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Points and Miles Checklist: Things To Do in December 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these monthly points and miles checklists. Since the year is almost up, I thought I’d focus on tasks that need to be completed before January 2018. I’m also including things that are less time-sensitive but that I always need to be reminded of so they don’t fall through the cracks. If you have anything to add, feel free to share it in the comment section:

Points and Miles Check List, Laptop, notepad

Prepare for Simon Mall’s fee-free gift card week. I called my local Simon Mall last night to find out when they were running their $0 fee Visa gift card promotion. Last year, this event took place the week of December 10 and I showed up on the last day, with most of my credit cards maxed out. Needless to say, I want to avoid that and am thus being extra vigilant this year.

I was told they’re currently offering $0 fee Visa gift cards to their corporate accounts only. A few people have asked why I don’t have a corporate account despite having a business and it’s because I’ve been asked not to by my local mall reps. When I first started buying gift cards there, I asked if I could open a corporate account and was told in the nicest possible way, no. They reserve corporate accounts for actual businesses who utilize gift cards as incentives for employees and customers. They don’t want those cards getting churned. 

It’s fine. Just make sure you’re signed up for the VIP Shoppers Club, check your email for announcements, call your mall, and check this blog. I’ll post when I hear about it and hope you guys will give me a heads up as well.

Simon Mall Fee-free 5% Back Visa Gift card promotion

$0 fees on Visa Gift cards at Simon Mall!

Register for FTU Seattle. Did I mention I’ll be presenting at FTU Seattle in February? If you’re new to points and miles, want to up your MS game, or network with fellow point chasers, this event is for you. Tickets are $249 but through the end of today, you can save $30 and get a copy of Chris Guilleabeau’s new book, Side Hustle, with promo code CYBERMONDAY. I don’t know about you all but I’m most looking forward to hearing Chris talk. His was one of the first blogs I came across as a newbie and The Art of Non-Conformity totally changed my perspective on forging your own way to happiness. 

My favorite anecdote of his is when he wrote about his job as a dish washer. He was so bad at it that when it came to the really heavy stuff – greasy pots and pans – he would simply go out back and toss them in the dumpster. Eventually his boss caught on and fired him. That story cracks me up and also made me aware of my tendency to half-ass things I don’t care about…and that I shouldn’t waste time doing them in the first place. Anyway, if you want to attend FTU Seattle, Chris Guillebeau’s talk is sure to be informative. I’m looking forward to it!

Redeem the American Express Platinum Airline Fee Credit. The $200 Amex Airline Fee Credit is issued every calendar year, which means you need to redeem yours before December 31. You don’t have to redeem the credit for airline fees. You can buy airline gift cards and use them to book travel at a later date. My designated airline is Southwest. They fly out of every nearby airport nearby and offer really cheap fares. I know when use the Amex Airline Fee Credit to buy Southwest gift cards, they will not go to waste. When I missed my flight to Detroit for the Ann Arbor DO in July, I used my Southwest gift card to book a convenient flight from Ann Arbor back home. You can change your designated airline between January 1 – 31, 2018.

Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit. Did you get your Chase Sapphire Reserve card before May 21? Then you’ll continue to receive your $300 annual travel credit based on calendar year. So make sure you put it to use before December 31. This credit is much more versatile than the Amex Platinum’s. It can be used towards hotel bookings, ride share apps, public transportation, cruises, and more. Basically, anything that Chase codes as travel will qualify for the $300 Sapphire Reserve travel credit.

Limit Your Giftcards.com purchases to $30,000 per month. As I reported this past weekend, on December 1 Giftcards.com, GiftCardMall and Cardpool will limit cash back to $30,000 worth of orders per month. That’s a huge reduction considering you could, in the past, earn cash back on up to $150,000 worth of gift card purchases per month. Not anymore. The positive development here is that while you’ll only earn cash back on $30,000 worth of gift card purchases, shopping portals have already increased cash back rates on MasterCard gift cards to 1.25%. While that may not seem like a huge difference, a $2,500 order will cost you $10.95 as opposed to $17.20.

