One weird old trick for cancelling the most annoying subscriptions

Back in November several shopping portals started running promotions offering bonus points if you signed up for an 8-week digital trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal and Barron's. The terms were a bit tricky: you had to keep the subscription for 45 days, but if you kept it for 56 days (8 weeks) you'd be charged for another month. That created a small window (which we're currently in) where you can cancel your subscription, keep the points, and not be charged for another month.

The points haul wasn't huge, but my purchases did track, and each batch cost me $1.06 after taxes, which I thought was a pretty good deal.

Dow Jones subscriptions are not meant to be cancelled

The Wall Street Journal and Barron's are both Dow Jones publications, and while you can manage your subscription online, you cannot cancel your subscription online. You need to call 1-800-JOURNAL for the Wall Street Journal or 1-800-544-0422 for Barron's, although in practice it seems the agents at either number can manage subscriptions to the other.

The Wall Street Journal call center combines the absolute worst elements of the call center experience: the lengthy script begging you not to cancel ("your subscription is paid up through the 27th, you can cancel until then, are you sure you want to cancel now?"), the terrible connection, the language barrier.

I was ultimately able to successfully cancel one subscription that way with a phone call that lasted 19 minutes, although it felt much longer. On Sunday I mustered up the resolve to make another round of calls, which is when I discovered the call center isn't open on Sundays.

That was the last straw for me.

Citi and Bank of America still offer disposable virtual credit card numbers

Virtual credit card numbers are a fairly old gimmick introduced by a few banks in the early days of online retail so that customers wouldn't have to share their "real" credit card number with online merchants. I don't know if they were ever "popular," but now they're distinctly unpopular, with to the best of my knowledge Bank of America and Citi being the only remaining card issuers that allow you to generate single-use credit card numbers for online transactions (let me and fellow readers know if the comments if you know of any other issuers).

To access virtual credit cards in Citi online banking open any card, then click on "Get Virtual Account Number" in the righthand pane. To access them in Bank of America, navigate to your account activity, scroll all the way down, and look for "Use ShopSafe."

Both banks appear to use the same technology, and I want to stress again, it is old. But it still works, and you can still generate disposable credit card numbers with customized spending limits and expiration dates. These numbers can only be used online.

Use virtual credit card numbers to auto-cancel subscriptions

The $0 liability offered by virtually all credit cards today on unauthorized charges has made the original purpose of virtual credit cards fairly remote from the modern experience. While you should still review your credit card activity carefully for unauthorized charges, it's trivially easy to get such charges reversed (some merchants would say too easy!).

But when you're dealing with sketchy merchants like Dow Jones and their outsourced call center, virtual credit card numbers offer a commonsense way to make sure you're not charged for subscriptions you don't want. Just change your billing method to a virtual credit card with a low limit and early expiration date, and your subscription will cancel itself.

Is this right?

I'm not a priest or a lawyer, and I'm especially not your priest or lawyer, so I don't have any insight into whether giving a sketchy merchant a credit card number you know (but they don't know) they won't be able to charge is legal or ethical or whatever.

I know it wouldn't be my first choice, which is why I tried to cancel my subscriptions the "right way." But when I realized I was not being dealt with in good faith, I no longer felt any compulsion to deal in good faith with them.

But even if you decide not to use virtual credit card numbers in this way, remember that Citi and Bank of America credit cardholders still have this potentially useful tool at their disposal.

Hyatt Globalist or Hilton Diamond for reimbursed business travel?

If you are primarily focused on hacking leisure travel, "choosing" between Hilton and Hyatt doesn't make much sense: earn Hilton Honors points with manufactured spend at grocery stores with an American Express Surpass/Ascend card, and earn bonus transferrable Ultimate Rewards points on office supply spend with a Chase Ink Plus or unbonused spend with a Freedom Unlimited. Then you can simply choose the right currency to redeem for each stay, and over time adjust each currency's earning rate accordingly.

Reader AG wrote me the other day to ask a different question: for a frequent business traveler with fully reimbursed hotel stays, "Which program do you believe offers the best value for loyalty when dealing with reimbursed business travel?"

Earning and Redeeming

The easiest way to compare the value of two programs for reimbursed travel is the amount of spending required in order to earn a free night. Since AG has enough paid travel to reach top-tier status in the program of his choosing, this simple result is easy to calculate and present side-by-side:

Note that this chart reflects the changes coming to Hilton point earning in April, 2018.

