As you’ve no doubt heard or experienced, you need a negative antigen COVID test taken no earlier than the calendar day before your flight to board a flight to the USA. In my recent travels I’ve seen people paying $200-$400 for a rapid test at the airport, or about half that for a test at their hotel. You don’t need to do that, and even better you don’t need to have a technician in a sterile room in a foreign country give you a brain tickle to get your test either.

There are two cheap, convenient options that I’ve used, both of which require essentially swirling a q-tip around the lowest part of your nose five times on your own schedule in the comfort of your own room while a proctor watches on your phone or webcam:

  1. FlowFlex tests ($9.99 at CVS, or possibly free from USPS if you’re lucky) with AZOVA proctoring ($20, can be scheduled ahead of time in 8 minute increments) UPDATE: Dr. Jay notes that other over the counter tests are eligible for AZOVA proctoring too, the list of tests is here.
  2. eMed BinaxNOW tests ($150 for a six pack, and it includes proctoring that can’t currently be scheduled ahead of time, but waits to complete a test are minimal)

With both of these, you’ll either use a laptop or a mobile phone application to make a video call to a proctor. The proctor will walk you through performing the test while watching via your webcam, you’ll wait 15 minutes for the test to complete, and then you’ll either take a picture or reconnect to a proctor to read the COVID result.

When you’re done, both services will email you a certified PDF of your test results suitable for getting into the US. In my experience a digital copy of the PDF is all I’ve ever needed, but if you have access to a printer it can’t hurt to have a physical backup I suppose, especially for airlines that haven’t yet figured out how to issue a mobile boarding pass.

One final note, the eMed BinaxNOW test packaging is rather unfortunately large: It’s about the size of a bulky journal. The FlowFlex packaging is much smaller though, about the size of a cell phone external battery. I typically pack two of them in my luggage before I leave the US with the extra one as a backup, though so far I haven’t ever needed the second.

Good luck!

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Q1 is nearly complete, so now we can ditch our New Year’s resolutions about not eating cookies and instead focus on the increasing deal flow:

  1. United and Clear have teamed up to offer 15,000 United MileagePlus miles for a new Clear account. Of course you should pair this with your American Express Platinum Clear credits, and by going through United’s link you can get a membership for you and a family member for a total of $179, equal to the value of the Platinum credit; effectively liquidating the credit for 15,000 miles.

    If you already have Clear and still have an AmEx with an unused credit, just sign up for a new Clear account with a new email address to take advantage of the offer. (Thanks to Gabe)
  2. Thursday’s Visible deal has a few updates and has gotten quite a bit better:

    – There’s now an offer that also includes a pair of Airpods which resell for around $125
    – As of this writing, the $200 Mastercard and Airpods offers stack with each other
    – Chase and Bank of America rewards both have an offer for $25 back at Visible

    When you stack all of these together you’re looking at $100 or less for the 2022 iPhone SE. (Thanks to MattD, Diana, and Austin via MEAB slack and email)
  3. Meijer MPerks has two great offers running to take us into Q2:

    – Buy $50 in third party gift cards through April 2 and get a $5 grocery credit deposited into your MPerks account up to 10 times. Or try a little less and get $50 back on a $500 gift card in a single transaction.
    – Get $10 off of $150 or more in Visa gift cards through Saturday. Meijer carries both Sunrise and Metabank gift cards, I’d go for the former if I have a choice. This one requires that you clip a digital coupon.

    As usual, scale this with multiple MPerks accounts.
  4. Staples is running a fee free promotion for $200 Mastercard gift cards through Saturday, limit 5. These are Metabank gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place. As always, try to run multiple transactions back-to-back to minimize your MS buying time.
We can even hack the definition of a cookie to stretch MPerks grocery redemptions. Who says it needs to be sweet?

Note: I’ll be on a mostly disconnected vacation this week, and while I’m still planning on posting M-F, expect slower than normal responses from me. If you do write a note though I will get back to you.

There’s a deal that’s been floating around the travel hacking and churning underground since fall, and while it’s a bit fragile for public consumption, I have no doubt a handful of you are taking advantage of it to generate real cash-back (especially Patreons). One of the problems with the play though is that volume eventually gets you shutdown, and because the deal involves a real bank, it’s natural to assume that a shutdown applies to a person and not just to that account.

You can see where this is going from a mile away, right? Sometimes a shutdown is only tied to a particular account login, and all you need to get going again is another login. There’s rarely harm in trying to open a new account after you’ve been shutdown, so don’t be afraid to probe. You might end up with a new account and new spend limits.

This image should really be the site’s mascot. Anyone wanna print up a few mousepads?

MEAB looking at papers, sitting behind a desk: Something big called the (checks notes) Superbowl is happening this weekend. Be on the lookout starting today for discounts on gift cards, increased sign-up bonuses, and huge portal bonuses, because nothing says American football like a $25 DSW gift card for $15.

Now with the general warning out of the way, let’s look at a few interesting specific plays:

1. Chase has a unique offer for those with a Southwest airline credit card, or for those that know someone that has one. Targeted cardholders are able to generate a link for a Southwest Visa that gives 30,000 Rapid Rewards points and a Companion Pass through February 2023 as the welcome bonus, provided the application is received by March 14. You can try your luck in generating a link here.

The referrer also gets 20,000 Rapid Rewards points.

2. Kroger.com has 5% off of fixed value gift cards between $25 and $100 using promo code FOOTBALL2022. Unlike the versatile US Bank gift cards sold in Kroger stores, these are Metabank gift cards. (Thanks to GC Galore)

3. If you have expiring Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (miles that you earned in 2019 or earlier), you can make them non-expiring by topping up your account with 30,000 new miles transferred from a flexible rewards currency, which for most of us means American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points. Miles earned in 2020 or later don’t expire. (Thanks to milelion, raar)

Fans prepping for the weekend’s main event.

