More free $$ from American Express Sync with Best Buy, CPK and Walmart.com

I have written about these deals in the past and another three just popped up that I will be taking advantage of.

You will need one of these cards to take advantage of these offers (although it might appear on any Amex so check yours!):

The basics

  1. Register online at Americanexpress.com for both promotions for all of your cards
  2. Buy $250 in gift cards at Best Buy, a $40 gift card to California Pizza Kitchen at your local CPK, spend $75+ at Walmart.com
  3. Automatically get a $25 credit for the Best Buy purchase, $10 for the CPK purchase, and $15 for the Walmart.com
  4. Liquidate the giftcards by using them or Cardpool

The Details

1. Register online at americanexpress.com for both promotions for all of your cards

Go to americanexpress.com and log onto your online account.  On the bottom there will be a box labeled My Offers that looks like this.

Best Buy Amex Sync

There will be a number of available offers, but the ones from Best Buy, California Pizza Kitchen and Walmart.com are the ones I am focusing on today.

Click on the Get offer button next to it and a screen that looks like this will pop up. Click on Add to Card.

Best Buy Amex Sync 2

2. Buy $250 in gift cards (or purchases) at Best Buy, a $40 gift California Pizza Kitchen in store, and $75 in purchases at Walmart.com.

For Best Buy, you will need to go into store if you want to get the $200 Visa Gift cards, or if you actually need some electronics you can buy them online.  The Best Buy closest to me only has Visa Gift Cards (variable load from 25-$200 with a $5.95 fee), iTunes and Best Buy Gift cards, although I know some places have Amazon.com GCs and others. I bought a $200 Visa GC and a $50 Best Buy gift card.  Note this needs to be $250+ all in one purchase, not separate purchases.

For California Pizza kitchen you will need to physically go into a location near you on their participating locations list and buy a $40 gift card.

For Walmart.com, just go to their web site (after checking what cashback you want to get from Cashbackholic.com ) and pick your stuff you want.  As long as the total is over $75, it should qualify.

Since I have the SPG Business Amex, I will get 315 SPG points ($365 for the purchases – $50 in credits) for these purchases.

3. Automatically get a $25 credit for the Best Buy purchase, $10 for the CPK purchase, and $15 for the Walmart.com purchase.

Almost immediately after you make the purchase, you will get an email from American Express thanking you for your purchase at the merchant, although it did take up to an hour for one of my purchases.

4. Liquidate the giftcards by using them or sell at Cardpool

If you have purchases planned at Best Buy then you can simply use that gift card.  The same goes for the CPK gift cards if you like the food at California Pizza Kitchen.

If you want to get your cash back, it is still a money maker to sell the gift cards at Cardpool.  As of today, you can get $45 for the $50 Best Buy gift card.  A $40 gift card at CPK is only selling for $28 so I wouldn’t do that offer unless you actually wanted to eat there.

Conclusion

This certainly  isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but they can’t all be 264,000 points at once :).  Little deals like these help to offset the annual fees that you pay for the Amex cards.

Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum: Mission Accomplished

StarwoodPlatinumThe end of the year is a busy time for us mile collectors, chasing the last bits of whatever we need to get premium statuses for the coming year.  For me, I decided I wanted to get Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum for the reasons I outlined in this post.  Well, my “mattress runs” are all done and my nights have all posted and platinum status is mine!

StarwoodPlatinumBenefits

I had gotten 2 stays / 5 nights credit towards my status by having my SPG American Express card which also has a sign up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints.  I was also able to take advantage of the Aeroplan bonus off I talked about in this post and snag 5,000 Aeroplan miles while I was getting the rooms I needed to reach platinum.

StarwoodAeroplan

Starwood includes some awesome upscale brands including St. Regis, W Hotels, Westin, and Le Meridien. Their other brands include aLoft, Sheraton, Four Points, and Element.  I stayed at Sheraton, Westin, and aLoft hotels in my recent dash to platinum status and was particularly impressed with the aLoft brand which is the W Hotels take on a discount hotel chain. Here is a picture of the lobby at the Jacksonville aLoft airport which I got for just $25 + 1200 Starpoints.