Giftcards.com Visa Gift Cards

Giftcards.com Visa Gift Cards

Cancel credit cards. The end of the years is as good a time as any for a credit card inventory check. You should be tracking annual fee due dates year-round, but if you haven’t, now is the time. Are there any credit cards you may need to cancel in 2018? Have any credit cards lost their value beyond the sign-up bonus? Now is a good time to think about this, tally up your annual fees, and decide which credit cards need to go.

Start milking your Citi Hilton Credit Cards. Speaking of cancelling cards, if you have a Citi Hilton credit card, your account will be transferred to American Express at the end of January. While you should consider cancelling it before the transfer, you should also milk that card for all it’s worth while you still can. There are two billing cycles left and Citi isn’t likely to shut you down this late in the game, so you might want to use it for manufactured spending a little more liberally than you normally would. Unless you have other Citi credit cards you don’t want shut down. In that case, try to restrain yourself.

Take advantage of Amex Offers. American Express has been blowing me away with their Amex Offers selection as of late. I’ve gotten some really awesome statement credit offers for SPG, Hilton, Omni, and MGM. The retail offers were pretty nice too, including discounts from Gap and Banana Republic. My favorite, though, have been the food delivery apps. I got targeted for offers from Grubhub and Delivery.com. Stacked with that really awesome Delivery.com promotion and referral credits, this offer can be a huge money saver. Regardless of which Amex Offers you’ve been targeted for, make sure you keep track and put them to use. Some of mine are expiring before the end of the year, so this acts as a reminder for me to follow through on those offers (for reselling and personal use).

Meet annual spending requirements. Lots of credit cards have generous annual spending bonuses. Whether it’s top-tier hotel elite status, airline elite qualifying miles, free hotel nights, or companion passes, you can get lots of travel freebies by meeting certain credit card spending requirements every year. Now is a good time to check out these credit card spending bonuses, assess how close you are and whether it’s worth it to channel a little extra spending towards earning it. My suggestion? If you have a Citi Hilton card and plan on cancelling it in January (without getting a new Amex Hilton card), then go ahead and wrap up that $40,000 spending requirement now. Especially, with so many gift card churning opportunities around the corner.

Hit 30 transactions on the Amex Everyday Preferred Card. This isn’t an annual spending bonus, but something I have to constantly remind myself to do. This month I’ve put a good amount of spending on the Amex EveryDay Preferred card, so I’d like to get that 50% bonus. I have, like, three days left to do it. While 30 transactions isn’t that hard to pull off, I’m just not in the habit of doing this. So once again, I’m using this post to reminder myself to get something done. And I hope it’s useful for you too. 🙂

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Ariana Arghandewal

35 Comments

  1. I am not the biggest Hilton guy, but top tier in any program has a few sweet spots. If I hit the Diamond spend threshold in 2017, do I get Diamond for one year from that date, or what exactly?

  2. Hiya, are there tips for getting the Amex Airline Fee credit? I’ve been scrolling through the link on FT and can’t understand how to ‘buy’ the credit. -thanks!

  3. Is it better to buy Simon gift cards or cards on giftcards.com? I’m new to MS and I need to spend a significant amount in the next month in order to meet signup bonuses. Visa cards are preferred over AMEX to buy MO at Walmart, right?

    • Giftcards.com works out cheaper with the portal cash back. But I wouldn’t just do one, especially if you’re ms’ing in large volumes. It’s good to have your credit card spending coming from various sources. And yes, Visa is preferred – just make sure it’s Metabank.

      • When going to a new Walmart there seems to always be confusion on what to do with these cards, or if it is a scam, or what. I have found it best to have my name put on each of these cards. I also add the numbers 5 or 45 to indicate if this is 500 or 450. Having the card match my driver’s license is a good thing. I just get the red thank you card from gift cards.com. It makes it easier to read the last 4 digits.

        As another note, if you can get giftcardmall to work for you, it is cheaper than giftcards.com, plus they allow me to do larger quantities. Although, they limit me to 15K per month.

          • I buy the VGCs on GCM using TopCashBack portal where I have a great experience aside from lower fees and higher cashback that GCcom offers.

