The 200K deal I didn’t kill, but should have

Deal KillIn the past several months I’ve been telling people that one of the best deals in points & miles was on its last legs.  If they wanted to get in on it, I advised that they do so right away.  I didn’t write this on the blog.  Instead, I talked about it at meet-ups and frequent flyer seminars such as Frequent Traveler University and TravelCon.

The deal that I didn’t write about on this blog was the ability to fund a new Citi checking account and a savings account, with credit cards, up to $100,000 each.  That meant, combined, a possibility of up to $200,000 in absolutely free manufactured spend.  Some people got away with opening multiple savings accounts for even more free spend.  And, some people signed up for these accounts every year.

Shawn did mention, in passing, the ability to fund Citi accounts in a Quick Deal or two, but I kept it out of the headlines because I didn’t want to hasten its demise.  I now think that was a mistake.

In the post “Necker Island, here we come!” I summarized how I earned 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles in 7 months, as follows:

  • 8 Virgin Atlantic credit cards: ~720,000 miles
  • 2 Citibank credit cards + 25% transfer bonus: ~110,000 miles
  • 1 Amex credit card + 30% transfer bonus: ~220,000 miles
  • Other miscellaneous techniques: ~150,000 miles

Note that last bullet: “Other miscellaneous techniques”.  If anyone had cared to click through the hyperlink, they would have found a Quick Deal about the Citigold Checking 50K ThankYou Points Bonus.  Within that Quick Deal, Shawn mentioned “Citi does let you fund your checking account with a Visa or Mastercard up to $100K.”

In my case, I called Bank of America and asked to reallocate credit among all of my BOA credit cards.  I wanted as much credit as possible on a single new Virgin Atlantic card.  The agent I spoke with was able to lower each of my other credit limits to $500 and thereby increase the limit on this one card to over $60,000 (there was no hard pull for this reallocation).  I then opened a CitiGold checking account and funded it with this card.  Unfortunately, for some reason, I couldn’t get BOA to approve a $62K charge, but they did approve $49K.  Since the Virgin Atlantic card earns 1.5 miles per dollar, this resulted in 73,500 miles earned.  About a week later, I used the card again to fund a savings account for the same amount.  I earned 147,000 miles from opening those two accounts.  If you include the card’s 75K signup bonus, the total came to 222,000 easy miles.  I would have done even better if I had funded the two accounts separately with two different new credit cards (to get 2 signup bonuses), but I was worried that the Citibank funding option would soon die, so I didn’t want to wait until I got a new credit card.

Now its dead

I first read about the deal’s demise on this Doctor of Credit post.  Since then it has been confirmed on a number of other blogs and forums.  Citi is no longer allowing credit cards to be used to fund new accounts.  Other banks still allow this (found here), but their limits tend to be far smaller – usually $500 or $1000.  This is nice to do once in a while, but you should watch out for banks that make hard inquiries on your credit report when opening new accounts (details here).  Also, if you open too many new accounts, it won’t look good on your ChexSystems report (details here).

Why I should have reported the deal

When the ability to fund bank accounts with credit cards up to $100,000 hit the headlines of several major blogs, the writing was on the wall.  At that point, the deal was surely on its last legs.  I knew that.  Staying mum was a disservice to my many readers who do not read the other blogs.  If that’s you, I’m sorry.  I should have let you know about this deal before it was too late.

Deals die with or without me

Over the years, there were many deals that I kept off the blog for fear of killing them.  One by one, most have died anyway.  US Bank Buxx, TD Buxx, and Nationwide Buxx cards are good examples.  Buxx cards are prepaid cards intended for teenagers.  The cool thing about them was that it was possible to load them online with a credit card for a very low fee.  I kept these out of the headlines of this blog to try to keep the deal alive.  Maybe it worked to keep them around longer.  Maybe not.  We’ll never know.

On the other hand, I often blog about deals that many wish I’d keep secret.  Recently, for example, I wrote about the ability to get 1.5% to 1.6% cash back when buying Visa gift cards from GiftCards.com.  This made these PIN-enabled cards nearly fee-free.  Soon after my posts, GiftCards.com withdrew from all portals.  Did I kill the deal?  Probably.  Would the deal have died without me?  Probably, but maybe it would have lasted longer.  We’ll never know.