The chart shows is that you can pretty closely map the amount spent on room rates and charges at properties in each chain with the number of free nights you'll earn at them.

The mapping isn't perfect, and if you were convinced that, for example, 95,000-point Hilton properties are not, in fact, the equivalent of 30,000-point Hyatt properties but instead mere 20,000-point properties, then you might conclude that Hilton in fact requires 50% more spend for an equivalent night. That's not a conclusion that's going to fall out of the math, but rather from your own experience and preferences.

Bonus thresholds

An additional consideration is what bonus thresholds will be triggered by a frequent paid traveler. Both Hilton and Hyatt offer bonuses after staying a certain number of nights. What I've done in this chart is convert those bonuses into an equivalent amount of spend:

I've converted the Hyatt Category 1-4 and Category 1-7 awards into the equivalent number of points if the certificates are redeemed at the highest tier property possible (adjust for your own redemption preferences).

If you have 100 paid nights planned and intend to spend an identical amount of money at either Hilton or Hyatt, this chart shows that Hyatt essentially "tops up" your actual spend with an additional $13,077 of what you might call "synthetic" spend, almost enough for 3 free nights at top-tier properties (although $2,308 of that synthetic spend can only be redeemed at Category 1-4 properties!). Hilton adds just $5,000 in spend-equivalence, barely enough for a single top-tier night.


Note that this discussion has completely ignored the points earned by the credit card you choose to use to pay for your stay. Might the bonus points earned by using a chain's co-branded credit card change the calculation?

Going from earning 20 Hilton Honors points per dollar to 32 points per dollar (actually slightly more since the Ascend's bonus points are earned on taxes in addition to room rates and charges) reduces the amount of spend required by 37.5%, while charging Hyatt room rates to a Chase Hyatt credit card reduces the amount of spend required by just 31.6%. Since Hyatt stays required somewhat less spend than Hilton stays to begin with, the advantage of the Ascend card over the Hyatt credit card has the effect of narrowing or eliminating that advantage, depending on the category of your desired redemption.


Looking at these results, it seems clear to me that holding all else constant, Hyatt offers frequent reimbursed business travelers superior value to Hilton, especially when they intend to redeem their points at properties in the top half of each chain's redemption chart. Points earned on purchases at each chain are roughly equivalent, while Hyatt offers considerably more lucrative bonuses to very frequent travelers.

This conclusion should naturally be adjusted according to your own situation:

  • will Hyatt's smaller footprint keep you from booking all your reimbursed stays with them, forcing you to split your paid nights between two or more chains?
  • will Hyatt's smaller footprint keep you from redeeming your points, or force you to settle for less desirable destinations or properties?
  • have you checked for award availability at the properties and destinations you're interested in? Does one or the other chain tend to have more or less availability at the properties and during the seasons you're interested in?

No single hotel chain, or airline, or rental car company, or cruise line works for everybody. And thank God! If it did it would be overrun and the value would be killed immediately. A hard look at the numbers can make it easier to make an informed decision, but it can't make the right decision for you.

What a 10-minute schedule change taught me about Delta — and about myself

It's no secret that the core of my travel hacking practice is manufactured spend. I focus on low-risk, high-reward opportunities to earn points and cash with credit card purchases and liquidate those purchases back to cash as quickly as possible. But while different travel hackers focus on different areas, I don't intentionally ignore the other elements of the game, and I don't think anyone else should either:

  • keeping an eye out for mistake fares may let you save money on trips you're already planning to take, or go on short-notice jaunts in premium cabins if your schedule is flexible enough.
  • taking advantage of status matches between loyalty programs, especially before trips where status might be particularly valuable.
  • using shopping portals strategically to earn seasonal shopping bonuses or secure outsized rewards like the Southwest Companion Pass.

One of the oldest travel hacking tricks I know about is using schedule changes to rebook from less convenient to more convenient flights while avoiding change fees and fare differences.

How a 10-minute schedule change saved me $2,000

One of the beauties of living in a city with a perimeter-limited airport is that we have non-stop flights virtually everywhere within the perimeter. That means I can fly from my most convenient airport basically anywhere within the Midwest, Northeast, or Southeast without a connection. To some destinations, however, those flights are just once a day, which can create schedule conflicts with people whose schedules have less flexibility than mine.

