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AMAZING DEAL – 100K MR for Amex Platinum or 50K MR for Amex Premier Rewards Gold (targeted)

January 7, 2013 15 comments

I found out about this deal while casually browsing FlyerTalk today, but the thread was locked and the link was taken away. I immediately got on Twitter to see if anyone was discussing it. After some back-and-forth, I found that Travel Summary has a link to the card! He explains most everything in that post. That is not my affiliate link, although I believe Travel Summary might receive credit — even he doesn’t know, he just became an affiliate today! As always, read his post and decide how you want to proceed.

For me the options were either the 100K Amex Platinum (on $3K spend, $450 fee not waived) or the 50K Amex Premier Rewards Gold (on $1K spend, $175 fee waived first year).

I am already an authorized user on a relative’s Amex Platinum card, and so don’t need the benefits of the Platinum. However, the bonus is so much larger on the Platinum!

My valuation:

I could get the Amex Platinum for the bonus and get 103K MR (with the bonus + spend). I would also have it as a no forex Amex for overseas trips in case. The $200 airline incidentals fee is good per calendar year, so I could get it in both 2013 and the first week of 2014, so that’s $400 off the fee! In other words, my outlay of fees is only $50 on the Platinum card.

If I got the Amex Premier Rewards Gold, I would get 51K with the bonus + spend, and would probably use it for airfare, but would struggle to hit 70K points with my spending. Even though the fee is waived, I would get about 33K fewer points than the Platinum. The $50 I end up paying is more than worth the 33K points for going for the Platinum.

Keep in mind that whichever card you get, you have to have not had it for the past year. Also, you cannot apply for a Platinum card if you got another consumer Amex card (like the PRG, Zync, Green card) in the past 90 days. I have actually never had a Membership Rewards card for myself (I have always been an authorized user on a parents/sibling’s card to help them earn points), so this wasn’t a big deal for me. Kathy (Will Run For Miles) in the comments says she was approved for the Platinum a few months after canceling her personal PRG, although Amex has been shady awarding bonuses lately, so please read the T&C carefully if you currently have a Membership Rewards card! Remember that consumer cards are separate from business/corporate cards!

I applied for 5 cards exactly 50 days ago, and they all hit Experian for me. I put Experian under a credit freeze and when I applied for the Platinum, I was given a phone number to call and a tracking number. I tried to ask the rep to pull another bureau, but he wouldn’t, so I rolled the dice and gave him my PIN for accessing my credit report. A minute later, my gamble paid off, since I was approved! Sure it’s another credit pull, but 100K MR is way too much to pass up, especially if I was semi-targeted. This just means I’ll have to push back my future apps by a little bit (which is fine with me … I’m starting to only care for big limited-time offers nowadays).

I took screenshots the entire way and always saw the 100K offer, so hopefully American Express honors it. My plans for the points? Singapore Suites!

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Mo Cards in Movember

November 28, 2012 5 comments

(If you despise posts just about credit cards, skip this. I don’t have credit card referral links — the links in the post are to other blogs’ posts that better explain what I’m trying to say, or to credit monitoring services).

I’d be lying if I didn’t say the majority of my miles/points come from credit cards. I’ve usually been conservative when it comes to applying for cards for myself, only applying for 1 or 2 at a time, letting my credit history grow a little bit. However, I feel like it’s ready for me to “graduate” and test myself with a 3-5 card app-fest. In this post, I’ll explain how I went about with this set of applications:

My goals for this set of applications:

I wanted to avoid Barclay’s and US Bank, since those are the banks I most recently applied to in the late summer/early autumn. I also wanted to avoid Citi, since I’m planning on applying for another set of American Airlines AAdvantage cards once my 18 months from my last applications pass in January 2013. Because of this, I ended up focusing on Chase, American Express, and Bank of America/Bank of Hawaii.

I applied for a couple of cards in March, one cards in August, and one card in October so I chose a date that was 91 days since the August application, just so that I can start setting up a schedule. Frugal Travel Guy wrote why he does a 91-day schedule and it makes sense to me for several reasons. One is that most spending requirements are within 3 months, so you give yourself time to meet spending requirements. Next is that some banks don’t like seeing too many recent inquiries within the last 6 months, so going on a 91-day cycle means that your churn 2 cycles ago is outside of that 6-month window. I’m not going to say I know the rules down to a T, but this is what I’ve learned from experience and from others, and it seems to work.

