local “small business” grocery store you can easily make this a multiple thousand dollar card after maxing out your 15x capacity.
  • The Business Platinum card has a generic 150,000 points targeted offer that shows up sometimes in your “offers” section of the card. Login to American Express first, then click the link so you don’t have to hunt for the offer, it’ll tell you if you’re targeted or not.
  • The Brokerage Platinum cards from Morgan Stanley and Schwab both offer 100,000 Membership Rewards and 10x at restaurants and small businesses up to $25,000 in spend, in case you’re not eligible for the 15x offer you may still be eligible for one of these.
  • If none of those work for you, referring a friend or a P2 to a Platinum card will get you 5x at restaurants and small businesses up to $25,000 in spend, so there’s still a way to maximize the shop small ecosystem.

Now, how do you know if you’re eligible? Try and apply, and before submitting your final application you may get a pop-up window telling you that you may not be eligible because you’ve already had or you have the card. Or, you may get a pop-up telling you that due to your past relationship with American Express, you’re not eligible for the card. Here’s the thing though: If you get the first type of pop-up, you may still be eligible for the bonus. I’m not suggesting that you should do this, but recently people have been getting their bonuses despite getting the first type of pop-up during application (definitely only the first type). If you’re gutsy and you want that 5x/10x/15x shop small spend really badly like me, you may consider it worth the risk to try anyway.

Unrelated: Yesterday my table showing cost per points for portal bonuses didn’t take shipping into account. I’ve updated that so please take another look, and thanks again to Miles for letting me know. The punchline is that Southwest miles can be had for 0.777 cents per mile, United for 0.639 cents per mile, and Alaska for 0.816 cents per mile. I’m a buyer for Southwest and Alaska at those prices, I have too many United miles though to care.

A framed blackboard displaying the words "Small Business".
If I put one of these signs up by the register, will it count?

Let’s chat about bonus miles today with an eye toward gaming the airline mileage programs:

1. Public links are floating around for no lifetime language (NLL), high offer American Express Delta credit cards. You can probably get one to appear yourself by logging into your SkyMiles account and going through the process of booking a paid ticket; you’ll see on offer the last page before paying. In case that’s a lot of work for you, a public landing page has surfaced to check eligibility and skip the dummy booking: Click here and enter your SkyMiles number and last name to check for your account(s). These offers include a statement credit for spending on Delta too. (Thanks to DoC for the link)

Don’t forget that American Express currently has a five credit card limit (not to be confused with the ten charge card limit for cards like the Green, Gold, Platinum, or Centurion cards, they don’t count for this). People have played games to get around the credit card limit in the past, but I’m not one of them.

2. Another round of shopping portal bonuses has surfaced, and Alaska, United, and Southwest are all playing. In case you want to the play the game and win, Visa or Mastercards from Giftcards.com are usually the easiest way to knock these out without really buying stuff; of course the virtual variants work too but come with slightly higher fees.

To save you time, I’ve calculated how much it’ll cost in card fees and shipping to get each shopping portal bonus so you can decide if it’s worth it to you.

UPDATE: Miles (awesome name, right?) pointed out that these fees were calculated for physical gift cards, not virtual gift cards. So, shipping needs to be factored in, also some of math on physical gift cards requires taking a penny off in order to hit the lower fee amount, despite the posted schedule; but that doesn’t affect portal thresholds since the fee is included in the portal payout. Shipping fees are $1.99 per card, so updating is easy enough, the tables are now correct, and the article has been corrected. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

United

Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1001 x $100$5.94100 + 5000.990 cents per mile
$3501 x $100 + 1 x $250$12.88350 + 1,5000.696 cents per mile
$6001 x $100 + 2 x $250$19.82600 + 2,5000.639 cents per mile
corrected

Southwest

Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1251 x $125$5.94125 + 2501.584 cents per mile
$3001 x $50 + 1 x $250$12.88300 + 9001.073 cents per mile
$5501 x $50 + 2 x $250$19.82550 + 2,0000.777 cents per mile
corrected

Alaska

Bonus ThresholdGift Cards PurchasedFeesMilesCost Per Mile
$1501 x $150$5.94150 + 3001.237 cents per mile
$3001 x $50 + 1 x $250$10.88300 + 6001.208 cents per mile
$5002 x $250$13.88500 + 1,2000.816 cents per mile
corrected

There are two big caveats to remember: 1) I didn’t include any miles or cash back you’ll get from your credit card spend, and 2) I didn’t include potential liquidation fees that you may pay; hopefully that one is zero but YMMV.

