I’ve been very busy as of late, and unfortunately the blog takes a back seat to things like work, family, and sleep. But anyway…
PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ: The 70K Marriott offer has apparently just expired, but there is still a potentially lucrative 70K Ritz-Carlton offer out there, and in case you didn’t know already you can use Marriott’s points at Ritz-Carlton and vice versa. Andy at Lazy Travelers has fallen in love with this offer and has a great rundown on it: [click to continue…]
Writing in the USA Today, “consumer advocate” Christopher Elliott has this lovely little passage in an article about travel hacking:
Another well-known hack involves signing up for a credit card that allows you to collect frequent-flier miles and then buying items such as gift cards only for the bonus points, known as “manufactured spending.” Then you convert the the item back into cash and pocket the points.
Again, it’s totally legal — and totally wrong. The cards are meant to reward real spending. Exploiting these payment systems only forces the companies offering them to tighten their rules, which can affect all cardholders.
This is a rather silly thing to say for somebody whose byline identifies him as a “consumer advocate”. Apparently the man on the street is first supposed to divine the pure, true, and real meaning behind credit card rewards programs, and then to leave money on the table when actions are opposed to that meaning.
Are banks somehow coerced by evil consumers into handing over points and miles? No. Generous credit card bonuses are a gamble on the part of banks, the gamble being that interest income and fees will be greater then interest expense and bonuses. Banks are free to convey “meaning” to consumers by reducing or capping the bonuses at any time.
And note that banks like to use the word “unlimited” in their marketing copy (see here and here). In marketing promotions, you want to maximize the perceived value (hence “unlimited”) while minimizing the actual cost. If they don’t want people getting unlimited rewards, then they shouldn’t market unlimited rewards.
No, not that Chris Elliott, the other one
My dear friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the death of one of my personal favorite deals, the Blue and Yellow Consumer Electronics Company Credit Card Extremely Generous Promotion. [click to continue…]
Via Fatwallet Financial, TD Bank is offering a $200 sign up bonus plus 5% cash back for six months on gas, groceries, dining, and utilities (no drugstores, alas) when you sign up for their TD Easy Rewards Visa. What’s the catch? The catch is that you have to live in the bank’s footprint (FL, SC, NC, VA, DC, MD, DE, NJ, NY, MA, RI, NH, VT, ME) plus you have to open the account in-branch if you don’t already bank with them.
It may be of interest to those of you on the east coast. $200 is a decent bonus, 5% is very good as well, and the two of them together is even better. I have no idea how TD Bank’s credit lines are, nor do I know how they handle people who like to make large purchases at gas stations and supermarkets, though anybody who has experience with this bank’s credit cards is welcome to chime in below.
Chasing The Points alerted me to a new credit card from Citizens Bank, the Green$ense Platinum:
You can earn $20 per month with this thing, BUT you would have to make 80 transactions per month in order to get that $20. It’s a lot of work unless you can figure out a way to automate a bunch of small transactions. Given the much lower-hanging fruit to be had with manufactured spending, there probably aren’t a whole lot of people into this sort of thing right now. That makes it a great time to talk about this since there’s probably little danger of killing this deal by writing about it.
Where can you do a bunch of small transactions? Back in the good ol’ days that cranky old-timers are always talking about, you could buy Amazon gift certificates in one cent denominations. Ka-ching! In fact, Chase was paying out ten points per purchase at this time, and this led to a hundred-page credit card statement for at least one person (and I would assume more). Chase later raised the minimum gift certificate purchase to $0.15, then just a couple of months ago it went up to $.50. So unless you already do a lot of shopping there, Amazon’s off the table.
Next, there’s the question of how you can automate. I think there’s something called iMacros that can be used for this, though I’ve never looked into it.
So yes, there’s some work to do upfront, but I would imagine that as you get up the learning curve it becomes less work. I could be wrong, but I would also guess that if you build up a competency in small transactions you might find other opportunities as well. Worth the trouble? Beats me.
If you have a spouse, you’re looking at $480 per year, which is roughly 1% of the median household income in the U.S. Question: how many deals are there where you can earn a few bucks per month? If you put them all together, how large an income stream would that potentially be? Off the top of my head, I can think of Staples ink recycling and the Santander Bank thing, but I’m sure there are others.