20121228-132244.jpg

I am looking forward to using this status at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in May at the Westin where I also stayed last year to hopefully get a nice suite. I know many of you are just getting started, but the beginning of the year is a great time to decide which chains you want to get status with so you can start working on it now!

Why I sometimes pay for rooms I don’t even stay in, a.k.a. Mattress Running: Chasing Starwood Platinum Elite status.

As the end of the year comes, one of the things that is on every savvy traveler’s mind is elite status for the next year.  I had obtained Starwood Gold Elite status due to the number of stays I had plus the two stay credit I got from my SPG Business Amex, but was about 10 stays away from Platinum status.

Starwood Gold Status gives you after 10 stays or 25 nights:

  • Three Starpoints for every dollar spent
  • 4 PM Late Checkout which can be very useful
  • Upgraded room at check in when available
  • Choice of welcome gift of either bonus Starpoints, free internet access, or a free beveragestarwoodgold

Starwood Platinum Status additionally gives you after 25 stays or 50 nights:

  • Upgraded to best available room including suites
  • Free in room internet access.
  • Club floor access which can give you breakfast and afternoon snacks etc
  • Choice of a welcome gift of either bonus starpoints (2x as many as gold), continental breakfast, or local amenities (such as a local cheese plate or gift)starwoodplat

While the internet access and the free breakfast are definitely valuable (especially for a blogger like me), the real platinum benefit I wanted was the suite upgrades.  Paying for the cheapest room with cash and points and getting upgraded to a suite can be a huge value. Imagine getting this suite at the Le Meridien in Bangkok for $45 + 2800 starpoints.

lemeridienbangkoksuite

Since I needed 10 more stays to hit Platinum, I wanted to see what the cheapest way to reach it was while at the same time combining some of the available promotions.  My three options to hit platinum were:

  1. Buy 10 cheap 1 night stays
  2. Buy 10 cash and point stays for $30+1600 starpoints each night
  3. A combination of the two.

I knew that with the Better by the Night promotion I could get

  • Double starpoints on one night paid stays
  • 500 bonus starpoints for booking using the iPhone app
  • 250 starpoints for checking in on foursquare.

There was also the Aeroplan promotion I wrote about for 5,000 Aeroplan miles for up to 5 stays.  I could get rooms locally that cost $79 on a AAA rate.  This gave me a per night cost of $79 and Starpoints of 237 (Base Gold 3x Rate) + 158 (Better by the Night promotion) + 500 (iPhone booking bonus) + 250 (Foursquare checkin) = 1145 Starpoints per night and 1000 Aeroplan miles per night for the first 5 nights.

I decided to do a combination of the two options and get 5 paid stays and 5 cash and points stays.  This would allow me to maximize the Aeroplan promotion and end up with Platinum status for a cost of $545 and 8000 starpoints.  But I will be getting 5725 Starpoints for the stays plus 5000 Aeroplan miles that are worth at least $100 when I redeem them. Considering that just one or two suite upgrades could cover this cost, it seemed like a no brainer to go for it.

Unfortunately since it was so close to the end of the year, I didn’t have a lot of travel planned where I could use the hotel rooms I needed. So I ended up doing what we call “Mattress Runs” for some of the stays.  A mattress run is when you go check into a hotel with no intention of staying there or you stay there just to get the status or points.

I was able to combine a few of the stays with some trips to see friends, but a fair amount of them were for hotel rooms I never even slept in!  But as you see above, it will be worth it for me next year when I get upgraded to suites for some of my trips for free! I know this is a concept that doesn’t make sense at first, but when you really start thinking ahead for the next year, it makes sense to consider it if you are close to the next status level.

As always if you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will try to answer them

Holiday shopping for miles and profit via online shopping portals!

You should be getting miles or cashback for every single purchase you make this holiday season.  There.  I said it.  If you play your cards right, you could get earn enough miles for a free vacation just by spending what you were going to spend anyways! Wouldn’t you rather get 10,000 miles for that LCD TV you are going to buy for $1000? Well, pay attention, because I’m going to write about four different ways to get miles or cashback today.  After that will go over some advanced ways to combine the options to really kick things into high gear!