I’m not really much of a hotel guy, and I would rather collect airline miles than hotel points, and stay at more “authentic” places when abroad. I know a little about hotel programs but don’t really bother with them. After all, this is Points TO Point B, not Points AT Point B. Nevertheless, I figured having a stash of points to fall back on could prove useful, and decided to start racking up some hotel points, particularly Hilton points since they’re so easy to tally up through multiple credit cards and I can see myself using them overseas for otherwise expensive cities.

While coming up with my list of cards, I realized that I don’t actually have a Chase Ink card for myself … the ones that I’ve used for the past several months are as an employee on a family business with others as the primary cardholder. Since the spending requirement recently went down to $5000 in 3 months, I figured I should include an Ink card since I love Ultimate Rewards points for their ability to transfer to United miles (and in case I need a room at a Hyatt, that too!).

I decided to apply for the Ink Bold (card #1), because I figured that when it comes time to possibly apply for a 2nd Ink down the road, it’ll be easier to convince a possible reconsideration representative that I want a Chase Ink Plus because it allows payment flexibility as a credit card, unlike the Bold which is a charge card. It probably doesn’t matter, but I tend to overthink things, and this seemed like a legitimate reason to go with the Bold over the Plus for my first Ink card.

Since I was already doing a Chase business application, I decided to add a Chase personal card to the mix. I already have the Sapphire Preferred and the United MileagePlus Explorer (which I think is the best offer of the year, giving you 55,000 United miles for $1000 spending if you have an active United account). I don’t really care for Southwest points at the moment … before you call me an anti-Southwest elitist (which I probably am!), I actually think Southwest points are great for some uses. I recently learned that if you book a Southwest points redemption, you can cancel your award ticket for free and get all the points back. That’s actually really huge for a commitment-phobe like me. Unfortunately, Southwest flights are tied to the price of the ticket, and I really don’t see Southwest flights being so much cheaper than other airlines for the flights I want to take.

In the end, I decided to go with the Priority Club 80K (card #2) offer on first spend, available here on FT. This is great because it’s easy hotel points for one swipe of the card, and unlike the Chase Hyatt or Citi Hilton Reserve cards, I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and have only a year to maximize the free night credit (I’m looking for a stash of points to fall back on, I don’t have a specific redemption in mind at the moment). The points will stay in my account for a while to come for any use — I used 5K points for a PointsBreak night in Frankfurt when I had a one-night layover, saving me over $200! The Chase PC card comes with the first annual fee waived and renews at $49 where you get another free night at any property. Sounds great to me!

As for American Express, I decided to go with the no annual fee Hilton 65K offer (card #3) (40K after $750 in 3 months, additional 25K after reaching $3000 in 6 months). This offer ends on November 30th. I’ll use this card at bonus category places like pharmacies and grocery stores at 6x, especially now that Reloads can be purchased at CVS. I could make this a 75K+ signup bonus with that sort of spending. This doesn’t have the elite benefits that the Amex Hilton Surpass or Citi Hilton Reserve cards have, but all I’m trying to do now is start building up a portfolio of Hilton points, and this is an easy way to do so.

Lastly, I decided to go with the Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines cards (cards #4 and #5). Both offer 35K Hawaiian Air miles for $1000 of spending within the first 4 months, totaling 70K miles. Those 70K Hawaiian miles can be transferred to 140K Hilton HHonors points. The main thing with the BoA/BoH cards was to get a $5K credit line on each, thus qualifying for the Signature Visa and the full bonus. My plan had been to possibly use the miles for a redemption on Virgin Atlantic, but they recently raised the prices for those redemptions by over 100%! 😦

Taking Stock of my Credit Scores:

I have a $4.95/month subscription to Citi IdentityMonitor, which tracks any inquiries that hit my credit report and any changes that occur on my credit report. I also get non-FICO credit scores through there but they seem to be lower than what the scores really are.

