When you talk to a bank to change something, ask for something, appeal something, or to close something, you’ll often be asked some form of “Why are you doing this?” Usually customer service is asking for two reasons: first, because they’ve got metrics and they need to keep track of reasons that people call, and second, they’ve got practiced responses and rebuttals for common objections.

There’s a simple answer to “Why?” that almost always ends the conversation without any further discussion and you should add to your repertoire: “Budgeting”

For example:

[Q] Why do you have so many AmEx cards?
[A] Budgeting

[CS] This card offers thousands of dollars in savings for a small annual fee, why would you want to close it?
[Churner] Budgeting

[Q] Why do you have 27 checking accounts at our bank?
[A] Budgeting

[Q] Why are you downgrading this card two weeks after you upgraded it?
[A]: Budgeting

[Q]: I see a bunch of back-to-back charges for $49x.xx. Why didn’t you just run a single big charge?
[A]: Budgeting

[Q]: Why did you receive nearly a hundred envelopes from American Express with your name and Roman numerals?
[A]: Budgeting

[Q]: How come your American Express Business Platinum card is stored on your daughter’s Delta SkyMiles profile?
[A]: Budgeting

[Q]: Why did you open a teen spending debit card when you don’t have kids?
[A]: Budgeting

[Q]: Why does MEAB exist?
[A]: Budgeting

Good luck, and happy Tuesday!

For bonus points, send template dashboards showing your “budget” to customer service.

  1. Kroger is selling Marianos, QFC, and Carrs brandnames (and stores) to C&S, the parent company of Piggly Wiggly subject to regulatory approval, and they’re also selling rights to Albertsons branded stores in California, Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming. This is a double edged sword, but all things being equal as a manufactured spender, I’d rather have:

    – A Kroger instead of Piggly Wiggly
    – A Piggly Wiggly instead of an Albertsons, at least in recent history

    Markets like California and Arizona with both Safeway stores and Albertsons stores will probably get the best of all worlds.
  2. Some airline shopping portals have a sweepstakes running for 25,000 – 100,000 bonus miles, and all that’s required is logging in and clicking a button to enter:

    Alaska MileagePlan shopping
    AA AAdvantage eShopping
    United MileagePlus shopping

    Last round there were two separate winners in the MEAB community, and if someone’s going to win it might as well be one of you who probably won’t redeem 73,500 miles for a one-way to Lubbock a United Express First seat in a CRJ-700.
  3. First class tickets on China Eastern are now bookable with AirFrance / KLM FlyingBlue in addition to the normally available business class award tickets. To find them, you’ll need to choose La Premier class on the award search tool.
  4. The Bank of America Alaska Airlines personal card has a heightened sign-up bonus for 70,000 MileagePlan miles after $3,000 spend in 90 days. The annual fee is $95 and isn’t waived the first year. As with any Bank of America card, if you’re going to go for this offer probably grab some other cards at the same time.

    If you’re an value maximizer absolutist, you may want to wait a few weeks to see if an in-flight offer surfaces for 72,000 miles. I’d give that offer a 50% chance of surfacing; just keep in mind that my crystal ball broke in “The Great Christmas tree debacle of 2018”.
  5. The no annual-fee Chase Ink Unlimited and Ink Cash cards’ 90,000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonus is back:

    Ink Unlimited
    Ink Cash

    Referrals still pay 40,000 Ultimate Rewards to the referrer and have a sign-up bonus of 75,000 Ultimate Rewards, so if you’re running in two-player mode you’ll probably do better to refer P1 to P2. I’d also wait a week or two before doing so because it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the referral bonus will also jump to 90,000 Ultimate Rewards (however, see prior crystal ball reference).

The Great Christmas tree debacle of 2018 shatters the near perfect MEAB crystal ball, or something.

  1. Staples has a fee free $200 Mastercard sale starting Sunday and running through the following Saturday, and we’ve ping-ponged (or maybe zig-zagged? yo-yoed? teeter-tottered? ebbed-and-flowed? Sorry, I’m getting off track) back to a limit of five per transaction.

    These are Metabank Pathward gift cards, so have a liquidation plan in place.
  2. One of my wishlist cards after dropping below 5/24 is the Hyatt Business card even with its hefty $199 annual fee, and there’s good news for me and anyone (un)fortunate enough to be like me:

    – This is my last month before dropping below 5/24
    The sign-up bonus has increased to 75,000 Hyatt points after $12,000 spend

    If you spend for status or if you have plenty of award stays at Hyatt, this card is a keeper. Otherwise, it’s probably a skip because you can get an Ink Preferred 100,000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up bonus with $8,000 in spend and a $95 annual fee, then transfer those points directly to Hyatt.
  3. Do this now: Register for 20,000 bonus Bonvoy points after a three night stay at Marriott Homes and Villas booked between now and September 24 for stays through January 26, 2024. (Thanks to FM)
  4. Southwest has a fare sale for fares booked by September 17 for travel at least 30 days out, with requisite blackouts around winter holidays. If you have existing travel booked, it’s a good time to re-fare.

Pictured: Staples team setting purchase limits on gift cards with safety fans, week 47.

In scientific circles we occasionally discuss the “epistemic gap”, which refers to things that are knowable in principle but for whatever reason we still don’t know them.

In manufactured spend there’s a favorite epistemic gap of mine: How much spend can you possibly generate in a day? You can of course ask related questions too, such as:

  • How much spend in a day if you spend only from home?
  • How much spend in a day with a grocery category multiplier?
  • How much spend in a day with a single card issuer?

I could tell you what my records for the above are, but assure you that my records aren’t world records. I can confidently say that the world records for each of the above are beyond an average American annual household’s income though.