  1. Miles Earning Credit or Debit Cards
  2. Cashback Credit Cards
  3. Online Shopping Portals for Miles
  4. Online Shopping Portals for Cashback

1. Miles Earning Credit or Debit Cards

This is one you should be familiar with if you have been reading this blog for a while. At a minimum you should be getting 1 mile or point per dollar spent. Almost every card on our Top Credit Cards page that lists miles or points as its type will give you this. You get miles for every dollar spent so you should be putting everything you buy on one of these credit cards (and then paying it off right away of course).  Some of my favorites are:

  • SPG American Express (25K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent.  For hotel stays these are some of the most valuable points and I have been getting at least $0.05 per Starpoint when I redeem them for Cash and Points stays.
  • Amex Premier Rewards Gold (25K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Membership Rewards point for ever dollar spent. This are great because of the flexibility to be able to transfer to several different airlines and hotel programs.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K sign on bonus) which gives 1 Ultimate Rewards point for every dollar spent.  These points I would value even higher than the membership rewards points due to their flexibility via a higher number of transfer partners (airlines and hotels).

But you can do better than 1% a lot of times!  The Chase Freedom card gives 5X Ultimate Rewards points on Best Buy and Kohl purchases for example The Chase Ink Bold gives 5X UR Points on Office Supply purchases (OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples) so it can add up quickly on computers or tablet purchases.

Even if your credit needs work, you can still get 1 miles per dollar spent by using the Suntrust Delta Debit Card I wrote about.

2. Cashback Credit Cards

These cards don’t give you miles, but instead give you cold, hard cash.  I started with cash back, but realized that there is much better value in the miles cards if you want to travel the world.  Not everyone is the same though so cashback might be a better option if you hate to fly or something. Some of my favorites are:

  • Discover It Card: Up to 1% cashback on all purchases.  They have an additional bonus for the 4th quarter for 2012 of 5% at all online shopping and department stores up to $1500 in purchases which can be combined with shopping portal earnings.
  • Amex Business Simply Cash Card: 5% in Office Supply Stores, 1% at most other places.
  • OPEN Savings from Amex Business cards such as the SPG Business Amex: If you have a business Amex, their OPEN program gives you almost instantaneous cashback with a few key vendors.  The one that I have used multiple times is 10% back on purchases of $250 or more at Officemax.com.  It is only the total purchase amount that matters so gift cards, clearance items, and coupons all work in conjunction with this. Other choices are some Marriott properties, Hertz and Hyatt.

3. Online Shopping Portal for Miles.

This is where the big miles earning opportunities come into play.  The way this works is instead of going directly to a merchant, like for example, Homedepot.com, you would instead log into your shopping portal first then click on their link to Home Depot.  By the power of cookies the site can tell that you came from the shopping portal and the merchant gives the shopping portal a referral fee, that they rebate to you in the form of miles.

Some of these portals you can use any credit card you want, such at the Southwest Rapid Rewards Mall. I used this mall to get 189,000 miles by shopping earlier this year! Other examples are the American AAdvantage Shopping Mall, the United Mileage Plus Shopping Mall and the Delta Skymiles Mall.

One of the best malls that I have made hundreds of thousands of miles with is the Chase Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall. Due to the flexibility of the Ultimate Rewards points, this is often my top choice for purchases even if another site has a slightly higher multiplier.

Some merchants even allow you to buy gift cards and get points, then to go back through and get points again on the gift card use.  I took advantage of this strategy at Sears when I got double dipped to maximize my miles and got a companion pass in the process.

Two great sites for comparing the miles (and cashback) are EVReward and Cashbackholic. You just have to put the store name in the search box and it will come up with an array of miles and cashback sites.  Keep in mind that when you redeem airline miles, you will often get at least $0.02 per mile and Hotel Points closer to $0.01 (except for Starpoints which I value around $0.03.)