I also use Credit Sesame and CreditKarma, but the scores I get on those are abnormally high. I don’t believe it for a second when CreditSesame says I have an 811 score …

Luckily, I got a Transunion score last month from Barclay’s when I closed my US Airways Mastercard that I got the previous year, and that was a true FICO score showing me at 764. My US Bank FlexPerks card gives me a free Experian non-FICO score each month, and mine was 736. While it’s another non-FICO score, Experian is the most popular credit bureau the banks pull in my area (Southern California). Bank of America/FIA sent me notices about my credit shortly after applying that stated that the credit score I had when my file was pulled was 756, but I learned about this a week later. Lastly, I signed up for a trial at MyFico to check my Equifax score, which showed 751. All in all, a good place to start, since you want to stay above 700 when playing this game.

Day of Apps

1. Chase Priority Club 80K — Approved instantly

I started off with Chase and figured that I would probably have to call in for the Ink Bold no matter what, so I started with the Priority Club 80K offer to see if I’d get approved instantly. I did — for a measly $2,000 spending limit. Hah! No worries, though, the bonus is on first purchase and I plan on keeping the card for the free night credit anywhere in exchange for the $49 annual fee, the 10% points rebate, and Platinum status. I don’t actually plan on using it much. Since it’s the end of the year, I’ll make the first spend in late December so that they post in January — I’ll get Platinum via points for all of 2013 and 2014, so even if I give up the card for some odd reason, I’ll still have Platinum status for an extra year.

2. Chase Ink Bold 50K — Approved with a phone call

I then signed up for the Chase Ink Bold 50K with my personal information, which came back with pending status. I got on the phone with the Chase Business reconsideration line — (800-453-9719) — and spoke with a representative about my side business. After a while on the phone, he suggested that I close down my Sapphire Preferred since I “barely use it” (I don’t consider $5000 of foreign and/or travel transactions “barely using it,” dude!). Not only did I not want to give up this line, but my sister is currently abroad using that card because it has no foreign transactions! I can’t let them cancel that!

In the end, I ended up getting them to close my United MileagePlus Explorer card that had a paltry $4K limit and that I had no use for after opening it in March. It’s also the first card with an annual fee next year, so I decided to close that. I’m really surprised that they had me close a personal line of credit to open up a business charge card, but in the end, I have a $5000 flexible spending limit, just enough to get the minimum spending done. I lost a net $2K in credit with Chase, but it was worth getting 50K Ultimate Rewards points and 80K Priority Club points.

3. American Express Hilton 65K — Approved instantly!

After going 2/2 with Chase, I turned my eye to American Express, and got instant approval  for $5000! The best part was that they gave me my full credit card information (number, expiration, CVV code) so I got that registered for Small Business Saturday in a jiffy! The card arrived in a few days, and I was able to get an extra $25 gift certificate at a local restaurant.

4 and 5. Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii — Hawaiian Air 35K (x2) — Approved with phone calls

I applied for these in separate browsers simultaneously and got pending status on both. I first called Bank of Hawaii and answered a bunch of questions (including why I applied for 2 … because I want to separate my personal and reimburseable expenses, duh ;)). I’m used to reconsideration calls but this was had me give up the most information, including my major in college (WTF?). The rep congratulated me on a spotless credit report, even wondering how I had an Amex card at age 9 and a Discover card at 14 (gotta love credit reporting agencies!). I was approved quickly.

I then called Bank of America and spoke with a rep who asked me NO questions whatsoever. After about 5 minutes on hold, I was approved with the same $5K credit line – score!

Payout

Impact on credit score

I’ve been keeping track of Credit Karma and Credit Sesame and they’ve been holding steady. Most of my credit inquiries came on Experian, despite applying at so many different banks. However, Bank of America sent me my Experian score after applying for their card, and I was ecstatic to see that it was much higher than expected.

 

Meeting minimum spend

I’ve actually already met the first spend on my American Express Hilton card, and have drawered that until I finish the rest (I have 6 months to reach the higher threshold). I got the Priority Club card and will make a small purchase on that soon. My Chase Ink Bold came in this week and I’m already over 20% of the way there for minimum spend thanks to Office Depot Visa gift cards and some methods of upping spend. Want to know more? Find me at Frequent Traveler University at LAX this weekend!

Chase Freedom 5x Categories for 2013

November 28, 2012 1 comment

How quickly a year goes by! Chase has just announced the 2013 bonus categories for their no-fee Freedom card. Each quarter, the Freedom gets 5% cash-back/5x Ultimate Rewards points at different categories, up to $1500 per quarter. That means that with $6,000 of precise spending, one can accumulate 30K Ultimate Rewards points.

