1. People that know me well know that I like to mentally explore bad ideas even if I wouldn’t do them, and this item definitely falls into that category. So I don’t recommend you do this, but if you have both a Chase Sapphire Reserve and a Chase Freedom Visa you can come out ahead with $600 in travel credits on the $550 annual fee every year. To do so:
Spend your Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit
Downgrade your Sapphire Reserve to a Freedom Visa for a prorated annual fee refund
Upgrade your other Freedom Visa to a Sapphire Reserve, pay a prorated annual fee
Spend your new Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit
I think that there’s a distinct possibility that shenanigans like this will get you axed by Chase and I wouldn’t do it, but it’s worth illustrating because the same thing will probably work at other banks with other products that you care a lot less about, and learning the trick could come in handy in the future. (Thanks to discussion over at reddit for pushing me in the right direction)
In what has become an annual MEAB tradition for an unbelievable streak of two years in a row (if you include this year), it’s time for another installment of Travel Hacking as Told by GIFs. The 2020 version was, naturally, a rousing success. Time for another one of those, or something.
Virgin Atlantic Devalues its Award Charts and Expects us to Book Anyway
Remember how merchant coding didn’t pass properly to AmEx via PayPal and everything was a “global restaurant” when you bought with PPK? I do. sniff
Citi Pay-By-Phone Accepts New Cards
When the new year ticked over, a new year’s worth of expiration dates started to sail through, and we celebrate.
American Express Master Value Injection 2.0
Personal Platinums get $30 at PayPal. Co-brand business cards got $10-$20 off of wireless services. Co-brand personal cards get $10-$25 off of dining. It all resets every month! Also, business Platinums get +4x in four categories. We’re happy at first…
American Express with Master Value Injection Redux
By March, we realize we’re working for American Express to cash out a dozen small monthly credits, and it feels like we’re getting nowhere fast while we try and twirl through our credits.
Bank of America Launches a Spirit Airlines Co-Brand Card
Someone really thinks we’ll go for this? Also, 40,000 miles is stingy, even for Spirit.
Maybe the “4 for us deal” isn’t quite as lucrative as “3 for all” for heavy hitters, but it’s a great consolation prize to close out 2021. I got one for me and one for P2, but wish I had tried even harder.
American Airline’s SimplyMiles Roller Coaster
We’re all going to get 240 miles per dollar. No wait, we’re not. No, it’s going to post! Then it posts! Then it unposts! Then it posts! Then it unposts!
The Dust Settles and 240 Miles Per Dollar Actually Shows Up
Former US Airways management proves that it can still make a deal that puts other deals to shame, even though they can’t make a sandwich.
Links were allegedly stolen from source code, reddit /r/churning mods had massive infighting, links were released to the public to hide serious abusers in a crowd, inevitably a bunch of shutdowns occur, and one of the perpetrators walks away unscathed. This could honestly be an HBO mini-series.
Flight Attendants on British Airways Celebrate the Reopening of US Borders
BA1 marked the return of leisure travel to the United States, or at least that was the plan before Virgin Atlantic stole the crown. Fortunately, Miles Earn and Burn has obtained exclusive footage from the safety briefing so we can all take part in the early celebration.
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways Orchestrate Simultaneous Takeoff
It’s always the ball you don’t see coming, right? American Express shut down accounts for cardholders that had opened one or more business cards with the help of a particular employee, and without regard to literally anything else. Imagine opening a single Business Platinum card in 2018 and then having this happen in 2021…
Sometimes we need to have a picture of what we’re offered to keep a company honest. I prefer using a phone or computer’s built-in tool, but if you’re part of any Slack or WhatsApp groups, you’ll know that not everyone feels the same way.
Your Friend Asks You What It’s Like to Fly Eleven Hours in Coach
Uh, we literally have no idea. If it’s not a lie flat, then we haven’t done it. We might look rugged and experienced, but honestly we haven’t been past row 16 or so on a widebody aircraft since, I don’t know, ever.
GoBank Discontinues Its Card
When notice came in mid-August that GoBank was shutting down in favor of Go2Bank, MSers swiped repeatedly at Walmart to offload gift cards (including Metabank) while they still could.
Brex Gives us Hundreds of Thousands of Points for Very Little Effort
Employees that shared your name but with roman numerals were never more exciting! This deal is still scheduled to run well into 2022 on many business cards by the way; you just have to call and ask, because I guess you’re just supposed to know that AmEx has phone only offers and to check periodically?
A few probers out there knew that GivingAssistant was really good at awarding cash back even when other portals wouldn’t, like buying Apple Products on BestBuy.com. Did our experimenting cause it to fall apart?
Miles Earn and Burn Celebrates a One Year Anniversary
You may have figured out by now that I’m not big on ceremony for the sake of ceremony, so you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I spared you all from another “WE JUST TURNED ONE YEARS YOUNG!!” blog post. But, the anniversary technically did occur.