What I’ll write, and what I won’t

A couple of years ago, in the post “Blogging the Line,” I tried to document my policy of what I’ll write about and what I won’t.  I shared these “rules”:

  1. If it crosses my personal line, don’t blog it.
  2. Don’t disclose info given in confidence.
  3. Follow my passion, not the money.
  4. Advertised deals are OK.
  5. Pre-published deals are fair game.
  6. Dying deals are usually OK to publish.
  7. Obfuscate as needed.

I published the GiftCards.com deal because it met the above criteria.  It wasn’t a mistake or a secret loophole, it was an advertised deal.  If it happens again, I’ll publish it again.  I know that many disagree with this approach, but I believe that it is right.  Similarly, when American Express published a press release stating that they had added Rite Aid and Dollar General to their free cash reload network, I wrote about it.  Just like the GiftCards.com offer, it had become an advertised deal.

The ability to fund Citibank accounts with credit cards actually fell into two of the above criteria: It had been heavily “pre-published” (rule 5) and I recognized it as a soon to die deal (rule 6).  I should have published it more widely.  If I had, more of my readers would have been able to benefit from it.

In December 2014, a certain toy store starting selling $500 Visa gift cards in-store and they allowed paying with their gift cards.  That was pretty amazing because there are often ways to get many extra points or save lots of money when buying those gift cards.  I had good reason to believe that the deal would soon die (and it did), so I wanted to publish it, but I didn’t want to hasten the demise.  So, I followed rule 7: obfuscate as needed.  I published “An awesome new 5X (and beyond) game. Let’s play…”  In that post, I gave many hints but didn’t directly name the store in question.

What I’ll say, and what I won’t

At frequent flyer events I’m more open with the audience.  In person, I often discuss opportunities that I withhold from the blog.  These tend to be loopholes that are likely to die if widely published.  That said, I always follow rule 2: even in person, I won’t disclose info that was given to me under the condition that it be kept secret.

You can always find my speaking schedule here: Frequent Miler’s Event Schedule.  My next speaking engagement will be at Frequent Traveler University in Las Vegas.  The Manufactured Spending add-on is full, but general session tickets are still available.  I will be speaking at both events.  And, believe it or not, there are still many cool secrets worth sharing.

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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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Jaybird
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Jaybird

When you fund a bank account like this with a credit card, does it post as a purchase or a cash advance on the credit card side? Obviously, one has a fee and the other doesn’t.

Eddy Cue
Guest
Eddy Cue

It depends on several things – the issuing bank, your cash advance limit (should be set to 0 or as low as possible). Cards from BoA, Citi and Barclays usually post as a purchase.

Brad
Guest
Brad

It’s like you want some pat on the back for not being the one to kill a deal for a while? Congratulations. It would have absolutely been wrong for you to publish this deal. You have way more subscribers than DoC does.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Yeah, most likely he’s referring to MMS. You can start a clock on a deal after he posts it.

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[…] checking accounts with a credit card.  There is also discussion about this on Reddit, Flyertalk, Frequent Miler and in the comments on this Doctor of Credit post.  I am not surprised that Citibank has made […]

ATM
Guest
ATM

On one hand, publishing info about this publicly available deal is likely to hasten its end. On the other hand, publishing allows people who didn’t know about this deal to decide whether to take advantage of it. A tough choice, as these things often are. You’ll be criticized no matter what you do. As Rick Nelson said, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.

Gary Leff
Guest

“When the ability to fund bank accounts with credit cards up to $100,000 hit the headlines of several major blogs, the writing was on the wall.”

Though I had done this for the first time quite awhile before, it “hit the headlines” of my blog for the first time in June 2009 and several times thereafter.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

I agree, is a pat on the back what you want? So you didn’t take part in killing this deal but you have in many. I contribute the BOA alaska cards death mostly to you and your necker island goal. Sure MMS posted it and it died shortly after but you made several post about how many BOA cards you were getting.

