AmEx’s New Deal

In Q4 2020, Q4 2021, and Q4 2022, American Express had special spend bonuses for cardholders that referred someone to a new card, seemingly a new annual tradition. Now, a new variant has surfaced and this one is tailor made for manufactured spenders as referrers with an increased sign-up bonus and reduced spending requirements for the referred. The deal:

A bonus 5x or 5% cash back on grocery transactions for up to $25,000 in spend for 90 days for the referrer, and a heightened bonus for the referred:

  • Platinum: 150,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 in spend and a $200 statement credit
  • Gold: 90,000 Membership Rewards after $4,000 in spend and a $200 statement credit
  • Blue Cash Preferred: $300 statement credit after $3,000 in purchases and another $100 statement credit

To find the referrals, check the account dashboard for your cards, or check the referral landing site. Note that as of this writing not everyone has these referral offers available, though based on past behavior they’ll probably roll out to everyone in the next couple of days.

Obviously you should prefer to refer from a personal Gold card that still has 4x spend capacity at grocery stores, because 4x+5x = 9x, so on $25,000 in spend you’ll earn 225,000 Membership Rewards.

Tricking It with Shenanigans

Ok, but what if the referred account member is in the AmEx penalty box or the new card application displays a popup warning that the application isn’t eligible for a bonus? Or, what if you don’t actually want another Platinum card to worry about? Who cares! It’s still easy to take advantage of the referral bonus because:

  • You can safely close an AmEx card before a year is up if you didn’t get a bonus
  • You can get your annual fee refunded if you close a new card in the first 30 days
  • As long as the referred gets a new card, the referrer is eligible for a referral bonus

So, do the following with no known negative effects on P1 or P2:

  1. P1 generates a referral for P2
  2. P2 applies for a new card and is approved
  3. [the sound of crickets]
  4. P2 closes the card after a week or so, and the annual fee is refunded
  5. P1 gets +5x spend at groceries for up to $25,000

Good luck friends!

I asked Stable Diffusion to imagine “credit cards, crickets, and shenanigans at a grocery store”, and well, there are indeed shenanigans here.

It’s been an open secret that certain types of debit cards give cash back, and a slightly less open secret that some cash-back debit cards are friendly to manufactured spenders by design. Yesterday, one of the recent favorites was nerfed for nearly all useful plays and now small spenders and heavy hitters are wandering through the stages of grief from a lost revenue source. Once you’ve moved through the stages, take stock and do the following:

  • Realize that the same plays work with other similar products
  • Remember what worked here for future probing
  • Look for alternative plays that work with the nerfed product under its new constraints

I’m sure there are still opportunities with the nerfed debit card, and I’m sure that other debit cards will step up and take its place. Keep looking, and have a nice Thursday!

Remember that even the lessons of being Bonvoyed can lead to new opportunities.

Gamers gonna game, and when they have a P2, P3, … Pn, the games multiply in both scale and complexity. Sometimes that complexity turns into a social problem when P1 makes a call to the credit card company on behalf of P2 or P3 (with their permission).

Specifically, suppose P2’s name implies a specific gender that doesn’t match the implied gender of P1’s voice. Sometimes customer service representatives don’t care, but sometimes they very much do and there’s a referral to the fraud team waiting for you at the end of the call. There are a few ways to address this:

  • Have P2 on the phone with you at the start of a call and ask them to give you permission to talk on their behalf, then take over
  • Add yourself as an account manager either online or over the phone ahead of time, then call as the account manager
  • Open cards with a more gender neutral nickname of P2‘s legal name

Let’s focus on the last item: It’s not necessarily well known, but all major credit card issuers will issue cards and accounts with nicknames instead of exact legal names, as long as the nickname relatively closely resembles the name. So, when you open the a new credit card for P2, consider whether a nickname might help you in the future. Some examples:

  • Robert → Roberta
  • Alexis → Alex
  • Beatrice → Beatri
  • Mary → Maryo
  • Vanessa → Vane
  • Tyler → Tyla
  • Josh → Jos
  • Victoria → Victor
  • Kieran → Macaulay

Obviously this trick should only be used with permission from your other players. Good luck out there!

Sometimes gender neutral names can be great for churning, just ask Fire Penguin Disco Panda.

There’s been recent discussion on both reddit and MEAB slack about American Express no-lifetime language (NLL) links, but information is scattered and not always consistent. So, let’s discuss:

Generic No-Lifetime Language Links

There are a few different flavors of no-lifetime language (NLL) business links out there. First, the generic versions which are always around and were last discussed here in April of last year:

The generic links are worth checking periodically, sometimes not a single one will work for a given account one day, and then all of them work the next day; American Express’s targeting changes quickly. It’s easy to pick out a generic link because the full URL is readable, something like:

I consider generic NLL links as completely safe for any account because they’re targeted, and American Express will prevent the application from processing if you’re not targeted.