The Worst Credit Card Takes a New Tact
I don’t yet have a formal Unsung Villains series to match the Unsung Heroes series, but if and when I do the Mastercard Black Card card will be at the top of the villains list. The thing is, they know that their card is bad so their marketing department has to stretch. Recently they’ve started advertising that their card is heavier than the competition. Wow, you mean my wallet can get even thicker?!? Sold!
I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate everyone’s support over 2021. Thanks for your emails, your Telegram messages, your Slack and Discord groups, and your Patreon memberships. I’m really here because of you.
Many FinTech companies tie their account to a phone number, so scaling them requires new numbers
Many referrals and referral bonuses work by referring another phone number
Many online stores use a phone number for two factor authentication and as a back-door way to quantity limit
If you’re shutdown by, I don’t know, Dell or AA, a new phone number is a big part of spinning up a new account
Many amazing mobile phone deals or mobile service deals require porting in an existing phone number
Burner phone numbers give you scale, access to great deals, cheap phone swaps and upgrades, and help you recover from different types of account shutdowns.
Getting New Phone Numbers
Burners are part of the game, but not all burner telephone numbers are equal. For example, free phone numbers from TextNow can’t be ported out, and often companies and services will recognize and block these and other VOIP numbers. Phone numbers from Google Voice usually aren’t eligible for referrals, referral bonuses, or porting out bonuses. Companies have closed the obvious loopholes.
Ting: Most of the year you can get a SIM card with a new phone number for $1 at BestBuy and Target. The SIM card comes with $30 in credit which covers all the time you need to port out a number
Google FI: Using a referral code will get you $20 in service credit, which will more than cover the couple of days that you’ll need to hold a number to port out
Mint Mobile: You can get a seven day “trial” service for $2, also at BestBuy and Target. Unfortunately you have to ask customer service for your account number for porting out so I prefer the above options to Mint
Once you’ve got phone numbers from the above, you can either hold them for long-term use or use them to unlock new deals.
Holding Phone Numbers
If you want to hold a phone number long-term, there are a few cheap options:
Google Voice costs $20 to port-in, but there aren’t further fees afterword
Talk about burying the lead eh? Everything above was to bring us to this point. December has some crazy good phone deals, and I’ve linked to some of the best ones here but others are available. Note that if slickdeals says one of the below deals is dead, it’s lying. As always, if you go for one of these deals make sure you use a portal for cash back.
With the T-Mobile deals, you can open a “Talk and Text only” plan for $20 per month, or switch to that plan right after opening. T-Mobile will automatically unlock phones after about 45 days but will do it sooner when asked. Visible will unlock phones automatically after 60 days. Metro will unlock phones after six months. There’s also a way to unlock phones with AT&T SIM cards if you’re crafty.
Coincidentally, The Daily Churn Podcast just released an episode on flipping iPhones which is quite complimentary and relevant to the above.
What Scale Looks Like
I’ve been through at least three dozen Ting phone numbers in 2021 alone, and I feel like I could have done quite a few more but frankly I just focused on other things. With most of these deals, you can do five to ten in a single sitting, so it doesn’t have to be a slog.
I also know of a particular reader who did over a hundred lines with a particular Visible deal in a single month, and I’m sure there are people out there who’ve done more than that.
You’ve got just a little over a week and a half before “reset to factory defaults” happens on just about everything we do. Set aside a bit of time to take care of the following this week:
1. Spend any American Express credits in Uber Eats or Uber, and remember that your December Uber Wallet size is quite a bit bigger than other months when Platinum cards are involved.
2. Check for any annual fees that posted and call the bank for a retention offer, or just chat online if the bank is American Express. Some sample phraseology: “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 12-13 months to avoid getting popups that deny credit card bonuses in the future
3. If you have an American Express co-branded personal card (Marriott, Delta, Hilton), make sure you’ve attached the dining offer to your card and spend it soon. The easiest way to do this from home is to buy an exact value Amazon Meals gift card on Fluz. As always, find a Fluz referral from a friend to make their day if you don’t have an account already, they’ll earn something and so will you.
4. Make sure you’ve spent 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 is another option.
5. 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).
6. Finish off any Q4 5x bonused spend on Chase Freedom cards, Discover IT cards, US Bank Cash+ cards, Citi Custom Cash cards, or similar.
7. 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 their memory after the calendar rolls, so keep that in mind.
8. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit, and remember that it works on groceries this year too.
9. Use your American Express Platinum $200 airline incidental credit, Chase Ritz Carlton $300 airline incidental credit, or PenFed PathFinder $100 airline incidental credit. United TravelBank is a great way to do this. On the American Express card, make sure you’ve selected an airline first. By the way, you can change your airline selection at any time as long as you haven’t yet used any during this calendar year, just call or chat with AmEx.
11. It’s time for some shenanigans with American Express Clear credits (yes, there are options) so burn those or gift them to a friend. Side note: Soon, it looks like you’ll be able to buy Clear gift cards for resale.
