EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

  1. Chase is sending targeted offers on its personal Southwest cards for 3x points at gas, grocery, and dining through the end of 2024, and bonus points count for companion pass but not toward other status levels.

    What does Southwest have to do with gas, grocery, and dining you ask? Well, they’re probably the worlds biggest supplier of pretzel snack-mix bags, and the snack-mix bag cabal knows how to pull strings, trust me. (Thanks to Lava121)
  2. We’re not yet at the point that the Citi Shop Your Way Rewards card moves from Unsung Hero to just Hero, but we’re approaching it. In addition to holding a card with greater notoriety, holders also saw a new round of targeted offers for online spend through March 14:

    – 200,000 Shop Your Way Rewards points after $750 or more in spend (MS Ninja)
    – 250,000 Shop Your Way Rewards points after $1,000 or more in spend (Jacob)
    – $50 statement credit after $750 or more in spend (David 99)

    Yes, these offers stack with the 2024 monthly statement credits for grocery, gas, and dining provided of course that you spend in those categories online. What does Citi have to do with gas, grocery, and dining you ask? They’re a credit card issuer and they want to attract spend on their cards, duh.
  3. The Marriott Bonvoy Business card has a best offer sign-up bonus of five free night certificates for up to 50,000 points per night each after $8,000 spend in three months. [insert joke here about overpriced Marriott hotels in Lubbock]

    I’m not linking to anything on this one because I hope that you can find someone to give you a referral, so they’ll earn points on your successful application too. Using a referral is a great networking icebreaker in the miles and points community for those of you looking to expand your network. (Thanks to DoC)
  4. Having a stable of burner phones and phone numbers is eminently useful, and DDG highlights a great, low cost option for adding a new device to your portfolio: A Moto G Stylus 5G plus a month of service for $40. Make sure you activate the phone, and I’d suggest only leaving it active for the first month then moving to a cheaper service. It’ll unlock automatically in 180 days.

Have a nice weekend!

The leader of the the pretzel snack-bag mix cabal.

EDITOR’S NOTE [1]: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

EDITOR’S NOTE [2]: Yes, it’s another DaVinci Code post, sorry not sorry I guess. Stay tuned for a future site rebranding: Miles Earn and Burn, Confusing Beginners Since 2020™.

If you run around any private groups, quasi-private groups, or even reddit.com/r/churning, you probably know that PayPal Bill Pay massacred its targets yesterday. This could matter because:

  • We don’t know how much the app that rhymes with booze was relying on this volume for its ongoing cash-flow, revenue, and profitability. We do know that there was a staggering amount of volume pushed through this channel though, and most of it dried up in a flash. Is this an issue? I have no idea, but it’s another good time to re-evaluate your risk assessment and tolerance with the platform.
  • Anything that still works on PayPal Bill Pay will probably see a huge increase in volume as players shift toward what works, ultimately causing those things to die more quickly too (probably).
  • We’re likely entering a new era of discovery in manufactured spend, so research and networking is likely to be more fruitful for the next month or two than normal while we search for the next big thing.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this still matters to you because this is a great opportunity to read between the lines and learn about what’s worked in the past; the object lessons here are lucrative and that knowledge will almost certainly help you in the future.

Happy Thursday!

Work in progress: The app that rhymes with booze’s logo, but in ripples.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

Perhaps the most basic level of credit card churning involves getting a new credit card with a sign-up bonus every time you hit the spend requirements on the last one, putting you into a state of perpetual 10%, 25%, or even 50% return on your spend. This is great until:

  • You’ve gotten all the cards you can reasonably get
  • Your monthly spend exceeds 3 to 4 times the average sign-up bonus minimum spend

When you hit the above, sign-up bonuses are interesting but they’re a small blip on a profit or return chart. As you spend even more, the percentage of your profits that consist of sign-up bonuses gets proportionally smaller.

To illustrate, let’s assume that you signed up for the recent 200,000 Membership Rewards bonus American Express Business Platinum card with $15,000 in spend, and all of your spend after that goes on a 2.625% cash back everywhere card, and we’ll look at how much of the money you earn comes from the bonus. For simplicity, we’ll assume American Express points are worth 1.1 cents because that’s a generally available cash out price.