Offer Code Specific No-Lifetime Language Links

Other times we’ll see offer code specific no-lifetime language (NLL) business links out there, such as the 250,000 Membership Rewards link that was hidden in this post. Those links look like:

The main distinguishing factor is the number at the end of the URL, an offer or marketing code. These links fall on a range from safe to scary.

It can be tricky to tell where a given link lies on that spectrum, but the scariest ones are “post-targeted” links, meaning that the link bypasses the targeting check part of an application workflow. You can typically tell if a link is post-targeted because the application flow doesn’t have anywhere for the popup to appear, it’s a single page with a submit application link at the end that doesn’t even need you to login.

Clawbacks and Shutdowns

What does unsafe mean when you’re using a link? It means one of two things:

I’m unaware of any shutdowns from using generic NLL links, ever. I am aware of of shutdowns for using offer code specific post-targeted NLL links, but the last confirmed data point is a couple of years old, which seems to mean that American Express cares less about post-targeted links than they used to for some unknown reason.

Going Plaid

This wouldn’t be MEAB if we didn’t discuss the possibility of a bit of shenanigan-like behavior, so let’s dive in friends: If you stumble upon an offer code specific NLL and you’re targeted for a generic NLL at the same time, you can probably be approved for both on the same day. Additionally, if you stumble upon a few different offer code specific links, you can probably be approved for both of those on the same day too. Always be probing!

American Express going plaid.

As I’m sure you’re all quite aware, 2022 is turning into either a pumpkin or into a potato in the next week and a half (depending on your preferred metaphor), and that means you’re nearly out of time for finishing off annual spend thresholds, bonuses, and credits. So, mind the following gaps:

  1. Spend through any of your remaining American Express, Chase Ritz Carlton, Bank of America, or PenFed Pathfinder airline fee credits, and consult this post for ideas if you’re not sure how to use them. If United TravelBank is your preferred method, do it today because last year TravelBank went offline in the last week of December and it could happen again this year.
  2. Liquidate American Express credits at Uber Eats or Uber, and remember that your December Uber Cash balance is bigger than other months if you have a Platinum card (or 11).
  3. Check for any annual fees that posted and call the bank for a retention offer, or just chat online if it’s is American Express. I usually say something like: “I’m thinking of closing this card because of its high annual fee, but before I decide what to do I was wondering if there are any retention offers or spend bonuses.” If you get an offer, don’t forget to add: “Are there any other offers available?” Sometimes there are better offers if you keep asking.

    American Express specific note: If you accept a retention offer, plan on keeping that card for 12 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses in the future.
  4. Spend through your $10 monthly wireless credits on each of your Business Platinum cards.
  5. Spend any $10 American Express Personal Gold dining credits. My go to is the local coffee shop for a coffee and a crepe which jumps just north of $10 on GrubHub. Buying physical gift cards at a ShakeShack or Cheesecake Factory is another option.
  6. Cancel any cell phone burner accounts that you’re done with (and for which you didn’t use a virtual credit card number that already expired).
  7. Finish off any Q4 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar, and don’t forget the emu farm option.
  8. Book any American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (or The Hotel Collection) stays with your $200 Platinum credit for upcoming travel next year, even if it’s speculative. Historically American Express’s systems lose some of their memory after the calendar turns; it’s not guaranteed but it’s worth a shot at gaming.
  9. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit with a refundable travel booking if needed. Yes, this credit is now tied to cardmember year instead of calendar year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t knock it out now if you haven’t already done so.
  10.  Use any American Express Saks $50 credits, but make sure you activate the benefit first. My preferred method is to stop by a physical Saks store and buy gift cards to resell at approximately 83% of face value, but if that’s not a good option for you, Agile.Travel put together a nice list of options for things to buy last year and it’s largely still relevant.
  11. Spend or sell any American Express Clear credits, or gift them to a friend.
  12. Check for any credit card spend bonuses that you may want to hit before the end of the year, like:

    – World of Hyatt Visa free night certificate after $15,000 spend
    – American Express Hilton Surpass and Honors Business free night certificate after $15,000 spend
    – American Express Hilton Aspire and Honors Business second free night certificate after $60,000 spend
    – American Express Delta Platinum MQM boosts after $25,000 and $50,000 spend
    – American Express Delta Reserve MQM boosts after $30,000, $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 spend
    – British Airways Visa companion ticket after $50,000 spend
    – JetBlue Visa Mosaic status after $50,000 spend
    – AA status with Loyalty Points

Happy Tuesday!

A January 1, 2023 portrait of 2022.

