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Just as many of you did, I got the U.S. Bank Flex Perks card during the Olympics themed sign-up bonus in August. During that time the sign-up bonus was much higher than normal, and with some strategic spending, it doesn’t take much to go from the minimum required to get the sign-up bonus to having enough points for two $400 airline tickets. In case you got in on this deal, here are the details on how to do that as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The Olympics sign-up bonus awards 33,150 points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first five months. If you spent that amount in non-bonus categories, you would end up with 35,650 points from the spending and the sign-up bonus. That is just shy of the 40,000 you likely want to achieve in order to obtain two airline tickets worth up to $400, instead of just one ticket worth up to $600 with a few points left as a remainder that you would not be able to redeem at as good of a rate. If you spent all $2,500 in a bonus category like groceries, then you would end up with 38,150 points. Clearly it wouldn’t take much additional spending to get to the magical 40K mark. This was the strategy I was initially interested in, and have been putting all of my grocery purchases on this card as a result.
However, there is another method that is now even more interesting to me than using the card for groceries, and it involves getting triple points from charity and social service organization donations. Here is what the U.S. Bank website says (bolding mine):
FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature and FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards Visa cardmembers will earn FlexPoints at a rate of three (3) FlexPoints per every $1 in Net Purchases and FlexPerks Select Rewards Visa cardmembers will earn FlexPoints at a rate of 1.5 FlexPoints per every $1 in Net Purchases during the current month’s billing cycle for any merchant location that classifies itself as a Charitable and Social Service Organization. U.S Bank does not have the ability to control how a merchant chooses to classify their business and therefore reserves the right to determine which purchases qualify for additional FlexPoints. Bonus FlexPoints will be awarded within 60 days of donation.
If you spent all $2,500 required to get the sign-up bonus on a charity or social service organization donation, then you would end up with just over the 40,000 points required to get two $400 tickets. That got my brain working immediately for two reasons. First, I have some relatively large donations already in mind that I plan to make before the end of the year. It would absolutely make sense for me to use this card for those expenses as it would easily get me to the 40K goal. Secondly, I started to wonder whether a certain micro-lending organization that I am fond of would qualify for 3x points. I did a test donation of $10 to the Ronald McDonald House (the charity this site is very proudly supporting for 2012) as well as a test $25 loan via my micro-lending organization of choice. That loan was processed by PayPal, and I didn’t honestly have much hope that it would count as a 3x expense due to some of the (perhaps false?) comments I had seen online. I made sure to keep the amounts different for each purchase so I would be able to tell the difference when the points posted.
A few days ago fellow blogger Points to Point B let me know that his test $25 micro-lending loan posted at 3x, and sure enough when my statement closed, mine did the exact same thing. I spent a total of $35 on “charitable expenses”, and received the regular 1x for those purchases plus an additional 70 points on the entire $35 amount.
In theory, if the stated 98.93% repayment rate for all micro loans from that organization held true for the $2,500 you loaned to hit the spending requirement on this card, then you would have enough points for $800 in airfare by actually spending about $27. However, we all know that the individual loans you make to get to $2,500 may vary from the overall repayment rate for the organization as a whole. It may cost you nothing if you end up with 100% repayment rate, or it may cost you much more. Additionally, you would be without that cash for at least several months. That said, if you planned to loan that amount anyway, then you might as well do it with this card. I know this is the card I will be using for those expenses. I’m by no means a “huge lender”, but I can say that I just got my first loan 100% repaid, and the others are making steady progress with repayments. This is not a perfect organization by any stretch, but it is still one I am happy to be a part of, and one that could be quite useful for this purpose.
If you want to get started for no risk in the world of micro lending, you can use my link to sign-up and get a free $25 to lend (I also get a $25 credit to lend – neither of us keep the repayments on those loans). I also encourage you to join the team of folks on Milepoint who do the same. Even if you have no interest in micro lending, this is still a good card to use for your other charitable donations! It’s great to get rewarded for helping others. Everyone wins!