My trip this weekend back to the Midwest proved to be just such an occasion. Back in November, I'd booked our flights on the early-afternoon nonstop to and from the Midwest in each direction.

But it wasn't to be; my partner had an urgent work meeting that afternoon that couldn't be changed. I quickly calculated that I had three options:

  • a same-day confirmed change;
  • a same-day standby change;
  • bullshitting.

I understand that there are people who treat same-day confirmed and same-day standby as core elements of the travel hacker's inventory — and good for them! As a Gold Medallion, in principle I should have waived same-day confirmed and same-day standby fees, which would have made either option, in principle, possible.

But — and this is just between us — I have no idea how that works and I wasn't about to experiment on a trip that I actually wanted to go on.

That left bullshitting as my first line of offense.

My front-line customer service representative had some well-justified skepticism

Once I learned about the problem, I checked my reservation details and immediately noticed that our original outbound flight was scheduled for 3:10 pm, while a few weeks later it had been rescheduled for 3:00 pm. So I picked up the phone and called Delta, asking them to reaccommodate us on a connecting flight later in the day.

I explained that the earlier flight didn't work with our schedule. After all, if we wanted a 3 pm flight, we would have booked one, right? My adorable representative repeatedly asked me, "you can't make it to the airport 10 minutes earlier?"

After I repeatedly explained that no, I could not make it to the airport 10 minutes earlier, she told me that there would be a $250 change fee per ticket, plus any fare difference (these were very cheap tickets, so the amounts involved would be a few thousand dollars more than I actually paid).

I calmly told her that the new departure time didn't work for us and that we needed to be rebooked on a later flight, and she said what was perhaps the funniest thing in our entire conversation: "we have a 90-minute change policy." I can only assume she meant that Delta was free to move the departure time of a flight 90 minutes in either direction without reaccommodating customers, which is untrue, but in a way so absurd it's hard to believe even she believed what she was saying.

So I asked for her supervisor.

My customer service supervisor had rebooked me before she even picked up the phone

After about a minute on hold, a Delta supervisor picked up the phone, told me that she understood I wanted to be rebooked on the later connecting flight, and asked me to hold while she took care of it for me.

It was absurdly painless.


There are no heroes in this story.

  • Why do passengers book flights they're ultimately unable to catch?
  • Why do airlines change their schedules so often?
  • Why do airlines charge change fees for passengers whose schedules change?
  • Why must everything be a battle?
  • Why must we treat merely not being fleeced as a triumph in its own right?

I don't have answers to those questions. But I do have an answer to one question: what should you do if a front-line representative refuses to rebook you after a minor schedule change? Ask to speak to their supervisor, and demand to be rebooked.

If your new flight leaves earlier, explain that you can't make the earlier departure time. If your flight arrives later, explain that you'll miss your meeting, wedding, or tryst. No airline has ever been forced to come up with an explanation for why their schedule suddenly changed, so feel free to apply some imagination and explain why you can't possibly accommodate their change in schedule.

Assorted 2018 hotel news and program updates

Quite a few changes have been reported to hotel loyalty programs in 2018, so here are a few brief thoughts in case you're wondering what to make of them.

70,000-point IHG Rewards Club properties

IHG Rewards Club has announced the following hotels will cost 70,000 points per night in 2018:

  • InterContinental Paris - Le Grand
  • InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa
  • InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora
  • InterContinental Hong Kong
  • InterContinental - ANA Manza Beach Resort
  • InterContinental London Park Lane
  • InterContinental The Clement Monterey (California)
  • InterContinental San Francisco
  • InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco
  • InterContinental The Willard Washington D.C.
  • InterContinental Boston
  • InterContinental New York Barclay
  • InterContinental New York Times Square

I did some award searches and where I found availability, these hotels are still pricing at 60,000 points per night, so the pricing changes seem not to have gone into effect yet.

