Did I kill the deal(s)?

Last Monday, I published “American Express Gift Cards 2.5% cash back. Today only“.  In that post I showed how it was possible (that day) to get 2.5% back when buying American Express gift cards with values of up to $3000 each.  Since the gift cards have flat fees ($3.95 each, plus shipping), the highest value gift cards were the best deal.  Then, about two days later American Express changed the maximum gift card amount to only $500 if you begin your shopping from a cash back portal (luckily there’s a simple workaround.  See “Amex takes away $3K cash back gift cards“).

Because of the proximity in time between the two events, it appeared that the one day 2.5% cash back promotion had spurred on Amex to make the change.  Then came GiftCardMall…

Yesterday I published “Visa Gift Cards 2% cash back. Today only.”  By going through TopCashBack to GiftCardMall it was possible to earn 2% cash back when buying Visa gift cards.  At the time that I wrote that post, it was possible to buy gift cards up to $1000 each.  My post was published Monday morning at about 6 a.m. EDT.  At around noon, the limit changed to only $500.  What happened?

Many in the travel hacking community like to blame bloggers for killing deals.  Undoubtedly the accusation is sometimes true and sometimes false.  When a deal is too good, it is inevitable that it will end eventually.  When it does end there is a tendency to blame the most recent or salient event on its demise.  Sometimes that recent or salient event may indeed be the cause.  Often, it is not.  Either way, we rarely find out for sure.

Recently, Visa and MasterCard gift cards were changed to allow PINs.  As a result, they could now be easily converted to cash (see “Gift card PINs“).  Since there are many ways to buy gift cards to earn cash back or extra credit card rewards, buying gift cards suddenly became a very good deal.  In my recent post “The Bluebird Metric,” I wrote:

I don’t know how long it will last, but as of the time of this writing it is possible to manufacture credit card spend for free […] Sometimes you can even make a profit while collecting points this way.

I suspected that things would soon change because buying gift cards had become too good of a deal. 

Back to the question

Did I kill these deals?  Did my publicity of the opportunities catch the eye of people who run Amex gift cards and/or GiftCardMall?  Or, more likely, did the sudden traffic to their sites cause them to panic and make quick changes?  Or, was it a coincidence?  Were changes in the market already putting pressure on these companies to change, and so they did?

What do you think?  Please comment below, but please keep your comments civil!  For some reason debates like these tend to devolve into name calling.  I’d rather not censor comments, but I will delete profanity and attacks on individuals.

Note that, regardless of the debate, I will continue to publish publicly available deals like these as they are discovered.  I have always held some back, though, and I’ll continue to do so:  Sometimes there is an opportunity that is too limited to make public.  For example, if the deal requires buying something for which there is a very limited quantity, publishing it would only lead to frustration once people discover that they can’t get it.  Another type of deal that I always hold back are the ones that cross my ethical line (see “Drawing the line“).  I also try to avoid publishing deals that would be likely to put companies out of business (luckily these don’t come around very often).

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. I would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to get on these two deals. I myself took advantage early. Getting in on the deals early and following your instructions is key.

  2. I think it’s a case of getting in while the getting is good…and if it wasn’t posted here, it would be splashed on 5 other sites.

    That being said, I don’t think it is just the blogs, but also the number of people who have taken to the hobby. A few years ago, this wouldn’t be an issue since there were far fewer people involved.

  3. Hi FM, you’re the best. The other guys who blames you or other bloggers are either too selfish or envious of you.

  4. I’m pretty sure this blog had a huge influence in killing the deal. Yes, as soon as the typhoon hit giftcardmall they had to react in some fashion if only temporarily. The personalized cards will probably die too with enough clicks through that “simple workaround” link. I decided not purchase the Visa gift card because I didn’t want to be apart of that wave to end that one too. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Here are my thoughts. First of all, you are not to blame for the deal dying. Your blog (along with other sites) probably brought a lot of traffic, which resulted in them shutting down the deal, but that does not make you responsible for it. It’s a publicly available deal, you did your job, done deal.