Besides, I think most people knew about this deal without you posting it. I’m glad you think that you are the only source for so many people but I think that is pretty big headed. Just because a deal is posted on a couple of blogs, doesn’t mean we need to draw more attention to the deal by splattering it all over every single blog on the internet. Every blog just repeats all the other blogs nowadays. One person post something, then ever blog out they post the exact same thing. It’s disgusting already. Why be a part of that?

ed
Guest
ed

By choosing to not publicize it more than it already was, you prolonged the method. Why in the world head the other way in your thinking? People are either a good steward of this hobby or they aren’t. Justifying ourselves in any ms method by saying “well it’s going to die anyhow so I’ll just…” is choosing to not be a good steward.

ed
Guest
ed

BTW, most of your readers also read all the top blogs too as well as forums. We knew about this and saw you as a good steward for not following the herd in shouting it from the hilltops. Don’t ruin your reputation, dear sir, by heading in the wrong direction. You’re not doing a disservice to your readers.

Mark R
Guest
Mark R

I just barely got my checking acct funded with my BOA Alaska Airlines Visa before the shut down…didn’t have a chance to open a savings account though so only halfway made it! My own opinion is post away, interested parties will just have to be faster than corporations. I think a lot of these “loopholes” are intentional to drum up business/excitement but have to be closed when they get too too big. Thanks for the info 🙂

E.D.
Guest
E.D.

Like some other posters, I do believe that you SHOULD post about new opportunities if you don’t want the value of your blog diminished. After all, if not you – then someone somewhere will post it for sure, and someone (like myself and many others) would learn it from there. And then – of course – people start frequenting blogs that gave them the knowledge and the value. So yes, I believe you should have posted.
However, I realize there could be some information that is better kept quiet. Then maybe you should have invited private emails for more details. This way those who really wanted to learn would have the opportunity, and those who just scan the blogs for headlines, would most likely move on.
I also think that IF banks and credit card companies REALLY wanted to find out what MSers are up to at any given moment – what would prevent them from paying that $199 fee and – posing as a fellow frequent traveler – attend an FTU conference or any of the meetings?
So – either way whatever is mean to happen will happen. No reason to prevent this fear from doing what you’ve set to do when you started the blog – providing your readers with the useful current information.

Howard
Guest
Howard

My view is that if you don’t blog about an opportunity (which your readers expect), other bloggers will. And in the end, you diminish the value of your blog. I look at these opportunities as “sales” or “limited time offers”. If they’re too good to be true, they will eventually die. Your readers might as well get a leg up and jump in while the going’s good.

I did stumble across a travel hacking blog that doesn’t allow you to access it’s full content until you’ve been a member for 10 days and made 10 postings. The blog keeps the “viewers” out of the most high value content from both the blogger and other readers/contributors. It’s an interesting concept, in that you have to contribute to the cause in order to reap access to information that might be high value. It’s called savercity and it’s at https://saverocity.com/forum/ .

With all that said, I really appreciate that FrequentMiler took the high road and admitted to what he would do differently going forward. You can’t ask for anything but that. Well done, and thanks.

anthonyjh21
Guest
anthonyjh21

You make some silly assertions. I don’t expect him to blog about every deal. Go ahead and read the comments here and you’ll find I’m not alone. He’s not the only blogger to keep this deal somewhat underground. The most DoC hinted about was through a newsletter that never outed the savings accounts but implied there is other value with a CitiGold checking.

I do believe his intent was to be clear and that he is sincere in his beliefs and actions. The only area of annoyance for me personally is not 100% believing that exposure to deals would do anything other than make them die quicker. I’m not coming from any angle of irritation or anger that I didn’t get in another savings account cc load (I got in plenty).

I can sense strong ambivalence in his post as he’s trying to play both sides of the fence because he’s trying to keep his reader base happy. As the saying goes, you cannot be all things to all people. So yes, I can ask for more than that. If you disagree, well, that’s your opinion.

Vinh @ Miles per Day
Guest

I don’t know Greg. This is a tough one. I’m glad you didn’t write about this one and sad you wrote about GC.com. There are mumblings in the forums that you are now becoming as bad as MMS. Just killing deals for the hits.

I think the reason for that is there are more experienced people in this hobby now than newbies and so the experienced don’t want you spoon feeding the newbs. Tough one.

anthonyjh21
Guest
anthonyjh21

Money does crazy things I think we can all agree on that (TPG/MMS). All I ask is for transparency. A consequence of bloggers doing their job of reporting deals is that they increase exposure which is never good for the longevity of said deal.

