My Communication Timeline

In the interest of my delayed response:

I don’t disclose much personal details on the blog and I like to keep it that way. There are only a handful of people in real life that know about the blog who are readers from time to time. That being said, I have a full time job and do not check on the website during business hours. I don’t write anything for the blog, research the next post, or anything related to Chasing The Points. I periodically check Twitter on my phone, but cannot possibly respond to mass tweets in a timely manner.

The only available time I have is after work and other nightly activities. I try my best to reply to all emails, tweets, and comments, but I need some time.

Your patience is greatly appreciated.


Ethics of Manufactured Spend White Hat Vs Black Hat

I’ve written about two unethical situations: Gift Card Churning – Is This Another Scummy Move? and most recently Unethical, Profitable Gift Card Churning Machine. Both eliciting a good and bad response that I appreciate to see all the views that I might have missed.

Before we delve into the why’s let’s review a white hat and black hat from Wikipedia:

White hat

Main article: White hat

white hat hacker breaks security for non-malicious reasons, perhaps to test their own security system or while working for a security company which makes security software. The term “white hat” in Internet slang refers to an ethical hacker. This classification also includes individuals who perform penetration tests and vulnerability assessments within a contractual agreement. The EC-Council,[8] also known as the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants, is one of those organizations that have developed certifications, courseware, classes, and online training covering the diverse arena of Ethical Hacking.[7]

Black hat

A “black hat” hacker is a hacker who “violates computer security for little reason beyond maliciousness or for personal gain” (Moore, 2005).[9] Black hat hackers form the stereotypical, illegal hacking groups often portrayed in popular culture, and are “the epitome of all that the public fears in a computer criminal”.[10] Black hat hackers break into secure networks to destroy data or make the network unusable for those who are authorized to use the network. Black hat hackers also are referred to as the “crackers” within the security industry and by modern programmers. Crackers keep the awareness of the vulnerabilities to themselves and do not notify the general public or manufacturer for patches to be applied. Individual freedom and accessibility is promoted over privacy and security. Once they have gained control over a system, they may apply patches or fixes to the system only to keep their reigning control. Richard Stallman invented the definition to express the maliciousness of a criminal hacker versus a white hat hacker who performs hacking duties to identify places to repair.[11]


Now that you understand the differences, when you’ve manufactured spend enough, you will engage in areas where the lines blur or are clearly defined. The two posts above are clearly defined that the lines have been crossed of being acceptable and ethical. For the record, I’ve done each once to confirm the findings. I’d like to think that I engage in the white hat aspects of manufactured spending, but some would think manufacture spending already is already crossing the line.

When you find a vulnerability like this, for outsiders like ourselves, who do we tell when you find out? Thankfully, the Internet has connected us in ways we wouldn’t have thought of years ago.  For the Unethical, Profitable Gift Card Churning Machine post, I’ve searched LinkedIn, but I couldn’t pinpoint anyone in the company that I could send to notify. An additional wrinkle is that it’s a subsidiary of a larger company.

For Gift Card Churning – Is This Another Scummy Move?, it was pretty easy to find the SVP of Ecommerce on LinkedIn and I let him know of the vulnerability. Because I am not a premium member on LinkedIn and this person is not any where near my relationship circles, I had to leave him a short message that I’ve redacted a bit.




It could be coincidental or it could have been the message I sent to the SVP, who knows because he never responded. But after seeing what happens with the impact to everyone using the portal, I will refrain from researching  and playing around with vendors and portals when I spot something that I feel obligated to need to tell someone at the company.  I don’t want to be chased with pitchforks with people looking for blood at a public setting because I “killed” their deal.


Chasing The Points milemadness Updated Post

Hey folks, I updated the password protected #milemadness post that just went live. For those that already have the password, it is the same.

For those that have not received it, below are instructions to receive the password that I copied:

Like the last time for a password protected post, I will be doing the same for my next one. It jumps into some depth of what I planned to do that I described in my #milemadness Fail. I wanted to wait until the end of the month, but after a complete look of the entire list, the deal wasn’t good enough for the #milesmadness tournament.

I hope the post also exposes you to new ideas to manufactured spending when you put your mind into things. As Matt has posted, we’re trying to find a balance between sharing details and not sharing too much.

How to receive the password to the post tomorrow:

  • Follow me so I can direct message you the password.
  • Tweet @chasingthepts What’s your #milemadness secret? #CTPmilemadness


Simple enough, right? I’ll send you the password as soon as I can.

