A look back at FM 2012


2012 was a great year for me despite losing my job.  No, that’s not right.  “Despite” is the wrong word.  It may be more accurate to say that 2012 was a great year thanks to losing my job.  Or, maybe it was thanks to the Chase Ink Bold; or thanks to Vanilla Reload cards; or thanks to great shopping portal promotions; or… 

When this year began, I was bored and frustrated with my career.  I kept myself amused with this blog, which I worked on in my spare time.  Now, a year later, this blog is my career, readership is up about 6X from the start of the year, and I couldn’t be happier!

To cap this year, let’s take a look back at some of this blog’s themes…

Mile/Point/Travel Goals

I began the year by declaring a simple goal: to retain Delta Platinum elite status, and to earn one million miles (see “My strategy to buy Platinum and a million miles“).  These goals seemed like a stretch at the time, but they turned out to be remarkably easy.  By mid-year I discovered that I had already earned over a million points & miles! And, I found that strategic spending on my two Delta credit cards was all I needed to maintain near top-tier status.  So, to keep myself entertained, I added new goals along the way such as getting Platinum status with Marriott, and visiting Manhattan for $19 per day.


5X Everywhere

I’ve written many, many (and some would say too many) posts this year detailing ways to earn 5 points per dollar everywhere.  The excitement began, to some extent, with the discovery of $500 prepaid Visa cards at Office Depot.  But then I stumbled upon Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot.  At first I teased readers with the announcement that I had found the perfect perpetual point machine, but I didn’t yet reveal the details.  Then, on May 1st, I broke the news for real with the post “One card to rule them all.”  That post became a bit of a sensation in itself.  According to Google Analytics, it has been viewed over 50,000 times!

The following month, I reported that the NetSpend card may be the next great thing.  In addition to using the card for daily spend and ATM withdraws, it was possible to use it for paying bills – any bills!  Just days later, though, my account was shut down.  Many others reported the same.

Then came Bluebird.  Bluebird, from American Express, offered all of the advantages of the NetSpend card, but with none of the disadvantages (see “Bluebird takes flight and changes the game“).  The combination of Office Depot, Vanilla Reload cards, and Bluebird was too good to be true.  Anyone with a credit card that earned a point multiplier at office supply stores could take advantage of these products and basically generate points out of thin air.

The bubble burst in October when Office Depot discontinued Vanilla Reload cards.  It was (and is) still possible to generate points with reload cards, but the game had become more complex.  See “The reload game is on,” “Multiple paths to 5X everywhere,” and “5X, in perspective.”

One of the highlights of my 5X year was this video created by blogger Points to Point B.  I still laugh every time I watch it.  I apologize if anyone is offended by it, but come on, it’s really funny.

Mega Promotions

Every now and then a promotion appears that is almost too good to be true. I love these opportunities for big scores! Here are some of the great ones from this past year:

  • Nordstrom 36X: I earned almost 150,000 Avios by buying (and then selling) headphones and GPS watches.  Through a quirk, I also profited financially from this deal!  See “How Amazon paid me to collect miles.”
  • Club Carlson Buy One Get One: See “When 138000 points is not enough.”  My family racked up about 400,000 points from this promotion!
  • Sears 15X: See “Sears 15X: Leveraging the deal.”  I bought (and then sold) several thousand dollars worth of tablet computers when Sears offered 15X through the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal.  Through these purchases, I earned just over 110,000 points, which was enough for a free Southwest Companion pass!
  • MyPoints 150X: The last big portal bonanza of the year came in September when MyPoints offered 150 points per dollar for shopping at OpenSky (see “MyPoints 150 points per dollar! Maybe“).  The deal was limited to $500 worth of purchases, or 75,000 points.  New MyPoints users, though, were eligible for double points on their first purchase, so many readers earned 150,000 points for $500 worth of purchases!

As I hinted at above, one way to leverage some of these mega-promotions is to buy stuff for the points and resell them for as little loss as possible.  For ideas about how to find items to resell, see “Hunting for deals.”  For a look at what can go wrong, though, see “Frustration by Amazon” and “When the deal goes awry.”

My Career

In March I learned about the corporate reorganization that meant the end of my job.  In May I told readers that I would give full time blogging a try (see “Up in the air“). Then, in October, I declared that, so far, this blogging gig was working out fine.  In between, I adjusted to the new answer to the question “so, what do you do?”  I now answer “I’m a blogger.”  And then I prepare for the inevitable follow-up question: “Really? How does one make money doing that?”

A great boost in my new career came with the invitation to speak at the Chicago Seminars in October. There, I showed how to generate over 800,000 points & miles per year through gift card churning.  Then, at Frequent Traveller University in LA, I spoke about the many paths to 5X everywhere as well as credit card category bonuses.  Each of these presentations were well attended and well received.  Both events were awesome opportunities for me to meet readers face to face.

What’s Next for FM

  • As we go into 2013, I’ll continue to experiment with and report on new ways to earn points, miles, and cash.
  • Thanks to reader suggestions, I also plan to launch an FM Labs online meet-up space that will (hopefully) facilitate the exchange of ideas with less risk of overexposure. 
  • I’ve been tapped to speak again at Frequent Traveller University in the Spring, but this time in DC.  I’ve also been asked to present again at the next Chicago Seminars in the Fall.  I would love to go, but the dates may conflict with an overseas trip.  We’ll see.
  • I’ll continue to pursue high level Delta elite status without flying unless Delta introduces a new SkyMiles program that changes my mind.
  • I might pursue Hyatt Diamond status.  To some extent this will depend upon Hyatt running a great promotion like they did early in 2012 (see “Hacking Hyatt“).



To everyone reading this, I want to thank you for helping to make this an awesome year.  I hope you too had a great year.  Either way, here’s to hoping for a fantastic 2013…

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