At the highest threshold of each of those portal bonuses I’m a mileage buyer, even for United. But honestly, just barely for United.

Not the type of airline games I meant, but sure, why not?

1. Register here for your MileagePlay bonus offer from United. My offer was for 7,900 bonus miles for booking a premium seat fare that costs at least $350 in the next 78 days. Meh, I guess I won’t be getting 7,900 more miles from United this time. I do have about $1,800 in TravelBank credit for unloading my American Express Platinum airline reimbursements, but I’m not going to blow $350+ of it just for the punishment of flying in a United domestic “first class” seat, prolly on a CRJ-700 with a broken tray table.

2. If you have an American Express Marriott Bonvoy card, register here for 6x on several spend categories, up to $1,666 spend per category:

  • US Gas Stations (am I the only one who finds the “US” restriction strange?)
  • Airline tickets booked directly with the carrier
  • Car rentals
  • Transit (Uber Eats should count accidentally as I read it)

Out of all of those, I’d be only mildly interested in the Gas Stations because 3 x $500 Visa Gift Cards at 7-11 or Speedway would be easy and quick. That said, I was #bonvoyed and told I was not eligible when I tried to register.

3. Login to American Express, then try the following links for huge sign-up offers that are frankly really big, but you have to be targeted to be eligible (when I clicked apply on each, I wasn’t targeted which isn’t a surprise given my eleven American Express charge cards (thanks to DoC and DDG):

4. Check your non-Platinum flavored American Express cards for an offer for $179 off of Clear Membership. Watch out though, the hack for two Clear memberships for the price of one it won’t work out for the AmEx offer but does still work for the Platinum. (thanks to jerseyguy195)

5. If your Kroger fuel points account was locked in the 4x shenanigans, visit the Kroger website and print out an image of your loyalty barcode — you’ll be able to scan that at the pump and bypass the lock.

A depiction of my last United tray table geometry in First Class, though mine was worse than pictured.

1. Bookmark this link for accessing your American Express offers. This link is magical because you can see more than 100 offers per card, and offers show up here that didn’t show up elsewhere. (Thanks to DoC)

2. Yun let me know that the Visible deal is even better now: you now get a month for $5 when you sign up with a referral link, so you can now get $30 cash back, a $100 Mastercard, and a burner cell phone number for a total cost of $30 out of pocket when using a Visible Party. Don’t forget to use a virtual account number and follow these tips for a smoother deal.

3. I’m still toying with various options on the American Express Platinum entertainment credit, but this one may interest some of you: Get a free Echo Dot when you sign up for Sirius/XM for three months at $15 per month, which will be completely wiped away by the lame entertainment credit. I’d scale this with different email addresses as needed, other than I don’t want an Echo Dot. (Thanks to Fryes)

4. The Point debit card has a new offer for 5x at Amazon which is certainly ok but not the 10x that they had a couple of weeks ago, though still useful. This one runs through August 8 and is good for up to $1,000 in spend. I’ll probably just reload my Amazon balance on this round. They’ve also got 5x at Whole Foods, though at that level it’s definitely not worth a separate trip for me. There’s also 5x at Costco, which is worth thinking about, but just barely.

If you don’t have the Point card and you want one, make sure you sign up for it through a referral for a bonus. As far as I know the $250 referral bonus ended last Friday but hopefully I’m wrong and just don’t have that offer within my inner circle. As always, I’d rather you find a friend and use their referral, but if you don’t have another good option feel free to reach out to me for the $100 version.

Shia Labeouf holding a set of rings wearing a purple Unicorn shirt.
The conjuring of the American Express Offers magic link.