    I do blame Gift Card Mall, and I believe they had false intentions from the getgo. I was one of the really early ones to buy and noticed right away the shipping was raised to $2.99 a card even though previously that was not the case. At that time, if you looked at the shipping table, it was still showing the legit, old rates. They didn’t advertise this increase in shipping at all. Based on that one slip (whether intentional or not), I lost a bit of trust in them so when they cut it to $500, I put most of the blame on them and draw the conclusion that the move may have been something they were pondering all along.

  6. First I like to thank you for talking about it. I was able to use the deal and will have 5,000 points and an extra $255 from the cashback, assuming TCB pays out, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    I do believe you, other blogs, and FT kill deals, no question about it. But I probably would not have known about the deals otherwise.

    If Amex and GCM lose money on a transaction, that is their problem. I don’t blame them for making adjustments. They need to find a pricing where they make a profit and is low enough to attract customers.

  7. yep Greg, you did it. you killed a deal that many astute travel hackers were able to take advantage of because you posted it. isn’t that why we write or blogs?

    Thanks. I got in for a piece.

    Rick

  8. As big as BA & we bloggers are, compared to FT and SlickDeals and other sites, we are small in comparison. The space is big and we share. There will always be another deal. There always is. Enjoy #1 then move to #2 etc etc.

  9. I think we have a crowded space now. This isnt 2001-2009 anymore. The landscape has changed. This has caused people to go after it a lot harder. The GCM deal has been around for a while and only really got “good” after April 1. How long would someone expect to “earn” money for quickly liquidating GCs? In 2001 maybe a few months, today maybe 12 hrs.

  10. Really good posts and I agree with most. I think the far bigger impact was during the 5X OD days, when you would repeatedly find a way to promote OD 5X. That may not have been the only reason for the deal to get killed, but it certainly didn’t help.

    Can’t blame you though as there were other sites promoting it heavily once they figured it out from your blog and started copying/pasting everywhere. I believe you also got the tip from a reader in flyertalk and was not your original discovery. If it is not your discovery then please respect the deal.

    This isn’t 2001-2009 anymore, but again you are much different than other bloggers. You probably know this already and are engaging in a discussion with the audience. The worst blogs are arrogant and keep feeding the same BS everytime that they
    1) Are not responsible for killing a deal, they openly loudmouth it on their front pages.
    2) Push CCs all day and say the readers should be responsible to know whats good for them.
    3) Do all of the blogging out of kindness of heart and help other people “travel for free” and copy paste deals from FT or other blogs.

    As a society we should not encourage cheats and hacks like the ones on some other blogs. That is a wrong example to follow even if they are displaying temporary current success.

  11. Blaming bloggers for killing deals is like blaming gravity for plane crashes. Bloggers are simply a fact of life and nobody should be surprised when they spread the word about a good deal. Likewise, nobody should be surprised or offended when advanced deal-seekers handle the blogger issue by starting invitation-only forums and/or speaking in code on flyertalk.

  12. Of course you did not kill the deal. Sleazy businesses are to be blamed. What happened with Amex and now Visa giftcards is a perfect example of bait and switch technique that most businesses employ. My only request to you is that after what Amex and Giftcardmall did in the middle of a much publicized promotion ( changing terms and fee ), please do not support them.

  13. Greg, great to see you at FTU. Really enjoyed your presentation. Wrt to GCM tyre is a more benign explanation possible which is that they simply ran out of $1k cards. Since they don’t actually produce the cards themselves it could be an inventory problem.

  14. My opinion is simply this.

    Those that are blaming you and others for ruining deals are just mad their deal they had is no more and more so that anyone else should dare know about it.

    Basically, wah wah wah screw everyone else me me me.

    You and the other bloggers get info out to others who wouldn’t otherwise see it. That helps people and the companies.

