I’ve wanted to join a particular credit union (thanks to an MS angle or a niche credit card) or to temporarily relocate (for a $2,000 credit card sign-up bonus), but I didn’t work for the right company or live in the right area so I wasn’t eligible more times than I can count. I also don’t let that stop me, and neither should you.

What can you do in these situations? There are a few options:

  1. Look hard at affiliated groups and companies. Could you volunteer for 30 minutes at the Humane Society and become eligible? Could you donate $1 to a local NPR station, perhaps? What about calling and talking to the bank or credit union and letting them know you’re considering moving to the area and wanting to establish a relationship?
  2. Consider whether and how validation might be performed. What if I gave blood at the Red Cross, does that make me a volunteer? How far back would their records go? What if I donated as a kid, does that count? What if I used to work for Arby’s? Are they even going to attempt to validate anything? Is the language in the terms and conditions loose about current versus prior relationships?
  3. Look closely at geography. How tight is the language about living in a particular area? Could an overnight hotel rental be considered as good enough? What about a seven day mattress run? What about a 30 day vacation rental? What if my company has an office in the area? What if my brother lives there?

If none of those things pan out, another option is to just lob in an application and see if they approve it anyway, and yes, sometimes that works too.

Remember, always be probing and think outside the box. Or, if this article is the box, think inside the box.

Walmart thinks outside the box about the definition of a company’s front desk.
(Thanks to SideshowBob233 for the image)

It’s been a whopper of a week for deals, and today continues the trend:

  1. Mason was the first to let me know that American Express Business Platinum 99 employee card offers are back and seem to be widely targeted (they appeared on my Business Platinums too). The vitals:

    – 20,000 bonus points per employee card after $4,000 in spend in six months (effectively 6x)
    – Limit of 99 employee cards, for a total of 1,980,000 Membership Rewards
    – Must hold card open for 12 months

    The six month timeframe is better than the prior offers on the Business Platinum, though the spend isn’t as generous as we saw for a brief period on the Blue Business Plus card. Right, junior? Or should I call you senior?

    This is the second American Express offer that’s risen from the dead this week. If you’ve squirreled away any pay-over-time offers, authorized user card offers, upgrade offers, or anything else really, you might find that it’s worth your time to try those links again.
  2. There’s a new way to cash out your various Clear credits: Sign up for Clear and get a $75 Uber credit. This offer has language suggesting you actually need to complete enrollment at the airport, but let’s just say I doubt that’s true.

    Personally I’d rather take advantage of the United 15,000 miles version of the offer with any remaining Clear credits, but sadly that offer expired. (Thanks to jcarberry)
  3. Do this now: Register for 5,000 bonus points per stay at Raddison hotels for stays through June 30.

Pictured: Junior and senior meeting minimum spend on employee cards.

Introduction

Let’s get something out of the way before we discuss: Return fraud is real, and I’m not suggesting that you do anything like it. That said, there are a number of reasons that you may want to make correlation between a charge and a refund difficult, for example when you’re working with bank sign-up bonuses at a bank that rhymes with “mace”. Here’s an annoying and real issue with this bank. Let’s suppose that you:

  • Apply for a credit card with a sign-up bonus after spending $4,000
  • Spend $3,992 on random things
  • Spend $10 on three bottles of kombucha, which triggers your sign-up bonus posting and makes this transaction special
  • Notice mold in the kombucha, and return it, which gets your $10 back and leads to a clawback of your bonus (again, that transaction was special)
  • Buy something else to push you back over $4,000, but the bonus doesn’t post
  • Open a case with the bank and wait 6-8 weeks for it to resolve

We could fix this in a few ways, for example by returning two bottles in one transaction and a third bottle in another transaction, or by buying a stick of gum in the same transaction as returning three bottles so that the refund amount doesn’t match the original purchase amount. Either way, we’re preventing the bank’s algorithms from matching the original purchase with refund.

Airfare Specific Tricks

Thinking about how to break automatic correlation is a fun mental exercise, can save your sign-up bonus, and is potentially interesting for other reasons too. Now, let’s discuss getting the same effect with airfares. Some angles work in general while others are airline specific. To set you on the right path, consider the following:

  • Buy a refundable airfare, switch it to another slightly more expensive flight, pay the difference
  • Look for an upcharge that refunds automatically with airfare, like:
    • Pet charges
    • Seat selection fees
    • Cabin upgrades
  • Buy a refundable airfare, and call the airline to book into a higher fare bucket
  • Change a refundable ticket to a cheaper flight to get an immediate partial refund

See, mental exercises are fun too!