Monthly Spend
(USD)
AmEx Bonus
(1.1 cents per point)
Other Card’s Rebate
(2.625% back)
$15,000Bonus: $2,200 (14.6%)
Regular: $165 (1.1%)
Regular: $0 (0%)
$100,000Bonus: $2,200 (2.2%)
Regular: $165 (0.165%)
Regular: $2.231 (2.23%)
$500,000Bonus: $2,200 (0.44%)
Regular: $165 (0.03%)
Regular: $12,731 (2.57%)
$5,000,000Bonus: $2,200 (0.04%)
Regular $165 (0.003%)
Regular: $130,856 (2.62%)
Dollar (Percentage) return on various levels of spend

Put succinctly, that sign-up bonus is nice, but after you hit $5M in monthly spend, even the large American Express Business Platinum bonus makes up a very small portion of overall return on monthly spend at just 0.043%; meanwhile one of our favorite Unsung Hero cards returns 2.62%, or more than 98% of the total rebate on your spend.

The takeaway? As you advance your manufactured spend career, worry a little less about those sign-up bonuses.

Have a nice Wednesday!

Next up on Wednesday Interlude with MEAB: Does the second law of thermodynamics apply to spend?

  1. Rakuten in-store offers has a card linked offer for 1% cash back or 1x Membership Rewards at several grocery chains:

    – Stop & Shop stores
    – Food Lion stores

    You’ve got to re-add the offer to your account an hour after each use to keep earning. No end date is specified, but the offer sticks around for 75 days after it’s added to your account.
  2. Do this now (if you hold a United credit card): Check for targeted spending bonuses for the months of miles promotion. (Thanks to hic2482w)
  3. The American Express Business Platinum has a local maxima 200,000 Membership Rewards targeted bonus now after $15,000 in spend in three months, up from the previous recent high of 190,000 Membership Rewards. As usual with American Express, you may need to try lots of things to see it:

    Try mobile and desktop web browsers
    – Try connecting to VPNs in various regions of the country, like Texas, Colorado, and SoCal
    – Try pulling up applications after applying through search engines like Bing, Google, and Yandex
    – Try different web browsers, especially FireFox and Safari

  4. Office Depot / OfficeMax stores have $15 off of $300 or more in Mastercard gift card purchases in-store through Saturday. Usually buying these in multiples during a single transaction offers a better overall discount too.

    These are Pathward gift cards which often have velocity limits in popular in-person liquidation channels, so have a plan in place before you go ham, (or even ham salad).

Going ham salad is as gross as you’d think it would be.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

Airlines and hotels universally have at least two main interfaces; banks also have both, FinTechs usually do, and well, you get the idea. The interfaces:

  • Mobile app
  • Desktop website

For reasons known only to Chuck Norris and Taylor Swift, many software development shops choose to use a different back-end implementation for each. Because the implementations are functionally different, things often don’t quite behave the same between the two. This is especially true around edge conditions. A few concrete examples:

  • Some Turkish award flights only ticket with the mobile app
  • Some banks only accept money order deposits via the mobile app
  • Same day change on Delta behaves differently on mobile than desktop

That’s just scratching the surface. So, for today let’s change “always be probing” to “always be probing, double style”.

Happy Monday!

Always be probing, double style.

EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’m going to try and have a guest post on Saturdays. Today’s guest post is from the first manufactured spender I ever met up with in person and an original manufactured spend whale, Dean. Yes, Dean was really in Lubbock.

I recently had the opportunity to fly to Austin Texas and drive back to my home in Utah. When I reviewed the driving route, it passed directly through Lubbock, TX. MEAB is always talking about how Lubbock is his favorite destination so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see why he loves it so much.

I found the simplest points option for the flight to be Chase Ultimate Rewards to pay for the Delta direct from SLC to AUS through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Since it was a direct, morning flight I figured it would work for my tight schedule to pick-up the car before the shop closed and be on my way toward home in the afternoon.

A week before heading out, I reserved an Uber to pick me up at AUS to take me 1 hour and 15 mins away to Temple where the car was located. The flight was to arrive at 2:05PM, and an Uber ride of 1 hour and 15 mins would put me at the shop just in time for my 3:30PM appointment. It was a tight schedule but I figured the worst that could happen is that we would spend a night in Temple, TX and pick-up the car the next day with a couple more Uber rides.

Departing on this long drive at 4PM meant we would need a place to stay about 6 hours away so I wasn’t driving home drowsy. Low and behold, guess what was 6 hours away? Lubbock, TX. It was meant to be! Since Hyatt is still my favorite Hotel Points program, I was very pleased that I could stay at the Hyatt Place, Lubbock that MEAB so fondly refers to.

