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I’m a Miles and Points Simpleton, and I’m Darn Proud of It!

Back in the olden days, signing up for bonus and then canceling  the card just to do it all over again with another offer was a revolutionary concept. Some of us have stumbled across this idea on our own many years ago (like yours truly), others heard it from a friend or read about it on the internet. It seemed too good to be true, right? But it was for realz.

Over the years this hobby has changed tremendously. With introduction of manufactured spending and tightening of bank rules, many have shifted their strategy away from sign-up bonuses. Additionally, bloggers started getting paid when hobbyists used their affiliate credit card links.

Not surpsingly, it drastically affected miles and points environment  and contributed to aggressive nature  of advertising you get to witness on a daily basis. Many became disillusioned with often misleading and self-serving advice. I won’t go into details as I’ve discussed this topic many times. I will only say that things are much more complex than they are presented at times. There is no “black and white” when it comes to miles and points blogging.

Does all of this mean that credit card bonuses are no longer a good deal and just something only simpleton people pursue? Absolutely not! They were a good deal 15 years ago, and they are still a good deal today, a better deal, in fact. I’ve mentioned before that my first card came with 10,000 miles and had a $95 annual fee, NOT waived. I needed to top off my account for an award ticket to Hawaii, and this was the cheapest/easiest way to do it.

There is no question that bloggers (including me) are motivated by incentives. Most people hope to get paid for their work, apparently, also a revolutionary concept for many in this hobby. That said, I  view readers as human beings rather than cattle I can milk for affiliate commission.

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Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The fact remains that sign-up bonuses are the easiest and cheapest way of acquiring enough points for a family vacation.

But don’t take my word for it. Do an informal poll on Twitter or Facebook and ask folks what’s the simplest way of obtaining 50,000 miles. I doubt anyone will tell you that it’s through buying and liquidating 100 Visa gift cards. Sure, churning includes risks, like overspending and getting in debt.

But manufactured spending involves risks too, like losing the card (s), method of liquidation going bust etc. It can be lucrative, no doubt. But it’s not as easy as folks make it out to be.

Let me give you an example. We live in a small town with one grocery store and one CVS. I had success with buying Visa gift cards at a  drug store, but it involved waiting for manager to show up, then signing my name in a journal. It’s not something I want to go through on a regular basis. I didn’t buy the card to cash it out, but rather for everyday usage.

My one experience with trying to buy Visa gift card at Winn-Dixie was a major bust. Once again, we had to wait for manager who had to take record of my driver’s license. Then they couldn’t get the transaction to go through. Finally, when everything was resolved, my bank put a fraud alert since I don’t normally buy $500 worth of groceries. Thank goodness, I was there in the morning, so the store was empty.

Now let’s talk about liquidation. The most common method right now is to buy money orders at Walmart. There is always a line at my store, so that’s wasted time. Also, my husband works at the bank where we have all of our accounts. If I regularly came with a money order deposit, it would look weird and potentially backfire when it comes to his employment. Do I really want this sort of thing for a few points? Of course, I could always get an account at another bank, but that’s extra hassle.

Not to mention, most of the time, MS costs money, while chasing after sign-up bonuses does not. Sure, there is a risk of spending more than you otherwise would. But assuming you are disciplined  with finances, you are simply buying things you normally would anyway. Now compare it to manufactured spending. Usually, you’ll pay $5 to buy $500 Visa gift card and around 80 cents for a money order to liquidate it. So, right there you are paying close to 1.2 cents per point, plus your time.

MS can be a great deal

This is where I defend the opposite side. Take Wells Fargo Visa Signature card. Here are the details of the offer:

  • Earn 5x points on gas, grocery, and drugstore net purchases for 6 months, and 1x on all other net purchases.
  • Receive 50% more value when you redeem for airfare through GoFarRewards.wf.com. For example, 30,000 points is currently a $450 value toward airfare redemption or a $300 value toward cash redemption options.
  • Enjoy dozens of privileges reserved for Visa Signature cardholders, including luxury hotel benefits, complimentary concierge service3, travel offers and protections and more.

Direct application link 

If you are someone who has easy access to purchasing Visa gift cards at a grocery store/drug store, this card can be very lucrative. If you are looking to redeem for airfare, value proposition is even better. Let’s say you spend $6 all-in to buy and liquidate a $500 Visa gift card. That $6 will potentially give you $37.50 towards airline tickets, a profit of $31.50. A good deal? You bet!

Make a daily trip to grocery store plus CVS, and you will have $63 airfare credit to show for it. If you do it for six months, you’ll have $11,340 in airfare credits. Don’t need that many flights? There is always an option of cashing the rewards out, albeit at less lucrative rate.