The Freedom is a card that is a mainstay in my wallet, since it has no annual fee. I also got it long before the beginning of this month, when Chase stopped offering their “Exclusives” program, where Chase Checking holders get an extra 10% on base points and 10 points per transaction.

You can activate 5x on the bonus categories starting the 15th of the month before each quarter (so, December 15th, March 15th, June 15th, and September 15th) up until the next quarter’s activation start date. It’s best to activate 5x as soon as possible, though they are retroactive. Interestingly, I was part of a targeted group this year who got to activate 5x for the entire year all at once, though it doesn’t seem like I’ll get to do that next year.

I keep saying “5x Ultimate Rewards points,” which is a bit of a misnomer. The card is marketed as a cash-back card. Each point is worth a penny. However, if you or your spouse/domestic partner has a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus, you can transfer your Freedom UR points into those accounts to turn them into Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to United, British Airways, Hyatt, etc.

Here are the bonus categories for 2013:

January 1 – March 31: (activate December 15th – March 14th)

Gas stations

Drugstores

Starbucks (including Starbucks.com and mobile phone reloads)

The easiest way to maximize this quarter is to buy $1500 of Vanilla reloads at CVS or Walgreens, though I already have my Amex HHonors with 6x and my Chase Ink where I can buy gift cards at 5x to buy reloads. I go to Starbucks a decent amount and get 5x on my Citi Forward. For me, the best incremental category bonus here is gas stations, since the best I get is 2x on my Ink Bold. I’ll use it for gas, then top it off with drugstore purchases in March. (For Californians, Starbucks is an interesting proposition).

April 1 – June 30: (activate March 15th – June 14th)

Restaurants

Movie Theaters

I don’t spend a lot of time at movie theaters, so I guess restaurants are the way to go. I highly value Ultimate Rewards points, mostly for their partnership with United. My Citi Forward gets 5x Thank You Points at dining, which is worth 5 to 6.65 cents back per dollar, but that will be drawered when Freedom has 5x at restaurants, since Ultimate Rewards points are more flexible. In addition, some restaurants sell gift cards to their own places, including some of my local small-business restaurants.

July 1 – September 30: (activate June 15th – September 14th)

Gas Stations

Theme Parks

Kohl’s

Gas stations return for the summer months, and while it might be hard to hit $1500 worth of gas, some places sell gift cards, allowing you to get 5x at other merchants. If you plan a trip to Kohl’s or to a theme park, the Freedom would be a great card to have, since not many cards offer more than 1x.

October 1 – December 31: (activate September 15th – December 31st)

Select department stores (yet to be announced)

Amazon.com

Once they announce which department stores it’ll include, it’ll be easier to figure out how to maximize the 5x for this quarter. Again, my Citi Forward already gets 5x ThankYou Points for Amazon, so I might use my Freedom if I’m not going to spend a lot at the department stores listed. Though it is the holiday season, so department stores will be a heavy category for some.

Even if you do not spend a lot at those particular categories, you can always get gift cards for other places. You can get gift cards at gas stations in Q1/Q3, drugstores in Q1, and certain restaurants for their own cards in Q2. One disappointment is that there are no supermarket quarters at all — earlier this year, I was able to easily max out that quarter with gift card purchases.

Lastly, an interesting side-note — I pinged @ChaseSupport on Twitter from my personal account earlier this week to ask about next year’s Freedom 5x categories, and was told to wait a few more days. This morning, I had a DM with a personal message responding to my question a few days prior with the link to the categories. Now that’s how you do social media!

Categories: Chase, Credit Cards, Gift Cards

Citi Forward has a 30K ThankYou Point Bonus

November 24, 2012 Leave a comment

(I don’t have credit card referral links, this card is just one that I have experience with and thought I’d share)

The Citi Forward was (somewhat) my first credit card. It was actually a Citi MtvU card that I applied for in college the day I turned 18. And it was only my first credit card where I was the primary cardholder. I got some interesting bonuses, like 2000 points for a 4.0 GPA (which I achieved once, the semester I tried) or 750 points for a GPA above 3.5 (which was decent enough motivation to study). I also got 100 points for paying on time (always pay in full!). I’ve kept the card open ever since because it has no annual fee and certainly helps my credit score.

