Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Good Post on Redeeming Miles

Ben over at One Mile at a Time has a very useful post on redeeming miles HERE.  As a full-time points and miles blogger, Ben is usually a great source for information and this post is no exception.  He covers many of the tips that I've mentioned in the past, and I'd recommend bookmarking this post for future reference.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bluebird Increases Daily Load Limits

Listed on my sidebar are the three travel/points bloggers that are my "go to" guys for travel information: Gary @ View From the Wing, Ben @ One Mile at a Time, and Greg @ The Frequent Miler.  Yesterday Greg posted on a positive change to Bluebird's terms and conditions.  As of July 1, Bluebird's "Add Funds" terms look like this:
However, TFM reports that the limit at Walmart is actually $1,999.99 per day.  The previous daily load limit was $1,000 and the daily online debit load was $100.  If you have a miles earning debit card (or Visa/MC prepaid debit cards that still work @ Walmart) Bluebird had just  reduced the number of times you'll have to visit Wally World by half!  That's great news if, like me, Walmart is not your favorite place.

UPDATE:  I can confirm that the Walmart limit is not $1,999.99 per day.  That is Walmart's limit per register, per transaction.  You can load the full $2,500 by visiting more than one register or a combination of a register and the Walmart Moneycenter automated kiosk.

Suntrust Delta Debit Card is Gone for Now

For anyone who lives anywhere near a Delta hub, the Suntrust Delta Skymiles debit card was one of the best deals out there.  The sign-up bonus of 5K Skymiles wasn't massive, and there was the hassle of having to establish a Suntrust checking account, but the earning potential was massive.

I posted a month or so ago that Suntrust had stopped promoting the card on their website, but that there were reports that the card was still available in branches or by phone or chat.  Well, I was motivated to check up on the card when Bluebird changed their daily load limits from $1,000 to $2,500, since I sometimes use my Skymiles debit card to load Bluebird (and earn miles for doing so).  Unfortunately, it seems that the card is well and truly gone for now.  During an online chat with Suntrust customer service, I was informed that Suntrust "is no longer offering that card at this time."

It seems that if you don't already have a Suntrust debit card, your window of opportunity has passed.  If the card comes back in the future, I can only imagine that it will be with a more restricted miles earning structure, i.e. no miles for PIN based transactions.

EDIT: As additional support, I note that the former website for the card www.deltadebitcard.com [link is now spam, so I've deliberately left it cold] has apparently been abandoned by Suntrust and snapped up by a domain squatter.  However, if you have any faith in the diligence of Delta's IT guys (Ed: Ha!), you can rest your hopes on the fact that Delta still promotes the card on their website: http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/skymiles/earn-miles/earn-miles-with-partners/check-card.html.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Garylanche?

One of my favorite blogs is Glenn Reynold's Instapundit.  Instapundit's habit of linking to interesting stories from lesser known bloggers has given rise to the term "Instalanche" to describe the spike in pageviews caused by one of his links.  Well, this humble blog gets around 30 pageviews a day, which isn't bad for a blog that was intended to be a reference for my friends and family.  But last week, Gary at Viewfromthewing was kind enough to link to my post advising caution to the folks active in Manufactured Spending.  That resulted in a massive (by my extremely humble standards) spike in my page traffic:
I think I'll call it a "Garylanche."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Manufactured Spending- Emergency Exits

My last post got me to thinking about holding and liquidating prepaid Visa/Mastercard debit cards.  If you're reading this, you likely know that virtually all prepaid debit cards now come with (or can be assigned) PIN numbers.  Which means, or at least has meant, that one could easily liquidate them by purchasing money orders.  This week we saw the demise of one of the easiest and cheapest sources of manufactured spending when Walmart ceased accepting OneVanila Prepaid Debit Cards for the purchase of money orders.  Fortunately, most of us have alternative sources for liquidating the cards.

