I spent much of the past week in Providence, RI at a professional development workshop learning some new coding skills for the computer science class that I teach. During that time I decided to take a first real stab at manufactured spending and had some wonderful success.
For those unaware of the term, manufactured spending means using your credit card to somehow buy an item (therefore earning points/miles on said credit card), then somehow liquidating that item back into your bank account to pay off the credit card debt you just accrued. I have done it once or twice before in NYC and it is notoriously difficult to liquidate some of the items you can buy. The one method I have heard of working very well was using gift cards to purchase money orders, specifically at a Walmart, where fees are low and opportunity is high.
So, I took this knowledge and put it into action. While staying at the Providence Marriott Downtown, I used the fact that I have a Chase Ink Cash card that earns me 5x the points when purchasing items at office supplies stores to buy loads of Visa gift cards at the Staples just across the street. Then, I took a nice walk to the local Walmart to buy money orders with those gift cards.
The fees involved were not that bad. To buy a $200 gift card at Staples costs $6.95 in fees each and to buy a money order at Walmart is $0.88 for up to a $2000 money order. In total, I was spending $28.68 to earn 4,139 points. So, if you do the math, it cost me roughly 0.69 cents for each point that I earned. Since The Points Guy values each of them at around 2.0 cents for each point, I did quite a good job getting some new value. Not too shabby for a first real try.
The big question now is whether or not I can duplicate this process in Brooklyn. I already know where to get the gift cards (Staples nearby me) but when I’ve tried to find a source to liquidate near me I have come up short. I know there is a Walmart in New Jersey and one in Long Island that are public transit accessible, but it still adds cost. Still searching!
My wife and I are currently on a trip to Australia and for the first time ever are in an airport without a priority pass lounge but, instead, with access to a public restaurantat a steep discount. Priority Pass has started to branch out and forge relationships with restaurants in various airport to provide credit for its users to use if there is no accessible lounge. Today, we had access to Bar Roma, a restaurant in the Domestic Terminal, to the tune of $36 AUD each! That’s a lot of food – we only use $57in the end, and that was trying!
I’m impressed with how efficiently this process worked. Much like at other Priority Pass lounges they had a small terminal to use to scan our card and they reviewed our boarding passes to make sure we had a flight leaving today. It was so easy to order and the food was quite tasty to boot. Thanks for saving us money, Priority Pass!
Most people know that airline-affiliated cards provided certain benefits for those taking flights of particular carriers. This usually means a reduced (or no) checked baggage fee and some kind of priority boarding. This has become even more relevant as larger airlines are beginning to try to squeeze even more revenue out of their customers (Air Canada and Westjet, plus JetBlue, for example).
So, it is nice when an extra benefit comes in handy. When my wife and I were traveling home from San Francisco recently we were late arriving to the airport so we didn’t have enough time to get sufficient food for the 5 hour journey. Instead, we relied on the food provided by JetBlue. It wasn’t just the free snacks that held us over, it was the tremendous amount of food in the Eat Up Boxes that gave us the meals that we wanted in-flight. And, since we have the JetBlue Plus Mastercard, the costs was literally cut in half.
As reflected on my most recent credit card statement, instead of spending $46 for this food (which would be a pretty absurd price), we spent $23 (something more reasonable). While I don’t want to rely on this in the future, it is nice to know that it is an option.
In an attempt to recoup the value of a ticket my wife and I had to cancel I called the phone number on the back of our Citi Prestige card in order to file a trip cancellation refund request. We had used the card to pay the taxes on a mileage trip on Korean Airlines, whose generous refund rules allow you to recoup much of your losses for not that much money (miles, actually). That being said, they still deduct miles in order to process the refund according to this chart:
So, due to the international nature of our travel we each lost 3,000 Korean Air Skypass miles in the transaction (and we got the rest back, including the taxes). So, when I called Citi, I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything magical, but I was hoping they would refund some kind of dollar value of the 6,000 miles that we lost. Turns out the answer is no. They don’t refund miles. I’ve been a happy customer of Citi Prestige for a while and love all their insurance benefits but it turns out this one they don’t help with. It’s not that big a deal – 6,000 miles is a small price to pay to get everything back easily, but it’s annoying.
Good to know for the future, though, I’m sure.
On the way home from Toronto on Monday I was ready to spend some relaxing time in the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 of the Toronto Pearson Airport. My wife, sister, and brother were all with me and we would get some free food, drinks, and nice bathrooms to tide over the hour we had to wait for the plane. Unfortunately, we were greeted by this banner upon getting through customs on our way to the lounge.
Apparently the lounge is going through renovation and so we were only able to get access to a temporary lounge using the Priority Pass Select membership granted to us by the Citi Prestige card that my wife and I hold.
The lounge is located essentially in what should be the regular seating area between gates F55 and F57. Instead, they have put up some partitions, placed some higher-quality chairs, and set up a buffet with some food. There were more limited selections than usual but the food was tasty. They also had a variety of drinks, although a smaller variety than normal. The one major gripe that my family and I had was the the power ports on the chairs were taped over and disconnected from any kind of power source.
We spent about 45 minutes waiting in the lounge and enjoying the food and drink. It was definitely better than paying for food and the chairs had nicer cushions, but this is not the kind of lounge I am used to at this point in my travel career. I hope they complete renovations quickly so that the next visit we have to Toronto has a better lounge for us to access.
Every three months the Chase Freedom card rotates a set of 5% cash back bonuses for spending at specific types of stores. For Quarter 3 (i.e. summer months) it was restaurants and movie theaters, presumably because of the increase in number of people who go out during that time frame. You can always check out the bonuses at their website here.
The aspect of this scenario that many people don’t know, however, is that if you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card from Chase (i.e. Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve, or Ink Plus Preferred) then you can transfer those points to travel partners and potentially earn more than the standard 1 point = 1 cent ratio. When I transfer points I do my best to beat their current valuation, with normal redemptions for award travel being between 1.6-2.5 cents per point.
Make sure to activate your Q4 bonuses now in case you plan on spending at department stores this fall!
I am a part of a wonderful math teacher fellowship called Math for America (not to be confused with Teach for America) and every year they host an annual gala event at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Manhattan. For the past two years I’ve thought about staying over but either a) didn’t have enough points or b) the free night as part of the Chase Marriott Rewards card was not for that tier of hotel.
Enter: the IHG Rewards Credit Card. Every year it gives a free reward night for use anywhere in the world. There is not the same kind of limitation as with the Marriott card. So, I found the InterContinental Hotel around the corner from the gala and booked a night there. As you can see, for the night in question it would have been a whopping $629.99!
Instead, we are paying $0. The card itself has a $49 annual fee, so I would argue this makes it all worth it.
Even if we didn’t have the card, we would probably use that night somewhere else during the year for a wedding or small trip somewhere. It definitely makes the $49 worth it.