The Hyatt Place was about $98 per night plus taxes and fees. And this location is so fancy, they add a $7 a night parking fee. I outsmarted them with a Hyatt points reservation for 6,500 points and it apparently included the parking fee. They never charged me anyway.

Travel day came and all was well until, we sat on the runway for over 45 mins waiting for de-icing in SLC. That put us 30 mins late into AUS. I chose AUS hoping that the small size of the airport would make for a quick getaway and it worked quite well to move quickly through the terminal and into the parking garages. The signage for Uber was pretty easy to follow and they have a very organized waiting area in one of the parking garages for Ride Share.

Once off the plane, I checked my Uber app to verify that my ride was ready, they had my flight info so a late arrival shouldn’t be a problem right? Well, all I saw was that I had nothing scheduled in the app (even though the day before, I got a confirmation email from Uber) I dug through the app and didn’t see anything except under “Activity” I saw my destination address and amount paid as “$0 Failed”. I have over $200 in Uber credits in there from the good-old days of buying gift cards at Whole Foods, that somehow generated Uber credits too, so payment shouldn’t have been an issue.

How does Uber send me a confirmation yesterday stating that I’m all set and then today with no notice just leave me hanging? Ugh, don’t trust Uber’s reservation system apparently. I went to the Uber waiting area as I requested another ride. My new ride was there as I walked up to the spot and it cost $20 less than the reservation so that worked nicely. Now to get to Temple as fast as we can and hope they let me pick up the car late.

Driving from AUS to Temple, TX was just one strip mall after another of Applebee’s and Chili’s restaurants separated by rolling hills. Our Uber driver was great. She said that the Ride Share market is very saturated there so she doesn’t get a lot of rides.

My wife thought it would be fun to see the Magnolia “Silos” in downtown Waco that was nearby. We headed up there to see what the hype is about. This place was a little interesting. I think people go there as a tourist destination. We got there 30 mins before closing and there were a lot of workers and very few shoppers. We got a S’more’s cupcake from their bakery that tasted pretty good and walked the shops that had over priced Hobby Lobby items for home decorating. We probably should have gone to the DR Pepper Museum instead.

We hadn’t eaten all day so we stopped into a Torchy’s Tacos to try them since they were highly recommended by our friends who lived in Texas. The $5-6 tacos were pretty good. Two filled me up but I could have easily eaten another, I just didn’t want to wait for another and was eager to get to Lubbock, TX.

The highway went directly NW all the way to Lubbock. It was mostly just two lanes but the speed limit was 75. It was dark so I think it was just more rolling hills with small towns spread far apart the whole way. As we approached Lubbock, it was just like driving into Las Vegas. We could see the glow of lights in the dark sky indicating a city was near. That’s where the similarities ended.

Maps took us through a small town on fancy brick-paver roads that eventually lead to Hyatt Place! Lubbock was a pretty tired town but the Hyatt place and surrounding buildings were modern and clean. I was pleased as I entered the lobby to see that it was a very new and clean facility. The lobby was identical to my all-time favorite Hyatt Place, Moab. It was built in the same 2018 style and had the same Hyatt Place fresh-clean scent.

My wife’s Hyatt credit card gives her status enough that we got 2 free bottles of water! We headed up to the room and found it to be in great shape and very clean too. Everything was standard Hyatt Place quality and comfort. No wonder MEAB likes this place so much! Other amenities include a swimming pool, fitness room, and spacious lobby with computers and work stations.

The location must be near a Police station. We were greeted by sirens when we got out of the car and heard them periodically through the night. Far more sirens than I expected in a small town like that.

The free breakfast was standard for a, post-Covid, Hyatt Place. The shower supplies were the same smell and quality but in bulk large containers on the wall vs. individual containers that we have been used to in other Hyatt Places. The staff was friendly and we really enjoyed our stay overall.

We headed out for the rest of our adventure back to Utah well rested and fed. If I ever find myself near Lubbock, TX again, I would definitely stay at the Hyatt Place, Lubbock again. And so should you.

– Dean

The view from the Hyatt Place Lubbock’s window. Just kidding, the rooms’ windows only have a view of the dumpster.

EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the feedback I’ve gotten for guest post Saturday has been resoundingly positive. I’ve got a few posts left to publish, but I’m running low. If you’re interested in a guest post, please reach out!