Using the Points + Cash trick (book then refund Points + Cash reservations until you have enough points for an all-points reservation) you can buy IHG Rewards Club points for 0.575 cents each year-round (and often somewhat cheaper than that), so a 70,000-point property costs roughly $402 per night. The only properties on this list where I'd even consider spending that much money are the French Polynesian resorts in Bora Bora. If you and a partner each had a $49-annual-fee Chase IHG Rewards Club credit card free night certificate, you could combine those with a couple free nights at $402 each and get a 4-night stay, for example, for a total of $902, or $225 per night, which compares favorably to the cost of an award night at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui (without drawing any conclusions about the respective quality of the properties).

Note that award space at those properties can be very difficult to find.

Improved transfer ratio from Membership Rewards to Hilton Honors

Also widely reported has been a permanently improved transfer ratio from flexible American Express Membership Rewards accounts to Hilton Honors, up from 1:1.5 to 1:2. Judging by the complaints I hear from readers, Membership Rewards points are the most difficult flexible points for non-expert users to redeem, so increasing their value when transferred to one of their simplest transfer partners is obviously an unalloyed good.

I don't think Membership Rewards points should be earned speculatively with the intent to transfer them to Hilton (if for no other reason than Hilton Honors points are easier and cheaper to earn with a Surpass/Ascend card), but I also don't think anyone should pay cash for a hotel stay while they have access to cheap and plentiful Hilton Honors points, since the least valuable point is always the one you don't redeem.

Award nights now count towards World of Hyatt elite status

Historically, Hyatt Gold Passport and World of Hyatt elite status could only be earned with nights (and until last year, stays) that had a cash component: only cash and Points + Cash stays earned elite-qualifying credit.

That changed this year, so award nights will also count towards elite status qualification. Unfortunately, it takes 60 nights to qualify for Globalist status, so I doubt this will have much effect except on the margin. An average of 5 nights per month doesn't seem unreasonable in general, but an average of 5 nights per month at Hyatt properties would require booking away from cheaper or better properties, which is a funny way to save money.

Of course, it's easier for some people than others.

Continental breakfast for Gold and Diamond elites at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts

Hilton has updated their "My Way" choice of benefits for Gold and Diamond elites at Waldorf Astoria properties to include the option of "a daily complimentary continental breakfast in the hotel's designated restaurant for you and up to one additional guest registered to the same room each day of your stay."

Interestingly, they have updated the elite benefits page to reflect the change but have not yet updated the actual My Way options in the app or online, presumably because the only guy who knows how to do so hasn't worked there for years. Hopefully Waldorf Astoria staff have been notified of the change, but I expect elites will have to do some haggling until the system is fully updated.

There are some cool Waldorf Astoria properties but the only ones I can see an obvious reason to choose are the Hawaiian, Caribbean, and Park City locations. Does anybody have a favorite Waldorf Astoria property?

2018 New Year roundup

Well, we made it. It's 2018, so here's a roundup of thoughts, ideas, and observations that I haven't got around to posting yet.

US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards changes are in effect

Flexpoints are now worth 1.5 cents each when used to book travel through the US Bank Flexperks travel portal. The search engine defaults to basic economy fares when they're available, so if you want to book main cabin or regular economy fares, you'll have to call. Be sure they don't charge you a booking fee if your fare isn't bookable online.

I assume it will be possible soon to transfer Flexpoints both directions between Flexperks Travel Rewards and Altitude Reserve accounts, if it isn't already (transfers to Reserve accounts were already allowed).

Register for hotel promotions

I've updated my Hotel Promotions page with all the global hotel promotions I'm aware of. Be sure to let me know if I've missed any.

Note that I was able to register for all 4 of the current Club Carlson promotions, although since I don't have any Club Carlson stays planned I'm not sure if a single stay would really trigger a 15,000-point bonus, Silver elite status, and a 50% off e-certificate (and count towards the multiple-night promotion).

RIP my SkyBonus account

For the last few years I've kept my Delta SkyBonus account alive by scrounging Delta ticket numbers from friends, acquaintances, and out of the trash cans at baggage claim. In 2017 I definitively fell short of the $5,000 in Delta revenue needed to keep my account alive, so I assume they'll be closing it one of these days. I redeemed my points for a final domestic economy ticket and 30(!) drink tickets, which I'll give out to blog subscribers whenever they arrive (the drink tickets, that is).

Follow-up to MERRILL+ guest post

A number of people pointed out in the comments and on Twitter that the executive Delta Sky Club membership provided by the MERRILL+ credit card after spending $50,000 during the calendar year will not provide lounge access starting in 2019 when you are not flying on Delta.