Let’s start today with a friendly warning: If you see headlines about thousands or millions of PayPal account shutdowns, don’t stress, you almost certainly weren’t involved and don’t need to follow the click-bait. The shutdowns were focused on accounts that generated thousands or tens of thousands of referral bonuses using bot-farms.

Here are a few things that are worth focusing on:

1. Hot on the heals of yesterday’s devaluation, we have, err, another devaluation. This time it’s ANA, which doubled its fuel surcharges for award tickets.

The ANA fuel surcharge is actually tied to the price of oil which turns out to be a novel concept in the airline world, and with oil prices jumping, the surcharge had a corresponding jump. So in addition to setting award alerts with ExpertFlyer, now apparently we should set crude oil price alerts with Yahoo finance.

2. American Express has a new targeted link for a 30,000 Membership Rewards bonus when turning on Pay Over Time. As always, consider shutting off Pay Over time on all of your charge cards to be targeted in the future. (Thanks to Matthew via DoC)

3. Check for a targeted spend offer on your Chase United cards at this link. This offer is very Citi Shop Your Way-esque in its detail: You earn 250 bonus miles for making three purchases over $50 each per month, for February, March, and April, and another 750 miles if you make all three months. (Thanks to DDG)

4. The offer for 70,000 SkyMiles, $200 statement credit, and first year’s annual fee waived for both the personal and business American Express Delta Gold cards is back. To trigger it, make a dummy booking for a cash domestic ticket in incognito mode and you’ll see it on the payment page. (Thanks to geauxcali)

Four fingers for the Thursday Quad.

1. United’s MileagePlusX mobile app has a targeted offer for 5,000 bonus miles when signing up for Clear. There are two possibilities here:

(Thanks to TheSultan1 on reddit for pointing out the bonus offer)

2. There are new targeted United MilePlay offers, check for yours at this link. Sometimes these are really lucrative and other times they’re not worth your time, but do take a look in case it’s the former on this round. For me, it was definitely, without a doubt the latter. My offer:

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3. There’s a new no-lifetime language American Express Business Gold card offer for 90,000 Membership Rewards after spending $10,000 in three months. You can get a bonus 10,000 Membership Rewards by adding an employee card and spending $1,000 or more on that card, also within the first three months.

These cards are great for gas station manufactured spend primarily, but can also be great for advertising spend if you can manufacture that (or have legit advertising spend).

4. There’s a Hyatt Globalist requalification offer for current Globalists that aren’t likely to hit 60 nights this year but still want to maintain status until February 2023. The catch? You still have to stay 20 nights between now and February 28, 2022 to meet the requalification offer so it’s not exactly a slam dunk.

5. Staples has $200 Mastercard gift cards fee free running Sunday through the following Saturday, limit five per transaction. I almost didn’t write about this one because we’ve reached the point where these deals are happening more often than not and it’s not really news any more. (Thanks to DoC)

6. Tomorrow is the last day to transfer your Citi ThankYou points to AA. I truly believe this deal will come back because:

Of course, time will tell. Happy weekend!

An image of Steph Curry missing a dunk.
Pictured: Te Hyatt Globalist requalification play.

Gift card resale rates have been creeping up toward yearly highs. This isn’t unexpected, Q4 is traditionally the best time of year for rates in the same way that it’s the best time of year to sell tinsel and foam Santa-esque figurines. Here’s what I’ve seen this week:

  • BestBuy gift card rates crept up to 98.75% yesterday. If you combine these with grocery store reward you’re looking at a decent profit even without your credit card spend factored in.
  • Apple gift card rates hit 94.5%. With the new MacBook M1-Pro announcement I expect there’s still room for growth here so start scouting potential buying spots. With Kroger in particular and the 4x promotion that ended yesterday, these rates made Apple gift card reselling rather profitable without considering credit card rewards.
  • Kroger Fuel Point resale rates have crept above $16/1,000 points. Honestly I’ve never seen them this high, and unfortunately I don’t expect it to last. A few back to back 4x general promotions tend to kill high rates, and a couple of those will probably come soon.
  • Home Depot gift card resale rates went to 94.5%. Yesterday’s Kroger 4x promotion could also work with these via Happy cards.

Other gift card brands have followed this trend. The only real exceptions I’ve noted are Gap and Express, which seem to have a flooded supply left over from the summer.

It’s time to dust off your gift card reselling skills and reach out for new buyers. There’s a lot of capacity waiting to be filled out there.

You know it’s Q4 when these beauties start showing up in stores.

Let’s boost a few things today:

1. Check here for 40% off at Amazon, up to $40 back when using at least one Membership Rewards point at checkout. Third party gift cards with a face value of $100 are a great way to take advantage of this one to boost your wallet.

2. According to an email in my inbox this morning, Brex has apparently been running a 20% transfer bonus to all partner airlines since July 12, and the promotion runs through August 8. News to me!

To make it easy to decide if it’s worthwhile to you, here are their partners and the normal saver Business Class cost to Europe:

  • Aéromexico: 95,000 miles each way
  • Air France/KLM: 53,000 miles each way
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 75,000 miles each way
  • Asia Miles: 70,000 miles each way
  • Singapore Airlines: 95,000 miles each way

When you factor in promotional awards or award chart and region loopholes, those numbers can come down even further. There are also particular sweet spots for Asia Miles to Asia (shocking), and for Avianca to Europe or the South Pacific. I will be taking advantage of this one.

Even this turtle is getting a boost.