          • I have an account with both Yazing and Topcashback. Both offer the same rebate and both work with giftcards.com and giftcardmall. There are things I like about both of them and they are sister companies. Giftcards.com gets their cards to me quicker than the other, but charge $1 more per card, but $3 less on shipping. Also, giftcards.com only allows $2500 per day, and that includes the fees so you cannot do 5ea. $500 cards. Additionally the cards from GF.com must be activated either online or by phone. Both take a bit of time. I have done over $5000 per order at giftcardmall. GCmall sends the cards activated and has the amount printed on the card. They overpackage the card, but I can use it right out of the package. That is a risk and a timesaver. Also, the $5K orders all require my signature and I pick them up at the PO on the way to WM. I only strip the piece of tape off once a card is activated or used. With lots of gift cards you must have a system to keep track of used vs. not used. Once money is in my bank account cards are trashed.

            Just at a WM today that I had never been too. I had to explain how the transaction should be done. This was a WM in a very busy location and had 3 lines going in money services. She did $3K for me and would probably have done more. WM employees have shown me the paper saying if you do $3K you must fill out the form. This is hit or miss in my experience. In the same store one guy did $13K for me but several days later a different lady filled out the form on me, and has to log every money order on that log.

            One WM will not let me do any MO’s with VGC’s, but would let me buy a TV set with one and also sell me one that comes from Metabank. Go figure. I am just thankful for those that let me process these.

        • Absolutely – that’s why I like the GC.com cards so much. But I also think this illustrates the importance of cultivating relationships with employees at one store. That way you avoid the uncertainty of hopping from one store to another.

          • GCMall also will let me put my name on it, but they also put the amount of the card on the card. UPS just stopped at my house and had me sign for the cards from GCMall. I liked that. Also, GCMall is cheaper than the other, yet they are all the same big company.

          • I would order use GCM if they would actually approve my orders. I gotta try it again one of these days, but I’m pretty sure they blacklisted me. Can’t get any orders approved.

        • A few months back there was a note under the terms on GCM and GCcom that all their GCs will be issued by MetaBank going forward that’s why it was game over for those of us who were able to use the Mastercard issued by Bancorp to pay some credit cards via phone.

          • I just had 2 VGC problem that I purchased at a grocery store, both the magnetic strips were de-magnetized. When I called to have them replaced the balance was still there. I even changed the PIN. The replacement cards showed up a week later, I called to activate them and they were both drained. Now I have to dispute the charges and loose about 3 to 6 weeks of time with these, not to mention the money I have to float. Hoping the GCM route will help eliminate this. Thanks for the reminder that I should have gone there instead.

        • the Walmart app has made it easier for me to do billpay at the Express Money Lane where I’m usually the only one in line and there’s a rep that is assigned to it. I do up to 4 billpays (can do up to 5 according to cashier) which drains $8K and another $2K MO to drain full $10K that I receive from GCM. I prefer GCM with signature delivery because it comes faster and secure so I don’t worry about it being stolen/delivered to wrong mailbox.

          • Ok, I’ll take your ‘experienced’ advice and just go directly to the bank and pay those bills.

          • I would not be depositing those money orders in the same bank I purchased the gift cards from. Too easy to match up amounts. Get a local regional bank that has bill pay, and put your deposits there.

  4. I only do business with GC.com and GFMall.com Only Visa GC. I do not want to get stuck with a card that comes from a place that sells notebooks or groceries. I am the little fish in their camp, yet I feel I should have better leverage with companies that do these cards only. Not to mention buying 1000’s of $ of these from them. I still get a no read and after a couple swipes all is good.

  5. hi – i used my amex to buy delta gift cards. no go. amex wouldn’t honor the purchase as the travel credit. i called them and they said it’s not good for gc’s. is it different for southwest and any other airline ?

  6. Anyone know of any Wal-Mart’s friendly to MO purchasing in Massachusetts?

    • you may have to do your own legwork to find out. since rules have become stricter at many WMs, I don’t blame those who find MS friendly WMs to keep it to themselves. Set aside a weekend/day off to check the WMs around you. Good luck!

      • Found one today that will do one swipe, one transaction daily. I don’t blame anyone, I have just been scouring my local area and hadn’t been successful.

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