Charlotte DO in review

First things first: our gathering, celebration, awards ceremony, conference, and party in Charlotte this weekend was incredible.

Now go read these takes on the event from around the blogosphere:

Smaller is better

I shared my frank disillusionment with the organization and presentations at the Seattle Frequent Traveler University two weeks ago. That event had over 400 attendees, while I believe the Charlotte DO had just a touch over 100, including presenters.

And even though I felt like I was constantly meeting readers, both long-time and first-time, I still didn't get a chance to meet everyone in attendance!

The smaller event and more relaxed atmosphere really contributed to making this a terrific relationship-building event for the attendees.

Travel hacking is alive and well

My overwhelming takeaway from the Charlotte event was that among the attendees, there was absolutely none of the sense of despair you sometimes see when reading reactions to, for example, the loss of Vanilla Reload Network reload cards at CVS.

These were not people who were lamenting the end of manufactured spend, these were people who were incredibly excited about the constantly expanding opportunities to see the world, visit friends and family, and make money using the techniques described here and elsewhere.

But discretion is important

I've tried to have a pretty consistent philosophy regarding the kinds of things I'll write about explicitly here on the blog, versus things that are better shared privately or through my subscribers-only newsletter. Basically, if a technique involves a publicly available, commercially offered service, I'm willing to write about it publicly.

For example, Walmart bill payments are available at, as far as I know, every Walmart in the country and there's a big sign behind the Customer Service or Money Center counter advertising the service. So I didn't have any compunctions about sharing the "missing link," the payees you have to designate in order to pay credit card bills at Walmart store locations.

Likewise, Evolve Money is trying hard to increase their market share in the bill payment space. So I wasn't burning any tricks by sharing my experiences and ideas for using their commercially-available service to pay bills online using debit cards.

On the other hand, when an airline has a long-standing and reproducible glitch that allows tickets to be priced differently than they should be (and from my understanding these glitches are legion across many, many airlines), I won't write about it publicly since writing about it instantly starts the clock ticking on the technique's demise.

There is no room for envy in this game

You are not playing against any other member of the community when you manufacture spend, book tickets, or sign up for credit cards. You are only playing against yourself (and the referees).

When people hear about the levels of manufactured spend being reached by others, their first, natural reaction is envy: why aren't I earning as much as they are?

And the answer is simple: they have a different credit history, different credit limits, different risk tolerance, different geographical restrictions, different ethical boundaries, and different knowledge.

And that's totally fine. It would be deeply weird (and not a little suspicious) if we all had exactly the same spend patterns, at the same merchants, all year every year. Instead, we're all different, and that's one of the things that makes it hard to pin any one of us down (our relatively small numbers help, too).

Ignore exhortations to more, more, more

Which brings me to one unpleasant reaction I had to some of the things people said in Charlotte, almost identical to my reaction to the FTU Seattle presentations: it is a sad but true fact that among certain participants in our hobby, there really is a palpable feeling of condescension or disbelief at members of the community who do less. Whether it's travel less, manufacture less, earn less, sign up for cards less, or whatever.

And it's wrong.

I have a vivid memory of one of the Seattle FTU presentations when a speaker (whose identity I'll protect since he really was out of line) asked:

"Who has signed up for an Citi Executive / AAdvantage 100,000 mile card? Who has signed up for two? Three? Why not?"

And that's the kind of attitude we, as responsible, mutually-dependent members of a community, should be shunning. Some people in Charlotte were uncomfortable that they were manufacturing just $25,000 per month. In other words, earning just one free round-trip domestic flight per month. What if you manufactured half that, just $150,000 per year, a mere two roundtrips to Europe? That is an amount of travel that is out of reach of huge swaths of the American population, not to mention the global population.

One of the great things about this game is that we aren't playing against each other, and I think it would benefit a lot of people to keep that in mind whenever possible.


I'll conclude with one note that came up repeatedly in Charlotte and comes up consistently in the comments to this blog.

There are two kinds of discretion: there's discretion aimed at keeping deals alive, and there's discretion aimed at keeping people out.

To the best of my ability, I'll try to exercise the former kind of discretion, but I started this blog in order to share with readers the incredible opportunities that exist out there, and I'll continue to do so until I can't afford to pay both my rent and my website hosting fees. In other words...

Support the site!

Charlotte preview: Miscellany

Since I'm currently trying my best to move out of my current apartment, this will probably be my last full blog post before our get-together in Charlotte this weekend. Unless I change my mind. Do follow me on Twitter for live updates from the event, and because Twitter's fun.

