Surviving the gaunt cow

Note: I sent this as a newsletter last week. I’ll post newsletters that are relevant here from time to time, but please consider signing up for my newsletter and receive all of them when they come out!

2018 and 2019 were particularly good in terms of earning miles and points, but it definitely feels like we are entering a bit of a miles and points earning recession. I’ve been thinking about FQF’s post about dealing with these lean times quite a bit – it’s well worth a read and hopefully like me it will get your brain churning.

Personally, I’ve always been willing to pay a little more for convenience. Three kids means I value my time more than the best absolute deal. Lately, I’ve found the goalposts moving on how much I’m willing to pay. Here are a few examples of what I’ve been doing to generate points and rates I’ve been willing to suffer. I’m sure these rates won’t work for everyone, but they’ve been work for me and my situation.

Maximizing my Spending for Jetblue Mosaic at Amazon

I’m still hooked on Jetblue Mosaic and as I discussed in a recent bonus episode of the Observation Deck, having Jetblue Mosaic actually saves me quite a bit of money on planned family travel. I’ve focused the bulk of my spending early in the year on my Jetblue card to set me up to hit the $50K spending requirement for Mosaic requalification.

I’ve been doing a lot of Amazon spending early in the year and I’ve just been putting it straight on the card. But I realized that I’m leaving points on the table and during this weaker time of points generation I shouldn’t be doing that.

Savvy readers probably already know the solution: buy Amazon gift cards at a grocery store to double my points earnings on these purchases (while making my way towards the $50K). Ever since I read this post, I don’t like to keep a high Amazon gift card balance, but there’s a difference between a high balance and no balance. So I’m starting to throw a $500 Amazon gift card from Stop and Shop into my account here and there. So I’m mainly generating these Jetblue points at 1 cent per point (cashback opportunity cost) while working my way to Mosaic.

Learning about a different Gas Rewards Program

One thing that has really killed me is the limitation (to 0) of Mastercard and Visa gift cards at Plastiq. For the last two years I’d combine gas points promotions at Stop and Shop with being able to liquidate at Plastiq at a low % to earn points at a rate I was happy with. With the money saved on gas I made money while earning points more often than not.

Well, Stop and Shop hasn’t had a VGC or MCGC gas points promotion yet in 2020 and even if they had, I’m not sure I’d have utilized it. Just too hard to liquidate.

So what’s happened is I’ve looked at Speedway Rewards (which I know is a staple for many) for the first time in my life. So now I’m earning Speedway Rewards points on Amazon gift cards plus gas is 5X on Chase Freedom this month, so I’m taking advantage of this opportunity that I ignored in prior years. On top of that, I checked my app for some Speedway promotions and got some extra points on soda purchases – flawless victory. (Check your app, you never know what promotions you might find).

I have a couple of other Speedway angles I’m playing around with but Amazon (or any gift card you can use yourself or sell at 95% or more) makes the math work for me once you factor in the Speedway Rewards. Again, close to one cent per point which I can live with for Ultimate Rewards

Working on my AMEX Gold 4X Grocery Capacity

Sam said something interesting on the last episode of Milenomics, something to the effect of holding off on his AMEX Gold right now so he can hopefully double dip retention bonus spend with his $25K grocery allowance. A noble goal, and maybe I’ll leave $5K for something similar at the end of the year, but I want to get some of this spending out of the way.

Even though I’m not taking Sam’s idea carte blanche, the mere mention of the AMEX Gold made me realize I’d completely forgotten about the card. So once again, I can use it to buy Amazon for personal use or I can combine gas points deals on certain gift cards with gift card reselling to buy points at a price that, while high and higher than I would have paid in the past, I can live with. I can get MR at around 0.9 cents per point, I’ll live with it (and I don’t anticipate using my entire $25K allowance).

Just a reminder that the card exists in case you forgot like me. Maybe you have some local plays that you can hit.

I don’t presume these “deals” are groundbreaking by any means. But hopefully reading about them has accomplished two things:

1) Given you some insight about my thinking about how the value of a deal (or more importantly, my deal “floor”) changes as the times change

2) Made you think of similar deals in your life that you may have ignored that you’ll at least consider pulling the trigger on

Save your grain and your gold and let’s get out of this drought together.

Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.