And for those that don’t have Twitter, you can post here or email me to request for the password.

Is Plastic Jungle Fading Away?

Around this time last year, Plastic Jungle made the announcement that they will become a business to business operation instead of a business to consumer company. I think they were by far the best gift card exchange site. When they were around, gift card churning was the best manufactured spend opportunity available because of the cash back from portals like Top Cash Back. I also dived into finding arbitrage with the new Plastic Jungle B2B, with United, US Bank Flexperks, and Best Buy and the lowest rate gift card should be sold for United miles.

I don’t know when Plastic Jungle and US Bank ended their agreement, but if I were to peg a date it would be around December, and it looks like Plastic Jungle just lost Best Buy and we are left with just CVS and United.




I’ve run numbers and buying gift cards to convert into United miles are not a good opportunity. Neither is converting into a CVS gift card. I would really hate to see Plastic Jungle fold up.

Why Telling Your Bank Where You Go Is Important

On Flyertalk, tsmith12 posted:

My card got stolen when I mailed the card back- since it was a replacement (with the same number), the person used the card at drive-thru’s and gas stations. Luckily I was overseas and had informed Chase of my travels, so they emailed me wondering if I was the person using the card at my local area establishments. Unless the account is completely closed, I’ll never mail my old/used/replacement cards ever again. Lesson learned.

Fortunately for the poster, they notified Chase of the travels and Chase inquired about their whereabouts when charges appeared domestically while the poster was overseas. Besides the fact it allows the banks to know where you are so it’ll allow charges to go through internationally, but apparently, it also is a good way to stop fraudulent charges while you are away.

The poster’s experience reminds me of my own experience when my Sapphire Preferred number was stolen. I still think the number was skimmed while I was in Las Vegas. Chase quickly figured out my card was fraudulently used when charges were showing up in Atlanta and I had used the card the same day in New York City.

So the next time you think about an extended vacation, consider telling the bank where you will be even if you will not use the credit card because of a foreign exchange fee. It will be your insurance plan. At least for Chase, it’s quite easy to do it yourself for a travel note online.


Here is the guide to leave a travel note for Chase in 3 easy steps with big red arrows:




Originally: This Year Best Buy Is Going To Pay Me To Shop

The below post was written late 2013 and early 2014 pending UPromise cashback. Given that it doesn’t look likely that I will be paid, I am releasing this post without any confirmation of cash payback or clawback. I want to stress that if you put effort into it, you would be just as successful in manufactured spending.




Thanks to Personal Finance Digest for exhaustively documenting about Best Buy’s rewards program and helping me plug-in the gaps, it occurred to me that with the right amount of effort Best Buy will pay you to shop with them!

See these posts for additional background:

Reminder: Double points on ALL purchases at Best Buy on Sunday, December 8

Best Buy cuts elite benefits! Perhaps a free BusinessWeek subscription would ease the sting?

HOT DEAL: How I’m getting 10% back at Best Buy this weekend

The Guide:

You need register for the program at My Best Buy.

The earning chart can be seen here:



What Needs To Be Done:

Buy $1500 in Best Buy gift cards online through a portal that offers at least 5% back and pay with your US Bank Cash+ with the Electronics category or Best Buy card. You now earned approximately 1500 Best Buy points and 10% cash back or equivalent. Your option now could be to sell the gift card on one of the gift card exchange sites for 90% of its value according to Gift Card Granny

I just registered an am starting with 0 points and the future calculations look like:

  • Spend $1500 and receive 1500 points for being a basic member
  • Spend $2000 while elite and receive 2200 points for being elite
  • Now eliteplus from spending a total of $3500

By Quarter 3 as the max is $2000 per quarter of a category with the Cash+, I will be an eliteplus member I expect to have accumulated 4325 Best Buy points. At the end of the year I expect to earn a total of 9325 Best Buy points, an extra $25 from US Bank when I redeem $100.

The Keys To Success:

  • Best Buy needs to offer points on purchasing gift cards
  • Online portal needs to credit the cash back.

Currently, Best Buy is awarding points for purchasing gift cards. 



Final Thoughts:

I will be taking advantage of this manufactured spend opportunity as there will be a return of at least 2% with minimal effort and can be done all in the comfort of your own home. This is the type of manufactured spend that I like the most, a little thinking for creative points and little effort. If American Express brings back Best Buy as part of the Sync offers, this makes the job even easier.

The Best Non Bonus American Express Membership Rewards Earning Card

The other day, I started looking at the public credit card offers available for under my affiliate link (my affiliate link) and saw something that was interesting that isn’t talked about much.



