1. Most major outlets are talking about how Bank of America’s Alaska personal card has increased its sign-up bonus to 70,000 miles after $3,000 spend in 90 days. But what they’re not talking about (almost certainly just an oversight) is that you can get the same bonus plus a $100 statement credit via an offer during a dummy revenue flight booking at Alaska’s website.

    Both are the rebooted version of the card with a higher annual fee of $95, 2x at gas, and a 10% bonus if you hold a deposit account at Bank of America.
  2. Chase’s $900 personal banking sign-up bonus is now publicly available. It requires:

    – A direct deposit into a new checking account
    – $15,000 deposited into a new savings account
    – Maintain $15,000 balance for 90 days

    If you don’t see the offer, try visiting in private mode / incognito. Of course if there are shenanigans afoot with your Chase credit cards, you should probably skip this deal. (Thanks to DoC)
  3. Do this now: Register for Choice Hotel’s Q1 promotion, 2x points on paid stays over $40 per night for stays through March 6.
  4. The Alaska MileagePlan shopping portal has a spend bonus running through January 27, for both online and in-store purchases which should make it easy to manufacture. The bonuses:

    – 400 bonus miles for spending $150
    – 1,200 bonus miles for spending $300

    Currently the best online options are probably Dell or Saks for liquidating American Express Platinum credits, and the best in-store option is GameStop (just be sure to link your cards to the Alaska portal before heading in-store).

One of the two ways to earn at GameStop (and this one doesn’t look so great).

  1. IHG has 15% off of award bookings for card holders and for Platinum and Diamond elites through tomorrow for stays through December 16. Yes, this has been around for a few days, but today is the first day that elites are also eligible for the discount.

    Be sure to reprice any existing IHG reservations in addition to looking at new bookings.
  2. Southwest has a fare sale through tomorrow evening for travel from:

    – November 29 through December 15 of this year
    – January 10 through March 8 of next year

    Reprice existing reservations too, and note that if your spring break dates fall within two weeks of March 8, you might consider a refundable points booking on near the end of the promotion and hope for a schedule change that lets you switch to your desired dates for no additional fee.
  3. American Express employee card offers have now been reported for the Plum card, Delta Reserve Business card, Delta Business Gold card, and the Business Platinum card, which gives us the updated list of offers for up to 99 employee cards per primary card:

    – Plum card: $50 statement credit for $2,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Delta Business Gold: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Delta Business Reserve: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Blue Business Plus: 5,000 Membership Rewards for $1,000 in spend per card [new] UPDATE: There are multiple reports of $1,000 in spend required and $2,000 in spend required, it seems variable on this card
    – Blue Business Cash: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card [new] UPDATE: There are multiple reports of $1,000 in spend required and $2,000 in spend required, it seems variable on this card
    – Business Platinum: 5,000 Membership Rewards for $2,000 in spend per card [new]
    – Hilton Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Marriott Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Lowe’s Business: $50 statement credit for $1,000 in spend per card
    – Green Business: $50 statement credit for $2,000 in spend per card

    Don’t sleep on these, each one is an additional 495,000 points or $4,950. (Thanks to Sebastian, Marrisa94, and Jim for new data points, and thanks to everyone who reached out to me yesterday noting that 99 * 5,000 ≠ 49,500 🤦‍♀️)
  4. Check for a targeted email from Discover for an extra 4% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases by December 31. The subject: “Congrats [name], enjoy up to $80 extra cash back” (Thanks to an anonymous contributor)
  5. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion on third party gift cards starting today and running through Tuesday after clipping the digital coupon. If you’re using fuel points to subsidize gift card reselling, you should be able to do so profitably with a little care. My current guidance on avoiding fuel account locks:

    – Create a new fuel points account with a new incognito session on the browser on your mobile device when not connected to wifi
    – Buy everything in one or two transactions total, ideally in off-hours (customer service counters let you scale this a bit)
    – Do your best to work with a fuel points end-user that can use the points within an hour or two of loading

    Good luck!

Showing my work from the math in yesterday’s post.

  1. The current Staples fee free $200 Visa gift cards promotion that was set to expire over the weekend has been extended through Saturday of this week, and the limit is still eight. The cards are also still Metabank, so have a liquidation plan in place and note that there are from home and in-person liquidation plays that work.
  2. There’s a Chase offer for 20% back up to $50 at Quill.com, which is $250 in spend for those of you who can’t or won’t math. Quill.com sells Visa gift cards, though they’re still Metabank no matter how you math.
  3. Lowe’s is running a promotion for a $15 Lowe’s gift card with each $200 Mastercard gift card purchased through Wednesday (though it is limit of two per email address, but you have a few of those I’m guessing?) The resale rate on a $15 Lowe’s card is between 85% and 89%, so you’ll make a little more than $6 after the activation fee for each $200 gift card purchased. Alas, these are Metabanks too.
  4. The dying Morgan Stanley American Express Platinum card has a heightened sign-up bonus of 125,000 Membership Rewards after $6,000 in spend in six months. Remember, there are a few obvious and at least one non-obvious reasons that this card is interesting. Also, you can feel fake bougie when you throw down a Morgan Stanley embossed Platinum card.