This week, I explained how I used Vanilla-reloadables, Visa Buxx, and PayPal My Cash cards to manufacture the bulk of the $43,000 that ended up counting towards the manufactured spending competition I participated in this March. In addition, I did manufacture some spend in new or different ways than usual, and want to share some of that information here.

Staples Gift Cards

I hate the whole gift card racket, and resisted joining in it for a long time. A lot of people say they like spend they can manufacture sitting at their computer, but not me: I prefer to go out and buy something physical that I can keep track of and be responsible for depositing, liquidating, etc. The whole idea of relying on the US Postal Service or UPS for a smooth cycle of spend is antithetical to me.

But, it is very lucrative.

So in March I continued my experiments with Staples $100 gift cards, purchased using my US Bank Club Carlson Business card, which gives 1% cash back on Staples purchases over $200. Ultimately I ended up liquidating those gift cards by paying actual bills using Evolve Money, rather than turning them back into cash.

American Express Gift Cards

I also made my first American Express gift card purchases. I really dislike the whole rigamarole of clicking through portals, checking and double-checking address information, and then having to wait with bated breath to find out whether my order was even approved. If it is, terrific, I get to wait around at home so I can sign for the cards when they finally arrive.

But, it is very lucrative.

So I began experimenting with those, and ended up earning some points and cash back that way as well, although the long turnaround time made it next-to-useless for the purposes of the competition itself.

Alaska Airlines debit card

We found out earlier this year that the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card would be retired on May 31 (3 weeks left!). While I did have the card, and was already using it casually, the news that the card would be going away really inspired me to get as much value from the card as possible while it was still around.

I had previously split my Walmart activities between money orders and bill payments more or less randomly, depending on my mood and whether I had an upcoming payment due date. But in March, I resolved to push every single dollar of Walmart bill payments through my rewards-earning debit card, and ended up earning over 17,000 Alaska miles during the month, worth $265 at Frequent Miler's fair trading price of 1.56 cents each.

Unfortunately, as I explained during the competition, virtually none of those miles ended up counting towards my final score, since for any given dollar of "bankroll" remaining at the end of the day, I'd be better off counting credit card spend instead of debit card rewards.


The March manufactured spending competition was a very rewarding experience for me: it helped me raise my game, inspired me to try out some techniques I had only read about before, and introduced me to a lot of great bloggers off the beaten path.

Now I'm really looking forward to meeting some of those bloggers and many of our readers in Charlotte, where I hope to learn a whole lot more!

Charlotte preview: PayPal

Besides the Vanilla-reloadable and Visa Buxx cards I talked about earlier this week, the remaining bulk of my manufactured spend in March was through PayPal My Cash cards.

Like Vanilla Reload Network reload cards, PayPal My Cash cards cost $3.95 each and could be purchased at many CVS locations. Unlike the Vanilla Reload Network cards, My Cash cards can only be loaded directly to a verified PayPal account.

Load Limits

You can load up to $4,000 per month to a PayPal account using My Cash cards, as long as you abide by the following limits:

  • $500 per calendar day, which resets at 12:01 am EST;
  • $4,000 per rolling 30-day period, which resets at 3:01 am EST.

And yes, this does create the situation where your daily load limit may have already reset but your monthly load limit has not. While with Bluebird you could stay up until midnight (or 9 pm on the West Coast!) to load because the limits reset simultaneously, with PayPal you may as well go to bed and load your account in the morning.

Account Limits

There are three "types" of PayPal account: personal, premier, and business. PayPal's rules allow one personal account and one of either the premier or business account type to be verified using a single valid Social Security number.

If you attempt to verify a business account when you already have a premier account, or verify a second personal account, or any other prohibited combination, PayPal will helpfully inform you of this restriction.

Unloading PayPal

If you ask 4 bloggers, you'll receive 5 answers to the question "what's the best way to unload a PayPal account?"

Here's mine: every penny I load using PayPal My Cash cards, I unload using a linked PayPal Business or Personal Debit MasterCard.

That's one extreme position, and I don't ask anybody to agree with me that it's the right one. However, it does have a number of advantages within my own strategy:

  • $10 per month loading Bluebird: the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard gives 1% cash back on all non-PIN transactions, including online Bluebird debit loads;
  • Allows large and "round" transactions: instead of making $1998.12 bill payments or buying $999.30 money orders, I can use my fourth Walmart swipe to both unload my PayPal account and round off those transactions.
  • And since the funds come from my PayPal account, I don't have to worry about "orphan" amounts on my debit cards – it's my money and it'll still be there when I need it next.