Only at MEAB can we correlate moldy tea with bank sign-up bonuses. You’re welcome I guess?

Employee Card Bonuses

First, let’s start with a bit of sad news: The various American Express sky-high bonus offers for 1.98 million Membership Rewards, $19,800 in statement credits or, 495,000 Delta SkyMiles on business cards (EDIT: the 495,000 SkyMiles offer still exists according to multiple sources!) for adding 99 employees all seem to be nerfed as badly as Russia’s ability to trade with US Dollars. The small bright side is that the offers still exist, but are limited to a bonus for up to 5 employee cards as of around Monday.

(In case you missed it and don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, from fall of last year all the way up to the past weekend you could call American Express’s customer service team for your Membership Rewards earning or co-brand business cards and ask, “are there any spend offers for adding employees to this card account?” The answer was almost always yes, and the offer was almost always a per-employee card bonus for up to 99 cards.)

Employee Card AmEx Offers

Now let’s parlay that into some happy news for those of us with stacks of employee cards on our desks: Employee cards can have their own American Express online account, and American Express offers like the current $80 off of $200 at JetBlue offer exist on employee accounts too. They’re treated as completely separate from the main account’s offers as long as the employee cardholder is a different person than the main accountholder.

So if you’re sad that you’ve burned through the employee card bonanza, consider setting up online profiles for each employee and maximizing your offers as a small morale booster. (Just think of all the blue colored corn chips you could eat with 99 JetBlue $80 discount offers. Also, consider your heart and probably don’t actually eat all of those chips.)

Pictured: Results from a governmental case study on excessive consumption of blue corn tortilla chips.

Let’s talk today about what’s going on with our collective zeitgeist: Getting $10 off at Amazon when using $0.01 in Discover Cashback rewards PayPal Key has been officially made redundant by its corporate overlords; the is product going away on either April 20 or April 21 depending on which PayPal communication you believe.

I’m not sure that there’s ever a good time to get bad news like this, but it hurts even more coming just a few short days after the zigening. Let’s discuss.

Background

PayPal Key was launched in late 2020 as a weird attempt by PayPal to get into the middle of your credit card transactions for data harvesting and product stickiness. It gives you a virtual card number to use in place of your credit card and you can choose which credit card you want to actually be charged when your Key is used. Of course gamers are going to game, and it was quickly discovered that:

  • PayPal Key generated virtual card numbers with one of two BINs: 558158 or 520593
  • Companies like FinTechs, payment processors, tax processors, rent collections, and others often treated one or both of these BINs as debit card BINs

Why is that useful? Fees vary greatly for processing credit cards as compared debit cards. In extreme cases, debit cards might be 0% while credit cards have a 3.5% or higher surcharge.

What I’m Doing Now

There are definitely still plays out there that work, like the more-or-less-public plays for Public.app funding and rent payments. There are naturally several non-public plays too. One of the obvious responses to this news is to hit all of your plays as hard as possible while you still can. Before doing that though, consider the potential collateral damage of turning your PayPal Key shenanigans up to 11:

  • Your whole PayPal account could be shut down
  • Your underlying credit card(s) may be shut down from cycling or bust-out risk
  • The service you’re hitting may shut you down, locking you out of future plays

My initial instinct was to go as big as possible on my PayPal Key plays between now and the end of April, but I’ve tempered some of that enthusiasm to try and find a middle ground that keeps my cards and accounts alive while maximizing PayPal Key before it dies. I’d encourage you to do the same.

Let’s hope we all find the right middle ground so that we’re alive when the next deal surfaces!

PayPal’s Executive staff taking care of its P&L statement.

A popular and eerily strange idiom says “when others zig, you should zag.” You know the advice is good because it’s shared on LinkedIn all the time by random strangers and also Gary Kelly. (In case you don’t know the phrase, zig-zagging is going back and forth, so a zig is going one way and a zag is going the other way.)

Let’s bring this into context with the current unfortunate zig at Plastiq (from now on, let’s agree to call this the zigening). There were definitely multiple games being played, but one obvious variation was combining the Nearside Debit Card 2.2% cash back with Plastiq’s 1.85% discount from its normal 2.85% fee on debit cards for a net profit of 1.2% on payments. On Wednesday though, Plastiq started charging 2.85% which killed any deal potential.