4. Online Shopping Portal for Cashback.

This is even more simple than the miles portals.  You sign into the portal, then click through to the merchant and then get a % back in cash in usually 4-6 weeks, but it can sometimes be longer. EVReward and Cashbackholic are still the best spots to compare all of the options in one place.  My favorites for cashback are:

ShopDiscover: Has 10% for Groupon that I use all the time, and during the holiday season it bumps up the cash back on a lot of its sites to 3-4 times what everyone else is offering (think 15% instead of 5% cash back for instance). I make several hundred dollars per year just on Discover Cashback so with no annual fee, this card is staying in my wallet.

UPromise: Has a larger selection of stores than almost any portal and the tracking of your clicks is rock solid.  Even though it bills itself as cashback for education, there are several ways to get the cash back into your hands.

TopCashBack: This cashback site has some of the highest cashback out there, including a whopping 21% recently at Intercontinental Hotels. In my experience the points are a bit slow to post, but eventually it pays out as it should. I use Upromise if the rate is about the same, but will still use this site if it is the highest %.

Advanced Strategies.

Once you have the basics above down, you can combine them to find the best option.  When I got almost a quarter million Ultimate Rewards points and $1000 cash, I bought gift cards for 10X points using the Ultimate Rewards mall (from section 3) and my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for 1X points (from section 1) and then used those gift cards after clicking through UPromise for 5% cashback (section 4).

You can buy $500 Visa gift cards at OfficeMax or Office Depot getting 5X Ultimate Rewards points (from section 1) then go through Southwest’s Shopping Portal (from Section 2) to get 7X miles from Shoes.com

You can buy $1500 in gift cards at Sears.com on your Discover card getting 5% back on online shopping (from Section 1) using their ShopDiscover portal for 10% cashback (from Section 4) then use those gift cards through UPromise (from Section 4) for another 5%.  That is a whopping 20% off of anything total up to $1500 at Sears!

You can go through UPromise to OfficeMax.com (Section 4) to get 5% cashback then use your Amex with OPEN savings to pay for your purchase of $250 or more and get 10% back in a statement credit. (Section 2).  15% off any total at Officemax and that is after any coupons or sales!

Conclusion

If you can’t see the value after reading this article, then go back and read it again!  Or ask any questions that you have in the comments.

More free money from Amex with Small Business Saturday

I have done several posts about how much money Amex has given me this year, from $100 at Dell, to $25 at Costco and $10 at CPK.  But they still want to give more with the Small Business Saturday promotion! This one is so easy.

  1. You just have to register your American Express Card or cards (I have 3) at this page
  2. Locate a small business near you that is participating on this page. I found hundreds within 5 miles of my home (including my favorite Tex-Mex place, Taco Rico).
  3. On Saturday, November 24, go spend $25 minimum at any of the merchants and you get a $25 credit back on your statement in a few days.

They say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but this is exactly that!  Buy lunch and spend at least $25 and it is free after the credit!  Or find a merchant that sells gift cards and buy a $25 one for a Christmas gift or for a future date.  With so many merchants, you are sure to find something you can use. Here is a list of Amex cards that will work for this promo (prepaid Amex unfortunately doesn’t work).

What are you waiting for, sign up now for this promo because space is limited. (Wow, that sounds like an infomercial, but it happens to be true.)

Free Miles and credits from Amex with Costco and California Pizza Kitchen

American Express cards, even though they almost all have an annual fee provide value way beyond the fee cost and this offer is a great example. I personally have two Amex cards, the Business SPG Amex and the Premier Rewards Gold Business Amex and took advantage of these offers on both of them.

American Express has been running a series of promotions called Sync that give you special offers for syncing your American Express card to your Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.  I wrote about how I made $100 during a previous promotion with Dell a few months back.  This offer isn’t quite as good, but it is still free $$ and miles so it was worth my time. The offers are $25 back on a purchase of $100 or more at Costco.com and $10 back on a purchase of $25 or more at California Pizza Kitchen. This offer also doesn’t require you to connect your social networking to your account which will be important for some.