Category Bonuses

One of the best things about PayPal My Cash cards is that it's still possible to purchase them at merchants that give category bonuses. For example, many 7-11 store locations are coded by Visa and MasterCard as gas stations, and some still allow My Cash purchases.

Earlier this year I discovered a local gas station chain that sells My Cash cards and is coded properly by American Express, as well. Unfortunately, they quickly sold out and it's unclear to me whether they'll restock before I move!

These localized opportunities do still exist, and you'll need to experiment in your own neighborhood to see if you have access to any of them.

Charlotte preview: Visa Buxx

It's no secret: I love my Visa Buxx cards. While Visa Buxx transactions aren't in any bonus category, they are a cheap and easy way to earn several thousand points or miles each month, as long as you have a non-Citi-issued rewards-earning Visa or MasterCard to use.

Nationwide ($1,000)

While the Nationwide Visa Buxx is the least lucrative of the 3 I carry, it's also the easiest to get, since there are no geographic restrictions and you can sign up for it using the same personal information for the "parent" and the "teen." And $1,000 in spend for $4 a month is nothing to sneeze at! Just keep the 7-day, $800 PIN-based transaction limit in mind.

US Bank ($2,000)

While the signup link for this card is no longer publicly available, those with already-existing accounts can continue to load up to $2,000 per month, per card. Back in October of last year, I ran an experiment to see if it was possible to sign up for more than one US Bank Visa Buxx account. It ended up being a somewhat stressful experience, and although I got my money back I ultimately decided not to color too far outside the lines with this product.

However, many people have reported much success signing up for multiple accounts and ordering multiple "teen" cards per account.

My favorite thing about the US Bank version is the free ATM withdrawals at US Bank ATMs. By avoiding additional unloading costs, you can reduce your cost per dollar of manufactured spend and/or preserve valuable Bluebird load capacity for other, less flexible products.

TD Go ($1,000)

Unfortunately, I was only able to use $1,000 of the $3,000 monthly TD Go load limit for the manufactured spending competition, since my last two loads of the month fell on the 29th and 30th of March – outside the timeframe of the 28-day competition!

Nonetheless, this is an amazing and amazingly cheap product, so if you live in one of the geographic regions served by TD Bank, it's a no-brainer to sign up as soon as possible.

If there's one thing I dislike about the TD Go, it's the rolling 7-day, $2,000 transaction limit. This month I did my first unloading transaction a few days later than usual, and when I went to Walmart for my second round of unloading, I realized I hadn't let the full 7 days elapse!


While they aren't massively scalable (unless you're willing to really work at it), the Visa Buxx line of products is an easy way to get $3,000-6,000 up on the board each month.

Charlotte preview: Vanilla Reloadables

As readers know, there will be a gathering in Charlotte this weekend of some of the participants in the March manufactured spending competition (#milemadness) and readers who are interested in getting to know us better. Additionally, we'll be joined by some of the more, shall we say, reclusive members of the travel hacking community. I'm very excited to be presenting, and even more excited to be able to meet some folks I only know over e-mail or through enigmatic posts on FlyerTalk.

This week I though I'd share some reflections on my experience in the competition, and maybe elicit some subjects from readers and Charlotte attendees for further conversations.

I lost #milemadness – but that's ok

The manufactured spending competition privileged speed of liquidation, since you couldn't manufacture additional spend until you had liquidated an instrument, whether it was Vanilla Reload Network reload cards or electronics you bought for resale.

Additionally, all the spend we manufactured was "weighted" by the "Fair Trading Price" of the points currencies we earned. Whatever the advantages or disadvantages of FTP as a system for pricing points, it meant that those who were earning Ultimate Rewards points – especially at high multiples – were able to easily lap those of us stuck manufacturing almost any other points currency.

On the other hand, I ultimately manufactured about $43,000 in spend during the four weeks of the competition, or about $1,500 per day, an amount that I'm perfectly satisfied with. The ability to manufacture that much spend on a sustained basis puts all of my travel and financial goals within reach, which is one reason I finally became confident enough to decide to start blogging and writing full time.

Vanilla Reloadables

In today's Charlotte preview, I want to explain the reloadable prepaid debit cards I used to manufacture a big chunk of that $43,000.