But what if those go away too?  (As could easily happen since Western Union is the source of virtually all money orders).  And what if you have a pile of debit cards on hand when that happens?  You could, of course, liquidate them at a rate of $2,000/mo via Amazon Payments.  Or you could use them for your everyday expenses.  Or you could take a small loss by purchasing giftcards for resale.  For example, most grocery stores have a pretty good gift card rack that includes gas cards.  Exxon gas cards can be sold to Cardpool.com for 92% of face value.  Linking to Cardpool through Topcashback.com will earn you an additional 4% on the sale price.  So, for a hypothetical MSer holding $1K in gift cards that he absolutely had to liquidate the results would look like this:

$1K in Visa --> $1K Exxon
$1K Exxon sold to Cardpool- $920.00
4% from Topcashback -           $ 36.80
Total Recouped-                      $956.80

Ouch, that's nearly a 5% loss!  But wait, if your grocery store has a Fuel Rewards type program, you'll be earning some gas credit on the purchase too.  For instance, Winn-Dixie regularly offers 5cpg (up to 20 gallons) off for each $50 in gift card purchases.  So the numbers could look like this:

$1K in Visa --> $1K Exxon
$1K Exxon sold to Cardpool- $920.00
4% from Topcashback -           $ 36.80
$1 off 20 gallons-                     $ 20.00
Total Recouped-                      $976.80

Ugh, still a 2.5% loss.  There are other ways to liquidate cards (Amazon Payments, etc.) but almost all of them are going to entail some loss.  Once again, the lesson is: don't overextend.


P.S.:  Cardpool limits Topcashback commissions to the first $1K sold per Cardpool account.  (Hint).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Manufactured Spending- Another Disturbance in the Force

     There's been a great deal of distress over at Flyertalk lately due to the demise of one avenue for manufacturing spend.  Wally World (W**-Mart) has recently changed their POS software in such a way that prepaid Vanilla Visa Debit cards can no longer be used to purchase money orders or to load Bluebird cards.  This is a serious blow to folks whose source of prepaid debit cards is limited to CVS, since the only cards available on credit there are Vanilla cards.  There are (inflated, I hope) reports of people being stuck with many thousands of dollars in cards that they can no longer easily convert into cash equivalents.  There's a lesson here, of course.  Risk is an unavoidable part of life, but if you're smart, you'll limit your exposure.  If you decide to use any of the manufactured spending techniques, best practices call for you to liquidate the cards as fast as you accumulate them.  Don't get greedy and think that there'll always be a way to liquidate the cards later.

     As they said in Battlestar Galactica, "all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again."  Not long ago, there was a brief opportunity to use Home Improvement Gift Cards to purchase money orders.  It was clearly a glitch and not long for this world, but, nevertheless, some overenthusiastic folks loaded up on thousands of dollars worth of the cards and were caught short when the glitch was fixed.  If they were smart they only lost 5% on the deal, but then, if they were smart, they wouldn't have been holding $10K+ in HIGCs.  Remember: "If something can't go on forever, it won't."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Buying Points vs. Manufactured Spending

One of my favorite bloggers covered Club Carlson's current promotion for a "Flash Sale" on Club Carlson points.    With this Club Carlson deal you can (for a limited time) buy points at .4cpp, a substantial discount over the normal rate.  It got me thinking about the value proposition of purchasing points directly from hotels/airlines versus obtaining them by manufactured spending.

As an initial matter, its rarely a good idea to purchase points prospectively, i.e. without a specific use in mind.  There's always the possibility that the points could devalue before you get the chance to use them.  But when you have a specific purpose in mind, deals like this one can be worthwhile.  For instance:  Mrs. Pointsninja have an upcoming stay at the Radisson Blu at the Zurich Airport.  The non-cancellable Advanced Purchase rate is 260CHF, or about $290.  But an award stay (which is fully cancellable) runs 50,000 Club Carlson points.  Through the current promotion, I could purchase 50,750 points for $203.  I could then use those points to book the room and effectively save $87, plus get a cancellable rate to boot!  The key, of course, is that I'd be purchasing points at a cost of .4cpp, but redeeming them at a value of .58cpp.

Of course, through manufactured spending with the Club Carlson Visa, I can quite easily "purchase" points at a rate of .21cpp, meaning that I could actually get the room for $185 cheaper than the Advanced Purchase rate.