Years later, the Citi MtvU card was discontinued and turned into the Citi Forward, but the same general bonus categories remained. The signup bonus was only 10K points, so I didn’t think it was worth signing up for again before they changed my card.

However, via this FlyerTalk thread, there’s an old Citi Forward landing page that is offering a 30,000 ThankYou Points bonus on their Forward, with interesting spending requirements:

  • First 10,000 points for spending $500 in the first 3 months (months 1-3)
  • Second 10,000 points for spending $1000 in the second 3 months (months 4-6)
  • Third 10,000 points for spending $1500 in the third 3 months (months 7-9)

In effect, it’s a $3000 spending requirement but drawn out over 9 months with specific targets in each trimester.

This isn’t the best signup bonus, I’ll admit, but I love the Citi Forward for multiple reasons:

  • 5x ThankYou Points at restaurants
  • 5x ThankYou Points at bookstores, including Amazon.com
  • No annual fee

At 10,000 points, you can redeem for $100 gift cards, so a ThankYou Point is worth about 1¢, so this is a 5% return. If you have a card like the Citi ThankYou Premier, which increases the value of a ThankYou Point to 1.33¢ each, then it’s a 6.65% return for things like airfare. That beats the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 2.14x on dining. I still value 5x UR from the Chase Freedom over 5x ThankYou Points when restaurants are that quarter’s bonus, but I use my Forward the rest of the year for restaurants and Amazon. ThankYou Points aren’t worth much, but when you’re earning them at a rate 3x faster than UR points, it helps your overall return.

Last month, I put a company luncheon on my Citi Forward and paid it off with Bluebird funded by Vanilla Reloads with the company Ink Bold. By doing so, I was able to get 5x ThankYou Points and close to 5x Ultimate Rewards points for one transaction, totaling >10% back (this was before Office Depot stopped selling vanillas, but the idea still applies if you can fund your Bluebird through other means).

The landing page says that you only earn 2 ThankYou Points for restuarants and bookstores, but the Terms & Conditions on the bottom say:

Unless you are participating in a limited-time offer, you will earn five ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at (1) book stores, (2) record stores, (3) restaurants, including fast food restaurants, (4) motion picture theaters, and (5) video entertainment rental stores (“qualifying merchants”).

Citi is known for having old offers still available somewhere on the internets, so I would take a screenshot of the landing page if you apply, especially the 5x part on the bottom. They could also change the Amazon.com 5x deal anytime, but I still get 5x as of last month.

I would definitely apply for 2 Citi AAdvantage cards over this, possibly 2 Citi Hilton Reserve cards if hotel nights are your thing. But if you’re looking for a card that you want to keep forever and earn decent rewards on dining/Amazon spend when you’re not churning cards, the Citi Forward is tough to beat.

Categories: Citi, Credit Cards

Get 1.88% cash back on no-fee Amex gift cards

November 24, 2012 2 comments

Note: I would not purchase these gift cards with Citi credit cards (because they might get coded as cash advances) or with Amex credit cards (because it might initiate a financial review).

If you’re not signed up for BigCrumbs.com, feel free to use my referral link (I do get a credit if you make a purchase through BigCrumbs).

Until Monday 11/26/2012, American Express is offering gift cards with no purchase fees, along with free standard shipping (on cards up to $200). In addition, BigCrumbs.com is offering 1.88% cash back on these purchases, up from 1.4% … just do a search for “American Express Gift Card” on the site.


If you are having trouble coming up with minimum spend for a credit card, Amex gift cards are a good way of fixing that problem. By purchasing an Amex gift card, you are “paying forward” your transactions to either meet a deadline for spending or to get points sooner.

If you purchase a card over $200, you can’t do standard shipping, but there are promo codes such as WRAP12P, which will give you free 2-day shipping. However, BigCrumbs.com T&C says that “Cash back is not offered on fee-free promotional codes.” In the end, if you are buying a $200 gift card, you are getting $3.76 cash back; if you buy a $3000 gift card, you earn $56.40 back. I would just go ahead and pay the already-discounted $3 shipping charge, since you come out ahead anyway with less risk.