So, let’s take the advice of internet randos and consider this an annoying opportunity to zag. Remember:

  • Nearside is not the only card out there
  • Plastiq is not the only way to pay bills
  • Bill payments aren’t the only way to effectively use a debit card
  • Different BINs behave differently in general

Happy weekend friends!

Weekend puzzlers.

It’s the second time this week for a grab bag of topics post. Hooray I guess?

  1. Do this now: Register for Wyndham’s current promotion, which gives you 2x on two night stays, 3x on three night stays, and so on up to 5x on five night stays.

    There is great value in Wyndham outside of the US (and a few properties in the US), and excellent value with Vacasa rentals booked with Wyndham points. As a reminder, Citi ThankYou Points transfer to Wyndham directly at a one-to-one ratio.
  2. If you have a Citizen’s bank account, check your email for a targeted offer of $150 back after two $500 direct deposits. As usual, use a business account that supports setting a memo field and set the memo to “Payroll” if you want to emulate a direct deposit. (Thanks to AbjectRaise)
  3. Kroger started a 4x fuel points on third party gift cards promotion yesterday and is running it through Tuesday, March 22. Fortunately, we’re past the beginning of the year lull in gift card reselling and spot-rates on major bulk gift card brands have crept up to make this a break-even deal or better, not including credit card rewards.
  4. You’ve got until Monday to apply for the $3,500 Capital One Spark offer (no link, you apply through any Capital One business relationship manager), or for the 100,000 point Capital One VentureX card. Believe it or not the first of those is much easier to get than the second.

    When I applied for the $3,500 Spark offer, the business relationship said to me: “We’re not like Citi, we don’t care if you spend, pay, spend, pay, spend, pay. We want you to spend as much as possible, then you make money and we make money.” I wouldn’t take that as gospel, but it’s definitely an interesting data point.

    Thanks to Allen and nutella via Slack for the reminders.
  5. Southwest has been rolling out schedule changes for June the last couple of weeks which means their schedule changes for July are likely to start next week. If you have a trip you want to book in July, you can pull the following stunt to try and get it for cheap:

    – Find the cheapest fare between your city pairs +- 2 weeks of your date of travel
    – Book the cheapest fare, and watch next week for a schedule change
    – Switch to the flight you actually want for no additional charge

    For a better shot at making this work, look for flight times that don’t exist in May or June but are still on the schedule for July.

Have a nice Thursday!

A Capital One business relationship manager coaches us on credit line cycling before going to jail.

Note: I’m now back from a disconnected vacation but still catching up. I hope to respond to everyone by the end of the day today though.

Let’s talk about a few interesting deals that have surfaced:

1. The Target Redcard debit card $80 sign-up bonus is back-again, (you get $40 off of $40 in-store and another $40 off of $40 online) with no hard-pull through March 15. As usual, you can churn this one during the promotional period and use a P2 to get the deal at least a couple of times for each person, see Target Redcard Hacks for more information.

Recent reports suggest that you should wait five business days between closing an old Redcard and opening a new one to avoid any hiccups.

2. Costco online is selling $500 Southwest and Alaska gift cards for 10% off. These may be ever-so-slightly interesting for gift card resale, but they’re definitely interesting if you’re looking at paid travel on one of those airlines anyway.

3. Kroger.com has $10 off of $150 or more in Visa and Mastercard gift cards using promo code MAR2022. Even if you don’t live in an area with Krogers you can still purchase these. The bad news? They’re not US Bank gift cards like in-store, but rather they’re Metabank gift cards processed by Blackhawk.

The other bad news? Your order will probably be cancelled if your account is less than 30 days old.

Any good news? Well, Metabank does issue different BINs.

4. There is potentially a $1,000 sign-up bonus for Chase Merchant Services according to Doctor of Credit. It’ll probably work, but there are caveats:

  • It may be targeted (but just ask if the offer is attached when applying)
  • If you play shenanigans with your Chase card portfolio, maybe skip this one to avoid any eyes on your accounts
  • Don’t run prepaid gift cards or your own credit cards through this account, find a trusted third party and use their credit card

Am I going to do this one? I honestly can’t decide. Also, who is asking me all of these questions?

Yup