What’s the point? If you’re not shutdown, you haven’t filled the epistemic gap, so consider whether bigger scaling makes sense or whether you’re exactly at the level you’re comfortable with.

The epistemic gap, illustrated for visual learners.

  1. Kroger has a 4x fuel points promotion in stores running on third party gift cards and fixed value Visa and Mastercards through September 19.

    Yes we’ve seen a lot of these lately, but likely this is the last round until the end of October. So as uncle Larry says, make hay while the sun shines and take advantage of this while you can.
  2. Kathy at Will Run for Miles shares a Citi Merchant Offers warning: Even though you can add merchant offers to multiple cards, at least some of them disappear from all but the last card after adding. So, double check activation if you’re trying to add an offer to multiple cards.

    For what it’s worth, this isn’t how Merchant Offers behaved in the recent past but it’s likely the new normal.
  3. Breeze Airways has 50% off of flights booked by tomorrow evening with promo code IMGAME50 for travel through March 7, 2024. There are two weeks of blackout around Thanksgiving and another two weeks of blackout around Christmas and New Years.

    Breeze Airways continues to have some of my, let’s say “favorite”, routes in the US. Today’s highlight: San Bernardino to Hartford. Stay classy Breeze.
  4. American Express Offers has either $150 or $200 back after $500 in spend at several high end Marriott properties. For bonus points, get the credit but don’t stay at a Marriott using a healthy dose of churning magic.
  5. US Bank is sending targeted statement credit offers to business cards for spend at Office Depot and Staples through October 31:

    – $50 credit after $1,000 or more in combined purchases
    – $25 credit after $400 or more in combined purchases

    Activation is required, check your email inbox for the subject “Earn up to a $50 statement credit on office supplies”. (Thanks to DDG)

Pictured: Churning magic.

  1. Do this now: Register for Southwest’s bonus companion pass qualifying points promotion. You’ll earn:

    – 2x qualifying points for paid flights
    – 3x qualifying points for paid flights booked through a corporate travel portal
    – 2x qualifying points for credit card spending
    – 1x qualifying flight for award tickets

    The promotion runs for all travel through November 30, and as far as I can tell from reading the terms and conditions it includes previously booked travel. (Thanks to the amazing Brian M)
  2. Choice Hotels has a 100% transfer bonus to United MileagePlus through October 15. This can be a good opportunity for a back door conversion from ThankYou Points to MileagePlus miles, especially if you’re shutdown with Chase:

    2,500 ThankYou Points → 5,000 Choice Points → 2,000 United MileagePlus miles

    Since ThankYou Points easily cash out at a penny each, you’re effectively buying United miles at 1.25 cents each with this promotion. (Thanks to Oliver for the link and excellent analysis)
  3. Citi Merchant Offers has a new offer for 3% back at Giftcards.com with no specified purchase limit through October 17. The offer is good for two transactions, unlike 2022 versions of the offer it doesn’t exclude gift card purchases, and recent datapoints all suggest this is working as it should for Visas and Mastercards purchases too.

    I found this offer on multiple cards and was able to add to each. (Thanks to GCG)

Happy Tuesday!

Acording to the Southwest promotion’s T&Cs, if you earn two companion passes you have to show up to the airport with body paint, as illustrated on their new safety card.

Let’s keep it short and sweet for Labor Day.

  1. Office Depot / OfficeMax stores have $15 back on $300 or more in Visa gift card purchases through Saturday. As usual, link your cards to Dosh, check for Chase Offers at Office Depot and then try and scale this slightly differently than normal.

    These are Metabank Pathward gift cards so have a liquidation plan in place.
  2. American Express has a 25% Membership Rewards transfer bonus to AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue running through September 25. I don’t currently have an Unusng Heroes series for mileage programs, but frankly this one at least deserves an article in the future. In the mean time, a few sweet spots:

    – Delta short haul Economy and First
    – Business class to and from Europe (assuming date flexibility)
    – Europe short haul Business and Economy

    KLM is also an underappreciated airline in Business class. Fortunately, in a move that will surprise only someone with Alzheimers, it turns out that it’s possible to book KLM flights with the AirFrance/KLM FlyingBlue program.
  3. American Express has an offer for $50 back after $200 in airfare at JetBlue. As usual, gamers can game.
  4. Do this now: Register for Discover IT’s 5x merchants for October through December for up to $1,500 in spend. Amazon.com and Target are the, err, targets this year.
  5. Dell is 15x at Rakuten for the Labor Day holiday which means that now is a great time to place several orders that will be cancelled later this week.

Have a nice holiday!

The Dell Verification team cheerfully works the Labor Day holiday.

  1. The Barclays Lufthansa Miles and More credit card sign-up bonus has increased for the second time in a month to 100,000 miles after $3,000 in spend in 90 days. The $89 annual fee is not waived for the first year.

    The main use for this card continues to be to earn Miles and More, err miles, for access to awards that you can’t normally get otherwise like Swiss First. (Thanks to DoC)
  2. British Airways is one of the merchants available on the TopCashBack shopping portal with different rates for short-haul and long-haul. Apparently this has been around sporadically in the past but I just learned of it and I’m intrigued at the gaming possibilities which may or may not exist. Special thanks to Mason for bringing it to my attention.
  3. Do this now (if you live in Washington or if your SkyMiles account lives in Washington): Register for Delta12 status which earns you miles based on the Seattle Seahawks NFL season performance and Main Cabin 1 boarding during the season too.

    It’s strange, but I’ve heard of SkyMiles accounts with addresses that don’t match the address of the owner, probably because they moved and forgot to update the account or something.

Have a nice float into the long weekend!

This guy floated to Washington for Delta12.