  15. Glad I didn’t played this deal…I knew something would happen ,just not worth the headache of dealing with TCB and deal killing repercussions from parties involved …

  16. Also, let’s not forget that yesterday’s one-day TCB promo was specifically at FM’s request per the post entitled “Better Than Manufactured Spend” so loads of folks are getting more cash back than otherwise.

  17. I just laugh at this… Business offer a deal and when too many people buy, they panic and change things quickly…
    I am glad you were they only one who talked about this … Things die a lot worse when twenty bloggers talk it to death not just one..
    You see the guy pushing Disney card lol

  18. I’m surprised that these blogger haters who are willing to take advantage of the free market that makes these deals possible don’t recognize that the information about these deals is also a valuable market commodity and will be traded as such.

  19. Do those people not know that the “deal” probably was on a ton of sites, i.e. fatwallet, slickdeals etc… My guess is that all the coverage – industry wide – not travel industry wide – resulted in the physical sell out of certain denomination of card.

  20. It is a little revealing that youve got TCB representatives commenting on your recent post (telling people to open support tickets). I’m geniuinly interested though, why did you invite this dialouge if you dont plan to change?

    My 2c If its a good deal and its available publically (or posted on a public forum like ft) then keep doing your thing. I subscribe to your blog for this. If I want deals on merchandise i could apply to 100 different deal blogs and constantly monitor ft, fw and other deal forums, but id rather not waste all my time on that. So i download slickdeals and im done. Does slickdeals kill deals? Absolutely! Why? Because its popular. Why? Because it’s good at what it does. If your killing deals then take it as a compliment. You are good at what you do. Haters gon’ hate, do your thing boss.

  21. Thank you captain obvious.

    Perhaps you will be a little more careful in the future. Not everything needs to be spelled out to the letter.

  22. I love reading your blogs, which let me choose which deals I want to participate. Anyone who reads blogs should pick and choose what they are comfortable doing. There is no need to be a moral police. Where my line is drawn may not be in the same spot as the next person’s.
    Is there a closed group for those of us who want to “cross the line”? (partially kidding LOL)

  23. I think it was actually the increased traffic to the sites. Heck, I am surprised they don’t just go to a % based fee and be done with it.

  24. To Jonathan’s point, maybe its time FM went to subscription based service for announcing deals. Then he could send an email to the select few that subscribe, while discussing the deal afterward on the blog?

    FM could have a subscription charge of $10/month or something like that. Not publicly posting the deal until after it is over might prevent the companies from changing the deals since traffic would be less.

    Just a thought. (Of course, there is no way to limit what the subscribers do with the information once disseminated.)

  25. Yes, you help kill deals. If you know anything about trading and investments, or basic economic supply and demand, then it should be pretty clear. It’s impossible to prove who killed the deal. But you writing about it almost every day for the last week certainly helped kill the deal. But then again, your business model is based on driving traffic. This post is another way to drive traffic.

  26. Seriously?! It was a one day deal people. Those sites WANTED the publicity to get out there to drive people to their sites.

  27. No, FM, of course not you did not kill the deal.

    You enabled many more multiples of people (myself included) to buy goods and services at or through at least four companies. AMEX, Visa, GCM, and TCB all benefited from more sales. This does not even count the known and potential ancillary beneficiaries – Bluebird, Walmart, and countless stores and shops that will see increased traffic because people have AMEX and Visa gift cards.

    My problem is with the dynamic demand management of AMEX and GCM. It appears their systems say increased traffic and adjusted price structures to maximize revenue. I got in before the AMEX change, but not before the GCM change. Add in to this GCM increasing shipping from my purchase 1 to my purchase 2 (an exact duplicate second purchase) and you can see they’re penny wise and pound foolish.

    Am I going to go to GCM in the future? Not very likely. Too much effort and no guarantee they won’t change the conditions mid stream. Losing a customer because they’re treated poorly costs them much more money in the long term.

    Sorry for the long post, had to rant a bit.