If you’ve read any credit card churning forum or blog in the last 24 hours, you’ve almost certainly heard about the Citi Premier 80,000 point bonus. It’s elevated and fine on the face of it, but nothing to go bananas over so don’t needlessly get sucked in to the hype machine. If you’re going to go for it though, don’t forget that you can get multiple ThankYou Point card sign up bonuses back-to-back even though it seems like you can’t on the face of it. The Citi Terms and Conditions are tricky, but the following points are relevant:

  • You aren’t eligible for the bonus if you’ve received a bonus in the last 24 months
  • You aren’t eligible for the bonus if you’ve closed a ThankYou Points card in the last 24 months

Do you see the wiggle room between those two bullets? It’s there, and it works. The trick is that you can apply for multiple Citi cards, (the Premier and the Prestige, for example), just don’t hit the spend threshold for the bonus points on any of the cards until after you’ve been approved for all of them. Then, you can hit the spend threshold on each and get the bonus on each.

Side note: Astute readers will note that I mentioned the Citi Prestige, which is apparently discontinued for new account holders. But, don’t believe everything you’ve read on the internet, you can still apply for it through a Zombie link! (Thanks to David for the link.)

So, if you’re eligible and you think the deal is good at 80,000 points, why not shoot for 210,000 points for two Premiers and a Prestige? Or if you’re gutsy, 260,000 points for two Premiers or two Prestiges? Or some other combo, potentially including other cards? Just keep in mind that Citi will auto-deny your application if you have more than one approval every eight days, but there’s always reconsideration (or, just wait eight days between applications). Thanks to Cari for the clarification.

PS: There are other Citi hacks, just “look into history to learn more” as the muppets say.

A rube goldberg style complex chain-reaction machine
The delicate inner workings of the credit card hype machine

Fuel points have become a big part of the manufactured spend landscape because they’re really valuable and as fuel prices go up, the market for them goes up too. Kinda like the ocean went up (in flames) this weekend. Oh, too soon?

Now, a software bug at Kroger means that since Wednesday, gift card purchases are earning 6x instead of the expected 4x promotional rate and as a result, the fuel points chatter in various MS groups has blown through the roof. Kroger appears to be trying to fix it — multiple times for multiple hours on Friday and Saturday only 2x, or sometimes 0x, was awarded at the register. So far though no permanent change has emerged.

There’s a further rub too, on Friday reports started coming in that say Kroger is shutting down accounts that generated huge fuel point balances, and it seems to be triggered by calling them which puts eyes on your account.

Side note: a hack that some take advantage of but I never felt comfortable with is that you can call Kroger, let the automated system know you’re missing fuel points, and as long as you tell it that 2,000 fuel points or fewer are missing, it would auto add them to your account… until last Thursday that is. Now reportedly the system transfers you to an agent after you tell it about missing points, and likely that puts eyes on your account.

Where am I going with all of this rambling? Now is a good time to earn fuel points, but keep your balances reasonable and keep eyes off of your account when you game the system. That last bit is good advice in general.

The boat in the upper left is the Kroger IT Department trying to put out the fuel points fire

A new set of bonus offers for American Express Personal and Business Platinum cards started floating around on June 16, via email and regular mail. The best versions of these offers are for 20,000 Membership Rewards points for adding an authorized user or employee card and spending $2,000 with the authorized user’s card. For both the personal and business platinum, there are no-fee versions of the extra cards, so don’t think you need to pay $175 to get an employee Platinum card or something. This weekend, there were some new developments that are worth mentioning:

  • A link surfaced for the Personal Platinum card’s version of this bonus with 20,000 points for each added Authorized User (log in to americanexpress.com first, then click this link to see if you’re eligible).
  • It’s been reported on Reddit and confirmed by several people (including me) that you can call in and probably get the Business Platinum version of the offer even if you didn’t get email or snail mail about it. If you call, just be nice and say something like: “I’m wondering if there are any bonus offers for adding employee cards to my business charge cards.” Remember, employee cards at American Express are special — you can activate them without a social security number and they’ll stay open for 60 days.

If you go for either of these deals (I would and did). Perhaps ask yourself “How can I scale this?

A picture of a woman laying on a curb using a slice of pizza as a pillow.
Go home AmEx, you’re drunk.