"But FQF," you may well object, "Vanilla Reloads aren't a viable tool anymore! Why would anyone be interested in that?"

The answer, of course, is people who still have access to Vanilla Reloads.

Bluebird ($5,000)

Bluebird, and its cousin Serve, forms the hard core of most manufactured spending strategies.

  • Limits: $1,000 per day, $5,000 per calendar month;
  • Loading: online using Vanilla Reload Network, or in-store at any Walmart register;
  • Unloading: transfer to a linked bank account, or pay bills directly;
  • Adverse action: none.

JH Preferred ($11,000)

The JH Preferred card is a branded clone of the generic MyVanilla Debit cards. However, it's still possible to sign up for a JH Preferred card even if you've already used up all 3 of your MyVanilla Debit shutdowns.

  • Limits: $2,500 per day, $5,000 per month published, limits only loosely enforced in practice;
  • Loading: online using Vanilla Reload Network;
  • Unloading: PIN-based transactions at Walmart;
  • Adverse action: Many reports of shutdowns for over-the-counter bank cash disbursements.

Momentum ($4,000)

The Momentum prepaid card can only be applied for in-person at a limited number of check-cashing establishments. It's a very expensive and abusive product, with a high risk of shutdown.

  • Limits: $2,500 per day (5 loads);
  • Loading: online using Vanilla Reload Network;
  • Unloading: $1 over-the-counter bank cash disbursement for the entire card balance;
  • Adverse action: closed after third cash withdrawal.

HR Block Emerald ($5,000)

This is a great product that can be a bit tricky to sign up for, since you need to either have your taxes done in-branch at a HR Block location, or convince them to give you a card without having your taxes done. It is similar to Bluebird, but cost $3.74 to load at Walmart registers.

  • Limits: $1,000 per day, $5,000 per rolling 30-day period;
  • Loading: online using Vanilla Reload Network or in-person at any Walmart register (costs $3.74);
  • Unloading: ACH pull directly from the account;
  • Adverse action: none.


There you have it: a full $25,000 of my total manufactured spend during the competition was through Vanilla reloadable prepaid debit cards.

On the one hand, that's not a terribly creative approach to manufacturing spend. On the other hand, even if I were earning at a rate of one mile per dollar, that means I could have spent $197.50 (plus unloading costs, plus time) for enough miles to fly roundtrip anywhere in the continental US.

Come hang out at the #milemadness DO!

My favorite part of blogging is hearing from readers, whether they're passing along a tip, thanking me for some counter-intuitive analysis, or violently disagreeing with me.

The only thing better than reading your e-mails and comments is hanging out in person, which is why I'm so excited about the recently announced manufactured spending 'DO.'

Basically, a whole bunch of the players in this month's manufactured spending tournament, as well as Frequent Miler, the competition's judge, are going to get together to talk about the techniques and tools we use to travel the world for next to nothing.

There's going to be lunch, there are going to be speeches, cocktails, and of course a ton of networking opportunities, where you can learn from the best and share your own secrets (or not!).

The Details

  • When: Saturday May 10th, starting at 11 am;
  • Where: HYATT House Charlotte Center City, 435 East Trade Street, Charlotte, NC 28202;
  • Tickets: $65 until March 31, then $75;

We even have this easy widget you can use to buy your tickets!

Getting there

Charlotte's a US Airways hub, and I was able to find a pretty cheap non-stop flight down there, so I just clicked through the Ultimate Rewards mall to Travelocity and put the charge on my Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. I'll redeem 25,000 Arrival miles against the purchase sometime in the next 90 days and end up paying about $100 for the flight.

Alternatively, you could redeem either US Airways or American Airlines miles for an award flight on US Airways, although that ended up not being worth doing in my case.

Staying there

The scheduled events are taking place on Saturday, so you could theoretically fly in Saturday morning and leave late Saturday night. I knew I wanted to spend at least one night in Charlotte, so I talked to Matt at Saverocity who let me in on a little secret: any part of our event deposit we don't spend during our lunch and cocktails on Saturday is going towards Saturday night's festivities. So I decided to stay over Saturday night and leave mid-day Sunday.

We have an event rate at the HYATT House Charlotte Center City of $119 per night, plus taxes, which works out to $137.15. That's slightly higher than the AAA rate of $133.69 after taxes, if you're a AAA member. Both rates are cancelable until 4 pm the day of arrival.