    You can still be eligible to for this card by opening a Morgan Stanley Access Investing account and funding it with $5,000 with this backdoor application link.
  5. Check United MilePlay for a personalized promotional offer. For me, I got “Book and take a trip one time to get 2,500 bonus miles”, and in the fine print it says the trip must cost at least $300. So, big meh.

On any given week in a WhatsApp group, Telegram forum, slack channel, or some other medium at least twice I see the question: “What are the buying limits for [bulk third party gift card brand] at Kroger?”. When there’s a 4x, 6x, or 8x fuel points sale the question also multiplies by the same amount.

For my own internet sanity I compiled everything we know about Kroger third party gift card limits:

General Limits

Kroger and Kroger affiliates can sell up to $1,999.99 in gift cards at regular registers or at self check-out. Most stores don’t need cashier intervention at self check-out for big purchases, but there are a couple of Kroger chains that need a cashier override for $500.01 or higher in purchases, whether or not gift cards are included.

If you move from regular registers to customer service counters, you can buy up to $10,000 – $18,000 worth of third party gift cards in a single transaction, depending on region. Some regions have a register enforced limit of $12,000 to $18,000 per-hour, per-store too.

Brand Specific Limits

Several brands have specific limits in addition to the above:

  • BestBuy: $1,000 per 10 minutes, store-wide
  • Apple: $500 per transaction

Unfortunately, taking these cards to a customer service desk doesn’t remove the limits. It is possible to bypass the BestBuy limit if your store sells the right type of Happy cards though, because Happy cards don’t have specific limits and some of them can be swapped to BestBuy at home after purchase.

Missing Fuel Points

There’s another type of limit that hits third party gift card resellers, and I think it’s an artifact of bad IT rather than an intentional limit: The same Kroger account won’t earn fuel points on back-to-back transactions in the same 60 seconds for the same dollar amount. So, if you’re wanting to run 20 Apple card purchases back-to-back, either wait a full 60 seconds between transactions or add a random, small value item in with each purchase.

Swipe Limits

Kroger stores are limited to six transactions with the same card per rolling 24 hours. Bypassing this with an American Express card is easy with authorized user or employee cards because each gets their own number, but bypassing on most other issuer’s networks is harder because those cards typically have the same number as the primary account.

Friction

The above limits are actually documented in the customer service operations manual at Kroger, but that doesn’t mean that employees don’t also try and make up their own rules (like peanut butter should be on sushi) or ignore the written limits. When that happens you’ve got plenty of options but typically building a rapport and trying again will make for a good long term option. Be in this for the long haul.

Happy Tuesday!

Didn’t believe peanut butter sushi was a thing did you?

Another day, another grab-bag because that’s how this week rolls:

  1. The Citi AA personal (update: thanks to Gary for noting this is the personal version of the card, not the business version) card has an offer for 75,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,500 within four months, and the annual fee is waived for the first year. (Thanks to divinebaloon)
  2. An update from my attempt at getting more than 11 charge cards with American Express: I was denied because my account was already at the charge card limit. I have a theory about bypassing it though but won’t be able to try for a few more weeks, story developing.
  3. There was quite a bit of noise floating around yesterday about the American Express Delta Reserve card’s special 747-edition because 25% of its metal comes from a retired Delta 747-400. Normally I couldn’t care less about a special edition card, but this one tugs at my avgeek heart strings so here we are I guess.

    If you want one and have an existing Delta Reserve card, you can request a replacement card directly from the website or mobile app with the reason “Change Card Design”, at which point you’ll be given a choice for the normal design or the 747 design. You can also apply for a new Delta Reserve to get it while supplies last, but the sign-up bonus has been 30% higher in the recent past so I wouldn’t go for it now.
  4. Some news on the manufactured spend front:

    – Staples has started selling the “Everywhere” variety of gift cards, but reports suggest that the maximum face value is currently $100 (These are Metabank cards that are restricted to certain types of merchants but often work for manufactured spend in more places than regular gift cards)
    – USPS has new terminals with new software, which means new opportunity
    – The Paceline card has turned out to be very friendly to MS so far, perhaps it’s worth a second look (reader Fish and Vinh both report that limits aren’t always limits, which we all know happens a lot, right?)

Have a nice weekend!

This week rolls in exactly the same way that this airplane doesn’t.

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?