  1. Bank of America has increased sign-up bonuses in their mobile app:

    – Business Travel Rewards: 50,000 points after $3,000 spend
    – Platinum Plus: $300 after $3,000 spend
    – Customized Cash: $500 after $3,000 spend
    – Unlimited Cash: $500 after $3,000 spend

    Most of these come in both Visa or Mastercard flavors, and definitely don’t forget about Bank of America shenanigans if and when you apply. (Thanks to cardhelp2)
  2. If you have Hyatt Explorist or Globalist status, you can register for a targeted four months of AA status, provided you link your accounts by December 12 and register by December 28 on your AAdvantage profile’s promotions page. You’ll get:

    – Explorist members: AAdvantage Platinum (equivalent to most airlines’ Gold / 50k status)
    – Globalist members: AAdvantage Platinum Pro (equivalent to most airlines’ Platinum / 75k status)

    To maintain the status for the next elite year, Explorists need to earn 25,000 points and Globalists need to earn 42,000 points within the four month window. Both can earn Executive Platinum status by earning 67,000 points in those months. Likely the easiest non-shenanigan way to earn loyalty points is 3x at and buy with an AA credit card for another 1x.

    Of course there are always shenanigany ways to earn Loyalty Points for probers.
  3. Do this now: Register for Best Western’s bonus 10,000 points per stay for all stays through February 5 booked by December 4. Sorry if you end up at a Best Western though.
  4. United has coach award flight deals to Europe, Asia, and Australia for 30% off if you hold elite status, a Chase United card, or both. Book by December 2 for travel between January 9, 2023 and March 21, 2023.

“Man prepares for shenanigans” – In real-life sepia.

If you were a programmer at a bank and you had to code a bonus category for a particular vendor, say like earning 32x Membership Rewards points on flights to Mars booked through Deep Discount Mars Trips, how would you do it? You’ve got a few decent options for how you might award a bonus based on:

  • A particular merchant account and payment processor
  • A particular merchant category code (MCC)
  • A specific merchant name, like “DEEP DISCOUNT MARS TRIPS LLC”

Of course you don’t have to pick just one of those, good banks and good programmers will do two or all three. Of course, there are some FinTechs out there that take the easy way out and do the bare minimum, for example, searching for “MARS” in a charge’s name and awarding 32x if the letters are found in the charge description. When that happens you’ll earn 32x at:

  • Marsha’s Grab and Go
  • Cactus and Marshes LLC
  • The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium

Often the FinTech programmer figures out that they’ve made a mistake and will fix the bonus award by implementing a blocklist instead of fixing it the right way, so the logic is: Award 32x if “mars” is in the charge description, but not if the description is “The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium”. Because of course they do.

Well, in the cat-and-mouse game with FinTechs, there are often ways to name-mangle your merchant description to side-skirt blocklists, for example by paying with a service like PayPal which will prepend PAYPAL MARK* to the front of your charge description, leading to 32x again.

It should probably go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: bonus street cred if you use one FinTech product to mask the charge for another FinTech. Happy hunting!

The Marshmallow and Vacuum Emporium, ripe for earning 32x.

  1. Miles discovered a new variety of Target Redcards, the Target Redcard Reloadable. It’s mildly interesting for the $40 + $40 sign-up bonus, but probably more interesting for shenanigans other reasons in the same vein as the Target Redcard Credit Card.

    So far it appears to be a Serve/BlueBird like product on the Visa network. It also appears that anyone that has a Serve or BlueBird gets denied during application, so ymmv. (Thanks to Miles via MEAB slack)
  2. AA’s partner card-linked program SimplyMiles and Citi Merchant Offers are again conspiring to help you earn loyalty points for getting luke warm food delivered or for a first class car ride to the airport in the back seat of a 2003 Chrysler Sebring. The offers:

    – 465 AA miles on a $25 Uber Eats order, one time (this earns loyalty points)
    – 235 AA miles on a $15 Uber ride, one time (this earns loyalty points)
    – $10 back on a $25 Uber Eats, one to three times
    – $5, $10, or $15 back on a $15 Uber ride, one to three times

    The SimplyMiles offers mention that taxes and fees are excluded, so make sure the base cost meets the threshold in case they actually enforce that.
  3. Do this now: Decide which of these you like better: Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hilton, and then link your Lyft account to the appropriate one:

    Alaska: 2x miles per dollar spent at Lyft through December 31, then 1x
    Delta: 2x miles per dollar spent at Lyft on airport rides, 1x otherwise
    Hilton: 3x points per dollar on most Lyft rides, 2x on shared Lyft rides

    Personally I’d just link to Alaska and be done with it.
  4. Southwest has 30% off of flights booked by today to and from Hawaii for travel from December 1 through March 8 of next year using promo code GOHAWAII. Double check existing bookings, and make sure to pack a meal when you fly unless a bowl of stale pretzels and some off-colored crackers float your boat.
  5. Capital One has announced its November mileage transfer bonuses:

    – 20% bonus to British Airways (use for short haul AA flights or transfer to Qatar Avois for business class redemptions)
    – 20% bonus to Accor hotels (don’t use)
  6. Astra Finance, a popular tool for manufacturing direct deposits, will stop working on December 16. (Thanks to ChurnChurnChurn)

After a car-wash and some duct tape, your Uber Eats driver will deliver your cold Whopper in two hours or less; but most importantly, it’ll be delivered in style.