  28. As much as I think you can move heaven and earth…FM you simply can’t. My opinion is you did not change the deal.

  29. Sure, you added publicity, but so did a number of sites. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it; you weren’t spoonfeeding morons or leading the naive astray like some other sites.
    I went to GCM early in the morning because I a) remembered the problems that had happened with Amex on April 22nd and b) remembered from a previous post that the 29th was going to be the Visa day. It’s called learning from experience. Those expecting a deal to be around in the afternoon are like first-timers who see a fare mistake and wait too long to purchase and then get mad when it’s unavailable (or claim age discrimination, though in that particular case the offender saw the light). There was never a guarantee that big-denomination cards or the deal was going to be around all day, especially after the same thing went down with Amex.

  30. The traffic to the site based on this blog probably had a lot to do with killing the deal. That said, some got in on it if they were quick- others lost out. The ‘oldtimers’ in this hobby HAVE to manufacture spend because they have run out of the really great credit card opportunities in a 3 month churn cycle for the most part. Being somewhat new, I am able to rack up massive amounts of points through credit card spend- so am still a ways away from having to manufacture spend. Still do it after meeting minimum spends in the last month or month-and-a-half of a 3 month cycle (which is where I am now- next cycle starts tomorrow), but not really at the point where a trip to CVS, Walmart, etc on a regular basis is part of the game plan. Love this blog- one of my favorites- keep up the good work.

  31. Everyone should boycott GCM until they reduce the fees. If they see a huge drop of business because they raised their fees by 159% ($5.94/$1k to $15.38/$1k) before tax, then maybe they will have a change of heart and bring back the $1k cards and reduce the doubled shipping fees. They increased the shipping fees 2 separate times yesterday in addition to slashing the maximum value per card. Shipping went from $1.99 to $2.99 and now to $3.99 per card. Vote with your wallets!

  32. Who cares who killed the deal or not. All those whiners saying it’s your fault are [content deleted]. And, those people just can’t accept the fact that nothing is constant and all things come to an end. Furthermore, they just need to blame someone or something if things won’t go in their way although these people are contributing to the churn affecting general public who do not churn.

    Ignore these loser and go on your way.

  33. You help kill deals by repeatedly mentioning them and giving links to old articles. Share the deal once, then make people do research. You should probably post the deal and then have a private messaging system set up where people discuss details. I would charge for increased access.

  34. Don’t think your FM post killed the deal….nowadays can see a limit on good deals imposed by merchants/banks…

    In fact, if a deal stays longer and folks grab, they are lucky.
    So folks not able grab these need something to blame and hence the whining 😛

  35. UPDATE – I just got an email from Giftcardmall stating that my order placed yesterday was cancelled, and when I called it was “no reason given”. I was welcome to place another order today, at the $500 limit and $3.95 fee per card. When I caled American Express, they said that the charge showed pending, but that it was authorized fully with no delays or reason for it not to be approved, other than the fact that GCM wanted it to not be approved, because they lose money. No thanks. I choose not to play your bait and switch game.

  36. Yes you do, but it’s ok. They all eventually end. At least you do creative thinking vs. other bloggers just re-posting.

  37. What’s funny is that a few months ago, you said you wanted to refrain from spoonfeeding people, and you would give the elements and let people figure it out. Apparently that didn’t last long. A good deal comes along, and you plaster a detailed how to guide every day. Now you ask, did I kill the deal? Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it?

  38. Greg, your blog is creative and responsible in the way the info. is presented. Let’s face it, all good things come to an end. It wasn’t the posting, it was the excessive nature of some of the readers that did this and other offers in. You can’t be responsible for what acts others do based on info. you provided. They are adults responsible for their actions.
    Thanks for all your great info.

  39. I find it kind of funny that so many people complain about FM posting these deals and being upset with him and his methods. But yet they come every day to read what he posts. Why? Because they use the info he gives! Just like everyone else.

    I for one, love that you break everything down for us FM. It’s why I love this game we play because it has been made very easy. I’m a novice at it but I’m learning. Keep doing what you’re doing. Everyone who missed out, including me, just needs to be faster next time.