What’s a weekend kerfuffle you ask? You don’t want to know, but it involves this:

  1. Do this now: Register for your targeted United Mile Play bonus. I got “Book and take a trip one time by March 15 to earn 3,000 bonus miles, minimum $100,” which frankly isn’t bad. But the bad news? The trip must be on United or United Express (shudder) metal.
  2. The Chase IHG One Premier personal credit card has a new 165,000 point sign-up bonus after $3,000 spend in three months. The card’s $99 annual fee is not waived for the first month.

    There’s still value in the IHG program, especially for stays in the middle of nowhere and for Intercontinental brand hotels in conjunction with 4th night free. RIP PointBreaks though, amirite?
  3. Chase went nuts with gameable card linked offers:

    – Southwest: 10% back on $50+, up to $400 spend through March 5
    – Marriott Fairfield: 10% back on $100+, up to $380 spend through March 19
    – Sheraton: 10% back on $100+, up to $570 spend through March 19
    – Le Meridian: 10% back on $100+, up to $570 spend through March 19
    – Westin: 10% back on $100+, up to $680 spend through March 19
    – Four Points: 10% back on $100+, up to $570 spend through March 19
    – AC Hotels: 10% back on $100+, up to $570 spend through March 19
    – Springhill Suites: 10% back on $100+, up to $430 spend through March 19

    The simplest way to game the hotel offers is to buy a gift card at the front desk. But, there are always other ways. With Chase offers, breaking correlation isn’t necessary.
  4. Delta always has targeted no-lifetime language (NLL) cards available at deltaamexcard.com, but they’ve refreshed which accounts are targeted The offers:

    – Personal Gold: 70,000 miles after $3,000 spend in six months
    – Personal Platinum: 90,000 miles after $4,000 spend in six months
    – Personal Reserve: 100,000 miles after $6,000 spend in six months

    – Business Gold: 80,000 miles after $6,000 spend in six months
    – Business Platinum: 100,000 miles after $8,000 spend in six months
    – Business Reserve: 110,000 miles after $12,000 spend in six months

    These offers expire on March 17.
  5. The Chase United Business MileagePlus 100,000 miles after $5,000 spend in three months offer and the United Club Business 75,000 mile + 1,000 PQP offer after $5,000 spend in three months offer are both now available through referrals. If you’re going to get the card, use P2’s link or use a friend’s link and make their day.

Have a nice weekend friends!

I told you that you didn’t want to know.

Introduction

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” plays a big part in the soft-skills needed to unlock huge velocity in manufactured spend, but it can also blind us. Today, I’d like to offer a corollary:

You tend to forget about the quiet wheels.

– Some lunatic who goes by MEAB. How do you even pronounce that?

The Squeaky Ones

Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday brought waves of PayPal shutdowns in the community, and just about every forum loosely related to manufactured spend is talking about it. We’re seeing shutdowns of:

  • Main accounts with big volume
  • Secondary accounts that share targets with shutdown main accounts
  • Secondary accounts that share names with shutdown main accounts
  • Newly created secondary accounts with even moderate volume

If you were affected, that sucks and I’m sorry. But on the flip side, what use is PayPal in 2024 for things other than manufactured spend anyway? I mean really, literally what use is it? Yes they own Venmo, but a PayPal shutdown doesn’t equal a Venmo shutdown.

The Not Squeaky Ones

There are plenty of users that aren’t shut down with PayPal yet, but that’s hard to see because they’re not jumping up and down in chat rooms and forums saying “I’m not shutdown, what do I do next?” because there’s no urgency. So, we end up hearing from a much larger proportion of squeaky wheels than silent ones.

We could leave it there, but a logical question then becomes:

What are the non-squeaky wheels doing, and what lessons can we learn from them about not being shutdown? There are a lot of answers to that question, and they probably hover around volume, dodging the ban hammer, the types of targets they choose, how often they use those targets, and the volume sent to those targets.

Bonus: Repercussions

One of my P2’s favorite manufactured spend jokes is to call the app that shouldn’t be named the floosie app (she calls all of its users floosies too, naturally). I know nothing about the current financial state of our collective floosie overlords, but I do know that mass PayPal shutdowns kill a popular liquidation channel for its users, and that means that they’re going to see a big drop-off in daily volume and probably daily profit in their ledger. Will it matter? I have no idea, but I’d suggest that now’s a good time to evaluate your risk profile for your floosie shenanigans.

Double Bonus: Brian M Brings us Back to Reality

Brian M, possibly the most cited contributor here, let me know that Southwest is opening its schedule for travel between October 3 and November 2 this morning. Booking early is a statistically better than average way to get the lowest fare possible on popular travel days with Southwest, though of course ymmv.

Next up: What about donut wheels?