For me it’s not a matter of rightness or wrongness but rather choosing a position without having to convince yourself that there are any holes in your logic. If you’re going to apologize and tell your readers you should’ve posted about it when it was active then don’t end a paragraph telling us you’re not sure if writing would’ve made any difference.

A pet peeve of mine is people who try to play to all sides and are afraid to offend anyone and stay politically correct. Don’t be afraid to piss people off if it’s something you believe in. I’m a big boy, I can handle it. The whole thing is just too wishy-washy for my taste and it’s not what I expected to come from FM.

eltee
Guest
eltee

be honest now – don’t want to spoon feed the newbs? or want to have all the fun deals for themselves?

Dave
Guest
Dave

So is your philosophy that if other bloggers blog about it then it’s fair game. I wish affiliate links would go away and with it career bloggers. Find a legitimate career rather than writing guides on how to fleece banks and retailers.

Landon
Guest
Landon

So it’s your philosophy that bloggers owe you something in addition to the free information they provide? I wish selfish whiners like you would go away and with them these asinine comments we see every time FM (or anyone) shares a deal. Find a legitimate reason to complain rather than turning this molehill into a mountain.

wanderer
Guest
wanderer

I agree with Landon. I think Freq Miler’s philosophy is fine. If anything, he should err on the side of disclosure, and not hold information back. I don’t like folks who whine because they think 1) they are entitled to know things, and 2) others should be denied that same knowledge.

Dave
Guest
Dave

When did I say I am entitled to know things? I’m sure there are plenty of deals I don’t know about, and I’m fine with that.

Mark Willard
Guest
Mark Willard

Longtime reader; rare commenter here. I just want to say I appreciate what you do and I think the people getting all up in arms here are way out of line. People love to criticize, but how many deals would they have missed out on had you not published them? There’s a reason why they’re on your site in the first place. Deals will die with or without you, and among all the points/miles bloggers, I really appreciate your honesty and forthrightness that is often missing from other blogs. So please keep on doing what you do and don’t let the critics get to you.

MarkD
Guest
MarkD

It’s got to be expensive running this blog and employing Shawn (Quick Deals), Anita (Lab Manager), and Julian (Devil’s Advocate) in addition to relying on it for your personal source of income.

You’ll need to maintain your high readership levels to be able to pay the bills.

That must be tough to do without publishing some ‘exclusive’ deals. Seems like a conflict of interest to me.

trackback

[…] account with a credit card (as I did to the tune of $39,000 a few months ago, and Frequent Miler apparently did several months ago as well) and also some people were reporting that their accounts had been shut down (with all their […]

Vishwas
Guest
Vishwas

I am sorry I have noob question. You talk about “Transfer Bonus” in your Necker Island post. What exactly is that? I will be happy even if you point to a link and I can read it.

Stannis
Guest
Stannis

MMS is the embodiment of all the things people hate about bloggers – hardly any original content, circles and arrows, pimping credit cards constantly, etc.

This blog is the exact opposite and I agree with your guidelines. I rely on your Quick Deals for fast notification of limited-time deals and it has saved me money several times.

Shogo
Guest
Shogo

I trust in your approach and your personal philosophies, Greg. Keep doing your thing.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Which toy store was it that allowed Visa gc to be purchased with store gc?

Dave
Guest
Dave

Toys ‘r us and it was any G/C they sold. I used to buy their cards at a discount and upgrade to EBay and gas cards. I didn’t bother with Visa and MC since I could get a bigger discount doing the same thing at Sears. BTW, the merchants figured out on their own that they were losing money. MS bloggers were late to that game, following the resale and deal crowd.

mbh
Guest
mbh

I enjoy your blog and respect your guidelines, but I propose that it’s not the blog which kills these deals, it’s the irresponsible and greedy abusers of the opportunities (you included). 100k on cc for a single bank account?!! Could you BE any more “hey, hey, look at ME and what I did!!”?

If people would show a little restraint, these deals would last forever and we could all use them indefinitely. I get mad every time a blogger OR commenter brags about maxing out a deal. That’s when I know it will die.

