Preliminary reflections on Evolve Money

To close out a couple pretty epic weeks of reporting on Evolve Money, I want to offer a few reflections on where I see them in the firmament of travel hacking as it currently stands, and how I'll be covering them in the future.

Paying real bills & displacing Bluebird bill payments

There are a number of monthly bills I currently pay using my Bluebird account.

I agree – in principle – with arguments (like Frequent Miler's and Saverocity's) that paying bills with Bluebird doesn't have any advantage over withdrawing the money to a checking account, since you earn your miles and points when you load the account, not when you unload it.

However, there have, historically, been bills that can't be paid for free using credit or debit cards, and I've always considered it worth paying those bills using Bluebird in order to maintain a pattern of "normal" usage (although I don't know how normal it is to spend exactly $6,000 each and every month).

Meanwhile, I've never been terribly interested in gift card churning, since every gift card I load to Bluebird takes up valuable load space in which I could be using Vanilla Reload Network reload cards (bought at 2%, 2.22%, or 5% cash back).

Evolve Money changes that calculation, since now every bill in Evolve Money can be paid at a discount of 2-10% using gift cards (see the comments to this post). That's your house, your student loans, your store-brand credit cards, and it's an incredible opportunity for as long as it lasts.

(Un)fortunately, thanks to the additional recent development that it's no longer possible to make Walmart bill payments to American Express cards, I'll now be using my Bluebird account to pay off my Delta Platinum Business American Express and Blue Cash cards, as well as my Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express. For my Visa and MasterCard credit cards, I'll continue to use my Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card for Walmart bill payments.

Additional opportunities

There will also continue to exist opportunities to manufacture spend by making payments to specific billers within Evolve Money. In keeping with my general philosophy here on the blog, I won't be writing about those opportunities in any detail. If you dig into the comments to my existing posts, the relevant thread on FlyerTalk, and follow me on Twitter, you'll quickly see the kinds of opportunities that continue to exist. Knowing that the relevant parties read my blog, I'm simply not going to write about them explicitly to make sure they last as long as possible for as many people as possible.

PayPal cash back

Following up on the suggestion of regular reader Ben, I submitted an e-mail through PayPal's clunky customer service center and asked for the cash back I earned for my roughly $40 in Evolve Money payments. 21 minutes later I received a response from a PayPal representative saying:

I reversed a fee for you to cover the cash back rewards that were not issued. I apologize for the inconvenience, our system automatically calculates the cash back rewards. Thank you for letting me know so that I can get this issue resolved for you.

So it seems that they're aware of the problem and happy to help resolve it, although I imagine it would get pretty old, pretty fast, if you were to have to submit such a request for $4,000, or more, in bill payments each month.

The sooner PayPal resolves this issue so that cash back posts automatically, the better!

Future developments

On Friday, Alex told me about several coming initiatives at Evolve Money, including scheduled payments, recurring payments, and credit card payments, and over at FlyerTalk he also mentioned introducing higher limits to facilitate mortgage payments.

Stayed tuned for more of the news and analysis you know to expect from this site.