The points world has fallen in love with prepaid cards and reloads, but those require fees that eat into your points earned. However, they are easier to unload through ATMs and Bill Pay. These Amex gift cards are more tough to unload, but if you can float this amount of money and can see yourself using them as gifts or methods of payments, it’s a good deal for spending on non-Citi/Amex credit cards (except maybe the Chase Ink family of cards, you’re better off purchasing gift cards with fees for 5x at office-supply stores).

STAPLES has a temporary consolation offer for Ink cardholders

November 12, 2012 5 comments

Feeling blue about Office Depot’s decision to stop selling Vanilla Reloads? I know I am. Props to @aegt on Twitter, though, for notifying me this morning about this deal from STAPLES.

Between November 11 (yesterday) and November 24, STAPLES is giving a $15 Staples Gift Card for each $100+ Visa/Mastercard gift card you purchase. The activation fee is $5.95 for $100 gift cards and $6.95 for $200 gift cards. That fee is more than made up with the gift card, which you can turn around to use or sell on sites like Cardpool (though they only take gift cards >;$25 for STAPLES).

As for what you can do with these gift cards, you can use them like you would any prepaid gift card – if you purchase the cards with your Chase Ink Bold/Plus, it’ll still be a “5x somewhere else” solution. Others are opting to liquidate with Payments via Amazon. Me … I still have a Serve account that I didn’t close to get Bluebird, and it just so happens that Visa gift cards (but not Mastercard) play well with Serve as debit cards (as long as you register them with the Gift Card Mall’s website first). It’s free to load up to $200/day and $1000/month until March 15, 2013. I have used Serve to pay others for money I borrowed or owed.

I went to my local STAPLES today (which I have been otherwise neglecting for the Office Depot further down the road lately) and bought three $200 Visa gift cards (the yellow ones) with my Ink Bold — I’m trying to see if buying a $200 Visa will get me a $30 Staples Gift Card and save me some activation fees and grant me access to Cardpool selling if they come as separate gift cards. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try again later with $100 cards. Since my purchase was over $500, I had to do the manager authorization dance, though the clerk realized what I was up to when the rebate form printed. Luckily, these rebates work with STAPLESEasyRebates.com, so I’ve already submitted the rebates online.

Edit: Looks like my rebate has already been processed. And that’s a very pleasant surprise 🙂

30 * 3 = 135 for very large values of 30

Edit2: Staples figured it out —

Dear Valued Staples Customer,

We have identified you as one of the consumers who may have visited the
Staples Easy Rebate site to track your rebate. Upon tracking your
submission, you may have noticed that the value of your rebate might
have calculated incorrectly.

Please know that we are working to correct this issue.  When you
receive your Staples gift card in the mail,  it will be loaded with
the correct reward value.

We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

As always, thanks for shopping at Staples.

Sincerely,
Staples Rebate Team

Now I’m curious what the “correct” rebate amount is.

Categories: Credit Cards, Gift Cards

SkyFalling on Vanilla

November 10, 2012 19 comments

It’s been a week since my last post — I’m not really cut out for this travel blogger thing. I’m more active on Twitter – that’s where all the fun is. After all, I still think of this as a hobby, and Twitter has been a great way to connect with like-minded others.

But then today happened. And I just needed to say something about it that 140 characters wouldn’t capture.

Back in the spring, FrequentMiler talked about being able to get 5x Ultimate Rewards points almost everywhere by using a Chase Ink card to purchase a Prepaid American Express and Vanilla Reload packs at Office Depot. Before that, we would simply use credit cards at stores that offered bonus categories to buy merchant gift cards. This was a huge deal because we could get 5x points at any place that accepted American Express, and use the prepaid cards at ATMs to help goose up effective spending.

I’m sure others may have figured out that chain of transactions before FrequentMiler, but his initial and followup posts were done so well, with all the requisite cautions and caveats, that I still consider it post of the year. There was no reason for me to write a blog post on it, since Frequent Miler had already covered so many bases. I do some work in the scientific research community, and knowing who came before you and recognizing their work is paramount to a writer’s credentials. Unless I had something to make the deal even better, there was no reason to keep on talking about it. Anyone who follows my blog and not Frequent Miler’s is doing themselves a huge disservice. There’s no need for me to copy+paste his work.