Tazz
Guest
Tazz

You hit a sensitive nerve. I know of another blogger who vets on members to join upper levels in his board. He allows newbies to be shamed if they ask “stupid” questions regarding gigs. He is supposedly a strong advocate of “MS stewardship” but when gigs like this come, he’s the first one to say he’ll put in $50000 initial deposit one for him, another for his wife. All because he can! Is that responsible MSing? He’s mad at those calling the FIs yet he doesn’t see he is also contributing to killing of the gig(s) just because he and his minions are taking advantage. If this isn’t hypocrisy, I don’t know what to call it {rolleyes}.

Greg I have followed your blog for a long time now. Just do what you do best. Thanks!

HikerT
Guest
HikerT

The mental gymnastics you’ve gone thru above to rationalize why you should have killed this deal is alarming but can’t say surprising. Greg, just be honest with yourself about why you are blogging, speaking at seminars, etc. In particular the “Follow my passion, not the money.” bullet point. MS is a passion for many of us but most of us do not feel compelled to blog about it, much less post in public forums any more. I doubt it’s really your passion to blog when you start outsourcing. It’s a business. You continue to blog because you make a living from it. I lost respect for the bloggers that first sold out for the money, but in hindsight they were just the first to be honest with themselves about their motivations for blogging and in some respects did MS a big favor by re-focusing their content.

Justin
Guest
Justin

Count me into the fold that appreciates the time and effort you put into this blog, Greg. I, too, have found great deals due to your prior research and sincerely appreciate all you do for us. You can’t be all things to all people.

Keep up the great work!

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[…] The 200K deal I didn’t kill, but should have […]

John
Guest
John

Lately it seems like you’re patting yourself on the back a lot. Ironic. You should be criticizing yourself more than ever. Your blog barely resembles what it used to be.

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[…] Miler had a weird post trying to justify an approach that his blog can appeal to both experienced hobbyists and newbies who […]

Samuel Orris
Guest

I don’t understand this. Why these problem happend ?

Nick
Guest
Nick

I, for one, appreciate what you do and how you do it. I’m one of the casual “hobbyists” to which you refer above. Yours is the only blog to which I subscribe, as I have a full-time job and can’t be chasing down every single deal. So I guess when some monumental opportunity comes about, sure, I’d selfishly appreciate you blogging about it because I’m likely to miss out otherwise. That said, I also understand that I won’t get in on every deal. I just don’t have time.

So yeah, in sum I think you take a very fair and balanced approach to deals, and I wish you luck going forward. IMO, the real value in your blog lies in shepherding along newbies and casual (but passionate) users like me — not in breaking every single piece of news. Heck, today’s blog post has already helped me out a great deal, as I’m about to apply for IHG cards for both my wife and I. We did the “Priceless Surprises” deal (also thanks to your blog) and had no idea the IHG card also offered a free night every year at ANY property in addition to a huge sign-up bonus. We frequently travel to Asia, and it’ll be great to get a couple free nights at an Intercontinental every year. Very cool.

in4tar
Guest
in4tar

I do appreciate your blog – it’s on my list of several travel and points/miles-related blogs that I read regularly. I also appreciate the delicate balance between wanting to give your readers information and not wanting to kill the deal. Yet I would hope that in the future – when and if such dilemma appears – you would rather choose giving the information. Having read all the comments above, I can agree with many pros and cons. Still…that’s what faithful readers expect from the bloggers – honesty, and full disclosure, not hiding something for the fear of killing it.
Speaking of killing it – why are you so sure it’s the bloggers who have done it and not those who have “pumped the deal to the max and beyond”?

Tom
Guest
Tom

Hypocritical of you to write posts that I have seen in the past bestowing how you’re more ethical than other bloggers and then keep a very lucrative method secret to not jeopardize your Necker Island trip. Disappointing.

FliesAlot
Guest
FliesAlot

I’ve been saying for years (see some past comments on this blog!) that these blogs are killing the promotions. Most of the companies that offer these bonuses know a few people will abuse it and they figure that in. When the abuses become widespread they have to kill them. Giving things away on a large scale is a bad way to do (and stay in) business.

To quote Adam Sandler’s character from Just Go With It: “Rich people don’t give away free vacations. That’s how they remain rich.”