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 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
1. American Express was clearly up too late Sunday night and was loopy from drinking a bottle of Tabasco and eating a jar of pickles on an empty stomach: As first reported by Slickdeals AmEx cards have some amazing and suspicious spending offers on the Membership Rewards family of cards. Reportedly offers have been seen for:
$1,000 back after spending $1,000 up to 3 times
$3,500 back after spending $2,000 up to 3 times
$4,500 back after spending $2,500 up to 3 times
Almost certainly this was meant to be a Membership Rewards points offer and not a cash-back offer, but well into Monday night the offer was still showing as cash-back. Check your cards here, and if you’ve got the offer I do suggest spending on the card on the off-chance that it works, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up with just Membership Rewards points as your bonus in the end.
2. A strange SimplyMiles deal has been percolating since Friday night, and honestly I didn’t believe that it was correct and didn’t want to waste your time while you tried to chase a lame unicorn, but I was wrong. What’s the deal? SimplyMiles is giving 6x on all of their outstanding offers for the first three redemptions on your account now through December 27, 2021. (In case you’re not aware, SimplyMiles is a card linked program for Mastercard issued cards that earns AA miles.)
The kicker is that Gary confirmed that that 6x doesn’t mean +6x, it means *6x, so a 40 miles per dollar deal actually means 6*40 miles, or 240 miles per dollar. The best offers on my account:
40 miles per dollar for donating to Conservation International, apparently an unlimited cap
6*40 = 240 miles per dollar with the offer
1,500 miles for a purchase of $45 or more at CVS
6*1,500 = 9,000 miles with the offer
1,500 miles for a purchase of $200 or more at BestBuy
6*1,500 = 9,000 miles with the offer
Those are pretty amazing offers and I did each one the moment the deal was confirmed to be real. Who doesn’t want an AA Web Special economy flight for buying a $50 gift card at CVS anyway?
Good luck out there, and may your day be even wackier than these two deals!
American Express launches us into the weekend with some great Friday news:
1. If you were shutdown by American Express for the Adam debacle, you’ve got a good shot at getting your cards reinstated by calling the number on the back of your card and asking for reinstatement. A few details:
Accounts reinstated on or after November 1st have all remained open as far as I can tell (versus those reinstated before that date which were quickly closed)
American Express will charge you $25 per card reinstated
Offers remain attached to your reinstated accounts
YMMV on whether your points and cash-back are auto-reinstated
Not everyone is eligible for reinstatement
If I were shutdown and wanted to reopen cards with American Express, I’d be very selective about which cards to reopen. I may not want to reopen a card that was sitting in a sock-drawer and only open because of a sign-up bonus or retention offer, for example.
2. There are a few links for adding employee cards to your small business Green, Gold, or Platinum card, and while the offers vary, generally it looks something like 20,000 Membership Rewards for adding a new employee card and spending $4,000 in six months. You can do this with up to five employees for a total of 100,000 Membership Rewards points. You can check your offer here:
2. The rumor that Sam’s club has started to pay out portal bonuses on gift card purchases again has been confirmed (at least for me). Time to warm up those warehouse club bonused cards and your Rakuten Visa, or take advantage of the 7 days remaining on the CashApp Sam’s boost.
4. If you have any non American Express issued AmEx cards, use this page to add an offer for $10 back on $10 or more in spend at small business, up to 5 times for a total of $50 back by December 31. I added the offer to my US Bank Flexperks AmEx and liquidated by buying five $10 gift cards at the local coffee shop.
1. Reader Mark wrote in to let me know that the Target RedCard deal is back, this time worth $80 for each cycle (you get one coupon for $40 off of in-store purchases, and another coupon for $40 off of online purchases). Remember, you can churn this deal. I believe currently you have to wait 48-72 hours between closing a RedCard and opening a new one, which is different than how it worked over the summer.
2. The Point debit card currently has an offer for 15x at Nike.com (or 30x if you’ve gotten your new Point card in the mail), for up to $50 total in cash back. Nike is also currently 5x at the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and 10% cash back at RebatesMe, and historically physical gift cards have always tracked with portals.
Nike resale rates are around 91% right now, so for buying a $340 card the deal will be worth:
With RebatesMe, $53.40
$50 back from Point
$34 back from RebatesMe
-$30.60 resale loss
With Chase UR, $19.40 + 1,700 Ultimate Rewards
$50 back from Point
-$30.60 resale loss
1,700 Ultimate Rewards from Chase
Not bad for probably 4 minutes worth of your time. You can check the current shopping portal rates at cashbackmonitor, and as always, if you sign up for Point use a referral because the referral bonus is $100 while the public offer is $10. Get a referral from a friend, or reach out to me in a pinch.
MS Hint: These are just a couple of debit cards that could be part of your churning toolbelt. Get out there and find a few others, there are some crazy and valuable options.