State of the Game: Is MS Worth It Any More, Cashback, Chase, and More

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If you want a laugh, check out my previous “State of the Game” post. In it, I talk about looking forward to REDbird, loving Club Carlson, and wondering how Evolve Money would play out.

And now, REDbird is so, so over, I declared Club Carlson dead to me, and haven’t messed with Evolve Money since they started charging a 3% fee on credit card bill payments.

I also lamented the loss of Vanilla Reloads and Amazon Payments, and was just switching from Bluebird to Serve.

Manufactured spending

Dude. MS is DONE. Right? What is left?

I read on the FlyerTalk forums about people MSing $20K-$50K a month… HOW?!

People aren’t talking about what they’re doing. And I don’t know how to do it either.

The only ace in my little MS hole is buying PayPal My Cash card at CVS to pay rent on RadPad.

RadPad with PayPal debit card... S'all I got

RadPad with PayPal debit card… S’all I got

I hear people still MS with Bluebird. But there are no Walmarts here in New York, so I can’t mess with that. I don’t even have a Bluebird card any more anyway.

We kinda thought for a second that Evolve would be a good way to liquidate PayPal My Cash cards by using the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard, but nope. They charge a 3% fee on that, too.

So I don’t know what the next thing is or what people are doing… is MS even worth it any more? 

Cashback bonanza

Ever since getting FIREd up, I’m loving the Fidelity Amex more and more each day.

I’m also thinking about getting the Discover It card and taking advantage of double cash back on the first 12 monthsincluding quarterly category bonuses, portal shopping, and regular spend.

I might Discover... It.

I might Discover… It.

Frequent Miler had a post about it that put me over the edge. But, I’m going to take his advice and get it in late July to get the best categories repeated next year at this time. I haven’t had a nice app-o-rama in a while anyway.

Tsk, tsk about Chase

Speaking of app-o-ramas, it looks like Chase is going the way of the dodo.

Chase Bank, extinct since June 2015

Chase Bank, extinct since June 2015

I wonder if other banks will start following suit.

If it becomes more difficult to open new cards, and if manufactured spending is difficult, what is left?

Man, the recession was great for the points and miles hobby. Airlines and hotels were throwing points out like candy. And now that flights are full and hotels are doing fine, they don’t need to have great loyalty programs or incentive spend.

The hobby will march forward, but to where? And when?

Until the “next thing” pops up, I’m gonna stick to loading up my Roth IRA for free.

Thank you for being a friend

Thank you for being a friend

I have plenty of AA miles and a nice Ultimate Rewards balance. Until I get another travel goal in mind, I’m going to focus on my FIRE (financial independence, retire early).

Airline status

Remember when I said I was going to do the AA Platinum Challenge again this year? I… didn’t.

While the extrAA miles are nice (and I do think AA is still the best airline program, for now anyway), I simply don’t have that many paid flights these days.

I consider myself a free agent when it comes to AAirlines. I’ll fly whAAtever gets me there the cheapest when I pay, and whAAtever I have the most points with when I redeem. Easy as that. (K, I’ll stop with the AA thing now.)

I’m still waiting on the other shoe to drop with American anyway. 2016 is gonna be a bloodbath a la United, Hilton, and Club Carlson, I think.

Hotel status

Speaking of other shoes to drop, I’m looking at you, Hyatt.

American needs a hotel partner like United has Marriott and Delta has Starwood, and Hyatt or IHG look like the best options right now (or Hilton since both have credit cards issued by Citi… hmm?).

American and Hyatt sittin' i a tree...

American and Hyatt sittin’ i a tree…

I love Hyatt, but I suspect they’ll devalue soon too.

In fact, I expect IHG to do something shitty in 2016 (though I recently got an IHG card), and for SPG to make some changes (not that I ever liked Starpoints, anyway).

Until the next recession, of course. Then they’ll all be printing points and miles like crazy again.

But now that I’m done trying to like Club Carlson, I really want to like Hyatt. It’s a trepidatious loyalty. Because I keep expecting them to do something crazy.

Bottom line

It’s a barren, battered landscape out there right now.

Mars? Nah, that's just the points and miles wasteland right now

Mars? Nah, that’s just the points and miles wasteland right now

In lieu of everything, I’m going to down, focus on my FIRE, and get some cashback while I drain my current balances. Points accounts are NOT savings accounts (but they can be insurance). Earn and burn, baby!

So talk to me.

Tell me about:

  • Your predictions
  • How you liquidate PayPal My Cash cards (or if you use RadPad)
  • MS if you care to share
  • How you see things playing out in points and miles land

Or, if you want, come tell me in person at the points and miles Meetup tonight.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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Comments

  1. MS is dead! At least for all who do not trust in Marie Laveau. The reason MS techniques are no longer revealed in public is the fact that any pointed out will get quickly doubletapped by Tallahassee.

  2. I think the people who MS $30k-$50k a month are doing so on their business cards, not personal cards. I actually prefer that strategy too. As far as MS, it is still well and alive here in NYC (or anywhere for that matter) but I think one just needs to think out of the box?
    As far as airline predictions, there will be huge devaulation for AAdvantage miles. Miles & points land will continue but it will be evolving. It does seem like it will be revenue based within the next 5-10 years so might as well enjoy the now as much as we can! 😉

  3. It all depends on what you mean (expect) from manufactured spend.

    1) Being able to spend some money to meet the credit card bonus spending limit.

    This usually means spending $1000-$3000 to get the bonus. This type of MS is still doable.

    2) Spending a few thousand dollars each month for a profit of, let’s say, 1% (cash or the equivalent, accrued in points or miles).

    This is also doable but I’m not sure it’s really worth it since you need to spend time on this.

    3) Spending very large amounts of money.

    Unless you’re working for FIFA, for example, so you can accumulate millions of points with other people’s money I believe you can’t do this 🙂

    • I’m thinking $5K-$10K per month, more on the $10K side. Maybe I’ll hold off for a while, pay down my student loans (unless I can figure out how to include that with an MS activity), and see what pops up in a few months.

      Thank you for weighing in!

    • Agreed. 5.5 months into the year and my spreadsheet shows $22k manufactured with $400 or ~2% in pure cash profit (does not include cash back portals, etc.).

      I rarely MS if it costs money. In a pinch this year, I might buy a GC or two.. My #1 MS strategy was literally stumbled on, and I’ve told nobody. It’s 100% cost neutral, and I’ve even found ways to profit on it.

      No offense to the bloggers out there, but it’s the easiest $12k in MS I’ve ever done.. my mouth is shut!

      I don’t believe these people that are MS’ing 20k per month! There are NOT that many cost neutral strategies out there…. I feel like I’ve overdone it with $25k in 6 months…

  4. I can still do $15,000 a month in Redbird if need be. Its not free but its still great for meeting minimum spends and actually manufacturing starwood points for less then a penny! I wrote about it recently too.

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