    For all the bloggers out there that supposedly “kill deals” there are just as many who abuse the system and “kill deals”.

  40. In the case with TCB, I am actually glad that AmEx and GCM do something about those “deals”, and here`s why. TCB is notorious for not paying to all people, so there is always a good chance that they won`t pay you like they didn`t pay me. They need to have a bigger pool of believers in 2.5% to make money by not paying commission to everybody, so you are helping them to get rich, and I am blaming you for promoting unethical business in your blog. Other than that, I am thankful for your interesting step-by-step instructions.

  41. Robert Smith: yes, there are other cashback sites out there. I`ve been buying via mrrebates and ebates for a very long time. They offer lower %, but it is a guaranteed %. ebates even credit you first and then deals with a merchant if you contact them. Sometimes (very rare, though) they have issues, but they fix it very quickly and are trustworthy. TCB is a game, and not ethical business model.

  42. I’d say kind of, but I thought this was an idea that came from you TCB and GCM. So I don’t get why they would’ve killed it.
    I’m glad you’ll keep publicizing these deals. Not just because if you didn’t someone else would. But also because these are the “teach a person to fish” kind of deals. They give us an idea of what to look for, and then when we see it ourselves, we jump.

  43. all that was missing were the circles and arrows, oh wait you did have arrows and artists renderings. Yes you over promoted the promotions. Other than FT, I don’t know if it was posted anywhere else…no other boarding area bloggers trumpeted it. If fat wallet or slickdeals posted it than it was doomed anyway, hence the phrase the slickdeal effect.
    I got in on it because of reading your blog, so I can’t really blame you, but you could have mentioned it once and let it go, then your constant readers would have picked up on it…and the casual skimmers would probably have missed it. Promote any one day deal 4 or 5 times in a week and it will likely get mobbed. When multiple sites all do it, then it gets killed.

  44. @Wise2u

    Yes, it’s on the FWF.

    Really? You truly believe all those greedy churners’ gonna follow suggestions like that? You must be not on this planet.

  45. You’re content is awesome. You’re one of the most analytical bloggers out there. I’m sure you are keeping the good stuff to yourself as well as you should. This game is very addictive and taking crack away from an addict, I guess, will PO some people. I’ll have to get my fix somewhere else.

  46. Well for whatever reason the GCM order volume spiked on Monday and to such a level that they reduced the 1000 GC to a 500 GC. This was a deal that has been working for years and for anyone that wanted to search could have found. Maybe not the TCB part but the GCM part. Im not sad because the TCB part is going to 1% or that they arent paying. I am sad because GCM effectively doubled the cost of purchasing GCs.

  47. One can understand the part about runnung out of 1000 dollar giftcard. But how they started charging more for shipping is unethical. A classic bait and switch. I am really surprised that why all that anger is not directed toward Amex and GCM. FM did not kill the deal. Those unethical businesses did.

  48. In my opinion, you have killed several deals. The step-by-step instructions with images makes it too easy for too many people.

    By their very nature, deals exist due to inefficiencies in a system. If too many people try to get a deal, it will die quickly…

  49. yes, you were partially responsible for killing the deal. I didn’t get in on the deal. But I’d be a hypocrite to say don’t write about these deals because they die too soon. If you didn’t share how would most of us know? What is it that we have really “lost”? It was not our own to begin with.

    At the end of the day it is important to realize that this is mostly a zero sum game.

  50. I don’t think you killed the deal, I just think you pointed out a way to maximize our points. My guess is they saw this and changed the game. I ended up buying the Visa cards anyway as my intent was to load onto Bluebird. It may have even cost more money, but really did not want to get stuck with the AMEX Gift Cards. I am only hoping I don’t have an issue with the Visa cards coming in or using them. We shall see. I have learned a lot from you and will continue to support you.

  51. Do bloggers kill deals? Yes.
    Are there too many bloggers out there? Yes.
    Am I ahead from info I read on blogs? Yes.