How much that affects you depends on when you decide to trigger your membership year. Obviously if you trigger your membership in January, 2018, you'll only be affected by the changes for a single month of 2019. If you trigger your membership in December, 2018, you'll be affected by the changes for the entirety of your membership year.


So, like I said, we made it. Congratulations are obviously due all around.

What kind of content are folks interested in seeing more of in 2018?

Guest post: Triggering MERRILL+ Delta SkyClub membership

Today's post was written by friend and longtime reader of the blog Robert Dwyer, about his experience with the no-annual-fee Merrill Lynch MERRILL+ Visa Signature card, which many people signed up for when it was offering a signup bonus of 50,000 points, which could be redeemed for two tickets worth up to $500 each.

You can find Robert on Twitter @RobertDwyer.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to one and all!

—The Free-quent Flyer

Guest post: Triggering Merrill+ Delta SkyClub membership

The Merrill Lynch MERRILL+ Visa Signature card is an oddly charming credit card. For such an obscure product it has proven to be quite popular. And it was gone, at least for new signups, before we knew it.

But thanks to its generous 50,000 point signup bonus (worth 2 airline tickets up to $500 each, a combined value of up to $1,000) and no annual fee, a lot of people still have this card.

Full review over at Doctor of Credit.

Before you cancel it or entertain the thought of product changing to another BofA credit card, you might consider keeping it for the bonuses it offers for spending $50,000 each calendar year. You get your choice of:

  • A $200 air travel incidental credit -OR-
  • A Delta Sky Club Executive membership (which costs $745 or 70,000 Delta miles otherwise).

I like cards like this with a threshold bonus, especially since the points it earns for spend are worth up to 2 cents each towards air travel booked through their portal.

I opted to spend $50,000 on the card this year for the Delta Sky Club membership.

Why do this?

Pretty simple really: although the AmEx Platinum cards (the ones with $450+ annual fees) offer Delta lounge access, it’s not full-fledged access. You can’t bring guests. Not even your spouse, and definitely not your kids. The same is true of the AmEx Delta Reserve card: no guests for those who gain access through a credit card.

A full-fledged Delta SkyClub membership also means you can visit the Delta lounge when flying other airlines. You can’t do that if you gain access through a credit card: you must be flying Delta that day.

Although we’ve carried an AmEx Platinum card (or three) in one form or another over the past few years we’ve never been able to take advantage of Delta lounge access while traveling with our boys. That’s a bummer because I actually appreciate lounge access more when traveling with family than on business.

And given the routes Delta serves I’m more likely to be flying with them when traveling with my family than for business.

So although the full-fledged Delta SkyClub membership that comes with spending $50,000 on the MERRILL+ card is a seemingly minor delta (ha ha) over what you get with AmEx Platinum it actually takes me from a situation where I’ll rarely visit a Delta lounge, to being able to take advantage of it most times we fly.

How to do this

Frequent Miler wrote a piece on whether it was worth it to spend $50,000 on the card. His conclusion: It’s not worth it. What a killjoy!

But his post was helpful thanks to a screenshot describing how to activate the SkyClub membership.

  1. Call 800-419-0000 and ask for “Benefits”
  2. Tell the rep you’ve spend $50,000 on the card this calendar year and would like to take advantage of the SkyClub membership benefit
  3. They’ll confirm that your spend level, ask for your SkyMiles membership number, and activate your membership

My experience leveraging this benefit

We were flying Delta for Thanksgiving with a connection so I called to active the SkyMiles membership about a week in advance. I was pleased that the rep I spoke to (on a Saturday morning no less, no bankers' hours for these guys) knew exactly what I was talking about and swiftly activated my SkyClub membership. He told me that my membership materials would arrive in a couple weeks but that if I was visiting a lounge in the next week or so I could give them my SkyMiles number and I’d be able to get into the lounge.

I was leery of this going through without incident so I checked my Delta profile the day we were set to fly, both on my computer and the Delta app. I didn’t see any indication the access had been activated so I called Delta to check. They didn’t have any record of it, but hinted that the SkyMiles desk isn’t so tightly linked with the SkyClub people so I might want to just give it a go at the airport and see what happens.