It doesn’t appear that there is a minimum redemption level when it comes to airfare, according to terms:

Flights must be redeemed through Go FarTM Rewards. For airline ticket redemptions, the number of points required to be redeemed is equivalent to the ticket costs divided by 0.015, rounded up to the nearest whole point. Points comparison is based on Go FarTM Rewards cash redemption options, where the number of points required to redeem is equivalent to the ticket cost divided by 0.01. Cash redemption options must be redeemed in $25 increments (currently 2500 points).”

But the thing is, most normal families are not going to bother. Not to mention, many of us are not comfortable with the idea of manufactured spending. Cashing out Visa gift cards is against the rules which are explicitly stated on the card itself.

BTW, Wells Fargo Visa Signature card used to pay me commission, but I didn’t feel that highlighting it was the best use of my time. Ironically, now that it gives me zero incentive, here I am, writing about it! Blogging is about delivering appropriate content for your unique readership. My target audience  involves busy  families who (presumably) don’t like to jump through hoops.

I know many of you have jobs working 50-60 hours per week, side businesses, kids and more! There is no question that for some, the juice is worth the squeeze when it comes to Wells Fargo Visa Signature. Well, at least for 6 months. For most of us, it’s easier to obtain miles and points through sign-up bonuses.

You don’t have to choose

When I see “MS is better than  churning” argument, my counter-argument is: Why not do both? Getting Wells Fargo card doesn’t preclude you from signing up for various bonus offers. Just use WF Visa for your manufactured spending and the other card for your normal everyday expenses. You’ll still need to pay other bills, so just channel them towards sign-up bonuses. Why does it have to be one or the other?

Occasionally, it makes sense to pay fees in order to obtain an unusually lucrative bonus like the recent Amex Platinum deal. I just took advantage of Plastiq( my referral link, feel free to post your own)  service because  my power company doesn’t accept American Express. The process couldn’t be simpler and the payment posted within 6 days.

Yes, I paid $7 in fees (2.5%), but I also earned 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar and got closer to getting my bonus. I strongly recommend you look into it for paying your mortgage or other bills that can’t be covered with a credit card.

Regardless, my argument was never that you are crazy  to do manufactured spending. It’s that you are  not crazy not to.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

8 thoughts on “I’m a Miles and Points Simpleton, and I’m Darn Proud of It!

  1. I pay my rent and earn 3 thankyou points with ATT Access more (with 2% service fee) but it seems I do not always earn 3% for other bills. Also I sometimes get lower than 2% service fee (I got 1% for Fidelity Reward VISA when I first linked it and paid a small bill). You will get $200 fee-free dollars (FFD) (your first $200 payment is free of service fee) and I will get $400 FFD if you could use my referral. Thanks in advance.

    https://try.plastiq.com/264687

    • @Masa Thanks for stopping by! Actually, now that I think about it, I believe my fee on Amex Platinum was lower than 2.5% Either way, it’s worth it to meet minimum spending IMO. If you can get 3 TY points per dollar, it’s worth it as well.

  2. I enjoy reading your blog truly appreciate your advice. I’m a simpleton!! Lol. I started collecting points a year ago and I’m learning a lot about myself. I used to be so excited about rotating categories but now not sure if it’s worth it for me. I am single with a budget of $1300 a month on credit card spend. I would love to spread my spending out to maximize every single category but then I wouldn’t earn close to the amount of a new sign up bonus. Sometimes I experience FOMO (fear of missing out on extra daily spend points lol) but new sign up bonuses is the best way for me to rack up points. It’s funny because no matter how much I try to justify using an additional card for everyday spend, the math doesn’t add up (especially with annual fees) and I’ll be spread to thin in multiple point programs to redeem. I don’t even travel as much to burn through the points I have.

    Your rational advice help me part ways with the CSP and I downgraded. I might still cancel so I can circle back around for the signup bonus. I over the 5/24 so I have to wait 🙁 but your article about Amex EDP help me go all in with MR and TYP. I don’t get the best value (1 – 1.25 cent) with but EDP/CTYP earning rates is better. Also I can take advantage of Amex Offers and with my PRG I’m in HEAVEN with pre-sale perks for concerts. So for me I get a lot of value from entertainment access alone. I’ve already been to 4 concerts this year! I’m on the fence with keeping my CTYP but I have a year to decide and since rules and card availability is always changing I will remain flexible and adjust when needed. So for now I’m happy to have 2 maybe 3 cards in my wallet lol.