If you want to use Hyatt Gold Passport points to reserve a room, it'll cost 12,000 points per night, giving you just 1.11 cents per point in value. That might be worth it if you already have a stockpile of Gold Passport points, but it certainly wouldn't be worth transferring points in from Ultimate Rewards.

If you're making a reservation through, remember to click through a cash back portal and earn 3% (TopCashBack) or 4% (EBates) cash back on your room rate.

See you in Charlotte!

Reflections on week 2 of #milemadness

This post is coming a little late, since week 2 of #milemadness ended last Friday, but I wanted to share my thoughts before the week 3 results are tabulated and released.

My War on CPD

Since I started travel hacking, and in particular manufacturing spend, I've had my eye trained on a single metric: cost per dollar of manufactured spend, or CPD. It's important to note that this is a minority view — the traditional metric thrown around is CPM, or cents per mile. It's basically the difference between judging the tool of manufactured spend versus judging the outcome of free travel.

A simple example will illustrate this difference. The new TD Go Visa Buxx card allows you to pay $1 to load up to $1,000 from any Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card, which can then be unloaded using PIN-based debit. This tool gives you a fixed CPD of $1 per $1,001 in manufactured spend, or $0.001. The CPM, on the other hand, depends entirely on which card you use to load the TD Go:

  • the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card earns 1 Alaska mile per $2 spent on the card, leading to a "traditional" CPM of 0.2;
  • the Chase British Airways Visa Signature earns 1.25 Avios per dollar spent, generating a CPM of 0.098.

My point is, it doesn't make any sense to judge the TD Go based on what cards you happen to carry or how you happen to value their respective rewards currencies. That's going to depend on your travel goals, your credit limits, your bank relationships, and spiritual factors known only to you.

Playing Against Myself

At this point I'm hopelessly behind the front-runners, who have been leveraging 5% cash back credit cards to run up huge scores buying PIN-enabled gift cards at drugstores and office supply stores. Meanwhile, I've stayed laser-focused on driving down my CPD, and am very pleased with the results. Here's my CPD calculations from the first two weeks of the competition:

  • Week 1: $19,861 in spend, $170 in fees, 0.86 cents per dollar of spend;
  • Week 2: $10,357 in spend, $91 in fees, 0.88 cents per dollar;
  • Running total: $30,218 in spend, $261 in fees, 0.86 cents per dollar;
  • Week 3 estimate: $9,060 in spend, $63 in fees, 0.7 cents per dollar.

I'm truly satisfied that I've been able to scale my manufactured spending activities as much as I have without giving very much up on the CPD front. I'm remaining well below what I consider my unofficial "ceiling" of 1 cent per dollar — the maximum I'd be willing to pay for a dollar of manufactured spend.

My Extracurricular Activities

One funny side effect of the way the manufactured spending tournament is being scored is that it almost completely discounts my favorite way of earning miles: using my Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card. The reason is somewhat technical, but basically goes like this:

  • Each day, we're only allowed to count towards the competition the spend that we do within our remaining "bankroll;"
  • Therefore, in order to count my Alaska Airlines debit card spending, I would have to have that amount remaining in my bankroll at the end of the day;
  • However, if I had money remaining in my bankroll at the end of the day, I'd be better off using it on credit card spending (earning 1 or more mile per dollar, or 2% cash back) rather than debit card spending (earning just 0.5 miles per dollar).

So even though I've already earned 7,000 Alaska miles this month, just a tiny fraction of them count towards my official score!

Reflections on week 1 of #milemadness

As I've mentioned, this month I'm participating in a good-natured (but cut-throat) competition with a gaggle of other miles and points bloggers to see who can generate the most value at the lowest cost during the month of March. On March 1, we started with a $5,000 "bankroll" which we can use to fund any manufactured spending technique we want — on the condition that we can't use the money again until we've liquidated whatever product we purchased.

Frequent Miler, the competition's judge, has published the first week's results, so it's time for some serious reflection on my strategy (or lack thereof) so far.

My Score

As you can see, I'm in third-from-last place, earning just $250 in net "Fair Trading Value" using Frequent Miler's calculations on the cost of acquiring various mile and point currencies, after deducting the fees I incurred. But I can explain!

My Raw Data

Between March 1 and March 7, I manufactured $19,861 within the limits of my bankroll. That's the spend that I was allowed to count each day taking into account the amount of manufactured spend I had already liquidated.

That comes out to $2,837 in manufactured spend per day, on average, and that sum is in fact fairly competitive with the other players' average data.