When we got the airport I provided my SkyMiles number and we were welcomed in without incident. The whole family! Take that, overcrowded Delta lounge.

A week or so later my membership card arrived, indicating an activation date roughly 2 weeks after my initial call to MERRILL+ to activate the membership with an expiration date a year out.

The timing of the start of the membership is a little strange. The Merrill rep told me the membership would start on the first day of the month in which I called. Yet the activation date on the card I received coincided with the date of my first visit, which was not the first day of the month.

Not sure what to say there in terms of optimizing the start time of a membership, but the upshot is it’s nice that you can call ahead of your first planned use and access the club without the physical card. And now that my membership is active I see it in My Wallet within the Delta app.

Now I’m free to enjoy Delta’s network of mostly mediocre, sometimes overcrowded lounges. With the whole family!

Bottom line

Earning full-fledged Delta lounge access through spend on the MERRILL+ card might be worth it for some, especially those who travel with family or colleagues.

The opportunity cost of spending $50,000 on the card isn’t so bad when you consider:

  1. the card has no annual fee;
  2. and the card earns up to 2 cents per point towards airfare (so it isn’t that far off the earn rate of the top cashback cards).

Sure there are better cards that earn 2.6525% or even 3% cashback (for some period of time after signup, with barriers to entry getting and maintaining eligibility for those cards). But I find it’s a good practice to spread your spend around. It’s theoretically possible, but practically difficult to put 100% of your spend on a single card.

If you’ve got an existing MERRILL+ card and a Delta SkyClub Executive Membership appeals to you, I think this can be a nice play.

FQF's wrapup

For me the biggest takeaway from Robert's post are that while the "Plus Level" benefit is earned on a calendar year spending basis, it's valid for one year from when you redeem it. While that doesn't increase the value of the membership ($745, or however much you choose to value a SkyClub Executive Membership), it does increase the value of the benefit, since you can time the activation of the benefit so that as many of your trips through airports with Delta SkyClubs fall within the benefit year as possible.

Additionally, note that according to the Doctor of Credit post linked above you can "top up" airfares in excess of $500 by redeeming MERRILL+ points for one cent each for the excess amount. That means you should always at least consider booking more convenient or premium cabin airfares in order to get the price of your ticket up to at least $500 in order to get the full 2 cents per point in value from the first 25,000 points of your redemption.

Ongoing Simon Mall discount and newish Walmart money order protocol

Just a couple quick notes today as we head into the holidays.

Two more days of discounted Simon Malls Visa gift cards

Through December 24, 2017, (some?) Simon Malls are selling their PIN-enabled Visa gift cards with a $2.95 activation fee instead of the usual $3.95. On an order of 19 cards, that's a savings of $19, which may or may not make them worth stocking up on, depending on your own liquidation bandwidth and tolerance for holding onto a lot of undrained cards. I had planned to get in one more order this week but ended up getting caught up in other projects so I was only able to take advantage of the promotion once.

New Walmart money order protocol

Two of my local Walmart stores have slowly and haltingly introduced a new protocol for selling money orders. It appears that Walmart customer service and money center terminals have two options for ringing up money orders.

What I'll call the "old" system involves ringing up the money orders individually, paying for them, then printing them one by one and inputting the last four digits of the money order's serial number as it comes out of the printer.

The "new" system involves ringing up the money orders through a different section of the point of sale terminal. After paying for them, the money orders print out together and the serial numbers don't need to be inputted. One additional receipt prints out with the money orders' serial numbers, along with a slip for the customer's signature. Money orders printed with the new system have "gift certificate" printed on their face, but are identical in every other respect.

I don't know why they've introduced the new system, but it doesn't appear to be anything to worry about for now.

Which earning opportunities interfere with each other?

Today's post is more of a reference for myself because I am terrible at keeping track of all the different rewards programs out there, and which ones interfere with which, so I thought it would be helpful to write all the ones I could think of down in one place. I'm sure I missed some, so please correct me in the comments.

Credit card and bank offers

Several banks now offer rewards for spending money at particular merchants:

  • American Express Offers For You;
  • Bank of America BankAmeriDeals;
  • Chase Offers (currently only available to Marriott Rewards Premier and Slate cardholders).