You will need one of these cards to take advantage of these offers:

The basics

  1. Register online at Americanexpress.com for both promotions for all of your cards
  2. Buy $100 Gift Card at Costco.com (must be a member) and $25 gift California Pizza Kitchen in store
  3. Automatically get a $25 credit for the Costco.com purchase and $10 for the CPK purchase
  4. Liquidate the giftcards by using them or Cardpool

The Details

1. Register online at americanexpress.com for both promotions for all of your cards

Go to americanexpress.com and log onto your online account.  On the bottom there will be a box labeled My offers that looks like this.

There will be a number of available offers, but the ones from Costco.com and California Pizza Kitchen are the ones I am focusing on today.

Click on the Get offer button next to it and a screen that looks like this will pop up. Click on Add to Card.

Once you have added both offers, repeat the process for any other Amex cards you have.

2. Buy $100 Gift Card at Costco.com (must be a member) and $25 gift California Pizza Kitchen in store

Now log onto Costco.com and select the item from the list on the left that says Gift Cards, Tickets, and Floral and choose the cash cards and gift certificates option.  Add a $100 gift card to your cart and then check out, using your Amex card for payment.  Repeat this process with any other Amex cards you have.

For California Pizza kitchen you will need to physically go into a location near you on their participating locations list and buy a $25 gift card.  Make multiple purchases if you have multiple Amex like I do.

Since I have the SPG Business Amex and the Business Gold Rewards Amex, I will get 90 SPG points and 90 Member Rewards Points ($125 for the purchases – $35 in credits) for these purchases.

3. Automatically get a $25 credit for the Costco.com purchase and $10 for the CPK purchase.

Almost immediately after you make the purchase, you will get an email from American Express thanking you for your purchase at the merchant, although it did take up to an hour for one of my purchases.

4. Liquidate the giftcards by using them or sell at Cardpool

If you have purchases planned at Costco (and I know $100 is pretty easy for me to spend there once you try a free sample or two) then you can simply use those gift cards.  The same goes for the CPK gift cards if you like the food at California Pizza Kitchen.

If you want to get your cash back, it is still a money maker to sell the gift cards at Cardpool.  As of today, you can get $88 for the $100 Costco gift card and $17.50 for the CPK gift card.  So if you just wanted to sell them and move on, you would make $105.50 for $90 in expense.  Don’t forget that you get 90 miles or points from your purchase too!

Conclusion

This certainly  isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but they can’t all be 264,000 points at once 😉.  Especially if you have multiple Amex cards like I do, you can do several of them at one time and multiply your earnings.  And little deals like these help to offset the annual fees that you pay for the Amex cards.

50,000 Thank You Points, 30,000 Delta Skymiles, 5000 SPG Points. Not a bad start of the month.

I wanted follow up on a few of the offers I started a while back since the points have now posted and give you my feedback on the experience.  This will also show you how easy it can be to get the points and miles rolling in.

The Thank You Points (the points program used by Citibank bank accounts and some of their credit cards) were from an offer I read about on Flyertalk back in December where they were giving you 50,000 points for opening a Citigold checking account and performing a direct deposit and a bill pay each month.  50,000 points have a cash in value of $500 so this certainly got my attention.  If you are a Citibank ThankYou Premier cardholder you can sweeten the deal and get $666 in value towards travel related expenses for those points.

Meeting the requirements was easy by setting a $1 monthly payment to my electric company and doing a $1 transfer from my paypal account to my new citigold account.  The account does have a $30 fee if you don’t have a $50K balance but the fee is waived for the first 3 months.  The way the T&C are worded you had to meet the DD and Payment requirements for 2 months then the bonus would be awarded 90 days after that.  Most people (me included) had to send them a message to manually have the bonus be awarded and I waited a little longer than I should have so I ended up paying four $30 monthly fees, but I will trade $500 for $120 all day long. There isn’t currently an offer like this available, but it comes and goes so I wanted to get this information out for when it comes back.

The Suntrust Delta checking deal I previously wrote about was really some easy miles and they have already posted.  I opened a checking account, did a $101 transfer from paypal to my Suntrust account, and made a $9 Checkcard purchase. Bing, Bam, Boom, 30,000 miles.  I did have to pay a $75 check card fee and will have to keep $1500 in the account for 6 months to avoid the early account closure fee, but this one worked out to be even easier than expected. The current offer is only 5K miles, but it might be good for someone who wants to get miles but doesn’t have good credit.