Office Max Ruins Everything

The main reason I fell so far behind so quickly is that while I was earning 2-4% cash back in value, my competitors with Chase Ink credit cards were purchasing PIN-enabled Visa gift cards at Office Max for below face value.

That enabled them to quickly increase their bankrolls above the $5,000 limit: if they charged $4750, but liquidate $5,000, they're suddenly working with a bankroll of $5,250. That's an advantage that quickly added up for many.

Even worse, they were earning super-valuable Ultimate Rewards points, which brings me to...

The Curse of Fair Trading Prices

The tool we're using to judge this competition is Frequent Miler's proprietary system of "Fair Trading Prices," which you should read about here and here, if you're not already familiar with the concept.

The key thing to keep in mind about Fair Trading Prices is that they are not based on redemption value. Let me repeat that: Fair Trading Prices are not an attempt to assess the actual value of the points and miles we earn during the competition.

For example, I recently argued that under a variety of fairly realistic conditions, Club Carlson Gold Points can be worth 1 cent each, for example if you plan to spend exactly 2 nights in New York City and would otherwise spend $111 or more per night on a hotel room.

The Fair Trading Price of Club Carlson points is just 0.25 cents each.

So while I earned 18,710 Gold Points during the competition, which I value at around $187, I received just $47 in credit based on the Fair Trading Price.

Meanwhile, since the Fair Trading Price of Chase Ultimate Rewards points is 1.38 cents each, the 5 points per dollar my competitors were earning worked out to a 6.9% earning rate in Fair Trading Value!

My Strategy

Ultimately, while the competition is a great motivation to step up my game and see just how much I can manufacture when I really put my mind to it, it's not enough to convince me to change my overall strategy in order to game the Fair Trading Prices.

The fact is, I have a lot of irons in the fire:

  • Meeting American Express Delta Platinum $50,000 spending threshold to earn 1.4 Skymiles per dollar;
  • Meeting $20,000 Chase British Airways minimum spending requirement for 100,000 Avios;
  • Earning just 1% cash back on my first $6,500 in purchases on my American Express Blue Cash card, with its woefully low credit limit;
  • Meeting $3,000 minimum spending requirement on American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass for the 50,000 HHonors upgrade bonus.

While that last item isn't a large spending requirement, I am attempting to meet it at merchants that offer 6 HHonors points per dollar, which is a huge time-suck for me since my local gas station has been sold out of PayPal My Cash cards for weeks.


The competition goes on! For more real-time information on the state of play, you can follow me on Twitter or search for the hashtag #milemadness.

Manufactured Spending Tournament: introduction

Inspired by Frequent Miler's mapcap quest for 1 million miles and points last March, Matt from Saverocity recently approached me, along with several other bloggers, to propose a little good-natured competition: who can manufacture the most spend within one month, constrained by a $5,000 "bankroll," with none other than Frequent Miler himself judging the results.

Manufactured spend? Cut-throat competition? How could I refuse!

My Advantages

There are a lot of reasons why I think I've got a lock on this contest:

  1. I already have the tools. While other competitors start scrambling to apply for prepaid cards that might take weeks to arrive, I've already got plenty of products to start aggressively maximizing come March 1.
  2. I'm blessed by geography. Plentiful drug stores, a gas station or 3, and a Walmart where the associates are more than happy to humor my ridiculously spending habits are all advantages the other competitors can't necessarily count on.
  3. I've still got my Alaska Airlines debit card, which acts as a force-multiplier on all my manufactured spend. When other competitors get their money out of a product, they're done, but I get to push it through my debit card one last time, which I have every intention of doing.

My Disadvantages

That doesn't mean I won't be overcoming some obstacles along the way, the biggest of which is that since I've already been at this for so long, many products which represent the lowest-hanging fruit have already been closed to me. For example, one of my rivals could apply for a new GoBank account and push $2,500 per day through that card, while my account has already been closed, meaning I'm going to have to be more creative, and incur higher expenses. PayPal and Netspend are two more examples of opportunities closed to me, but perhaps open to my rivals.


What I'm most interested in seeing in this competition is the range of reselling and churning techniques the other players use. Until Evolve Money came along, I did virtually no gift card churning, on the grounds that there was too much room for potentially expensive error. Now I do some light manufactured spend at Staples, but I know there are others who buying thousands of dollars in either products or gift cards and attempt to sell them for a small loss, or even profit. While I don't expect them to share all their secrets with the world, I'm looking forward to picking up a few hints that might help me decide whether to dabble in that field myself.

May the best hacker win!