    • @Lynn Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m thrilled that my advice can also benefit a single person. 🙂 The principles are the same, I suppose.
      I definitely think that with you being a low spender, you’ll get the best bang for your buck from sign-up bonuses. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to also pay attention to rotating categories. I try to do this with my Chase Freedom, Discover and US Bank Cash Plus. I don’t obsess over maximizing rewards on everyhting , and it does depend on how close I am to meeting minimum spend on my new card. But yes, FOMO disease is real!
      This hobby can take over your life, at least that’s the case for me. So I have to force myself to simplify just so I don’t go nuts from the numbers’ game! I also try to stick to no more than three cards in my wallet at any given moment.
      I definitely agree with you on Amex EDP, a great card for earning MR points. I’m not sure I would renew CTYP (I’m guessing you are referring to Citi Thank You Premier?). The annual fee is a deal breaker for low spenders, at least in my opinion. Of course, do the math and decide for yourself. I’m very fee-averse, and only keep cards that give me renewal perk. Not sure if you looked into Citi Prestige. There is still a working link (doesn’t pay me anything) for 50K points. I strongly recommend you consider it before it’s gone for good.
      Email me anytime if you have questions.

      • Yes I have the Citi Thank You Premier and the fee is a deal breaker. I thought about the Citi Prestige but I don’t have that much travel coming up to use all the points in time before the annual fee kicks in. Not sure when it’s good or bad to pay rent for points. MR points has an option for me to keep my points for free without expiration and Citi doesn’t. Unless I can downgrade to Citi no fee version. But I hear Citi tracks the points to know which points expire 90 days after account close. So many choices!! Hmm but not you got me thinking about the prestige 😉 Or maybe I should just travel more! lol

    • @Lynn It’s probably worth it to pay rent in order to meet minimum spending. If you go through Plastiq, you will pay at most 2.5%, sometimes less. While it’s not dirt cheap, it will allow you to meet minimum spend on cards with higher requirements. Plus, you’ll earn points which will help offset the fees. Of course, there is nothing wrong with skipping this option, it just depends on your goals.
      As far as Prestige goes, I think it’s OK to skip it. I was mainly thinking about you getting 50K points instead of 40K. However, if you don’t end up using them for flights, maybe it’s better to wait. If you sign up for it toward the end of the year, you can cancel it in early 2017 and get most of the fee back. If you cancel, the points will expire in 30 days. Downgrading to Preferred will keep them safe, but you won’t be able to redeem for flights and get 1.33 cents. It’s hard to say what will happen with the bonus on Prestige in the long run, so that’s another concern. They pulled the bonus completely on Premier.

      • My bad I explained my situation wrong but bring up another good question. Should I pay annual credit card fees to keep citi points from expiring? Currently I in points I have
        110k MR,
        57k Citi TYP,
        91k Marriott,
        61k IHG,
        40k Amtrak
        9k SPG

        Yeah I jumped in 🙂 lol and it all started cause I wanted cash back savings.

        I have award travel plan later this year but nothing else planned. I do plan to visit my family again within the next year and average cost for that trip is 50k IHG points and 18k Amtrak points. I guess my complaint is that I’m not using my points as fast as I am earning them. If I get the Prestige I would earn another 50k in points bringing my Citi points total to 107k with no immediate plan to spend them. I could end up paying annual credit card fees to keep my points active with Citi. I’m glad I got the Citi Thank You Premier before that went away but will probably pass on the Prestige.

        I fee like now I’m learning to time getting cards when I need them. Which can be tricking with the bonuses offered. FOMO!! Being a newbie at this for a year it is absolutely amazing how fast things change. I enjoyed redbird for 5 mins! lol it felt like 5 mins. On the other hand new products and offers just keep coming! If the rumor is true about a new Chase product with potential 100k then I can wait haha. I won’t be under the Chase 5/24 rule until 2018! so WHO KNOWS what Chase will be offering then.

      • @Lynn Personally, I hate paying annual fees. That said, sometimes it does make sense. You don’t have a huge stash with Citi, so that’s good. So far, Citi has been prorating annual fees, so there is always a possibility of renewing Premier and then canceling it few months later if you have upcoming plans for the points. You could also use them up on car rentals, paid airfare, cruises or hotels and get 1.25 cents per point.

        I probably wouldn’t transfer to miles speculatively, but if you have a favorite airline, it could be worth it. Two best ones are Air France ( for Delta flights) or Singapore (for United). Both have rigid expiration policies, so I would think twice before going this route. If you have a ton points and have a hard time using them up, there is always an option of cashing out your Citi points on gift cards. It’s not the most lucrative scenario, but would solve your annual fee dilemma.

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