The Card:

Sorry folks, it’s another business card, the American Express Blue For Business. The sign up bonus is comparable to the Chase Ink Cash. Chase is offering you 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points, but you must spend $3,000 in the first three months. Meanwhile, spend as low as $.01 and you would earn the sign up bonus for the Blue for Business. As with all the other American Express business cards, this one is also eligible for the OPEN savings.

OPEN Savings® Benefit
The OPEN Savings benefit is built in to Business Cards from American Express OPEN and provides either up to a 10% discount or up to 4 additional Membership Rewards® points for each eligible dollar spent at OPEN Savings merchants. To take advantage of this benefit, payment must be made with a Business Card from American Express OPEN at the time of purchase. All Cards under a particular Card Account (including the Basic Card as well as any Additional or Employee Cards) are combined for the purposes of calculating OPEN Savings benefits. All OPEN Savings benefits are credited to the Basic Card Member only. Please allow up to 12 weeks for your benefit to appear on your monthly statement. If your Card Account is not eligible to receive Membership Rewards points or is not enrolled in the Membership Rewards program, you will receive the OPEN Savings benefit as a discount that will be provided as a statement credit to that Card Account. If your Card Account is enrolled in the Membership Rewards program you have the option of receiving your OPEN Savings benefit either as a discount or as additional Membership Rewards points. The relative value of the benefit options will differ depending on how you use your Membership Rewards points. The redemption value of additional points that you receive under the Membership Rewards Points Benefit may be less than the dollar value of statement credits that you receive under the Discount Benefit. You can change your OPEN Savings benefit selection a maximum of once per calendar month. Changes normally take effect within 72 hours from the time you submit a change to your benefit selection. Purchases that are eligible for the OPEN Savings benefit that are returned or credited from an OPEN Savings merchant will result in a reversal of your statement credit or removal of Membership Rewards points depending on your benefit election at the time of the return or credit. The benefit may not be available at all OPEN Savings partner locations. For a full list of individual OPEN Savings merchants and benefit descriptions, please visit opensavings.com. The OPEN Savings benefit (including merchant participation and offers) is subject to change at any time without notice. Membership Rewards program terms and conditions apply. OPEN Savings offers may be subject to exclusions, benefit limits and other restrictions or limitations. For full terms and conditions including specific paragraphs on the Benefit Selection and How Returns Work, go to opensavings.com.


What Makes This Card Interesting:

The American Express Blue For Business earns Membership Rewards Express, but according to The Points Guy, if you have any of the cards that allow you to transfer to Hotel or Airline programs, the points earned from the Blue become regular Membership Rewards. Cards that earn “regular” Membership Rewards include, but not limited to:

  • Premier Rewards Gold
  • Business Rewards Gold

That being said, this card offers you a 30% annual bonus – think of it like the Chase Sapphire Preferred 7% dividend or the Freedom 10% back. That means the Blue for Business is earning you 1.3 points per $1 spent.

Annual Relationship Bonus
You will receive a relationship bonus in the form of Membership Rewards® points for eligible purchases made using your Blue for Business® Credit Card. The number of Membership Rewards points you receive will equal 30% of eligible purchases charged to your Card account during an anniversary year. Your relationship bonus will be posted to your Membership Rewards account no later than thirty days after the anniversary of your Card account occurs. Your account must be in good standing to receive your relationship bonus each anniversary year. An anniversary year is 12 billing periods in a row, beginning with the one in which the anniversary of your Card account occurs. Eligible purchases are purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply. Terms and Conditions for the Membership Rewards® program apply. Visit membershiprewards.com/terms or call 1-800-AXP-EARN (297-3276) for more information. Participating partners and available rewards are subject to change without notice.

Owning a Blue for Business card could be like the 1-2 combo of Chase Freedom and Ink Bold/Plus or Sapphire Preferred. The combination allows you to squeeze out more value from your points and Blue for Business gives you an extra 30% in non-bonus categories.

Readers, now that you know about the card, what’s the best combination for the Membership Rewards? I do not know, I do not have any Membership Rewards earning cards, but do plan on adding it into my toolbox.

Do you think the new American Express Everyday card is better?  Personally, I rarely have more than 10 transactions on a card in a month. For me to hit 20 or 30 transactions is pretty tough, and I use my credit cards every where I go. Although if you could get the 30 transactions, obviously earning 1.5x from the Everyday Preferred is the best choice.