But over the course of the summer and now autumn, plenty of blogs simply copied down Frequent Miler’s information and touted it as their own, and added their own affiliate links to make money on it. No original research went into this, and that just tickled me funny.

All these posts brought out information into the forefront. Now, I’m fine with sharing deals, but there’s a difference between sharing and shouting from rooftops. In this hobby, somebody in the chain is going to lose money. In the purest example, airlines are giving us seats for pennies on the dollar with our miles. However, they’re doing so because they have an excess of inventory and can make money off the loyalty program.

But when we add other dealers into this mix – Chase, American Express, Office Depot, Incomm – somebody is going to lose money. Think about it – in the old Mint deal, the government was losing money due to credit card processing fees. Same here – Chase was giving 5x points but only recouping around 2% of the transaction, and Office Depot was losing 2% of each transaction, even though the reload fee was less than 1%. If I have a business and I’m losing money on a transaction, I stop selling that product. It may take a while to notice it, but eventually, that’ll be my course of action. But if people start writing up posts to tell thousands of others to exploit my business, you sure as hell should know that I’ll cut off that mistake from my customers.

Today, Office Depot abruptly decided to stop selling these Vanilla Reloads. It comes just as BlueBird was getting into stride (if you don’t know, Bluebird was an even more lucrative angle to the Ink 5x that was first detailed by FrequentMiler, then copied on every other blog to rake in hits and affiliate money). I spoke with the regional manager at my Office Depot store today and he told me that “We figured out what you all are up to” and that “people aren’t going to rip off Office Depot anymore.”

What’s funny is that the actual store manager knows me from my visits there and my conversations with him, and he didn’t think I was doing anything wrong since I told him a story of wanting to have an Amex for certain purchases (which is true) while leaving out the 5x angle. Yet, there are stories of customers who went into detail with the clerks on how they were taking advantage of Bluebird to get free points while sticking Office Depot with the bill. It’s a bit of a reach, but that breaks the 1st rule about these types of deals: “don’t call the banks/airlines/companies.” If the Office Depot person is wondering why you’re paying $4 to buy a $500 gift card, act dumb and just say your business told you too (that’s why you have a business employee card).

I also think it’s also false for any blogger to say that their site don’t carry any weight — my simple WordPress blog itself has gotten thousands of views and I’ve been contacted by representatives of companies I did trip reports on. The more commercial ones have got to have much more clout than I do. Some of them have actually met with the banks themselves, or have exclusive partnerships with the banks we’re trying to take advantage of. It’s as if they’re trying to be double agents, getting in cozy with the banks to try to help the common mileage junkie get an in. Sorry, but if there’s anything that 2008 taught me, it’s that banks will have the last laugh.

It also gets to be a little bit much to say that they shouldn’t be to blame for over-publicizing deals when FlyerTalk has just just as many posts. Last time I checked on Google, FlyerTalk didn’t show up on the front page when I searched “Vanilla Reload” (there is one post that shows up now, which is a discussion that started today). Sure, FlyerTalk is a large site, but it is an actual community there where people are willing to help out so long as you don’t blab everything out and make it easy for Google Alerts to get a company’s attention. If you don’t understand a thread, start participating and figure out who the big players in there are (you can click the number of posts to see the people with the most posts in the thread). If you need help, send a PM. Out of maybe 100 PMs, I’ve only heard “no” 2 or 3 times.

Now, I’ve only met one prominent blogger in person so far, and I’m glad to know that blogger. I’ll likely meet a lot more of them in a few weeks at Frequent Traveler University near LAX. I’m sure they are awesome people, and I even plunked down $99 to spend a weekend with them. But each of these blogs that I mentioned has a commercial arm, and that’s the part I’m critiquing.

I’m voting with my clicks, and have stopped giving my credit card signup affiliate money to blogs who are willing to kill deals for their personal gain. If you read my last app-o-rama post, you’ll notice that I purposefully mentioned giving my Ink signups to FrequentMiler; every other credit card was applied directly without an affiliate. I’m not asking everyone to do this, but money talks and I hope you give it a consideration.

I also made this video. Before you act offended, realize this is a very popular internet meme. Some people find it insensitive, but it’s been around for over 4 years as one of the most enduring internet parody videos … it’s not even the first mileage junkie parody this month!

Categories: American Express, Chase