March 6, 2013
547,000 points earned. 453,000 left to go.
Background: Million Mile Madness is the fun and foolish quest to earn a million points in one month. Throughout March, I’m doing everything I can to earn as many points as I can while keeping within my ethical boundaries. I don’t expect that a million points will have been credited to my account by March 31st: points often take quite a while to get credited. Instead, I’ll track all of the points that I expect, and I’ll declare victory if the expected total is over a million. To keep things challenging, I will try to keep my net costs below $1,000.
All points earned and expenses incurred are tracked via this Google Docs spreadsheet.
See all Million Mile Madness posts (in reverse order), by clicking here.
A quick start
On Friday, March 1, I signed up for 11 new credit cards in order to earn points from the signup bonuses. While it took a number of reconsideration phone calls, the end result was that I was approved for 10 out of 11 cards. The sign up bonuses from these cards will amount to 516,000 points & miles once I meet the minimum spend requirements (which I intend to do this month).
Meanwhile, I’ve been collecting points in other ways (“liking” things on Facebook, buying Free after Rebate items, etc.) and I’ve been tracking everything, including time spent, in the Google Docs spreadsheet.
Miles Per Hour
As a result of tracking points earned and hours spent, it is possible to calculate “Miles Per Hour” as the number of miles earned divided by the number of hours spent. At the time of this writing, that comes to: 547,695 / 8 = 68,461 miles per hour. At this rate, I should be done with the challenge by Friday!
Credit card signup bonuses are the low-hanging fruit of this points & miles hobby. Unless a huge point earning promotion suddenly appears, all other techniques will be significantly slower and more difficult. I have to earn over 450,000 more points & miles before month end. Can I do it?
In order to earn over 450,000 points by the end of the month, I would have to earn about 20,000 points per day. Is that possible?
Free points come and go all the time: Sign up for this. “Like” that. Earn 300 points, 500 points, 1000 points. Sure, I’ll do those things, but they won’t add up quickly. I’ll be lucky to earn 10,000 points this way throughout the entire month.
Another option is to “manufacture” spend. There are many tricks to run up credit or debit charges just to earn points (while getting most of your money back). These are great techniques, but usually only result in one point per dollar spent. I can’t realistically spend $20,000 per day for the rest of the month. My credit limits wouldn’t allow it; and if I circumvent my limits by paying my balances off every day or two, the credit card companies’ fraud departments would be sure to come calling.
I could, instead, take my new ThankYou Preferred card (once it arrives) to a few drug stores each day and buy $4000 worth of reload cards. My ThankYou card earns 5X at drugstores this year, so that technique would earn 20,000 points per day. But its not practical. Stores will quickly run out of stock of reload cards. And, as with other manufactured spend techniques, I would quickly hit my credit limit or risk being flagged (or flogged?) by Citi’s fraud department. So, while reload cards will help, they are not the solution.
I think that my best option is to buy and sell merchandise. Through double and triple dip techniques it is possible to earn 15 points per dollar or more at certain merchants. The trick is to buy merchandise for 15X (or more) and sell it for as little loss as possible. This way, its possible to essentially buy points very cheaply. I’ve done this buy/sell approach many times in the past, but usually only during great portal promotions that don’t currently exist (e.g. 36X at Nordstroms, 15X at Sears, 150X at MyPoints, etc.). Without those great promotions, I’ll have to try harder to find and buy products cheap enough to overcome the fees associated with selling merchandise. It won’t be easy.
There are a couple of upcoming promotions that should help:
- Kohl’s is offering 30% off all items to Kohl’s charge cardholders who use the coupon code SHOPNSAVE from March 6 (today) to March 17th. Plus, customers will earn $10 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent (redeemable March 11-30). This combination means that I’ll be able to buy lots of stuff very cheaply and earn at least 10X via the Ultimate Rewards Mall (or 20X when I double dip with gift cards). Hat tip to Jeff the Wanderer.
- Sears is running a Family & Friends sale for VIP members (which I am!) on Sunday March 10. Customers can choose from coupons that save money or earn rewards. For example, in the electronics category, one could choose between 15% in points or 5% off. I think I’m much better off with the former since I could use the points to buy more things to sell. Hopefully there will be some good sales that can be stacked with these coupons. We’ll see.
I was really hoping to see some great new shopping portal promotions this month, but so far nothing interesting has popped up. You can read about the March specials (such as they are) in the Ultimate Rewards Mall in this Mommy Points post. Worse, since March 1, Sears has dropped its payout. Via the Ultimate Rewards Mall, Sears has dropped from 5X to 3X. And, via the US Airways portal, Sears has dropped from 6X to 4X. In the past, Sears has bounced back from drops like these after a few weeks. Here’s to hoping that it will be even faster this time!
Hoping for more
When I look back at the past 14 months, I see that great deals appeared every couple of months:
- December 2011: Sears 10X (20X via double dip), Ultimate Rewards Mall
- Feb 2012: Nordstrom 36X, British Airways portal
- May 2012: Sears 15X (30X via double dip), Southwest RapidRewards Shopping
- August + September 2012: Sears 10X (20X via double dip), Ultimate Rewards Mall
- September 2012: OpenSky 150X, MyPoints portal
Some of these deals were very short term. They showed up and were available for a day or two and then they were gone. It has now been almost six months since the last mega portal deal. It’s time for a new one! Please!