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If you have no clue what I’m talking about, don’t worry. For the most part, the jig is up anyway. To the rest of you MS-versed friends, I’m sure you know what I’m referring to. Chuck at Doctor of Credit has a post on Bluebird shutdowns and what liquidating options are still available.
The world of MS (or manufactured spending) had a rough month so far, and I doubt things will get better. That said, have you noticed that none of the major news outlets have picked up this story? Why? Because it’s not really that important. Yes, I do understand that some depend on MS to meet minimum spending requirements. Well, the good news is, there are some options available, it’s just that they will cost you more. You can still use services like Plastiq and Chargesmart and pay your mortgage and other bills while incurring extra 2.5% to 3% in fees.
Even though this seems like an enormous amount, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s worth going that route in order to collect sign-up bonuses. Let’s take Barclaycard Arrival Plus (read more about it here). You have to spend $3,000 in 3 months. Also, let’s assume both spouses get it. But your regular bills per month only add up to $1,000. What to do? You can use a credit card to pay mortgage and car payment. That 3% in fees will add up to $90 but remember, you will collect $60 in rewards, plus the sign-up bonus of $400.
When enough is truly enough
Of course, there is another option: Just take it slow and sign up for one card at a time. I have never done MS. Seriously, never. Yet somehow we are able to travel quite a bit as a family, in fact, too much if you ask my husband. And I still manage to have a surplus when it comes to miles and points. I’ve written posts on how you can maximize your rewards on everyday spending here and here And I am absolutely convinced that if you set realistic goals, you can get one decent vacation per year and several small getaways via just few credit card bonuses. Emphasis on “realistic.” My blog never made visiting “Maldives”-type places a priority/end goal, though I have nothing against those who choose to go there.
Perhaps you can aim a bit lower. Want to stay in an overwater bungalow? You can do that in Belize for a fraction of what it would cost in faraway exotic islands. Always wanted to see New Zealand fjords? Go to Alaska instead. I’ve put together a post on some ways you can go there on a budget with the help of miles and points. Can’t get to France? Visit Montreal or Quebec city. You can even drive there if you live on the East Coast.
Speaking of road trips, IHG PointBreaks program can be a spectacular deal as long as you are flexible on destinations. You don’t even need credit card sign-up bonus for that, just maximize various promos or consider buying points when they go on sale. Travel hacking does not equal manufactured spending. The latter has always been a sub-category for those willing to go the extra mile, literally and figuratively.
Are you in MS pickle?
But what if you aren’t able to get any new credit cards and depended on MS to collect rewards so you can visit family who lives in another country? You don’t care about Maldives, Hyatts, airplane apartment suites or any of that mumbo jumbo. That’s a tough one and I feel for you. My advice is to follow sites like TheFlightDeal and look for, what else, flight deals. If you are willing to fly in economy and are flexible on dates, chances are you’ll do just as well by paying cash…eventually. Remember, the miles and points you obtained via MS were not free to begin with. They cost you real money and time.
But let’s say you were able to buy Visa gift cards that came with no fee. You had a sweet gig going, and now it’s kaput because you can’t liquidate those cards. Not to sound like a jerk, but such is life. Deals that are too good to be true eventually die. It’s inevitable. Sure, publicizing them on blogs probably doesn’t help, but once they hit the internet somewhere, someone will eventually spill the beans. The question is: is that “someone” important enough to get noticed by the banks?
BTW, I’m not being critical here. I have no skin in the MS game, and have said before that if readers disagree with a blogger, they should simply move on and stop supporting him/her with their clicks or credit card applications. Otherwise, if you keep going back and reading posts because you don’t have time to look through forums, you are silently agreeing with the author that certain deals should be discussed in the open. Don’t be a hypocrite, you can’t have it both ways.
This isn’t the end of the world and in fact, quite normal in our neck of the woods. This hobby evolves constantly. Deals come and go, but one thing never changes. By and large, unlike most of US population, we are able to travel for fraction of the retail cost. Winning!
Perhaps this new development is a blessing in disguise. Check out this comment from my reader Cheapblackdad:
“I’ve noticed something in the business/corporate/marketing world I work in. We are always looking forward to some product launch, meeting, or test results. Always looking forward to some point on the calendar, or time in the day for that presentation. Deadlines, etc. It’s hard to live in the now sometimes and it feels like time just goes so fast.
This hobby does that to you, makes you look forward constantly. Always looking forward for points to post, credit cards to arrive, a trip we planned.
Sometimes we just need to sit back and live in the now with the people that matter most. Never know how long or in what condition you will have loved ones. I think travel experiences are a huge way to connect with and grow with the people you love. Our trip to Mexico was such a wonderful time for my relationship with my kids, especially after living in another state for 5+ months. But I think for this year we’ll slow things down a bit and live in the now. Sit around, play board games, video games, play with play-doh, draw pictures.
I’ll take my kids and loved ones, however I can get them, healthy or not. But here’s to hoping they stay as healthy as possible! And living in the now.”
I think he needs to change his name to Wiseblackdad, don’t you agree?
Leana is the 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.