The final 5000 SPG points was from my 30,000 SPG Business Amex card that I got back in November.  For some reason, only 25,000 of my SPG points had posted and I had to contact them for the final 5K.  You need to make sure to always check and make sure you get all the miles that are due to you from the offers you apply for.  It is easy to get carried away with earning miles and not double check things. 🙂  This 30,000 SPG point offer is available until September 6 for both the SPG Amex and the SPG Business Amex so apply for one or both before then to get one of the best hotel earning cards.  You can view my post on this card here.

So I hope this post helps you see some of the potential of the things I talk about and shows you that it is worth your time!  Enjoy!

 

It’s back! 30,000 SPG Points sign up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex.

Update 9/5/12: This promotion is now over and the SPG cards are back to their usual 25K sign up bonus.

Twice a year Amex runs a promotion where you can get 30,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points instead of the usual 25,000 points.  This is really as good as it gets for these cards and this offer is only for the next month until September 3 and then it goes back to the usual amount. This applies for both the SPG Amex and the SPG Business Amex.  When I first started, I didn’t have this card, but I do now and anyone who is into points and miles usually has this card in their arsenal.  I’ll show you in a minute how the sign up bonus alone saved me over $1,500 on rooms in both Detroit and Santiago, Chile.  The details:

  • 10,000 SPG points after the first purchase
  • 20,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in the card in the first 6 months
  • No fee for the first year, then $65
  • Instant Preferred Plus status which can give you free room upgrades, 4 PM Checkout and more
  • 5 nights or 2 stays worth of credit towards your gold or platinum status qualification.
  • Up to 5 points per $ spent at SPG properties (2 starpoints per dollar spent on the card plus the starpoints you get as a SPG member), 1 point per $ everywhere else

SPG Points are some of the most valuable because of their flexibility.  The best use of them most of the time is obviously at SPG properties such as Westin, Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Le Meridien and others.  Some really nice luxury hotel brands!  But they also offer the ability to transfer your points to several airlines and they give you a bonus of 5000 miles whenever you transfer 20,000 points to an airline program.

I recently got the SPG Business Amex back in November which was the last time they offered the 30,000 point bonus.  Here is how I used some of my sign up bonus points to save me a bunch on hotel rooms:

The first example was when I went on my Machu Picchu / Easter Island / Santiago trip in April.  I stayed in a hostel on Easter Island but decided to use some SPG points in Santiago at the Sheraton using their Cash+Points option.  The nightly rate was $270 on the dates I was there and I was staying 3 nights. But the cash and points option was available for $45+2800 points.  This gave me an incredible redemption value per night of over 8 cents per point ($270 – $45) /2800.  If I used the whole signup bonus like that, it would be worth $2410 in hotel rooms, wow!

Sheraton Santiago, Chile

Another example is when I planned a last minute trip to a music festival called DEMF in Detroit over Memorial Day. I had stayed at the Westin in previous years and it is a great property as well as being close to all the action of the festival.  But since I was planning it last minute, the rates were through the roof at $393 a night! But if there are normal rooms available you can get an award night using points.  Cash and points were only available for the first night, again at $45+2800 points for a whopping savings of $348 and a value per point of 12 cents per point.  The other two nights of my stay I used the 7000 point option to have the room completely covered.  Since the room would have cost $393 if I paid for this, this gives a value of 5.6 center per points which is still pretty great! And to top it all off, due to my Preferred Plus status due to having this card, they upgraded me to a corner suite for free!

Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

Between these two examples I redeemed 18,200 points and it saved me $1809 in room costs.  And I haven’t even used all of my bonus yet!  Are you starting to see why people get excited about this card and bonus? If you are feeling saucy you can apply for both cards at once (for a huge 60,000 points) or you can do I like I did and tackle one at a time.  Click here for the SPG Amex and here for the SPG Business Amex.  As always, feel free to comment below with any questions and I will try to answer them for you!