The key attribute of these offers is that they're triggered by spending money with the card at a particular merchant (or sometimes through a mobile payment service). That means they can't be combined with each other, since you can only spend the same money with one card at a time (although split payments may allow you to trigger similar offers on multiple cards).


Drop does not appear to interfere with any other purchase-tracking rewards program, so you can trigger Drop rewards in addition to any other rewards your purchase earns. If you haven't yet joined, you can search for the app "Drop - Free Cash Rewards" app in your mobile app store of choice, and feel free to use my referral code x01i7 (or not).

Uber Visa Local Offers

Like Drop, Uber Visa Local Offers appears to run on a completely separate rewards platform, so you can earn Uber credit alongside any other rewards triggered by your purchases.

Ebates in-store cashback, Alaska Mileage Plan in-store miles, and HawaiianMiles Marketplace

Both Ebates and Alaska Mileage Plan's in-store earning programs are operated by Cartera, so typically the same offer linked to the same card should only track in one of the two programs. How well that's tracked and enforced isn't entirely clear to me, so if you have the time and inclination I suspect a fertile area of investigation would be experimenting with adding, removing, linking, and unlinking particular offers from particular cards. 

If that sounds like too much work, under most circumstances I suspect you're better off linking Ebates offers than Alaska offers, unless you're earning miles towards a particularly lucrative Alaska redemption or Alaska is running a promotion awarding extra miles for partner transactions.

Oddly, a third problem several readers have reported to me is using the same e-mail address for the Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles Marketplace and Ebates (the same problem might appear with Alaska as well). Blog subscribers know about a very cool deal that used to exist through the HawaiianMiles Marketplace, but these days the only participating merchants on the mainland (at least in my neck of the woods) are Gap, Athleta, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. I don't shop at those merchants so I don't know if HawaiianMiles interferes with purchases there tracking through Ebates and Alaska. If not, that could be a potentially interesting double dip for folks who do a lot of clothes shopping.

Dining rewards programs

As far as I know, all dining rewards programs are operated by Rewards Network, and you can only enroll a credit card in one dining rewards program at a time. Here's a quick reference list of dining rewards programs:

Note that you can be enrolled in all of these programs simultaneously! However, a single restaurant purchase with a single credit card will only earn miles in one program at a time.

Thanks Again

Thanks Again does not appear to me to be a very good program, but for folks who spend a lot of time and money in airports, I feel compelled to at least mention it. Earning points through Thanks Again for airport purchases shouldn't interfere with any other programs in this post (although I can't imagine ever earning enough points through the program to be redeemed for anything).

Online shopping portals

Like the dining rewards programs, online shopping portals will interfere with each other, but not with any other rewards you're trying to trigger. So, for example, if you want to make a Name Your Own Price reservation through Priceline, you shouldn't have any trouble combining the current Drop offer of 10 points per dollar spent (1% cashback) and 5% cashback through a shopping portal like TopCashBack.

Likewise you should be able to earn 30 Drop points per dollar spent at HP (3% cashback), points or cashback through a shopping portal (TopCashBack is currently paying 8%), 5% OPEN savings through an American Express small business credit card, and potentially an additional targeted American Express Offer For You.

You can find my referral links to the shopping portals I use on my Support the Site! page.

Brick-and-mortar promotions

I am typically totally oblivious to these things, but it's also possible to combine credit card offers, in-store rewards programs, and brick-and-mortar promotions.

I recently visited Bed Bath & Beyond, not to buy gift cards, which is the only reason I would normally set foot in there, but to buy some bed linens. That let me combine my in-store Ebates cashback with one of the 20% off coupons they seem to mail me every 3-4 days.

Similarly, the other day I stopped into a few local restaurants where I had American Express Offers For You for $25 and $50 off $75 in in-store purchases. It happened that both restaurants were also running holiday gift card deals for $20 and $25 in free gift cards when you bought $100 in gift cards. Since I had the offers on both cards, I picked up a total of $345 in gift cards and paid just $150 after the Offers For You statement credits posted. If the restaurants had also participated in dining rewards programs, I could have received an additional batch of miles for the in-store purchases.


As I mentioned at the beginning, this post is mainly meant to get all my thoughts on these programs in one place so I can refer to it in the future. If there are any other programs, or conflicts, that I'm missing, let me and other readers know in the comments and I'll try to keep this post updated.