  52. I totally agree with all the ‘thank you’ comments. We all benefit from your inside info and choose to take advantage – or not. Every time a company is mentioned on a blog, they are rewarded with free advertising, and they know that. Without your amazing ability to educate us – where would all my free airline miles come from!! Naysayers be gone!!!!

  53. You dumb things down too much, but that’s indicative of the author as much as the audience.

    You’re still puny minnows in an ocean fighting over bread crumbs. The real HHs are pulling in $10k+ a month and spending less time doing so. Some pull in $8k+ a month on BCP alone. After that GT is over it’ll be on to the next one.

    A little original, creative thinking is all that’s required. Shame our education system is only good at minting mindless drones. Suppose that’s why the arrows are such a hit with this crowd. Can’t wait for the inevitable CF to ensue when Fed QE infinity takes a big bite out of the sheeples’ savings / earnings. Line up for the slaughter…

  54. FM:

    I don’t mind if the deal was killed, all deals will be killed sooner or later.

    But it still bothers me that you keep promoting TCB for long time. TCB is not a reliable Cashback site for most people. The only reason you get your cashback is because they knew you are a blogger and they use you to run their promotions. Try TCB as a non-blogger for a couple of months and let us know what the results are!

  55. Sadly, bloggers are also killing newspapers, travel agents, middlemen, and dictators. Bloggers like you, simply make knowledge too accessible for the masses, most of whom do not deserve to have the information you provide. If people want useful knowledge, they should have to work very hard for it, or at least be a member of the elite, and not just have it given to them freely and easily. It is not fair to existing business models, elites, or current dictatorships, to have information freely and easily disseminated amongst the people.

  56. Thanks for your presentation at FTU and the opportunity to talk to you in person.
    It’s not you who kill the deals or even sites like SD. Its the greedy people who aren’t satisfied with just 1

  57. While we all hope things last and we also cant go about assuming that if something dies, something better will just come up later, I can say this: In 2002 these gigs lasted months or years. today they last days or hours. I do NOT think you killed this at all!
    .
    GCM had a number. We either reached it in small amounts over time or big amounts in a short time.
    .
    carry on my friend! 🙂

  58. @FM=Whores
    It’s always the same. The country is in the debt and you get tons of tax free money? Really? I’m sure you are a republican who don’t want to pay for the money you earned from the border of the laws.

  59. Spoon-feeding complains. So the FM gives partial information and then those people who can’t figure it out or did something significantly bad (leading to kill deals since banks get aware of what’s going on), they blame it on FM, and FM loses creditability?

  60. The issue is not about killing the “deal(s)” – it is about misuse of the products and eventually the “loophole” and misuse being stopped.

  61. @Phoenix
    I agree, but this is a churn blog. It’s always been abusing loopholes and misusing whatever to get free points & miles for whatever ‘level’ of churning you are doing. Do you suggest buy real things and resell it risking losing principal & have tax burden on the profit made?

  62. @MrWho: Trading is one of the oldest professions that exists – If you find your niche, have time and are able to take the risk & if you do get it going (profitably) i mean you would realize that points will soon become a second fiddle – your trade will be drive you. This again is my point of view.

  63. I don’t mind the information, although I’d prefer it not be step by step with tons of details. I’d think of it as a challenging puzzle that might help me to think up my own ideas. Alas, that won’t happen unless every blog did that.

    What disappointed me the most was that special deals were made- the GCM one was specially made and timed so we could use the AmEx GCs!- and then they decided that it was too much and wanted to benefit from it more than they were.

    I’m pretty sure that it’s not a matter of GCM “running out” of 1K gift cards. The money isn’t physical. It’s programmed into the cards because that’s what’s typed into the computer when they’re loaded and payment taken.

    I thought GCM would be great. I wouldn’t have to get confused looks from cashiers anymore and could buy the cards online! Looks like I’ll be going back to the cashiers.

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